Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago, "Are you going to write about the 'Ground Zero Mosque' on your blog?" I said, “Probably not.” But because of the very widespread coverage in the news media and the strong opposition to the project in Manhattan that is officially known as Park51, I decided to write about this controversial issue.
The tipping point came when I read “Building Mosque at Ground Zero is Distasteful.” That op-ed piece, which appeared in last Sunday’s Kansas City Star, is by E. Thomas McClanahan, a member of the Star’s editorial board.
McClanahan wrote that “3,000 Americans were incinerated by Islamic jihadists,” but he did not mention that some of those Americans were also Muslims. And he did not mention that most American Muslims are as dismayed by the crimes of the 9/11 terrorists as are non-Muslim Americans. Nor did he mention that the vast majority of those who will worship at the Manhattan mosque are also anti-terrorist Americans.
McClanahan (gleefully?) points out that there are Muslims opposed to the construction of the “Ground Zero Mosque.” That is but to be expected. When was the last time Christians gave 100% support to any social or political matter? But he failed to point out that the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a nationwide group founded by family members of those killed on 9/11, issued a statement back on May 20 strongly supporting the plans to build the Islamic Cultural Center near the Ground Zero site.
On August 11 at the regular meeting of the Vital Conversations discussion group, we had the privilege of hearing comments by Dr. Abdul Rauf Mir, a medical doctor from Kashmir who has practiced in the Kansas City area for decades and is a naturalized U.S. citizen as well as a devout Muslim.
Dr. Mir (b. 1945) personally knows Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam who is behind the construction of Park51. (I have no explanation for the similarity of their names.) When the sensitivity issue was brought up, Dr. Mir insisted that we should not cater to people’s sensitivities that are based on prejudices. That comment is in line with an August 3 article in Time magazine that referred to the opposition to Park51 as being based “ignorance, bigotry and politics.”
Jim Wallis, leader of the Sojourners community, often says that the answer to bad religion is not “no religion” but “good religion.” Accordingly, can’t we say that the answer to the insidious crimes committed by a few terrorists identified with Islam is a peaceful, tolerant Islamic presence such as is being proposed for Park51?
Jeffrey Goldberg, an American-Israeli journalist who writes for The Atlantic says,
I know Feisal Abdul Rauf. . . . He represents what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country. Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of the mosque project are giving him what he wants.
Those are words well worth heeding.