By: Shawn Davis
The sum of the above equation equals…what exactly? Most of the world already knows what’s taking place in terms of the debate over whether or not local Muslims will be granted permission to build a new mosque in downtown Manhattan, New York City. There have been opinions all across the spectrum, from politicians, religious leaders, civil and moral activist groups, and of course the families of those lost in the terrorist attacks on 9-11-01 and on February 26, 1993. The final decision – whatever that may be – will have supporters and detractors so should the mosque be built near Ground Zero or not?
Most intelligent, rational-thinking people can see the argument from both sides of the fence. A large portion of family members who’ve grieved those lost in the tragedy feel it’s “bad taste” to build a place of worship so close to where their loved ones perished because the ground is sacred; they feel this way because the men who flew the planes into the towers were followers of Islam. So to put the mosque in the shadow of where the towers once stood feels “disrespectful” in their view.
Supporters of the new construction feel that we – Americans – are expressing religious intolerance by refusing to allow the Muslims to progress in their plans make this building a reality. Mind you, many of those who support the project are Muslims but are also American. Just like those who oppose – many who are born U.S. citizens as well – this issue is delicate and it will probably shape how we are viewed throughout the world.
Being American is all about having the freedom to express what you stand for; whether that is through commerce, art, religion, politics, etc. The most glaring ideal that we hold closest to our hearts is…FREEDOM. Isn’t that why we fought for independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain? We wanted to obtain the right to govern ourselves, carve our own place in the world and do the things we wanted without being reigned over and dictated to. We want to follow our desires, you know, within reason of course. We fought, and many died for that right; we don’t want to be muffled.
The supporters feel that’s what’s happening now and they will be correct in their feelings if the proposal to build is shut down. The feeling is, “How can this be America, a free and tolerant nation, and yet prohibit the building of this mosque?”
The Free Exercise Clause (partnered with the Establishment Clause) of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Freedom of religion cannot be compromised, ignored or used wherever it’s convenient to do so. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights are clear on this. Again, freedom; our country was founded on this principle!
There are other groups saying this is a war on religion, a crusade against Islam. That’s not true! The problem arises as it pertains to the location. No one has an issue if it’s built further uptown; that’s one point that the news outlets have highlighted. It’s the location that’s the cause of the furor.
In stark contrast, what hasn’t been highlighted enough in this whole debate is the role the Pentagon plays. Not that they’re involved but the fact that they have a chapel where employees of ALL religious backgrounds can converge and worship, yes this includes those who follow Islam. The chapel is in the very building that terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 77 into on September 11th, yup; it’s in the building where extreme practitioners of Islam decided to make their mark. This detail is paramount to this whole topic and yet has not been in the mainstream reporting. Interesting.
Islam is a faith of peace, understanding and love; no different in that regard to any other religion that has its followers. Our view of an entire group of people cannot be skewed negatively because some its members chose to commit such heinous acts against us. This is still the United States and it’s important that the mosque be built near the World Trade Center.