Another round of paperwork designed to halt the building of a mosque and community center was dismissed today as the Landmarks Preservation Commission denied landmark status for a building near Ground Zero. (Not "at" -- near.)
Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and other conservatives who would love to be elected on a tide of bigotry have decried the construction of The Cordoba House, which carries a peaceful message of building bridges between the Muslim World and the West. Instead, they continue to fear-monger by appealing to the lowest common denominator: hate for "the other."
It's time to stop painting all Muslims with the same radical brush and fostering fear that all Islam is bad Islam bent on bringing Sharia law to the United States. It's not true, and spreading that kind of ignorance and hate is no way to honor all of those who lost their lives on September 11th.
Plans for The Cordoba House include 15 stories where people of any faith can meet in community rooms, attend art and cultural events, swim in the pool, and yes, pray. The inspiration comes from Cordoba, Spain where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in harmony centuries ago. The entire point of this group is to bridge relations between religions, and members of the Jewish and Christian faith will sit on the board of The Cordoba House.
Which is why a location in downtown Manhattan, a few blocks away from the gaping hole in the earth, is perfect for the center, which is not unlike a Christian or Jewish Y.
In spite of what Palin may tweet, some families of the victims support the message of healing so close to the burial ground of their loved one. Others don't seem to understand that there will not be minarets soaring in the sky hovering over the area where they will come to visit the memorial site. The building is two blocks away and will be dwarfed by the new structure.
Although even if the center was visible from the site, blocking religious structures is, and always has been, the opposite of what American freedom is all about. Again, behaving in an anti-American fashion is no way to honor our fellow citizens who died tragically that day.
As a New Yorker, I experienced the fear and horror of September 11th at a close range that Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and others campaigning against the center did not. Most New Yorkers, including Mayor Bloomberg, vehemently disagree with those that want to block the center from opening. We are, after all, a nation that prides itself on allowing our citizens to gather freely, without the interference of the state.
Additionally, a radical few should never define an entire body. If that were the case then St. Patrick's Cathedral should be burned to the ground for the heinous acts of the child-abusing priests and the leadership that allowed it to happen.
For those who fear a group of Muslims gathering in such close proximity to the site, perhaps you should turn your attention to militia groups spread throughout our country who are stockpiling weapons. I'm pretty sure there are plenty of places for radical American militants to hang out near the site of the Oklahoma City bombing, but you don't hear politicians calling for the closing of biker bars in downtown OKC.
It's simply a matter of discriminating against people who don't look "like us." (Although Americans are looking more and more diverse these days, yes?)
As the Anti-Defamation League spoke out against the mosque on behalf of the families, their misguided logic only cements the position that the mosque and community center should be allowed to open near Ground Zero:
“Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational,” he said. Referring to the loved ones of Sept. 11 victims, he said, “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.”
Yes, it absolutely does entitle one to feelings that may not be acceptable in polite company. But having feelings should not translate into actions that are harmful to others. And putting restrictions on religious freedom is harmful to all of us.
Irrationality and bigotry should never dictate public policy near Ground Zero, or anywhere else. We're Americans, and we're better than that.
Image via Cordoba House