“We have to let them build their mosque. But we don’t have to buy the project’s phony rationale.” —George Jonas, The National Post.
“I see no problem with the mosque being built and believe those complaining about it are hypocrites. Maybe they should … stop acting as though everyone of the Muslim faith had something to do with 9-11.” —Sheilah Etheridge, business management and accounting consultant, Anchorage, Alaska.
“I favor religious freedom," but not "right at the edge of a place where, let's be clear, thousands of Americans were killed in an attack by radical Islamists.” — Media Matters, quoting Newt Gingrich.
“There never were plans for a mosque at ‘ground zero.’ The entire story is made up by a public relations agency working with the Israeli government and the GOP.” — Gordon Duff, Veterans Today.
“As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure." — President Obama, August 13, 2010
Why should we in the middle of Middle America be so concerned about the use of private property at 45-47 Park Lane in New York City? In part, what happens in New York will decide the validity of the Constitution of the United States.
I have a personal relationship with the World Trade Center. I grew up in New York when the complex was built. Flying back to NYC from anywhere, the sighting of Towers 1 and 2 was the sign that home was near. The buildings were a part of me. When the World Trade Center exhibit came to Kansas City, I found myself crying in a corner for the loss of the lives and of the buildings.
Last week I asked members of my LinkedIn network for opinions concerning the building of the proposed Muslim civic center and mosque and received more than 40 responses in three days. No one was neutral and the split between to allow and not to allow the new building was about even. Those against the mosque often exclaimed that the building should be allowed if a mega Christian church were built in Saudi Arabia or likened it to “a S/S training temple in Tel Aviv.”
Some reports have distorted the location. If you do not know Manhattan, you may not understand at least this part of the argument: 45-47 Park Lane, to be renumbered 51 Park Lane, is two blocks north and one-half block east of the World Trade Center site. It is not on or next to ground zero. One would have to have the super power to see around corners or through the 26-story building across the street blocking the view. As one New Yorker reminded me, “Two blocks away in New York is like being in another country.”
This is a great test of three of the clauses in the First Amendment; the freedom to practice one’s religion, the freedom from a state-supported religion, and the freedom of speech. Things we deal with every day in our own county and city.
By virtue of its colleges and the university, Columbia has a substantial diversity of beliefs and houses of worship, like the African Methodist Episcopal and the Unity Church. The spectrum of belief in Columbia is amazing. Somewhere in the mix is the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, and please do not forget the American Atheists of Columbia. Not one of these faiths preaches intolerance of other religions. They may have the calling to convert others into their faith, but not intolerance. That is the grand question; is the United States a nation of intolerance?
If you are saying, “But Columbia is not an intolerant city,” I am afraid you are wrong. Islamic students have told me about incidents of name-calling, spitting and threats. An employee at one of our banks told me that the Jews hold most of the world’s money. I have heard the term “rag-head,” referring to those of the Hindu faith, too often.
If we are to honor the Constitution, our founding founders and the consciousness of our collective faiths, it is clear: Intolerance cannot be accepted, no matter the reason.
Those who preach intolerance are nothing more than cowards and the most unpatriotic citizens in the United States.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.