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The Ground Zero Mosque Has a Constitutional Right To Be Built


In December 2009, influential American Muslim leader Feisal Abdul Rauf announced plans to build a 15-story community center, the Cordoba House, in downtown Manhattan. The center, which is to include a dedicated prayer space, would be located two blocks from Ground Zero, the site of the September 11, 2001, attacks. But that center, colloquially described as the "Ground Zero Mosque," has come under attack by New York conservatives and become an increasingly prominent issue in the New York gubernatorial campaign.

Many New Yorkers are outraged that a place of Muslim worship would be built so close to “sacred ground”. The 100 million dollars spent on the mosque turned into a community center, which created an angry backlash from New Yorkers who live within the vicinity.

I can certainly see both sides of this issue.

Those Against the Mosque

Those who oppose the center say that we are at war with Al Qaeda, who claim that they are receiving advice from the Koran to destroy the infidels. It was Al Qaeda that brought the World Trade Center down and there has hardly been a proper memorial built to honor the souls lost on 9/11, 2001. Many locals are protesting the destruction of a 154-year old building to build the mosque. Some angry sentiments are that New York should go ahead and build the mosque so it will be bombed also in retaliation.

There are preservation ordinances which are being waived for this building to be demolished and a mosque to be built in its place. The building is under the control of the Landmark Preservation Commission who approved the plan to add the mosque while keeping the facade facing the street the same.

A hearing on July 14th witnessed the opposition strongly opposed to the mosque, which turned vocal and one woman said ” it would be a terrible mistake to destroy a 154-year old building in order to build a monument to terrorism”. Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio stood up and requested that Feisal, who did not attend the hearing, be investigated for ties to Al Qaeda.

Recently at the National Republican Trust PAC has produced an ad, labeled inflammatory by critics, that mixes images of 9/11 and Muslim militants while slamming the proposed mosque. NBC and CBS have refused to air the one-minute commercial:

Those in Favor of the Mosque

Those who support building the mosque state that this would help create a bridge between the Muslim world and the USA. Forbidding the construction mosque would be an example of American Islam phobia.

Mayor Bloomberg supports building the mosque and stated that investigating it would be “un-American and goes “against what the nation stands for”. Many GOP candidates do not agree and are campaigning against the Mosque at the World Trade Center such as Rick Lazio. Lazio has called on the Attorney General to investigate where the money is coming from the fund the mosque. Perhaps some pro- Al Qaeda or pro-Taliban groups are helping to contribute to the mosque.

My Opinion

Initially, my knee jerk reaction was to oppose the building on the mosque. I thought, “This would be a slap in the face of all those victims of 9/11”. After my initial emotion subsided, I thought about the situation in a more cognitive manner. As a result, my opinion has changed. I say let them build the mosque and here is the reason why.

map of ground zero mosque

My rationale is based purely on fairness. America is a nation of laws, reinforcing the notion that everyone has the same opportunity under the law. America has a history of religious tolerance and free worship of religion. Unless the New York Ground Zero planners agree that no places of worship can be built near the site of Ground Zero, it would be a case of discrimination against the religion of Islam to forbid a mosque near ground zero. To allow such discrimination would contradict the First Amendment and the freedom of religion that it affords all of us. James Madison, the Founding Father who penned the First Amendment and most of the Constitution, would be appalled by such discriminatory action. To Madison, religious toleration was not enough; he called for instead the free exercise of religion, regardless of faith. Unless the mosque is serving as an Al Qaeda training camp, it should be afforded the same protection under the First Amendment as any other place of worship.

Besides, I think banning places of worship from being built near any national disaster is a bad precedent. For instance, should we forbid any churches being built within a two block radius of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City because Timothy McVeigh was a radical Christian who was inspired by and supported the views of David Koresh?

Another flimsy charge made by the anti-mosque crowd is that the mosque will “look down” on Ground Zero.

Note the mosque is TWO BLOCKS away from Ground Zero. That is about 600 feet. What is the proposed ban on mosques? Four blocks? Six blocks?

Although I am not an engineer, I wonder how a 13-story mosque from two blocks away could possibly overlook Ground Zero when the 1776 foot tall Freedom Tower will be completed in 2013:

I say if they want to build a mosque, let them. It has taken New York almost a decade to commemorate this sacred ground, and it has been characterized by delay after delay. Want to bet which is completed first—the Freedom Tower or the mosque? If allowed, I say the mosque.