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The Ground Zero Mosque Controversy & Religious Freedom in a Post-9/11 America

Updated on September 12, 2010

Emotive as the discussions have been around the proposed erection of a new mosque in lower Manhattan, what has been particularly distressing is the degree to which a lot of lies and half-truths cleverly couched as facts have been perpetrated in pursuit of a range of ideological/religious agendas that are as hidden as they are insidious.

The controversy appears to have touched off an opposition to similar initiatives in other locales across the country in ways that are so virulent and unmistakably tinted with the worst expressions of fear (mostly unfounded), hate, intolerance, intimidation and violence.

In the Nashville suburb of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, fearful that the development of a new Islamic center on a 15-acre site there would later morph into a terrorist training camp for militants seeking the overthrow of the US government, detractors held several demonstrations with ignorant epithets denouncing the facility, tore down signs marking the site and announcing the center’s future arrival and subsequently dispatched hound dogs to intimidate Muslims holding prayer services there.

Same was true in Temecula, California, where opponents of a 25,000-square-foot mosque matched with dogs in protest of what they believed to be a facility that would quickly turn their “beloved” town into a haven for Islamic extremists.

And in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a melee ensued between protesters and a Muslim group seeking to open a new mosque in a former grocery store purchased by a Muslim physician.

Otherwise known as the Cordoba Initiative, if successful, the $100 million project in New York will result in the construction of a modern multi-level complex about two blocks away from Ground Zero (the site of the World Trade Centers destroyed on 9/11) that would, among other things, house a mosque, gym, swimming pool and a world-class Islamic cultural center.

Overall, there seems to be two major areas of concern; things that appear to have elicited the most interest or generated the loudest, most poignant or celebrated controversy.

Opponents typically frown at these efforts because for a myriad of reasons, they find Islam objectionable as a religion. They feel that intrinsic to the faith is a violent, ethnocentric streak that is antithetical to the ethos of life in America as a secular, pluralistic society.

To further buttress this point, a reference is often made to recent acts of wanton, gratuitous destruction by Muslims or the status of women and other glaring assaults on individual freedom in the Middle East.

Regarding the Cordoba Initiative in particular, many (including many families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, some members of Congress and some religious groups, view allowing a mosque to be built so close to a site so sacred as desecrative of the souls of all those who perished in the tragedy. As an adherent of this position, Sarah Palin, reportedly opined that it would be an “intolerable and tragic mistake” to grant the Initiative’s sponsors their wish.

Others question the funding source for the project fearing that a sizable portion of the earmarked sum could come from questionable foreign interests; fundamentalist Islamic groups included.

Some have even gone as far as suggesting that the Initiative must be stopped because it’s chief proponent, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, failed to publicly and categorically acknowledge Hamas as a terrorist organization!

It is difficult not to see that at the very core of the foregoing questions is the undeniable fact these efforts are being exclusively brought under a peculiar and intensely troubling level of scrutiny.

But in all fairness, how could one deny the petition to build this mosque out of concern for the lives of the victims of 9/11 without appearing to condemn Islam, instead of the known perpetrators and their co-conspirators, for the attacks?

Should Muslims in the US, most of whom also happen to be American citizens, be extended the same constitutional and/or statutory guarantees of religious freedom in this country? Is it okay for cities, municipalities or towns to process requests from Muslim groups (whose members are bonafide, law-abiding, tax-paying members of the community) for permits to erect mosques any differently than similar petitions for new churches from their Christian counterparts?

If the measure of what courtesies any one religious group deserves is the enormity of the pillage and atrocities that had been committed in the religion’s name, who really would be left standing? Wasn’t slavery, colonialism and the near annihilation of Native Americans in this hemisphere, to varying degrees, rationalized theologically? And if those now seem in our distant or faded memory, how about Jim Jones or David Koresh?

Ought we assemble an agreeable battery of questions (what one thinks of Hamas or the Papacy or the Dalai Lama, etc) that should now collectively serve as the litmus test for determining who should be allowed to erect places of worship in America?

It is indeed gratifying to see that a wide range of notable individuals and groups, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Jewish Leaders across the country, and thoughtful average Americans have come out forcefully in defense of the right of Muslim groups, as any others, to build new places of worship in locations of their choosing in accordance with existing local codes and stipulations.

The Cordoba House is neither the first nor would it be the last; there are well over 100 mosques in New York alone, and thousands more scattered around the country.

Regardless of how peeved, aggrieved or self-righteous one might feel about the thought processes that engendered the 9/11 calamity, or the next still lurking in the corner, allowing oneself to go down the treacherous road of denying fellow Americans constitutionally protected liberties of free speech, assembly and worship is inherently un-American.


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    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      This is a good hub but for the fact that there is no proposed Mosque at Ground Zero. It is a proposed Cultural Center modeled after the 92nd Street Y and it will, among other things, house a room set aside for prayers. Muslims have been praying at Ground Zero since 2001, some of them had family members, friends and loved ones killed on that horrible day in those ill-fated buildings. Agnostics lost their lives and loved ones that day, as did atheists, Jews, Buddhists, Christians and all manner of religions and cultures. Regardless of religion it there is only one God and all are sending their prayers to the same Supreme Being. If the building of a 'Y' was proposed in Kuwait and the Muslims protested calling it a church would you not consider them ill-informed? Just asking.

    • profile image

      rightsquared 7 years ago

      Although I am against building the Ground Zero mosque, I commmend you for constructing a well-written well thought out argument for constructing the mosque. I can agree to disagree with respect for a thinker like you.

    • Newsclipper profile image

      Newsclipper 7 years ago from Michigan

      To Thinking. I posted a Hub the other day that explains exactly why I object to the mosque in that spot. Not sure why you're still waiting for an answer. Thousands of people have expressed why it is upsetting to them.

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 7 years ago from home

      First i would like to say Your Hub was well written and excellent- I DO NOT SUPPORT THE BUILDING OF THIS MOSQUE IN THIS LOCATION-

      It is seldom I agree with LRC but he has an interesting point of there is a Mosque only a few blocks away Why do "they " need a MEGAMOSQUE in THAT SPOT WHY THERE...? that is my question to those who are in favor of the Mega Mosque-If there were not radicals in the Islamic SECT- that want to Islamify the Us and they can strive to do this in the US then i have right to oppose it as well- again if there is a mosque so close WHY there- what message are they telling us??

      Thats my issue- Words speak actions scream... What are they screaming to the US.


    • profile image

      thinking 7 years ago

      I agree. I recently asked for someone to give me a clear reason why a mosque near ground zero is so terrible. Still waiting for an answer.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 7 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      I understand the squeamishness of people over this issue. I worked in the Trade Center for over 18 years and was there for the bombing in 1993 and lost several friends during 9/11. That being said, this country was founded on several freedoms including the freedom of religion. The Muslim extremists who perpetrated 9/11 want a global war between us and the Muslim extremists. We cannot play into their hands. We must celebrate our freedoms and the fact that they cannot be broken. If we give into fear and hate, we lose. Let's stay above that.

    • LRCBlogger profile image

      LRCBlogger 7 years ago

      Terrorists are succeeding in dividing this country. They know the only way to defeat America is to bankrupt and divide the people.

      Funny how much controversey is raised over this mosque when there is one only 4 blocks north on Warren street that has been there for 40 years.