Editorials and Opinions

Opposing Viewpoints: The mosque at ground zero is a rightful place of worship

By Leigh Alon
Published: November 2010

On May 6, 2010, a unanimous vote by a New York City community board took place to approve the building of an Islamic community center two and half blocks from ground zero. That same day the New York Post covered the story under the headline “Panel Approves ‘ËœWTC’ Mosque and Pamela Geller, co-creator of the group Stop Islamization of America, titled a blog entry “Monster Mosque Pushes Ahead in Shadow of World Trade Center Islamic Death and Destruction. Nothing about this scenario would be surprising except that today seven out of ten Americans agree with Geller, who recently published a guide to “fighting the Muslim brotherhood. How do seventy percent of the people in a country where from kindergarten we are taught that unlike so many other places in the world all Americans may practice religious freedom, oppose this first amendment right?

We Americans cannot be blamed for being afraid, however. Throughout this controversy we have been bombarded with information that grossly misrepresents the mosque proposal and the intentions of its founders. On December 21, 2009, Laura Ingraham of all people, on Fox News, of all networks, interviewed Daisy Kahn, the wife of the imam of the controversial mosque. Ingraham praised Kahn for her denouncement of radical Muslims, and for the actions her new Islamic center plans to take in promoting peace and understanding. Ingraham even goes as far as to say she “can’t find many people who have a problem with [the mosque]. Indeed, Kahn and her husband Imam Feisal founded an organization advocating combining Islamic observance with the conservation of women’s rights, later renaming the group the American Society for Muslim Advancement. The Imam at one point even advised the FBI, and Kahn joined an advisory panel of the 9/11 memorial and museum. When the couple were looking to build the mosque, the sought advice from the Jewish leaders of a nearby synagogue, who advised them to allow extra space for strollers. When the board voted to approve the Muslim community center they did not imagine that they would stir such a controversy simply because the intentions of Daisy Kahn and Imam Feisal were exactly the opposite of what Geller and her colleagues claim. And yet Geller as well as other conservative groups and the conservative media (including of course Fox News), continue to protest the building of the mosque and inform their viewers of the dangers of Islam.

I am by no means understating the tragedy that occurred on 9/11 or the danger Muslim extremists and their entrenched hate for the West pose for America; it was only by chance that the Times Square bomber and the underwear bomber were both unsuccessful.

However the last people we should silence and alienate are those Muslims who seek to promote moderation and acceptance. There are those on the right who claim that since a church could not be built in Saudi Arabia or Lebanon, the United States should not allow a mosque to be built on the ground where so many lost their lives. However our country is not in a good place if we are using Saudi Arabia as a comparison for the rights we should give our citizens.

It is no secret that America’s image in the Muslim world is already less than favorable. By demonstrating to those Muslims that we do not practice the tolerance we preach, especially towards Muslims specifically, we are undermining our goals abroad and therefore indirectly endangering American citizens. The outcry against the mosque, caused by false information spread by the highly prejudiced, provides fuel for those abroad who preach violence and hate.

We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and work together with Muslims who hold the same goals as we do. The media has a duty to dispel misinformation and demonstrate to Americans that the extremists who have gotten all the attention do not represent all Muslims, and demonstrate to Muslims around the world that our country is a place of tolerance.

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