July 22, 2010

A Mosque at Ground Zero

To build or not to build? In the past few weeks, the buzz surrounding whether or not a mosque and Muslim community center will be built a few blocks from Ground Zero has reached a fever pitch. The proposed project---costing an estimated $100 million---has become a polarizing topic. Talks show hosts, news outlets, and politicians are all throwing in their two cents. Sarah Palin took to Twitter to urge New Yorkers and Muslims to oppose the building (an "UNNECESSARY PROVOCATION," in her words) "in the interest of healing." During an interview with CNN's "American Morning," conservative blogger Pamela Geller, the leader of Stop the Islamicization of America, argued that the site is an insensitive invasion of sacred ground:

We feel that it is a cemetery and sacred ground and the dead should be honored...To build a 13-story mega mosque on the cemetery, on the site of the largest attack in American history, I think, is incredibly insensitive.

Interestingly enough, Cordoba House (the project has since been renamed "Park51") was intended to be a symbol of tolerance---named for the city in Spain where Jews, Muslims, and Christians once lived together peacefully. Supporters of Park51 insist that the center will be a place for peaceful discussion and enrichment. From the "Why Now?" page of Park51's website:

With a history going back centuries, almost to the City’s founding, New York’s diverse Muslim communities have worshipped, served and enriched our city in countless ways. We want to continue giving back, by realizing an institution like no other, a community center for our City, a model to the world of  dialogue and discussion and a dedicated commitment to developing individuals, families and communities.

About.com's Barbara O'Brian weighed in on the debate on her Buddhism Blog, urging dissenters to avoid the temptation of misguided revenge:

What the Cordoba House opposers and the perpetrators of September 11 have in common is a well-nourished sense of righteous resentment. They were and are stuck in "He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me" mode. As Pema Chodron says, instead of trying to understand why others may be angry at us, we strike back.

Religious scholar and Tricycle contributor Stephen Prothero published a piece on CNN's Belief Blog in which he addresses the motivations of those vehemently opposing the project:

The key question underlying the Ground Zero mosque debate is whether Americans are at war with Islam — whether the so-called clash of civilizations between the Christian West and the Muslim world is something we are trying to avoid or something we are trying to provoke.

If Islam is the enemy, then we should not stop at prohibiting the Cordoba Initiative from constructing a mosque within its Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan. We should outlaw new mosques from Cape Cod to Southern California. We might even be justified in rounding up all American Muslims and putting them in internment camps as we did with virtually all Japanese-American Buddhists during World War II.

. . .

Opponents say the Cordoba Initiative mosque and community center, which would rise two blocks from Ground Zero, is too close to that site. I say it is too far away. I believe a small mosque ought to be integrated into the redesign of the World Trade Center site itself — a reminder in steel and stone that the United States is not at war either with Islam or with our core values.

Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies scholar Robert Thurman published the following on the Washington Post's On Faith Blog:

It is a wonderful idea to build a mosque near Ground Zero! A number of innocent Muslim people also lost their lives, as they were at work in those buildings. And since religious bigotry - intolerance, fanaticism, whatever you call it - was one of the causal factors underlying the despicable 9/11 suicide attack, religious intolerance or bigotry should not be mobilized to prevent a positive gesture from our Muslim brothers and sisters.

. . .

As different as the cases may be, let the 9/11 tragedy be mourned with museums and monuments to those who lost their lives, and let the building of mosques, churches, synagogues, temples, Dharma centers - and ideally a world religions' Temple of Mutual Understanding - serve as anticipation of a time when such crimes against humanity will never more be perpetrated in the name of anybody's fanatical idea of any Deity or ideology!

This is a complicated topic to be sure, and one that carries profound meaning for many. What is certain is that although no resolution will find all parties holding hands and singing kumbaya, we should move forward with respect and compassion. As the Dalai Lama wrote in his recent New York Times Op-Ed "Mutual understanding among [the major faiths] is not merely the business of religious believers---it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole."

Image: dnainfo.com

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Obama Defends Ground Zero Mosque Plans - Politics and Other 's picture

[...] Originally Posted by irishvanguard I think the mosque will be just fine. There should be a requirement before occupancy, though, that the dome have a target painted on it, visible from the air. It would be a vivid reminder of the dangers of locating in the neighborhood. What dome? Here is a picture of what it should look like when finished. Tricycle

Tricycle » Ground Zero mosque project moves forward's picture

[...] a new Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero—a controversial project recently covered here on the Tricycle blog. Though the project has been protested vehemently by politicians, talk show [...]

Harold's picture

Union Tradespersons will never work on this project. If scabs are hired there would be picketing and job actions never before seen here in New York ( A Union Town) or elsewhere in the world. This would send the best message. God Bless America!!

Shala Blackburn's picture

The REAL question is not: why should this mosque be allowed to be built near Ground Zero? It is, instead: why are all the other religious groups not building nearby too? GZ COULD become the vortex of a powerful spiritual/religious coalition, IF we humans would rather be happy than angry.

Tom B's picture

Sarah Palin is an unnecessary “UNNECESSARY PROVOCATION”. Why are the media still quoting this person? She was uninteresting from the first minutes she opened her mouth at the GOP national convention in 2008.

David Fink's picture

One of the amazing things about living in New York City is that difference and tolerance are not ideas and theories, they are a part of our everyday life. Today i walked past a street vendor who left his table full of iPod & cell phone accessories unguarded as he knelt for his afternoon prayers. None of his merchandise was touched.

Living with people of different races, cultures & sexual preferences has taught me the simple lesson that some of them will be a joy to deal with, some I will not be able to stand. Where they come from, what they believe, or who the have sex with, makes next to no difference.

It would be nice to get a break for other people's ideologies arguing about the place where I'm just trying to make rent and have some fun.

Anthony C.'s picture

What a relief to hear some calming voices in the midst of this storm. While I am not a Muslim, I'm very troubled by a society that is so quick to condemn a peaceful religious movement. Stephen Prothero's comments are the most spot on. FTW

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