This is a post I was really hoping I would not have to write. But I have to.
We all know of the controversy of the mosque that is planned for Lower Manhattan, just two blocks from the World Trade Center site on Park Place. It has stirred up some great passions on both sides of the debate. But I can only be on one side of it.
The mosque should be built at another location.
As many of you who have read my blog in the past know, I pay more than just a passing interest at what's been going on at the World Trade Center site. I have been at the previous eight September 11th remembrances, and I will be there again in less than three weeks.
The mosque controversy was barely a blip on the national radar screen until President Obama made comments about it to a Muslim group at the White House on August 13th. Originally he stayed out of it, saying it was a "local matter."
I was there at Ground Zero in June when there was a protest that very few paid any attention to. I felt I needed to make my voice heard about it, but most people who were there just seemed to be there to bash Muslims and their religion, not to voice legitimate concerns about the mosque being built near sacred ground (and that's a good part of the reason I wasn't at the one this past Sunday). There were very few 9/11 victims' family members I recognized, and just too many people there I felt that were using Ground Zero and the victims' families to further a different agenda.
In this whole controversy, my first concern is with the 9/11 victims and their families. Since 2001, I have been at Ground Zero on numerous occasions standing with the families. The City of New York has dumped on them time and time again, over such things as the building of the memorial and the remains at Fresh Kills on Staten Island. I was proud to be with them every time.
And in these nine years, I have gotten to know dozens and dozens of people in what is known as "the 9/11 community." They are regular people like you and me who have had their lives torn apart forever by what happened the morning of September 11, 2001. They are not far-right wing "Islamophobes" who hate everything to do with Islam. They have shown me great courage, determination and conviction that their loved ones will not have died in vain, and will be properly remembered forever. It has been my great pleasure to know Anthony Gardner, Mary Fetchet and many others who stood up to New York City and its bureaucracy in seeing that what gets built at Ground Zero will be a beautiful and everlasting remembrance to those beautiful souls who perished there. I admire them greatly, and they will forever have a special place in my heart.
A mosque just a short distance from that tragic site is causing a lot of pain for many of the 9/11 victims families and opening up old wounds. The people who want to construct this mosque (as well as the city of New York) see this, and seem hellbent on building it on that site. They talk about tolerance and things like that, but they are showing no tolerance whatsoever in my mind, and are basically giving the 9/11 families the middle finger and showing no sensitivity whatever to what they feel. Again, they are not "ideologues." They are just normal people.
Listen, I understand those people who feel that a mosque on Park Place would serve a noble purpose, a way of healing for the world to see. I have no problem with the building of mosques. 99% of American Muslims were horrified by what happened on September 11, 2001, and many Muslims were among the victims of 9/11. But sensitivity is a two-way street.
There have been many "comparisons" to what building a mosque at Ground Zero is like and most in my opinion are off-base. But one that I believe is accurate is when a convent was built near the Auschwitz death camp in Poland by the Carmellite nuns in the mid-1980s. It caused a lot of outrage in the Jewish community, and finally Pope John Paul II stepped in and had the nuns move to another location. (It took time but it did happen.) The nuns had every right to build it where they did, but the Pope saw what it was doing to the Jewish community and the relations with them, and made his decision, which in the end was the correct one. The Pope concluded that moving it was just the right thing to do.
Same applies here. The people building the mosque have every right to build it at Park Place. (There has been a mosque on Warren Street, not far from the WTC site, for over 40 years, built around the same time the Twin Towers were. That's fine, as it's an established house of worship.) It's not a religious issue. It's a sensitivity issue. Some of you may disagree with me, and that is your right. I don't think our American way of life is threatened if the Muslims pick a new location in Lower Manhattan. I guess I just come from a different direction on this issue.
When something of this nature happens, the opportunists pop out of the woodwork, trying to capitalize on the situation. Most are politicians of both political parties. I have very little use for most of them. But I do agree with New York governor David Paterson, who wants a broker a deal with everyone involved and move the mosque to another location in Lower Manhattan, on state land. I hope he succeeds in that quest, but those who are building the mosque have to meet him halfway on it, and right now, they don't seem interested in doing that.
Compromise is the American way, isn't it? Our whole government is founded on compromise.
It is my wish that those Muslims looking to build the mosque should see the pain they are causing the 9/11 families and choose another location in Lower Manhattan. (And forget the idiot, grandstanding, self-absorbed politicians in this who really don't give a damn about the 9/11 families.) I hope they would have a heart and just see the hurt this is causing to some good people, who have suffered more than their share of agony over the past decade.
Please, please rethink this.
Like Pope John Paul II did with moving the convent in Poland.
It's just the right thing to do.