It's been four years since I blogged about the attack(s) on the World Trade Center, and my experiences in them. Up until now I thought my last post expressed everything I wanted to say on the subject. But recent events have changed that. First, there was the controversy over the "ground zero mosque." Then there was the announced, but subsequently "suspended," Koran-burning in Florida, which has gotten itself enmeshed in the "mosque" brouhaha.
As to the former, as many others have pointed out, the proposed Islamic community center is neither at "ground zero" (a term I hate), nor is it essentially a mosque. It's a couple blocks away and around the corner from the World Trade Center site--it certainly does not overlook it, as some critics have claimed. And, while it will contain rooms where people can pray (similar to hospital chapels, I think), religious observance is not its primary purpose. It's a community center.
Disregarding the facts, some outspoken family members of those killed in the attack have opposed it, calling it disrespectful to their loved ones. (Some family members do support its construction.) The right wing media have made it an issue, and many politicians, primarily but not exclusively Republicans, have come out against it.
But even if it were a mosque, I would have no objections to placing it there. The terrorists who destroyed the Trade Center hated the freedoms America stands for, including freedom of religion. It is not disrespectful to the people who died there to have a center dedicated to the exercise of a religion--even if it's the same general religion of the people who killed them. On the contrary, it is a monument to the committment of our nation to one of our fundamental freedoms, freedoms that the terrorists were willing to commit suicide to try to destroy. The Islamic cultural center shows the world that we truly believe in the right to freedom of religion.
However, some Americans don't really believe in it. Thus we have Koran-burnings. Started by the minister of a quite small church in Florida, the planned observance of 9/11 with a book-burning has exploded into a world-wide mess. At least one person in Afghanistan has died protesting against it. A U.S. general and President Obama have spoken out in opposition to it. It's not worth getting into all the contradictory statements of the people involved, but the minister at least at one point thought he had traded his cancellation of the Koran-burning for the relocation of the Islamic cultural center. As of this writing he is planning to meet with the imam behind the center's construction. As the minister has termed Islam "of the devil," I can't imagine what they would discuss.
Needless to say, I am opposed to the burning of the Koran, or any religion's holy books. It's not that people in America don't have the right to do such things--we have freedom of speech and expression here. But we have (at least I thought we had), enough respect for the right of people to have differing beliefs that we refrain from such actions.
It's disrespectful to burn religious books. It's not disrespectful to build religion-based community centers. Those are my thoughts on the ninth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center.
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