Build the “Ground Zero Mosque” NOW!

I recently visited NY, and from the moment I stepped off the plane I was bombarded with messages against the building of the GOP’s latest smear tactic: the “Ground Zero Mosque”. This latest stunt by the party of “no” is perhaps their most obnoxious one yet.

The GZM is actually called “Park 51” (go to their web site here), and it is actually a “community center” that is actually located at 51 Park Place, in lower Manhattan. Unfortunately, it is also actually located  a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero, which is not actually designated as an official location. Ground Zero is a place deep within the soul of America, apparently just one block north of Intolerance Avenue, just east of Racism Road, between Patriotism Street and Perverted Politics Boulevard.

The arguments against building Park 51 are predictable: “building the GZM is an insult to all the Americans who died there”, “it’s like erecting a KKK museum near an MLK monument”, or “I don’t want to see Islamic spires looking down on me from a mosque built right on top of my son’s graveyard.” I cannot put myself in the shoes of someone who lost a family member or a friend in 9/11, but as an American I find this all to be the height of ignorance.

First of all, Park 51 is not a mosque. According to preliminary building plans it will not look like a mosque, but rather like a high rise building. It won’t have spires, and it will not blare calls to prayer throughout the neighborhood. It is a community arts and education center that will contain a mosque for prayer, but it will be “dedicated to pluralism, service, arts and culture, education and empowerment, appreciation for [New York] city and a deep respect for our planet.”

Secondly, Islam did not attack us on 9/11–al Qaeda did. There is a huge difference. That would be like condemning all of Christianity for what the KKK did to African Americans, or like lumping in all of Germany for what the Nazis did to the Jews. al Qaeda hijacked the religion of Islam just like they hijacked the four planes that crashed that day, and Islam has paid a steep price ever since.

And in the third place, Islam is just as much a central component of the 9/11 tragedy as are all the deaths and destruction that occurred at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and that quiet field in Pennsylvania. Islam has born the brunt of a lot of backlash that should have been aimed at al Qaeda and their sympathizers. Islam’s true nature was smeared in the eyes of the world when the terrorists cited Allah as their motivation. Islam has suffered like everyone else.

So I find it not only fitting, but crucial, that Park 51 be built where it is proposed to be built. We need understanding, we need healing, and we need to confront our fears and bigotry head on so we can learn something. Park 51 must be built as a monument to education, integration, acceptance, and tolerance. It needs to rise so that America can say to the world: “we are not ignorant.” What better way to right one of the wrongs from that fateful day than to say that Islam was attacked too, and here is a progressive and positive way to heal ourselves with education and honesty?

It’s bad enough that Park 51 is called the Ground Zero Mosque. It is neither a mosque nor is it at Ground Zero. But the GOP has cherry picked this issue to divide the country because it plays into their core constituents’ fears and ignorance. Islam is part of the tragedy of 9/11, and it should be memorialized with education.

“Ground Zero” is a hallowed place for sure. The tragedy that occurred there will be remembered forever. So let’s not forget that part of the loss is the loss of freedom many Muslims have suffered to practice openly and live honestly. They can’t even open a community center just because it is within walking distance to a 9/11 memorial. It’s okay to open strip clubs and liquor stores nearby, and never mind that the devils of Wall Street are all around the neighborhood, but an Islamic community center? Well, that’s just so un-American isn’t it?

Build Park 51 NOW!

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