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The WTC Mosque


So imagine this scenario:

You just finished reading your big book of answers when you hear a knock at the door. You think to yourself, well, it can’t be Trouble because there was a knock. Trouble enters without letting you know. You walk to the door where you find three close friends. You let them in, but they seem different. There’s a look of fear, and a look of sadness in their eyes. This is when you realized Trouble can come into your home, invited, masked as Friendship. Your friends see your big book of answers sitting on the table and they tell you, “We’re sorry, but you have to come with us.” You’ve heard stories, you know what happens next, so you say, “Let me tell my kids I love them.” Your friends, the ones who have aligned themselves with Trouble in order to protect their families, lead you out of your house, as they take your big book of answers with them to be tossed aside, burned and destroyed.

This happens, in one form or another, repeatedly throughout human history. Jews know all too well this scenario, but so do Christians and Muslims. Any group in the minority – whether race, religion, sexual preference – knows what it’s like to be the “other,” and yet we, as a whole, do not learn from the past.

Take for example, this wonderfully xenophobic and unlearned quote given to the New York Times about Muslims in America:

“As a mother and a grandmother, I worry,” Ms. Serafin said. “I learned that in 20 years with the rate of the birth population, we will be overtaken by Islam, and their goal is to get people in Congress and the Supreme Court to see that Shariah is implemented. My children and grandchildren will have to live under that.”

“I do believe everybody has a right to freedom of religion,” she said. “But Islam is not about a religion. It’s a political government, and it’s 100 percent against our Constitution.”

Obviously, in a nation with more than 300 million people, the line between opinion and fact blurs, especially in this fragmented media era where we digest our news either in 140 characters or by listening to screaming talking heads. But you’d think the American public would know the basic history of our nation and see how silly they sound when they make comments like this.

How do you make an argument to not allow religious freedom, knowing that our country was founded because a group of people were being persecuted from practicing their religion in their homes? 

Mayor Bloomberg’s speech (if you haven’t read it yet, read it here) was poignant in its approach, and more importantly, gets to the heart of the “debate:”

“This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

This discussion has spiraled out of control, namely due to others stepping in and voicing their opinions on how New Yorkers should react; that we should ‘refudiate’ the proposed mosque. The ironic thing is, those making the most/loudest noise -the Palins, Limbaughs, of the world – have made statement upon statement, act upon act, that New York is not America; that New York and LA/SF are liberal islands upon themselves and the real America is what’s in between. But they play the fear game and people take them seriously when they say that building a mosque by the WTC means the terrorists win. 

This is not a win/lose situation – this is life, and as I’ve been told many times, “Life is not a game.” We have the ability to learn from the past and prevent Trouble from entering our homes while meeting up with Friendship for a beer.

Placing a mosque, a house of worship, by the site of the World Trade Center is wholly American. The fact that we can have discussion (no matter how ridiculous) about this shows the world that we firmly believe in open discourse, in the right to speak your mind. Building a mosque proves that we can be the beacon of light for those who have none in their countries; that we are the land of the free and home of the brave.

About joshsternberg

Josh Sternberg is the content strategist for The Washington Post. Prior to that he was the media reporter for Digiday. Additional bylines include: The Atlantic, The Awl, Pacific Standard, Mashable, Huffington Post, Mediaite.


2 thoughts on “The WTC Mosque

  1. Publications like the Weekly Standard have made this mosque issue one that ‘true’ conservatives should align against. Our citizens, many of whom are descended from immigrants that were facing persecution in other nations should be aligning itself with facts and history, not perpetuationing a wedge issue that’s kept alive by think-tanks and their media outlets… We believe what we want of believe in light of the facts, and are swayed by creative arguments effectively allowing others to ‘think’ for us. Without question, there are many 9/11 victims, and families that believe this is offensive but others are more charitable, and thoughtful in their opinions…Charles Wolf of New York City lost his wife, Katherine, in the attacks. "She was a wonderful girl," said Wolf, 56.He said he supports the Muslim community center "100 percent.""I’m not going to brand any group for the actions of a few of the fringe," Wolf said. "The fact that the extremists who did this to us have now moved us in this direction through our fear and hatred, to be exactly like them … it will come back to haunt us."He accused certain politicians, like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, of using the controversy over the community center to "foster a public backlash against Muslims." Giuliani called the project "a desecration" on the conservative Jeff Katz radio show this week.Wolf thinks that sentiment is wrong, and said Americans can’t support the rights of certain groups over others."This country was founded on the principles of religious freedom for all," he said. "Are we doing to start denying that to people? If we start doing that we start dismantling the values this country was founded upon."http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/9-11-families-speak-out-on-ground-zero-muslim-center/19581141 Please excuse this questionable segueway, but if we are to debate the mosque issue, we are opening ourselves up to reconsider the aftermath of 9/11 and the Iraq war since it is at the heart of this issue….In 2006, over 50% of Americans polled believed that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s. http://www.prwatch.org/node/5067At this point, the WMD story seems to be an ancient myth, and those who believe he either had WMD’s or was involved w/ Al Queda are dangerously misinformed, but even if those links were true, was Iraq a grave threat to our freedom? Were they as involved with Al Queda as Pakistan was?A better question, of a more informed American public, would have been, ‘Do you believe that Pakistan was involved in 9/11? And the answer should have been a resounding, YES…’http://www.historycommons.or/timeline.jsp?timeline=complete_911_timeline&geopolitics_and_9/11=isi&startpos=100We have become a nation of ostriches, willingly burying our heads in the sand, arguing over inarguable rights that our nation is founded upon. This mosque issue is no different than any other wedge issue, where people choose a side and stick to it…’No specific threats’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGIpzh4tZaY&NR=1

    Posted by dumbamerican | August 8, 2010, 4:10 pm
  2. Josh, you are combatting rigid, reflexive thinking. You are not asserting your righteousness. You’re asking opponents of the mosque to take a step back and think about what they are fighting against. It’s easy to find the things that may be wrong about it, and harder to find things that are right, but the opinion should not be based on easy rhetoric that’s delivered to the masses from the ‘thinkers’ at the top. Yes,the families of the 9/11 victims that are opposed to the mosque certainly have a valid opinion, but we can’t be swayed by those that respond to this sensitive issue with anger and intolerance. Let reason prevail. Let’s do the opposite of what Bin Laden would want us to do…."Just ask, “What would Osama bin Laden want?” and then do the opposite.Bin Laden would love to be able to say that in America you can build a church or synagogue anywhere you want, but not a mosque. That fits perfectly with his recruiting pitch — that America has declared war on Islam. And bin Laden would thrill to the claim that a mosque near ground zero dishonors the victims of 9/11, because the unspoken premise is that the attacks really were, as he claims, a valid expression of Islam."http://www.musalmantimes.com/?p=320

    Posted by Phil Zelikow | August 8, 2010, 5:18 pm

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