Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Park 51 Must be Built in Lower Manhattan

What do you get when the US government is on recess, there is still a 24 hour news cycle and deadlines to be met, and the cable news networks and radio talk show hosts need ratings? You get one issue blown completely out of proportion and so much misinformation and lies that truth and reality dissolve away to fear and panic. Last year, it was healthcare reform and the "death panels" that did not exist. This year's silly season topic is the proposed building of Park 51. You might not recognize the name "Park 51" it is better known as the "Ground Zero Mosque." The term "Ground Zero Mosque" is a misnomer because it is neither a mosque, it is a community center with a prayer space, think YMCA, nor is it at Ground Zero, it is several blocks away at an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory.

The big controversy is the building of an Islamic community center so close to the site of the attack on the World Trade Center (WTC). Many in New York and around the country have stated that this is an attempt to disrespect the dead of 9/11. Phrases like "pouring salt in the wounds", "spitting on the graves of the dead", and others have been used. Even the most moderate of opinions conclude that although they have the Constitutional right to build a center there it is in bad taste to do so. The reaction to the proposal of this Islamic center demonstrates that even 9 years later the wounds from 9/11 are still as raw as they were in 2001. We have not healed as a nation or as individuals. In fact, the wounds are now infected with the disease of prejudice and fear. Just like an untreated flesh wound can become gangrenous without treatment, a emotional and spiritual wound can fester and spread without forgiveness. The wounds of 9/11 cannot heal because certain persons, politicians and TV news people, rip away the scab and drive a proverbial finger in the wound when it becomes profitable for them. How many political campaigns have been run on the fear of 9/11? (Let us not forget this is an election year.) How much money has been made publicly and privately on the fear of 9/11? The narrative that they disseminate is that all of Islam is responsible for 9/11 not a select group of radicals and heretics. They want to do distrust all Muslims, even those who have lived and loved this country for generations.

This is why Park 51 must be built in its proposed location. To move it now would be to accept the fear mongering and lies as truth and those who propagate such bile will win. They will win not only in New York City, but also in Murfreesboro, TN and in other cities around the country. This place must be built because to bow to these lies will shred the Constitution just a little bit more. It will only serve to embolden the mob and those who control it. Who will be next? The Jews? The United Church of Christ? I hear they're pretty liberal. The Unitarian Universalists? The United Methodists? If the Muslims proposing Park 51 are denied their right to worship in a building they own, we are traveling down a very slippery slope.

Maybe this place can be a center not only for Muslims, but for all persons of faith. Perhaps this can be a catalyst for dialogue and mutual learning. There are many things we can learn from each other if we just try. One of Osama Bin Laden's goals was to create division between Islam and the West. He wants to isolate Muslims within the West because the become easier targets for recruitment. Are we too blind to see this? This place can promote healing with we are willing to give these people a chance.

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