A Mosque Grows in Manhattan

by Eric Feuer, SUNY Cortland, October 1, 2010

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With all the attention being paid to that little oil spill in the Mexican Gulf, by the time the mosque proposal near Ground Zero came to people's attention it had been blown out of proportion. If you haven't heard, an Islamic group wants to build an Islamic community center and mosque downtown by Ground Zero.

When I first heard about it I was on the fence because, on one hand, people should be able to build a house of worship where they want, but on the other hand, building it at Ground Zero might not have been the best choice. But then I did some research and found out that calling it the Ground Zero mosque was a lie because its planned location was two blocks away from where the World Trade Center used to be.

This argument boils down to more than a mosque near Ground Zero. What it really comes to is the fact that 9/11 changed the way Americans view Muslims. If 9/11 never happened would anyone voice their disapproval? In fact before 9/11 there were two mosques near the World Trade Center, with various Islamic style prayer rooms in the actual Twin Towers. There's also the prayer room in the Pentagon no more than 80 feet from where the terrorists attacked.

Also underplayed in this argument is the fact that the building proposal is for an Islamic community center, with a mosque as one of the many features. The building would include a 500-seat auditorium, performing arts and fitness center complete with a basketball court and pool. Then there is the culinary school and prayer space, in addition to a 9/11 memorial. People who argue against the mosque being built need to remember that the project is about more than prayer. Plus there is already an Islamic prayer group that practices at the proposed location.

Regardless of what happened on 9/11, at the end of the day this is still America and we pride ourselves on the freedoms we're allowed. Freedom to worship is one of the reasons people come to America, and if we start preventing people from worshipping where they want what, have we become? In some Islamic countries performing repairs on a non-Muslim building or house can result in violence.

Unfortunately this argument isn't about letting these people pray where they want. Those opposed to the building tend to be right wing Republicans who want to use America's growing discontent with Muslims to prevent a religious and cultural building from being completed. But when they have no way of stopping it they play dirty.

They claim the mosque will be built on Ground Zero by extremist Islamists. Both of these facts are false and it's sad that the acts of a few radicals can ruin the reputation of a whole group. People have been saying they can build a mosque here when we can build churches there. What would that even prove? And does it really make it okay? This whole argument has been blown out of proportion and I hope they can build their mosque, so that people can see it was never a bad idea to begin with.

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