Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Park51 Islamic Community Center Plan for Lower Manhattan

This post is about what is being called the Ground Zero Mosque. However I will not call it the Ground Zero Mosque because it is not at Ground Zero and it is not a Mosque.

This past weekend I was in Lower Manhattan and I went to check out Ground Zero while I was in the area. This is what I saw:

I walked three city blocks away from the Northeast corner of Ground Zero to 51 Park Place to see the abandoned Burlington Coat factory building where the Islamic Community Center is planned to be built. This is what I saw:

The project's organizers state that it is intended to be "a platform for multi-faith dialogue. It will strive to promote inter-community peace, tolerance and understanding locally in New York City, nationally in America, and globally," and have stated that it is modeled on the noted Manhattan Jewish community and cultural center, the 92nd Street Y.

If that doesn't sound scary it's probably because it isn't. The leader of the project Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf is a moderate that worked with the Bush Administration on outreach to the Muslim World.

I know people came to New York City the week before protesting this Community Center. I wonder how many of them know it is being financed by Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal who is the biggest shareholder of Fox News Corp. aside from Rupert Murdoch.

If you have a sense that most New Yorkers don't want this Center you might want to see what people wrote on the sidewalk in front of the building:

You might wonder what the folks outside of the building thought about it:

You might even be curious what people wrote on the building:

One of my favorite quotes comes from one of our founding fathers Benjamin Franklin. That quote was, "Those that would trade in their freedom for protection deserve neither."

We as citizens of the U.S. can learn a lot from that statement. Our enemies want us to live in terror and fear. They want us divided so they can recruit those who will oppose us because they don't like what we represent.

Our country was founded on the concept of freedom of religion. Many early settlers came to North America to escape religious persecution. That is why our founding fathers included freedom of religion in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. That means that we the people have a right to practice religion in this country regardless of our denomination or affiliation. This includes Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and even protects the rights of non-believers.

New York City is an epicenter of Religious, Ethnic and Cultural Diversity. The World Trade Center was a symbol of the world economy. The attacks on 9/11 were symbolically an attack not just on the U.S. but on a major financial center of Western Civilization.

There are so called Christians that want to blame those attacks on Islam collectively and engage in a Holy War with the 1 Billion Muslims in the world. That world view only plays into exactly what Al-Qaeda wants.

Yet the Bible and the Koran both see the Hebrew Bible as being foundational to their religions. All of the Abrahamic faiths have at their core the concept of loving thy neighbor as thy self.

I saw signs of hope that some New Yorkers support the concept of coexistence. One of the most powerful things I noticed was the windows of the building at the southeast corner of Ground Zero:

In conclusion my experiences reminded me of another famous quote that came from our 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He stated in his Inaugural Address that "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

I believe we can learn a lot from that statement because if we spend the rest of our lives living in fear of those that are different from ourselves then the terrorists have already won.

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