Commentary

Know the Facts, Ignore the Hype

When I first heard about the controversy surrounding the proposed Islamic community center and mosque on Ground Zero I was confused. What is this debate about? Why does it matter? A few things need to be put straight about this about this center. First, regardless of what detractors have said, it is not just a mosque. A mosque is for purely religious purposes, but the proposed structure is supposed to be used for a variety of activities, some religious and some secular. Furthermore, the center will not even be located at Ground Zero, but on a privately owned property, blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center. Do these facts make a difference? To individuals concerned with this issue, it’s the difference between offending American interests and helping the Islamic members of this community. The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 were tragic. Indeed, the terrorists involved were Muslim, and they used their faith to justify the massacre of almost 3000 individuals, but does that mean that we should persecute all Muslims, including American Muslims, for their crimes? Both the United States and the Islamic community are filled with diverse individuals, each with their own unique political viewpoint. Not all Muslims practice their religion in the same way, just as not all Christians practice Christianity in the same way. Stereotyping a community of Muslims, rather than targeting only the extremist groups responsible, does the entire religion of Islam, and thus many Americans by extension, a tremendous disservice. Therefore, we must keep in mind that we are not fighting Muslims, but rather we are fighting terrorism. An attempt to stop the building of the “Ground Zero Mosque” would simply be more evidence of American religious intolerance. As Taliban operative Zabihullah told “Newsweek,”“By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor. It’s providing us with more recruits, donations and popular support.” If we refuse to let American Muslims do something that they are legally entitled to do, we will be lighting a fire under Islamic extremist organizations, giving them another example of American prejudice against Muslims. If we stop American Muslims from building a place where they can practice their religion, how is that liberty and justice for all? What happened to freedom of religion without the fear of persecution? Isn’t that an underlying value of America? What made the earliest settlers come across the Atlantic? Freedom to practice their own religion. The government cannot stop American citizens from doing what they are legally entitled to do. If the government can infringe on the religious freedom of this Muslim community, then our right to religious freedom is simply a fair weather friend. Instead, the peaceful building of this Islamic community center would be a sign to terrorists everywhere that freedom in America is not swayed by the savage actions of Islamic extremists. Both the builders of the mosque and the terrorists responsible for 9/11 are Muslim, but Islam in scripture is not about genocide and political strategy. That terrorism is the enemy, not Islam. Proving that religious freedom in America is strong and certain despite external threats and internal dissent is the first step in a new war on terror. Amanda Zhu is a two-year Lower from West Hartford, CT.