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The Ground Zero Debate

Abstract image of interconnectedness

The high octane debate over Park 51, the proposed Islamic community center of lower Manhattan, rages on. The Americans I know have only compassion in their hearts for the devastating losses of September 11. In fact, one Muslim-American friend of mine, born in Cairo, was especially grief-stricken on that day, due to her love of America and the provence of those terrorist acts. I recall her voice on the phone soon after the twin towers fell, disconsolate and tearful. Neither of us experienced direct familial losses. But like all decent Americans, we were bonded in shock and empathy. My friend was in equal, if not more, distress.

This is the same woman, a filmmaker, whose work has since been exploring East-West connections for further understanding between cultures. This is the woman who Sean Hannity of Fox News likes to invite onto his programs only to stack the deck against her, throw names, and barely allow her to form a sentence. “You are a Jihadi!,” they screech at her during such “discussions.”

The Imam of the proposed Islamic community center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is a moderate who has worked in Manhattan for over 25 years. He is known for his dedication to interfaith work: the kind of work that heals. I had blogged about Imam Rauf last year. It’s sad to learn that he and his family are facing such opposition.

Detractors of the center argue that the degree of our religious freedom should be limited by the degree of Saudi Arabia’s religious suppression. What? According to this logic, I would be allowed to keep stolen money if offered some, because Bernie Madoff hasn’t sufficiently seen the light! Detractors also say the Imam should build a YMCA instead. Because as planned, they say, the terrorists will claim a victory. What? Since when would the terrorist propaganda mill refrain from spinning either outcome to favor its agenda?!

Do supporters of the Islamic center regard 9-11 with any less solemnity than they do earlier crimes of history perpetrated by aberrant religious forms: like the crusades, for example? I think not.

Speaking of history, I suggest we follow its lessons by putting tolerance in the lead. In the VIDEO below, Keith Olbermann takes us right to the core of the discussion. September 11 was an exceptional crime. But it yields no excuse. For anyone wavering “just this once” toward denial of religious expression in America, Olbermann’s commentary will cause you to think twice. America’s founding principles scaled new heights of freedom unparalleled in the world: for reasons as vital today as they were then. Those towers must stand. Watch the VIDEOS in Multimedia Content below for important historical perspectives, and some comic relief with the Daily Show, too!:


VIDEO: Keith Olbermann commentary

  • VIDEO: The Daily Show




    Check out this Action Opportunities link to the American Society for Muslim Advancement, an organization on the front lines of religious pluralism and interfaith action, founded in 1997 by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf:

    Action Opportunities






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    Filed under Culture  |  Comments: 0 | Posted on Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

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