Monday, August 16, 2010

Planned Mosque a Question of America

I wholeheartedly support the right for a community center and mosque to be built in Manhattan, two blocks away from Ground Zero, despite my understanding of the potential emotional implications. I understand that allowing Muslims to have a place of worship just two blocks away from a horrible terrorist attack perpetrated by a disgusting perversion of the Muslim faith can open old wounds, and I understand why families of the victims would be offended.

I get that. Really, I do.

However, the right for this community center/mosque to exist is undeniable. The First Amendment, which explicitly protects both freedom of speech and freedom of religion and establishes the separation of church and state, enables and protects the right for such a structure to be built in the area in question. To deny this place to be built would fly in the face of those constitutional concepts.

Who are we as a country if we tell those of the Muslim faith they can't have a place to worship? Are we still America if we deny one group of people the freedom of religion and assembly that are guaranteed to every citizen of this country? Can we still consider ourselves Americans if we forget that religious persecution was part of why this country was founded in the first place?

Some people fled to our shores centuries ago so they could build their churches and worship in peace. That's all Muslims in Manhattan want in this case: to build a place of worship in Manhattan. The fact that this place would be two blocks away from Ground Zero (thus making it *not* a Ground Zero mosque) is unfortunate, but there's already a mosque within four blocks of the site.

Would that mosque have to go away? And what of the other houses of worship in the area? What of the churches? What of the synagogues? If we're going to persecute religion in this country, if we're going to wipe our collective asses on the First Amendment, why not stop with Islam? Why don't we desecrate all faiths while we're at it?

But there's another side of this, one that I feel has been woefully ignored. When those terrorists attacked us on Sept. 11, when they destroyed the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon and killed over 3,000 people, that was not their complete endgame. They didn't just attack us to kill a bunch of innocent people.

The terrorists attacked us in part to make us afraid, and to make that fear override all of our values as Americans. If the terrorists had their way, their attacks on us would've left us scrambling in fear, acting out in hate and uncertainty while negating all of the values this country holds dear.

If we subvert the First Amendment and block this planned mosque, the terrorists win. In a way, they already have, since fear-mongering in the name of Islamic terrorism has led to two wars we are still in and still paying for to this day. But if we ignore freedom of speech, if we throw freedom of religion out the window and begin a form of tacit religious persecution, then Osama bin Laden and those who follow him have won.

Do we want the terrorists to win? Do we hate our own country that much?

We cannot abandon our core values, not even when those values defend things we don't like. I vehemently disagree with the likes of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin; I feel their rhetoric is inflammatory and potential dangerous, but I defend their right to express their venomous opinions. I strongly oppose organized Christianity and the way it perverts what faith is supposed to be, but I support its right to operate free from government intervention.

To defend the First Amendment is to defend all free speech and the freedom of all religions -- as well as the right for all those religions to build houses of worship on private property. If we do not defend the First Amendment in every instance -- even when we don't agree with what we're defending -- then we are no longer adhering to our founding documents, and we have let down our founding fathers.

Even worse, we let those who would destroy us win.

Tell me, is that something we really want?

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