The last few weeks have been very interesting to watch from the sidelines. I’m not a political person. I’m more of a “get it done” kind of guy who gets annoyed when people can’t put aside their differences and compromise to come to a decision. I am decidedly a liberal, so you can go ahead and hold that against me. And I’m an atheistic-leaning agnostic, just to get that out of the way.
I’m annoyed enough that I’m willing to put up with some grief for taking a position that doesn’t seem to be popular at the moment. The U.S. Constitution in the Bill of Rights – Amendment 1 – protects freedom of religion…
Amendment 1: Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Now, as far as I remember, state and local laws can’t supersede Federal laws. And it doesn’t get much higher than the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
The Muslim community has just as much right to build in that area as any other religious group does. If it was in my neighborhood, I wouldn’t object to any community center that a) was respectful of the beliefs of non-believers who also live/work/play in the area and b) obeyed the federal, state, and local laws of the area.
That said, the New York zoning folks may have some regulation that prevents them from approving the new Muslim community center. If so and it’s not based on religion, then I’m good with it. See (b) above. But I have to wonder if we would we even be having this discussion at a national level if it was a Christian, Jewish, Hindi, Shinto, Buddhist, Scientology, Wiccan, or even Rastafarian group looking to reuse the space of the old Burlington Coat Factory building.
After 9/11, everyone practicing Islam as a faith was immediately labeled a terrorist. Maybe not everyone, but even I bit into the paranoia for a while. But, like all faiths, it boils down to people. Extremists. They exist in every philosophy, religion, political party, and profession.
Do I blame 9/11 on all Muslims? Heck no. It’s a few people who like to live in caves and preach hate instead of tolerance I blame 9/11 on. It’s those people we need to be focused on — not the average Joe simply trying to get by day to day who believes in Allah instead of a Christian deity. More power to anyone seeking a bit of guidance now and then.
I do object to extremists seeking to do us harm simply because we don’t share their beliefs. I have the same issue with people attacking abortion clinics. I have the same issue with people who choose to disallow marriage for gays and lesbians simply because they don’t meet the standard of a traditional family. Hate isn’t the answer. Acceptance and compromise are the tools we need instead.
So let the Muslim community have their center two blocks from Ground Zero. Prove to the world that we – as a nation – can move forward from our 9/11 black eye and see beyond the hatred that brought down the Twin Towers. If we can’t accept that our nation is full of people with differences, then how are we living up to the standards set by our own Constitution and the ideal embodied by the United States?