Should a mosque be built two blocks from Ground Zero? NOTES: (a) Imam claims to distance himself from radical Islam yet insists on building a mosque two blocks from where said radicals had their...

Should a mosque be built two blocks from Ground Zero? 


(a) Imam claims to distance himself from radical Islam yet insists on building a mosque two blocks from where said radicals had their greatest triumph.

(b) There are serious questions about where the funding for this mosque will come from. Mayor Bloomberg explicitly said that he doesn't care and that it doesn't matter. So, if the money came from Hamas, Hizbulluh, or even Osama bin Laden - who cares, right?

(c) Imam has refused to say whether Hamas is a terrorist organization.

(d) This has nothing to do with the First Amendment. If gov't oked a synagogue but not a mosque, then one could claim discrimination - but the 1st Amendment does not require that a religious institution be built whereever and whenever it is desired.

(e) If Muslims claim to be "sensitive" and desirous of goodwill towards others, then why do they insist upon shoving an unpopular plan down the throats of infidels (excuse me, other religions) - when 68% of American voters disapprove?

(f) Please do not attempt to answer this question unless you can address all five of my points directly, clearly, and honestly.

Expert Answers
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the above post.  The 1st Amendment is an absolute right and zoning laws do not apply to churches and where they are constructed.

Furthermore, I think it is dangerous and overreaching to lump in the 6.5 million American Muslims and their places of worship with the very small membership of al-Qaeda abroad, and the radical beliefs of the terrorists.  Nor do I think an Imam should have to pass a litmus test of statements that non-Muslims want to hear before they choose a worship site.  How can they legally be required to do so?  Incidentally, Hamas had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Granted, choosing a site so close to Ground Zero was bound to inflame public opinion, so from a public relations standpoint perhaps a different site should have been chosen.  However, that has nothing to do with whether or not people have a right to worship or build churches how and where they want.   I do not view it as shoving anything down my throat.  If I do not want to attend the mosque, I do not have to.  No one does.

If government OK's a synagogue but not a mosque one could claim discrimination?  I don't understand.  Are you saying government can legally rule that no churches can be built within a publicly unacceptable distance from Ground Zero as long as they rule so for every church?  That another church must be approved in the zone and another denied for discrimination to have taken place?  If so, I disagree.  Blanket discrimination is no better or more constitutional than individual discrimination.

I'm also not sure I understand why the proximity to Ground Zero is such an issue.  Two blocks is too close?  Seems pretty arbitrary.  Three would be OK?  Six?  How do we determine what is an acceptable radius around the site within which to ban church construction?  How could such a ban be Constitutional?

As for the funding of worship sites, there is nothing illegal about money coming from foreign sources to construct buildings.  In fact the Vatican does so all the time with the Catholic Church.  If those funds were used for any illegal purposes, then sure, the government can and would take action.

Lastly, consider an analogy.  There are many white supremacist groups in the United States who claim to be Christians, despite professing violence and committing crimes.  I'm sure most Christians disagree with white supremacy, and aren't excited about having their religion associated with such groups.  Should all priests and pastors have to publicly disavow the beliefs of white supremacist Christians before being allowed to build churches? By the same token, there are Muslim terrorist groups, who profess violence and commit crimes.  I'm sure the millions of peaceful American Muslims (and the vast mainstream of Islam worldwide) disagree with Islamic radicalism, and aren't excited about having their religion associated with or defined by those groups.

I view this as an opportunity for America to demonstrate our commitment to freedom, in this case, freedom of religion, and our resolve not to let a few violent radicals in al-Qaeda change our treatment of the fundamental Constitutional principles we live by.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm going to take a different tact with your question than the first two editors.  You use the word "should" in your question not the word "could."  Of course, the answer to your question had it started with "could" is yes because of the rights allowed by the U.S. Constitution. So, this then becomes a matter of judgment rather than one of legality.

While we as Americans should want all religions to have freedom to worship, we have to be honest that September 11th was an attack by a religious extremist group.  No, Al Qaeda does not represent all of Islam, but because almost all terrorists or would-be terrorists toward the United States since 9/11 have claimed Islam as their faith, it is understandable why this issue has become so inflammatory.

Many analogies have been made such as what if the Japanese wanted to build a memorial at Pearl Harbor? Or, what if someone wanted to create a shrine to Hitler outside Auschwitz?  All of the analogies are faulty because in American history we have not been involved in a conflict with such a violent and widespread group that uses religion as its motivation.

Another problem with this issue is that there has not been a great deal of logical thinking put forth on either side.  While protestors come up with problematic comparisons, those on the other side are often guilty of using a straw man fallacy (oversimplifying or exaggerating the opponent's position) because it's easier to say that most who protest the mosque being built near Ground Zero are bigots or anti-Muslim rather than actually refuting the protestors' actual objection.

This whole issue goes back to it being a matter of tolerance and sensitivity, not one of government involvement, and it's too bad that those who ask for tolerance for Islam do not seem to offer that same tolerance or sensitivity to the victims of 9/11 or to other faiths.  The choice of location is an unwise one if the goal of the Imam is to bridge faiths and encourage tolerance, but it's not illegal.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A.  I do not see why building a mosque near Ground Zero implies approval of the actions of the terrorists.  Christian crusaders massacred people in Jerusalem when they conquered it.  Does having a Christian church there imply approval of that act?

B.  Do you ask where the money for any other church comes from?

C.  Does every Christian minister who wants to start a church have to explain if they agree with various Christian crazies?

D and E.  This does completely go to the First Amendment.  A government cannot ban a church from a given site just because they don't like the religion.  If there is no other reason (zoning, etc) to ban a religious building from that site, then you must allow the religious building.

E only.  I agree that it is not the most sensitive thing ever.  However, that does not make it illegal.  Constitutional rights do not and should not depend on whether they are popular.  If something is legal according to the Constitution, it should not matter whether it is popular -- if it did, we should just toss the Bill of Rights and say you have the right to any opinion as long as not too many people disagree with it.

Also, there is a great deal of anti-Muslim hatred (in my opinion) being expressed by the protestors.  Many of them seem to hate Islam in general, not the fact of the mosque being where it is.  My point is that it is not the location of the mosque that is the only issue here -- many people just flat out hate Islam.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scarletpimpernel articulately addressed most of the issues I would have, especially the distinction between should and could.  I'd just add a few items to the discussion.  First, this issue would not have come up at all if the city of New York had finally determined how, exactly, it wants to commemorate this place of lost lives.  They haven't really been timely in making their plans for this overall site, allowing others to come in and make plans for them.  It strikes me that this may be part of the upset; I think any proposed building in the area would have garnered at least some outrage.  That's undoubtedly why nothing much has been done, as well.  Second, the ground is considered perhaps not sacred, but hallowed, because there were people whose bodies were found that far away.  I don't live anywhere near New York and am therefore pretty removed from this particular sensitivity; however, I do recognize that others may feel as if the memories of their loved ones are being overlooked or dismissed by those of us who didn't lose as much or as personally on 9/11.  I guess what I'm saying is that it seems to me any other building proposal on that site would have engendered the same reaction; the fact that it was a mosque simply fanned the flames.