By Antonia Huerta / Staff Writer
By Antonia Huerta / Staff Writer
The plans to build a $100 million Muslim mosque near ground zero in New York City have stirred up much heated debate involving people of all races and religious backgrounds. There is no doubt that since the tragic events of 9/11, the nation’s security has taken serious and sometimes extreme precautions to help prevent and prepare for a possible terrorist attack.
The paranoia within the American people was awakened and directed at the religion of Islam by crying out against the construction of the mosque. The mosque is to be built in an abandoned and run down Burlington Coat Factory store two and a half blocks away from ground zero.
It will not only include a mosque but also a swimming pool, basketball court, auditorium, library, day-care facility, restaurant and cooking school that will be accessible to the public, a crucial fact that much of the mainstream media has failed to address. Twenty-nine out of 30 lower Manhattan community-board members voted to approve it, yet another fact that many are not aware of.
The Private Organization is building the center on land it legally owns and where hundreds of Muslims have already been praying since September of last year.
On one side of the debate are those who oppose it. Nearly 70 percent of Americans in a CNN–Opinion Research Corporation poll say they are against it. This group is largely made up of those who lost a loved one at the World Trade Center, as well as those who believe that it is insensitive to build a mosque near the World Trade Center.
The most infamous of these opponents is Terry Jones who gained media attention with his claims to hold a burning of the Quran.
While it is completely understandable that there is still much resentment because they were affected in a very personal matter, that is no excuse to condemn the entire religion as a terrorist threat.
Protests are tearing the nation apart and bringing up entirely new issues. What started out as a plan to improve a place of worship has brought up issues like discrimination and civil rights.
Discrimination is an enormous part of the entire matter. The fact that there are protests against allowing Muslims to pray at the site itself brings up the Freedom of Religion clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Not only that, but nearby there is already a Jewish place of worship and nobody is protesting that.
Being that New York City is a culturally diverse city, if the construction of the center is blocked, how will other religious practitioners feel?
Surely they can’t feel safe knowing that the American government would have given in to popular sentiment so easily. It would also be the start of a religious persecution that would escalate out of control.
On the other side of the debate are those who say there is nothing wrong with building a mosque as part of a recreational center.
In fact, it would be a renovation. The site is already in need of repairs as recent ABC news reports have shown. The ceiling panels are torn and the conditions inside the building have been reported hazardous with little ventilation.
Those who are in favor of the construction also protest that everyone should have the right to exercise their First Amendment privileges and that is essentially what it comes down to. Muslim prayers have been taking place right next to the World Trade Center construction site to honor the memory of everyone who died on that tragic day.
Yes, building a mosque so close to ground zero does initially raise the eyebrows of anyone in question, but when the circumstances are examined tediously, it comes down to free speech. It would almost be like not allowing crosses to be carried into a Catholic Church.
The mosque is the Muslim symbol. The only way to bridge the gap with the Middle Eastern Muslims is to welcome them once again into the American way of life and try and restore the peace that existed before the attacks on American soil. It is really about restoring America to what it was before: a free nation.
September 23, 2010 | 7