Friday, August 6, 2010

The Mosque at Ground Zero

There has been a lot of controversy recently surrounding the proposed building of a mosque a couple of blocks from the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. A number of people who lived through the attacks consider it an affront against the memory of the nearly 3,000 innocent victims who lost their lives in the biggest terrorist incident in American history. I tend to think it's quite the opposite.

Now, I will not pretend to understand what a horrendous, terrifying experience it must have been to be in Manhattan during the attack. Nor can I understand how awful it must have been to lose a spouse, a friend, a colleague, a son or daughter in such a horrible fashion. All I understand is how it affected me. The first plane hit the World Trade Center tower at approximately 8:45 am EDT on that fateful Tuesday morning. It was 5:45 am in Phoenix, and my clock radio clicked on at 6 am, as it usually did on a work morning. It was tuned to NPR and they just started talking about some plane that flew into a building in lower Manhattan. I didn't think a lot about it because for some reason I just assumed it was a Cessna or similar small aircraft.

It was not until I made breakfast and sat down in front of the TV to catch up on the news for a couple of minutes, when the full impact of what happened was made clear to me. I sat open-mouthed in shock as the news video came on, and I literally could not move from my couch. It seemed like I was watching a horrible movie or something, it was so surreal and so very hard to comprehend. How could something this awful happen in our country, on such a picture-perfect late summer morning? When the second jet careened into the other tower it dawned on me what an unprecedented, catastrophic tragedy was unfolding before the eyes of the world, and how everyone's lives would never, ever be the same again.

I can't remember being so profoundly affected by any single event; even the shock of President Kennedy's assassination in 1963 was a distant second compared to it. The day turned out to be one of the worst days of my life, and it seemed everyone at work was completely shell-shocked. They even told us we could leave early if we wanted, and since I found it impossible to concentrate on anything, I did leave. But the people in New York that day did not have the option to leave and go somewhere else. They were right in the middle of unimaginable horror and destruction.

The rebuilding of Ground Zero is proceeding, part shrine to the lives lost that day and part tribute to the spirit and resiliency of the American people. It is also a symbol of rebirth, of coming together for a new, better purpose, and of cooperation. In this spirit, I would think it is a good thing for the mosque project to go through, because Muslims were murdered that day, along with Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and practically every other religious group. The fact that Muslim people want to participate in the rebuilding of the area is I think a major sign that the terrorists have indeed failed in their mission to destroy this country and its people.

It is completely wrong to brand every Muslim in the world as a terrorist, just as it would be to categorize every fundamentalist Christian as a deranged, hate-filled murderer just because some of them kill abortion providers. Actually, most of the 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia, and yet you don't see people protesting in front of the Saudi embassy or throwing them out of our country. Maybe it has something to do with all the oil they have over there, and how inconvenient it would be to piss them off and have them turn the spigot off. The terrorists of the world thrive on hate and fear - two things which they need above all else to carry out their nefarious schemes and make mighty nations weak. Having a mosque in the area would show the terrorists that Muslims all over the world stand with the other people in this country and against all the fear-mongers, cowards and murderers that seek to spread their toxic hatred all over the world. It is not an insult or affront to those who died that horrible, awful day that has changed everyone's lives permanently, but rather an affirmation that the terrorists will not win, as long as we keep our eyes on the things that connect us all, rather than on the things that drive us apart.

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