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BU Panel to Ponder Manhattan Mosque Debate

Prejudice, 9/11’s unhealed wounds, or both?

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mosque_protest_asterix611_h.jpg

Protesters want the proposed Islamic center built elsewhere. Photo by asterix611. Stephen Prothero (below), a CAS religion professor, moderates the September 16 forum. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Months of arguing haven’t quelled the firestorm over a proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from Manhattan’s Ground Zero. The issue has dominated newspaper editorials, the networks’ Sunday morning shows, and water cooler conversations in offices around the country. The Ground Zero Mosque Controversy: What You Need to Know, a College of Arts & Sciences forum tomorrow night, seeks to dispel what the speakers call Americans’ mistaken beliefs about Islam.

“Controversies like the so-called mosque at so-called Ground Zero don’t come out of nowhere,” says forum moderator Stephen Prothero, a CAS religion professor. (He says “so-called” because the mosque is more than a mosque and would not be in the footprint of the Twin Towers.) “They come out of a history of western caricatures of Islam and America’s reluctant march toward tolerance.”

“Our conversation in America about religion is really impoverished, and I think it’s impoverished because we don’t know much about religion,” says Prothero, whose 2007 bestseller Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—And Doesn’t speaks to that topic.

Scheduled panelists are Teena Purohit and Kecia Ali, both CAS assistant religion professors, and Cristine Hutchison-Jones (GRS’11), a PhD candidate in religion and society.

The proposed Manhattan project calls for a tower of up to 15 stories, with a mosque, auditorium, and pool. It is the brainchild of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who leads a mosque in Manhattan’s financial district, his wife, Daisy Khan, and New York–born investor Sharif el-Gamal. Survivors of 9/11 victims are split over the project, some calling it a fitting rebuff to al-Qaeda’s homicidal intolerance and others insisting it would stoke their grief. Pollsters report that two-thirds of Americans say the center should be built elsewhere. Rauf said this week that “everything is on the table” as backers seek a resolution to the controversy.

The anger about the project, says Ali, “rests on the idea that Muslims aren’t and can’t ever really be Americans. But that’s nonsense. Muslims have a centuries-long history in the United States, first as slaves, then as voluntary immigrants, and increasingly as native-born immigrants.” Her aim at the forum will be “to sketch briefly what Islam in America, and American Islam, looks like, so that rather than dealing with an imaginary Muslim, a mental construct composed of all the worst stereotypical images, we can have conversation that rests solidly on fact.”

Purohit believes the current debate shows that Americans are “ill-equipped to respond to Islamophobic statements perpetuated by the media. I will talk about this problem of representation in the media and briefly address the diversity of Muslim religious practices.” Hutchison-Jones says she’ll discuss the opposition in the context of intolerance towards other denominations in American history.

Prothero, who supports the mosque project, believes that “there are principled reasons to oppose it that are not rooted in bigotry,” notably, deferring to survivors’ families and others for whom the project’s location would cause real pain. But while he finds those arguments sincere, he doesn’t find them persuasive, as they equate the 9/11 attacks with Islam, when most Muslims do not endorse terrorism. Last month, he blogged that such “tortured logic” undergirded the Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to the project.

His blog post also decried politicians like Newt Gingrich, former Republican House speaker, who called the center’s backers “radical Islamists.” (Although Rauf has said the United States was an accessory to the 9/11 attacks, he denounced them and terrorism and has no links to radicals, according to the New York Police.)

Yet Prothero remains optimistic that anti-Islam bigotry will subside. “What was it Martin Luther King [GRS’55, Hon.’59] talked about—the moral arc of the universe bending toward justice? I do think the moral arc of American history bends toward more and more religious tolerance. What’s happening here is we’re having birth pangs of tolerance toward Muslims.”

The Ground Zero Mosque Controversy: What You Need to Know begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 16, at the College of Arts & Sciences, Room 222, and is free and open to the public.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

35 Comments

35 Comments on BU Panel to Ponder Manhattan Mosque Debate

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 5:28 am

    let them show tolerance first

    I am sick and tired of the Islamic community playing the victim in matters such as these. Why is it that they rarely if ever speak out against the constant violence that extremists representing their religion engineer? Why is it that no one ever speaks about the hatred and intolerance of American culture that is rampant in their countries and communities that is quietly brought over to North America?

    Europe is a mess because of too much tolerance, and now that the Islamic community is growing in size, it is wielding its power to be intolerant and escape consequences. For example: Try walking around Paris dressed as a Jew and see what happens to you!!!!

    I teach in a public high school with a majority population of Muslim students and a minority of others. Jewish teachers are terrified to reveal their true identities. Administration is pressured and threatened by parents not to allow christmas trees and decorations to be displayed in the school because it offends their religion, but at the same time, teachers must respect holidays such as Eids and not assign tests on those days.

    How many synagogues and churches do they have in Saudi Arabia? In Kuwait? In Iraq? Why does no one protest the fact that non-muslims cannot practice in those countries without fear of persecution?

    Let them have mosques in the U.S. if they wish, but building one beside ground zero, is going too far at this juncture in time. They need to prove that they as a community are not only tolerant of others but also accepting, and most of all openly and loudly intolerant of extremists in their own community.

  • Guyomar on 09.15.2010 at 6:33 am

    I don’t think that this is about muslims not “being accepted as real Americans”; bringing this in is just an underhanded tactic to divert attention from the issue at hand by pointing fingers on the separate issue of immigration.

    I don’t think that it is necessary to build a mosque (not just a mosque, a huge building as a symbol of Islam) there. And so what it if it’s not “on” Ground Zero? It’s close enough – too close! I’m sure there are other places for this building but this is not one. It is very disrespectful to the families and friends of those who died in the 9/11 attack – after all, that was an attack by muslims on America and its ideals. Yes, not all Muslims are anti-American, but it’s cruelly provocative to build a mosque so near to a site that once represented American greatness.

    Do you know that muslims in their own countries are not nearly so tolerant of other cultures? Churches are not allowed in Saudi Arabia. Does anyone accuse Arabs of being anti-Christian and not accepting Christians as part of their country? No, even though this is true. So why the big fuss here?

    Anyway, this is not about Americans being anti-muslim. If that were the case, mosques wouldn’t be allowed anywhere in America. Why does the liberal media always distort everything to make it look like the bad guys are being persecuted? Seriously, wake up, be proud of your country!

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 7:30 am

    It is insensitive to build the mosque there. Most Americans agreed that it is nothing against Islam and that they don’t mind having a mosque near their homes. Its just the location they picked is kind of like anti Semites building churches near Auschwitz.

  • Steve Lehar on 09.15.2010 at 7:48 am

    Nonsense!

    We will never solve anything by deliberate misrepresentation of the FACTS!

    “America’s reluctant march toward tolerance”?

    NONSENSE!!! We are the most tolerant nation in the world, and far more tolerant than those Islamic nations governed by Sharia law! It is THEY who resist tolerance, not just as personal prejudice, but as official government policy! Go try to build a church in Iran or Saudi Arabia and you’ll get your head cut off!

    “because we don’t know much about religion”

    We know more about religion than the Islamists do, for example that there is more than one of them, and that either we beat each other to death in a war of religious extermination, or we will have to learn to tolerate each other, a lesson the Islamists have yet to learn! We have extended our hand in friendship, they have yet to unclench their fist!

    “The anger about the project, says Ali, “rests on the idea that Muslims aren’t and can’t ever really be Americans. But that’s nonsense. ” ???

    Nonsense is right!!! Nobody in the debate is arguing that! That is not what it is about! That is a CALUMNY on the entire Americal population without the first scrap of evidence to support it! We ARE the most tolerant society on the face of the earth! There are hundreds of mosques all around America and nobody is complaining about them!

    So what is this REALLY about? It is about politicians pandering to a well-funded but foreign “minority group” in return for campaign contributions, and an attempt by Saudi Arabia to garner political influence here in America to spread its evil Sharia law which is totally inconsistent with American constitutional law. It is a conspiracy of powerful Islamic states in cahoots with corrupt politicians ready to sell out America for their own personal political gain! Even moderate Muslims are opposed to this “mosque”. It was by no accident that the site was chosen at Ground Zero, and the original inaugeration date was supposed to be 9/11/2010!

    Americans can smell a fish when it stinks, and this fish stinks to high heaven!

  • kcornuelle on 09.15.2010 at 9:12 am

    Building the mosque is a provocation, there are some smart people behind
    this plan. It is like attaching a bag of salt to an open wound, so the
    pain would never gone. The mosque will be a constant source of
    controversy, and the true initiators (whoever they are) want to use the
    mosque to keep the worlds colliding for years to come. Muslims who do not want that should say against the mosque.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 9:37 am

    Response to Churches near Auschwitz comment

    I’d just like to respond to the “anti-semites building churches near Auschwitz” comment. While there were certainly Christians who both passively and actively aided the Nazis in the Holocaust, I feel like your comparision unfairly conflates Christians with Anti-Semitism. Just like in the current debate “terrorism” has been unfairly conflated with Islam. Timothy McVeigh was Catholic, so does that mean we should not allow a Catholic Church to be built near the site of the Oklahoma City bombing? Every religion has extremists, but to blame an entire group for the actions of those few extremists is not what this country is or should be about.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 10:03 am

    A mosque or a bridge?

    The Imam says he is a bridge builder….fine – take him to the river and let him build a bridge. (Hey – it will help ease the inbound commute!) But no mosque – and ESPECIALLY not anywhere near Ground Zero. I have friends who now occupy that land and are using it as their burial ground. Send this provocateur packing…

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 10:09 am

    First of all, this building is not just a MOSQUE, it is an Islamic COMMUNITY center. It is open to the entire community including non-muslims. There is a new center similar to this in Roxbury that just opened. Please go visit it and see that the point of these centers is to educate non-muslims about the religion and to educate muslims about the RIGHT version of Islam, one that preaches love and tolerance. I think that by building this center, Americans would acknowledge that we do not blame an ENTIRE religion for what happened on 9/11. If we start suppressing an entire religious group wouldn’t that make us just like a certain dictatorship that existed in WWII?

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 10:12 am

    Why would they want to place a mosque so close to ground zero as to stir up such a controversy? Why not build the mosque three blocks in the other direction? It is obvious that few, if any, New Yorkers would accept this idea with open arms. The people who are behind this at the core of the idea only want to build there to stir up emotions and throw salt on an open wound. Who would benefit from having this mosque built here? No one. Muslims should have mosques where they want them, and Americans need to tolerate them, which I believe most already do, but following through with this plan would only cause the mosque to be a target for those filled with hatred towards the islamic community. And it amazes me that the opening was supposed to be 9/11/2010. How can one not see the irony in that? I’m sure that was just a coincidence though… ha. And shame on Bloomberg for stating that it would be an injustice to not build the mosque! It’s like he has no idea, and furthermore, no concern for any feelings of the people of the city that he runs.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 10:12 am

    A Taliban Hypothetical

    Imagine, hypothetically speaking, that the Taliban took over BU. Isn’t it ironic that starry-eyed intellectuals, like those quoted in this story, would be the first to be carted off to Nickerson Field for their stoning.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 10:22 am

    What's in a name "Cordoba House"

    This is an Article that explains the origin of the name.

    http://www.timesrecordnews.com/news/2010/aug/29/manhattan-muslim-mosque-issue-just-wont-go-away/

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 10:37 am

    each comment above misses the point. 1) 9/11 represents a hideous mis-understanding of Islam by the terrorists, so a house of worship dedicated to fixing that mistake should go close by

    2) Everyone says “try building a church in Saudi Arabia” blah blah blah. You’re right. I want us to be BETTER than them. We are more free and more tolerant, but we have to live up to it.

    3) American Muslims already pray in that building. Do you advocate we chase them out right now? Or is your whole argument a question of architecture?

    4) While this project does not build on the cemetery that is Ground Zero, we WILL be digging through the sacred ground to build a mall. Mall is better than a house of worship?

  • Ashamed on 09.15.2010 at 11:01 am

    Ashamed

    I am appalled by the comments I have read in response to this article, it is unbelievable that so many Americans are against the building of a mosque near ground zero. I in no way condone the terrorists behind 9/11, that was one of the worst days in the history of our country. But to blame all Muslims for the act is absolutely ridiculous and contrary to the values that our country was founded upon. Extremism is extremism, no matter what religion. You don’t see Americans disputing the building of churches and synagogues when extremist Christians and Jews do things like molest children and fire rockets at unarmed Palestinian civilians. Hell, the KKK is a Christian organization. My point is that this is not a Christian nation, nor is it a Muslim nation. It is a nation founded on religious freedom and tolerance. As one commenter said, “We are the most tolerant nation in the world, and far more tolerant than those Islamic nations governed by Sharia law! It is THEY who resist tolerance, not just as personal prejudice, but as official government policy!” Exactly, we are a tolerant nation, which is why we will allow MUSLIMS (NOT TERRORISTS) to build a cultural center in the heart of New York City! Do we not learn from our past (e.g. Japanese Internment) that extenuating circumstances should not warrant bigotry? I am surprised that so many of you are using the defense (poorly btw) that “other countries are not tolerant, so why should we be?” Maybe you should move to another country then, because I don’t want intolerant bigots having a say in the way my country is run. Dr. King, the most influential attendee of Boston University (for you non-fact checkers), is rolling in his grave due to the intolerance we are falling victim to and that he so vehemently preached against. My point is this: the 9/11 terrorists attacked us because they think that our country’s morals are evil. One of those morals is our religious freedom and tolerance. The construction of a mosque by ground zero is not insensitive, it is sending a message to the world that we truly stand by our values and will not be victims of the influence of extremism. Take a step back and realize what you are really fighting against. We all know (hopefully) that Muslims are not all terrorists and that not all terrorists are Muslims. 9/11 was a terrorist act, not a Muslim act, check your facts.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 11:01 am

    support the mosque

    I thought we were better than those Muslim countries. Let them build the mosque. If it wasn’t in the news how many of us would even notice it. All this hot air for nothing. I like how we blame innocent American muslims for 911. You would think that they were building a Bin Laden memorial. How they treat Jews in other countries is irrelevant as we are supposed to set the example here in the US. Guess we are not too different after all.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 11:10 am

    Can everyone please stop equating the Taliban with Islam. Why are we punishing AMERICAN MUSLIMS for something MIDDLE EASTERN TERRORISTS did. The article is right, people in the U.S. don’t see Muslims as Americans. It’s sad.

  • Allison on 09.15.2010 at 11:17 am

    Religious literacy

    I feel as though the American public defaults to media buzzwords and their purported definitions. For example, very few Muslim-majority nations consider Sharia to be the principle source of law. Countries like Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, etc all have a common law constitution. Sharia is much more like Jewish jurisprudence in that it is a collection of scholarship based on foundational holy texts. Often the “laws” in one school of Sharia differ from another. Sharia was never meant to constitute the legal system of a nation because it is far too diverse to support a rigid state structure. Similarly, a fatwa is defined as a non-binding legal opinion from a legal scholar. Like shopping for a lawyer, if you don’t like one opinion, you can seek another.

    Americans are religiously illiterate. Because of our lack of familiarity with Islam and Middle Eastern culture, we conflate the practices of fringe groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda with the rest of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims. Muslim leaders have been on the record about the un-Islamic nature of terrorism. Look up Ali Gomaa, one of the most esteemed authorities in Sunni Islam.

    And in response to a comment above, as an American-as-apple pie white kid from NYC, I remember 9/11 vividly. I honor the dead and mourn my losses, but United States law does not exist as a system to protect sensitivities. Furthermore, this center located blocks away should not offend those sensitivities. As a college graduate who has spent time in the Middle East, I have seen the painstaking efforts taken by the Syrian and Egyptian authorities to preserve ancient churches and synagogues and seen Christians who attend Churches built two years ago in Jordan. Does the region have religious tensions? Yes. But then again, don’t we?

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 11:21 am

    we need it

    I would understand the controversy and sympathize if the extreme Islamists were the ones trying to build the mosques…yes, that is insensitive and shouldn’t be tolerated. BUT the Islamic center in Manhattan is unrelated! those that are in favor acknowledge that those using the mosque are PEACEFUL Muslims just trying to live their own in America. If anything, this Islamic center will be a great place for the younger generations to gain an AMERICAN identity and feel accepted so that they DON’T turn to these terrorist groups later on. Isn’t that everyone’s common goal? After all, thousands of Muslims died on 9/11 and are dying all over right now from the hands of extreme Islamists.

    The fact that it is a community center is a huge step and should be embraced. We need more of these in America to help educate Muslims more than just the religious teachings and instill in them the social obligations to the rest of the society.

    As for it being near ground zero, there already is a mosque there that is way to small for the demand. There isn’t enough space for the thousands of Muslims that work and live in that area to practice so isn’t it logical to get a bigger space in the same area?

    Thankfully America has a history of extreme tolerance that has made successful and prosperous. We should keep it that way.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 11:25 am

    Agreed, people are stupidly equating all muslims to a universally known and hated terrorist organization(which makes them succeed even more). By that logic if the mastermind behind the 9/11 attack had black hair would we prevent all people with black hair to build anything near ground zero?

    Think people, think, it was NOT the average american muslim who possibly could be the BU student next to you, who has the same worries that you have (exams, homework, classes, jobs) who was responsible for this attack.

    This is coming from an unbiased point of view since I’m neither muslim nor christian nor jewish.

  • PlasticOnoMan on 09.15.2010 at 11:25 am

    Modeling ourselves on the Taliban?!

    “Imagine, hypothetically speaking, that the Taliban took over BU. Isn’t it ironic that starry-eyed intellectuals, like those quoted in this story, would be the first to be carted off to Nickerson Field for their stoning.”

    No, it’s not ironic. The Taliban are not my standard of behavior.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 11:34 am

    Can Mosque be relocated ?

    I don’t understand why some people are so adamant about building mosque near ground Zero. Can it be relocated ? Does that site has any historical Islamic value or sentiments attached with it ? If not, Please shift to a safer place.There is no point going against 2/3 of citizens by saying it as “Intolerance” . We can pray god anywhere.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 1:13 pm

    Re: Can Mosque be relocated ?

    First off all, calling the Islamic center a mosque is just as stupic as calling the YMCA center a church. And even if it was only a mosque, it shouldn’t have to be relocated. The majority of the Muslim community in Manhattan is in that area. Why should the Muslim community be forced to worship somewhere else, which is a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. They bought the old Burlington Coat factory for $4,000,000 fair and square and they can build whatever religious building they wish. They shouldn’t have to pay MUCH more money for a new location because of redneck wackos that don’t even live in New York. You can whine all you want on how you don’t like it, but the Constitution is on their side, not yours, deal with it!

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 1:45 pm

    WE AS A TOLERANT NATION - going back to the 1st Amendment guys

    is this a transnational issue or is it an American, domestic issue? If we as Americans have chosen to lead the world, and are trying to build our soft power, we need to understand that by allowing an Islamic Center to be built near Ground Zero, we are encouraging toleration not only in America, but globally to different belief systems. This is what we need in today’s world, increased tolerance, and we can be the beacons. We can prove to the world that no matter what religion or belief system you come from, and no matter what the circumstances, you have a right to follow and practice your conscience: liberty of conscience. And also prove to the world that broad generalizations like, “ALL MUSLIMS ARE TERRORISTS,” is not OUR voice, as an American nation. We believe that there are good and bad people in every state, every religious community, but we as a nation strive to get rid of the evil, and not do evil by classifying a group/religion as terrorists.
    Also, why build an Islamic Center near Ground Zero? Let’s look at why build or not build the Islamic Center. Many claim that it’s like sprinkling salt on the wounds of those who lost their family members or loved ones on 9/11, but that indicates the ignorance of these people when it comes to Islam as a religion. Islam is a religion of peace, it CAN NOT and SHOULD NOT be defined as a religion of terrorists. SO may be building of an Islamic Center near ground zero, will serve to educate muslims and other Americans regardless of their faith, to understand the real Islam, and not the one represented by the terrorists.
    My point is that Islam itself is a victim of the 9/11 incident, and by building a mosque at ground zero, we will not only enhance America’s credibility globally, but also work to educate Muslims and non Muslims about the true essence of Islam. Not to mention the Islamic Center near ground zero will stand as a monument representing US as a tolerant nation.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 2:04 pm

    To the people who want to move the mosque; why should they move the mosque? it is not on Ground Zero, it is 2 NY blocks away. it is approved by the city and legal.
    opponents of the mosque complain that by building the mosque, they are being insensitive and not understanding that it hurts the feeling of the survivors and the families of the victims. That is all true, but the problem is the double standard and hypocricy.
    Where was the sensitivity and the understanding then cartoons about the Prophet were being published. It was hurtful to muslims, yet the reason was given that it is protected by freedom of speech, and here in America, Land of the Free, anything is allowed.
    Why, in the case of the mosque, has sensitivity become such an issue, and why are muslims supposed to be understanding when they are not treated the same.
    Others have mentioned that why should America allow a mosque to be built, when no church is allowed to be built in Saudi Arabia. It is very simple, in Saudi Arabia, it is not allowed by law to build a church. In America, there is no such law, and the constitution provides religious freedom. If the law were to be changed, then by all means, no mosque should be built.
    Apparantly here in the US, religious freedom and tolerence protects everyone, except muslims.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 3:47 pm

    Yeah but

    The points being made here are valid, but the idea in the United States is that we have the freedom to practice religion. That is the founding principle in the States, and why we colonized this land. Saudi Arabia, as mentioned in an example, does not have this as a constitutional right. So it doesn’t matter if they are not tolerant. WE are supposed to be.

    So, it seems like a double standard to say “no, you can’t build your church here.” I understand it is a sensitive location, but on the other hand, let’s show that we can live by our own rules. Let’s be big-spirited about this, that’s what makes us a better community as a whole. We have to stop freaking out about anyone who is “other,” be it Muslims, Mexicans, queers, the disabled, etc. We are all flesh and bone, hearts and mind.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 3:48 pm

    Some debate

    Wow – BU really knows how to put together a panel with a diversity of opinion! Professor Ali will tell us about how Americans stereotype Muslims; Professor Purohit will address the media’s islamophobia; and Ms Hutchinson-Jones will explain how Americans are historically intolerant toward religious denominations. Our intrepid moderator, Professor Prothero, who believes that anti-Islamic bigotry is at the heart of the contoversy, will make sure that no one makes any references to “radical Islam”, because he has definitively established that it had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Is anyone really surprised that Prothero couldn’t find even one panelist to present the viewpoint of the majority of the American people – that it is unnecessary and provocatively insensitive to build a mosque in the immediate vicinity of Ground Zero?

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 3:52 pm

    Unethical, Immoral

    Being one of the Taliban and being Muslim are two absolutely nonidentical concepts. Do other Americans realize how many Middle-Eastern Muslims the Taliban has killed? In the 1970′s countries such as Afghanistan were being taken over by the Taliban, who would then kill numerous innocent human beings… Those human beings also happened to be Muslim! To look at this controversy today just proves how far we are letting these people known as the Taliban get the satisfaction they are searching for. They want everyone to think all Muslims are evil and corrupt– which is extremely untrue. This is why the mosque should not be built in such a close radius to Ground Zero. We should not let Islam be noted as bad in all cases. It should not be a daily reminder that we have given these people the satisfaction they are searching for. The building of the Mosque here would be unmoral and plain rude. Sure, build the Mosque! However, a new location would be in everyone’s best interest. Of course this may go against freedom, but sometimes ethics and morals should come first.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 4:09 pm

    is this a transnational issue or is it an American, domestic issue? If we as Americans have chosen to lead the world, and are trying to build our soft power, we need to understand that by allowing an Islamic Center to be built near Ground Zero, we are encouraging toleration not only in America, but globally to different belief systems. This is what we need in today’s world, increased tolerance, and we can be the beacons. We can prove to the world that no matter what religion or belief system you come from, and no matter what the circumstances, you have a right to follow and practice your conscience: liberty of conscience. And also prove to the world that broad generalizations like, “ALL MUSLIMS ARE TERRORISTS,” is not OUR voice, as an American nation. We believe that there are good and bad people in every state, every religious community, but we as a nation strive to get rid of the evil, and not do evil by classifying a group/religion as terrorists.
    Also, why build an Islamic Center near Ground Zero? Let’s look at why build or not build the Islamic Center. Many claim that it’s like sprinkling salt on the wounds of those who lost their family members or loved ones on 9/11, but that indicates the ignorance of these people when it comes to Islam as a religion. Islam is a religion of peace, it CAN NOT and SHOULD NOT be defined as a religion of terrorists. SO may be building of an Islamic Center near ground zero, will serve to educate muslims and other Americans regardless of their faith, to understand the real Islam, and not the one represented by the terrorists.
    My point is that Islam itself is a victim of the 9/11 incident, and by building a mosque at ground zero, we will not only enhance America’s credibility globally, but also work to educate Muslims and non Muslims about the true essence of Islam. Not to mention the Islamic Center near ground zero will stand as a monument representing US as a tolerant nation.

  • Rebecca on 09.15.2010 at 4:12 pm

    Where do you draw the line?

    For those against the mosque being built here because it’s “too close” to Ground Zero, I’d like to know, where do you draw the line for your No Mosque Zone?
    You cannot ban the building of something just because it offends people. Your fight is pointless. If you’re against that mosque being built, show your dissent in other ways. Don’t patronize whoever is behind it. Don’t vote for whoever supports it. Trying to stop it from being built is COMPLETELY POINTLESS!
    This is just another bullroar issue (like immigration, health care reform) to polarize Americans and keep us divided. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by getting upset about it.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 4:16 pm

    "Unethical, Immoral"

    “Of course this may go against freedom, but sometimes ethics and morals should come first.”

    Are you saying that the constitution is relative, based on individuals’ own desires?

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 4:43 pm

    American ideals are lost on many Americans, unfortunately. Ideals are not convenient, and they are not easy to uphold. It’s easy to think of the world as black and white, but it isn’t. One of my high school friends is native to Pakistan, and he is the most outspoken anti-Taliban, anti-extremist human being I have ever met. In many cases, Muslims have paid a much higher price in the battle against terrorism and extremism than most of us ever will. I choose to honor our Muslim allies in foreign regions as well as the right of American Muslims to worship their religion as they see fit. There is absolutely no connection between most of these people and the extremists fighting the United States abroad. To even think of them in the same category is the highest insult you could ever make to them. The “sensitivity” argument is extremely offensive because it means you have failed to differentiate between the Muslim majority, and extremist ultra-minority.

  • J-Jay on 09.15.2010 at 5:04 pm

    More emotions than rational

    In reading the different comments, not only here, but in other news agency, I have noticed that most of the comments in these discussions are ruled through emotions rather than rational. Often times in history, emotions tend to hurt people in a profound way where it takes centuries to mend.
    In the age of the internet where information is more accessible, I find it distressing that some people tend not to take time to know the whole issue before writing down their comments.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 5:57 pm

    I second the comment below. To all involved, and to BU Today, do not call this a “debate.” Everyone on this panel is in agreement. Certainly the majority of people at BU are on the side of tolerance. What we need a debate on is what “tolerance” is, and how much uncivil and unconstitutional behavior we allow people to get away with in this country not by disagreeing with other religions but by following their own. Should government, academia, and civil society all be so willing to drop their standards and defer to a wholly irrational discourse of “faith”? Extremists are a problem, but moderates are a much bigger threat to society.

  • Anonymous on 09.15.2010 at 6:18 pm

    Human stupidity

    Einstein said, ‘there are two things that are infinite, one is universe and the other is human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe’
    This whole fuss on religion, especially judeo-chiristian and islam, is the best reflection of what Einstein said about human stupidity.

    I would not spend a second of my life wasting on those things. I would rather spend time on understanding the universe and life itself (not after life), the biology of life, including how brains create thoughts of religions.

    Anyone with a little sense of human politics knows that all the fuss about those different perspectives of religions is just a way of those politically programmed and charged minds trying to play with those clueless. Study how the mind works, then you are no longer stupid and you will find religion a superfluous thing.

  • Anonymous on 09.16.2010 at 1:06 am

    just a thought, BU Today: calling it the “proposed Manhattan project” might not be the best idea!

  • Anonymous on 09.16.2010 at 3:22 am

    Not just an issue of tolerance

    I am not personally against a mosque in Manhattan, and I do respect Islam (as well as other religions), but many people here don’t understand what the issue is. One reason might be that there are indeed Islamophobes who are protesting the mosque (for very wrong reasons), and who indeed equate Islam to terrorism (although I don’t think there are that many). But you can’t argue from the fact that bad people don’t want a mosque that it should in fact be built there. There are plenty of bad people who want it to be built (Hamas leaders already publicly announced their support, and I’m sure Al-Qaeda won’t mind either). People who are arguing that we have to respect other religions and that the opposition to the mosque is from ignorant, intolerant people are committing an ad hominem fallacy. The point is that the US, whether you like it or not, and whether you think it is just or not, is at war with Islamic extremists. Yes, it is not a war against Islam, but the extremists do in fact see things that way. For them it is a holy war. 9/11 was committed in the name of Islam, and that is just how it is (even if in reality Islam condemns terrorism). For them it is indeed a sign of victory: to have a center of Islam built where the twin towers used to stand. It really doesn’t matter to them that it is not right on top of it, and most of them won’t ever be in New York, but it is a sign of victory. Just try to think from a point of view of Al-Qaeda. I know that the East Coast is largely liberal in political orientation, to be blunt, so it is not surprising that the first thing people think about here is tolerance, freedom of expression, etc. US also provides a sort of a bubble, especially in universities, where people never heard of war and don’t really see what’s going on (or occasionally deny it). It’s easy to protest wars and defend freedom of faith, but don’t forget that the whole world is watching the US, and that includes radical Muslims and their moderate sympathizers (again, not all moderates are sympathizers). And don’t forget that the US is fighting a war against those radicals. This means there are soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and elsewhere, who are risking their lives. An American victory in this war would benefit all, and most of all the Muslims in the Middle East. And taken in this context, the Muslims of the US should consider what is best for American interests, which should be their own. And the matter of fact that it would be best that the mosque be moved away by a symbolic number of blocks. This would not hurt any Muslim, and would also prevent a cause for celebration for Al-Qaeda. There are in fact some Muslims who agree with this stand point, some of whom I know.

    It is quite clear that the whole affair is a provocation. It might have been meant to reveal American Islamophobia, but I think it is mostly a way to spit in the face of American (and liberal) values, abusing them and making Americans themselves support that abuse, supposedly in the name of those very values. Liberals, for all their good intentions, are very gullible in this respect. I am not a conservative myself, but a bit of realism (well, republicans happen to be liberals as well, in an abuse of language, and oppose realism as well) would not hurt. While for most Muslims this mosque won’t represent anything of the sort, for extremists it will be a symbol of victory. In that way it will dishonor the memory of the victims of 9/11 (not because of Islam, because of the way extremists see the place). Perhaps in another 10 or 20 years, there won’t be any problem, and the wars of today will be over. But today it is not acceptable to endorse something that could even potentially insult the victims (even if the Imam really does mean it as a place of peace). That said, if it is built, let it be built, but let it be built quietly. The whole thing has been politicized and I think that is really the main issue here, and not so much with Islamophobia.

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