OPINION: Build the ground zero mosque


Leila Miller, BP Staff

LA’S VERSION: The Islamic Cultural Center of Southern California, on Vermont Avenue in Koreatown

By By the Boiling Point Editorial Board

Discussion of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” is inescapable. It’s on the news, the radio and on the lips of most everyone in the country. In almost any conversation about the up and coming Islamic temple, the words “bad for the Jews” and “a disgrace to the memories of the victims of 9/11” are almost as difficult to avoid. Though it’s tempting to condemn the mosque as insensitive and disturbing, the best course of action is to just accept that it’s there and continue to build our endlessly integrating, expanding society.

The facts are these: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf announced that he will be building a multi-million dollar Islamic cultural center a little over two blocks away from where the twin towers of New York City’s World Trade Center fell on Sept. 11, 2001. The center is planned mostly as a cultural center—complete with a swimming pool and basketball court—but with a mosque on the top floor. The general debate is not over its legality – it’s clearly legal to build a mosque anywhere in America per the First Amendment – but whether its construction advances or delays healing for New Yorkers.

As we see it, the mosque isn’t there to upset people. It isn’t there to symbolize a victory. It isn’t even there for the convenience of Muslims that want to pray. We believe that its founders are building it there to make a point, and it’s an important – and very American – one.

It’s true and widely known that a sect of  Islam was responsible for 9/11. No one denies that Al-Qaeda is evil and must be stopped.  However, most of Islam, including the builders of the mosque, condemns these actions. Most of Islam is not affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda and the other terrorist organizations are a small part of an enormous religion—in fact the biggest religion in the world. Most Muslims are not suicide bombers and want to live out their lives just as peacefully as anyone.

As Jews, we should be particularly sensitive to this problem.  Do we want the world to identify us with some of the less savory members of our religion, like Bernie Madoff or Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin?

Even negative portrayals of fictional Jews like Faygen from Dicken’s Oliver Twist or Shylock, the villain from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, have significantly hurt our reputation. We know these comparisons don’t come close to accurately portraying the majority of Jews in modern society. Therefore, we should be particularly sensitive to other unfair connections.

It’s hard to be comfortable accepting the mosque, especially from our perspective as Zionist Jews. Every day we hear about terrorists killing Israeli civilians in cold blood. Why should we be considerate to a religion that condones these acts?

Because tolerating a religion despite the actions of a small sect shows our strength as a people. And the up-and-coming mosque is a step towards breaking the connection between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic people.

If we as both Americans and Jews accept the mosque, we make the statement that we reject the unfair conclusions made about the Muslim people as a whole. As we welcome the mosque into American society, we welcome the next step towards a meaningful and lasting peace between Americans, Jews and Muslims alike.