A Muslim Community Center is being built near Ground Zero.
O.M.G. This cannot be happening.
This community center will include not just a mosque but performance space, community-event rooms, fitness facilities and prayer space. It is modeled after the the 92nd Street YMCA. No objections were raised by downtown residents at the hearing, and many downtown residents look forward to the completion of the facility because the area now lacks community-based spaces.
Hardly a threatening specter.
Yet anti-diversity groups, including some 9/11 family members, from outside the area are crying "inappropriate!" and "too soon!".
What, exactly, are they afraid of?
"People often say, ‘Where are the moderate Muslim voices?’ A building like this will be an amplifier for that often silent majority," Daisy Kahn, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement said in the Wall Street Journal. "What most people don’t know is that the people who are driving this forward are very integrated into the community downtown. We are nothing to be feared."
So why do some from outside the community want to interfere with a NYC neighborhood's self-determination?
9/11 families are a diverse group of individuals. A minority of them have not yet found ways to deal with their grief and in a positive way. Intolerance is just one of the ways such unresolved emotion comes to the surface.
We don't condemn churches because Timothy McVeigh was a Christian, yet here are those condemning mosques because some terrorists are Muslim.
People of all faiths died on Sept. 11, 2001, a reflection of the fact that the United States is a nation of diverse cultures and religions. First responders from the New York City Police and Fire departments, including Muslim-Americans, sacrificed their lives trying to rescue those trapped in the burning towers. They did so irrespective of their faith, race or ethnicity.
There are some 8 million Muslims and 4 million Arabs in our country - hardworking, decent people who take active roles in their communities and schools and are law-abiding citizens. We must make a conscious choice about what kind of nation we aspire to be. We cannot rationally blame all Muslims for the acts of a deranged few.
The cultural center is a good idea. It will promote understanding among the residents of downtown New York, which will hopefully have a ripple effect into the rest of the nation. We need more, not less, peaceful interaction with people of the Muslim faith in America.
From an international standpoint, the Muslim community center will send a message that America is not in conflict with the Muslim world. And it will dispel fears of Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans that their own government somehow distrusts them.
Is the cultural center inappropriate? Hardly. Very appropriate, in fact.
Too soon? Not at all. Perhaps it is not soon enough.
(Thanks to 9/11 victim's family members Bruce Wallace, Talat Hamdani and Adele Welty for their contributions to this piece. Find more on this topic at http://www.121contact.typepad.com/...