Forgive me, I'm a bit late on jumping on this wagon. But I'll go ahead anyway, if you are kind enough to suffer me:
If there's any issue that has managed to polarize the country in recent years, it is the proposed construction of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero. Personally, I am neither pro nor against the project. I truly believe that it is the ultimate support of religious freedom and a shining beacon to the world of America's greatness if the project does come to fruition. The fact that we can be attacked by individuals who pervert Islam and still open our arms to the people of the faith as a whole would demonstrate our resiliancy and determination in not changing our ideals no matter how horrific or damaging the circumstances and events we endure. On the other hand, I also understand part of where the opposition is coming from. Ground Zero truly is hallowed ground. While the site for the center is 3 block away, it still may be too close for those who lost friends and loved ones on September 11, 2001. Perhaps Ground Zero is off-limits, but I doubt any reasonable American would oppose the construction of a center such as this one anywhere else in New York City, or the United States for that matter.
But what I don't understand are some of the other points brought up to discourage construction of the center. Well, mainly I have an issue with 2 points. For starters, there's Newt Gingrich's eloquent statement on tolerance and religious freedom: "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over....If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom." (http://politics.usnews.com/news/washington-whispers/articles/2010/07/23/gingrich-blasts-plan-for-mosque-at-ground-zero.html). You're right, Mr. Gingrich. There are no churches is Saudi Arabia. Islam is the only religion which can be openly practiced there. But behaving like them makes us no better than them. And if America wants to be a beacon of freedom, then the people have to show that they can stand up to intolerance and live harmoniously. That they don't have to resort to going down to the level of bigotry in order to further the influence of their society. Saudi Arabia may not be tolerant of our culture or our religions. But if we want to show the world that what we have is better than what they have, we DO have to be tolerant.
Then, there's the argument that Islam is inherently a religion that espouses radical ideals and terrorism. And apparently its very easy to find verses from the Koran that appear to support that claim. But while it is easy to pick and choose verses that bolster your viewpoint, its important to note that religious texts were written by men (or women. You don't really know unless you were there to see it). They did not arrive as a fax from heaven. Which means whatever is written is a reflection of the writer(s). And whereas one person may believe that faith necessitates a combative attitude and violence in order to survive and thrive, there will be another who argues against that. Here are the rules of war as laid out by in the Koran's second chapter Surah al-Baqara, verses 190-194:
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[2:190] You may fight in the cause of GOD against those who attack you, but do not aggress. GOD does not love the aggressors.
[2:191] You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. Do not fight them at the Sacred Masjid, unless they attack you therein. If they attack you, you may kill them. This is the just retribution for those disbelievers.
[2:192] If they refrain, then GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
[2:193] You may also fight them to eliminate oppression, and to worship GOD freely. If they refrain, you shall not aggress; aggression is permitted only against the aggressors.
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[2:194] During the Sacred Months, aggression may be met by an equivalent response. If they attack you, you may retaliate by inflicting an equitable retribution. You shall observe GOD and know that GOD is with the righteous.
[2:195] You shall spend in the cause of GOD; do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction. You shall be charitable; GOD loves the charitable.
Notice the common theme? Retaliation is the only permissible form of aggression against others. Furthermore, verses 192-193 are a clear indication that freedom to worship is granted to all by God, not just Muslims. Those who do not believe in Allah will be judged by Him when the time comes, and it is not up to man to take the matter into his own hands and use the sword to impose the will of Allah. For centuries, Islam has fought against other powers, the best example being the Crusades. Wars were fought and blood was spilled in the name of God. But even then, the Koran had imposed guidelines on how to treat enemies, and this was not lost on the Islamic warriors. Don't believe me? Look up a man named Saladin. Saladin led the Muslims against the Crusaders and managed to capture Jerusalem. Yet, he never killed or oppressed the people he ruled over, and was incredibly generous to those he fought against. When Saladin took the town, not only did he spare the Christian population from death, but he actually granted safe passage for defeated crusaders who wanted to visit the city for religious purposes. When King Richard I was wounded in battle, Saladin sent over his personal physician. When Richard's horse was taken out from under him, Saladin presented him with a new one. Saladin represents what it means to be a Muslim, both in battle and in life. Radical Islamists have managed to pervert their view of the world in order to justify their actions. They believe that they are under attack from the West, so they attack us. And while I can safely say that such individuals are scum who do not understand their own religious history, a part of me wants to apply that "scum" label to those who pervert Koranic verses in order to denigrate the Islamic faith. In fact, I wish to apply that label to anybody who has to go to such lengths to denigrate ANY faith.
As far as I am concerned, their is one legitimate point of opposition to the construction of the mosque: the events of September 11 have left deep wounds that might be reopened. And, again, I completely understand that viewpoint. But if anybody is in the camp that says "Don't lecture us on tolerance" or "Islam needs to be silenced".... as far as I am concerned, you are barking up the wrong tree, and you're embarassing America on an international stage.