Uproar over the building of a mosque on Ground Zero continues, yet those who protest once again prove my belief: the general population are sheep that will bleat loudly while blindly following a shepherd, instead of looking for the truth.
I often get agitated with people who panic or work themselves into frenzy before assessing a situation. Why waste energy? If there’s a problem, energy is better spent in finding a solution, rather than chewing on the issue. But, alas, I digress.
First and foremost, the fret over a mosque being at a location near the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood is not necessary because Park51 is not a mosque, but is actually a community center designed to celebrate diversity and culture through arts, contemplation, and communication. Within the center, a wide variety of programs will be offered, intended to bring the best of the world to New York and the best of New York to the world. A childcare center, restaurant, culinary school, auditorium, and fitness facilities will also be included. Odd is the fact that people worry over the building of a mosque, citing it as an insult to those who died in the vicinity, yet, there are already long-standing mosques within a few blocks. A separate, unrelated, 501(3)(c) mosque will be housed at Park51 but will only be a small part of the multi-cultural, multi-storied building, and will welcome all visitors, carrying out the spirit and intent of Park51. Such a center is an honorable tribute to those affected by the attack on 9/11, and in no way defames them.
Perhaps the root of the distress is not over the building, but rather the fact that a Muslim is heading up the project. Mainstream America must get over irrational fears of Muslims. Again, the lack of knowledge is the cause of hatred and mistrust. Unfortunately for the majority of Muslims, extremists have misrepresented the religion’s true ideology. The same can be said for Christian extremists who have contributed to misconceptions about Baptists and Catholics. Every religion has its stereotypes, drawn from the actions of a few bad apples. Then there are those that twist religion to fit their mission. The Ku Klux Klan extends Christian love, but is it fair to say all Christians embrace the ways of the KKK? In the same way, many Americans have unjustly linked Muslims to the Taliban – a group that distorts its religion to carry out extremist actions.
My friend, Deonna Kelli Sayed, is a blonde-headed, American, born and bred in the South, but embraced the Muslim religion because of its values. She and I have had many discussions regarding world culture (her husband is United Nations diplomat in Bahrain ) and the purported “mosque” has been among the topics. “I wonder if we should call it a mosque, indeed,” she conveyed. “A new kind of mosque for a new kind of Muslim, a community center that embodies what Islam is about at its core: dialogue, relationship building, community development, and interfaith exchange.”
The World Trade Center stood tall and proud over the gateway of America, holding international commerce and racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. Muslim extremists chose to attack that site because of all that it represented. How appropriate for a Muslim man, reflecting the religion’s true doctrine, lead the building of Park51 which will be tribute to unity aside the new World Trade Center. “So if people want to call it a mosque, so be it,” said Deonna. “Let it be a transformative mosque, the kind that issues in a new paradigm.”
For more information and a toolkit on interfaith relations, visit http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/interfaith/