First, it’s not a mosque. It’s a community center that among other things (like the evil swimming pool or threatening performing arts center) will include a mosque.
Second, here is NPR’s report this morning about the neighborhood where Park51 will be erected and included the response of someone who has a problem with the community center’s close vicinity of the World Trade Center:
Solomon Baghdadi lives five minutes away from ground zero and works out at the boxing gym next-door to the OTB. He’s an attorney, and he agrees that the people planning Park51 have a right to put it wherever they want.
It’s just that amid all of the apartment buildings and video stores and pizza joints, this neighborhood now has one defining feature that no other New York neighborhood has, a feature that wasn’t there when the first mosque was founded: a big, gaping hole where the World Trade Center used to be.
“It’s hard to do anything without really thinking about it because you see it. Even if it’s for … a few seconds, you’re mindful of it always,” Baghdadi says.
He says he’d feel a lot better about the Islamic center if developers didn’t build it so close to ground zero. Canal Street might be OK, he says. That’s 14 blocks away.
Here’s was my immediate response to Baghdadi’s statement: Shouldn’t our reaction to that big, gaping hole be a reaction of tolerance***? Shouldn’t acceptance be the lesson of 9/11? Isn’t intolerance the exact thing that caused the tragedy in the first place? Aren’t we supposed to be better than those 19 men (and all their co-conspirators) who killed all those civilians on that day (including Muslims)? Why do the gaping holes in the ground = anti-Muslim, anti-mosque?
How are we honoring the lives of those lost on 9/11 if we just continue to spread hate?
[***I have a hard time with the word “tolerance.” There is a lot packaged in that idea – namely that you only choose to tolerate things or people that you dislike or even hate. But I would be okay with tolerance in this situation. Acceptance would be better and should be the goal. But tolerance, right now, it will do.]