Weighing in on the Ground Zero mosque

Weighing in on the Ground Zero mosque

For the past couple of months, politicians, pundits, and ordinary citizens have weighed in on the Cordoba House, an Islamic community center (with a mosque) that would be built within two blocks of Ground Zero.

As part of our new “In Focus” series, various Northern Star columnists and editors will weigh in with their two cents on this and other news issues that show up on our radar.

Aaron Brooks, columnist: The mosque is a derivative warning stewed up by Fox News. Charlton Heston said it best in his May 1999 keynote speech to the NRA, one month after the Columbine High School massacre: “I see our country teetering on the edge of an abyss. At its bottom brews the simmering bile of deep, dark hatred…Too many are too willing to stigmatize and demonize others for political advantage, for money or for ratings…I am asking all of us, on both sides, to take one step back from the edge, than another step and another, however many it takes to get back to the place where we are all Americans. Different, imperfect, diverse, but one nation, indivisible.”

Phil Case, columnist: If the mosque debate really is an issue of sensitivity in regards to the families of 9/11 victims, then what about the families of the hundreds of the casualties who were Muslims themselves? After all, they are planning on building an Islamic community center, so it is logical to assume that there is a significant Muslim-American population. Then again, for those who misappropriate the First Amendment in regards to its protection of freedom of speech when one of their own is pressured to step down after a racist radio rant and then ignore it altogether when another group gets to use it to protect their freedom of religion, logic may not be a strong point.

Matt Liparota, managing editor: My opinion isn’t so much about the fact of the community center itself – the right of the Muslim community to inhabit this building isn’t even a question – so much as it is about the general backlash against it and the logic (or lack thereof) behind these arguments. To demonize Cordoba House and, by extension, the entire religion of Islam, because of a horrific act carried out by a select few almost a decade ago, to me, is nothing short of bigotry. We didn’t see an outcry against Christians after the bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, and no one is arguing that Eric Robert Rudolph’s actions are indicative of Christianity. So why rail against Islam (except for the fact that it makes an easy campaign platform, of course)?

Logan Short, columnist: I’ll admit that the Muslim Cordoba House two blocks away from Ground Zero is a bit awkward. As for all the commotion between supporters and the opposition, I believe it is just another fine example of the freedoms we’re privileged with here in the U.S. If I had to take a side, however, I’d have to say the building site is fine. For one, it is the owners legal right to build there. It is also a center for learning and being two blocks away from Ground Zero would probably be a prime example for teachers of Islam to instill a core principle of nonviolence into their faith. Finally, it shows a great deal of maturity and respect for the U.S. to turn the other cheek, a principle in the Bible taught directly from Jesus Christ, who I’m sure a great deal of the opposition (to the mosque) believes in.

Taurean Small, columnist: The fact that a Muslim building is the hottest topic across the country right now demonstrates just how arrogant America has become. Our exclusive attitudes towards what’s “appropriate” or “respectful” in regards to our nation’s biggest tragedy is very much so contrary to our inclusive “melting pot” motto. The patriotic message we should take from 9/11 is: compassion, unity, and equality for all Americans (including Muslim Americans). Nowadays, it seems like the line between patriotism and prejudice is becoming blurrier.

David Thomas, perspective editor: I used to be a supporter of keeping the Cordoba House out of the general vicinity of Ground Zero. It was not because I believe Islam was the enemy, or that mosques are symbols of victory. I believed that there should be nothing at the site that would take away from the memorial; no distractions at Ground Zero. Then I learned about the Pussycat Lounge. Yep, in the same neighborhood as Ground Zero and the Cordoba House, there are numerous sex shops and strip clubs. If Newt Gingrich is going to feign moral outrage and ask us to base our freedoms off of Saudi Arabia, shouldn’t he direct his outrage at these businesses too?