Friday, August 13, 2010

A Mosque at Ground Zero?

A new controversy is currently hotly debated in the press: to build or not to build a mosque at ground zero? I see two arguments, one against and one in favor. The argument against building such a mosque is that it may hurt the feelings of those who lost family, friends or loved ones in the 9/11 bombing. In fact, this seems a very strong argument because irrespective how we feel about the issue, these people will want to visit the site where their loved ones died and that experience can be severely affected by a clearly visible mosque. However, I am not sure the majority of the surviving dependents actually will be offended by a mosque. At the very least their opinion should be polled. And by the way, I am sure many moslims also died in the 9/11 attacks and wouldn't they need a place to mourn their loved ones?

Now the argument in favor. I believe the most appropriate monument we can build that expresses the tolerance of our western society towards other cultures and minorities, and expresses how much we value our constitutional rights (aka liberty of speech, liberty of religion etc.), is to precisely build a mosque at ground zero. It expresses the fact that we do not stigmatize a very large group of well willing citizens and accuse them of the crimes committed by a very small group of terrorists. It expresses the fact that we have learned from history and will not make the same mistakes again (and again). So, please let's build that islamic center at ground zero and use it to create mutual understanding and eradicate the hate that led to 9/11. Let's not think with our gut but with our head for a change.


  1. whenever people from the Islamic world set forth to conquer new civilizations (and loot and pillage their cities, hurt women and children and desecrate holy places), they would destroy all places the conquered civilization considered holy and build a mosque there.
    this has happened countless times in india, where the largest mosques have been built on the ruins of temples considered the holiest, and the idols were used to make the stairs in the mosques.

    the symbolism in the act of a mosque at ground zero is hence unpalatable for me, and in my opinion will only serve to motivate more terrorists who view the world through their own perverted eyeglasses.

    as for showing american culture as being accommodating, as an outsider visiting the USA, i'll certify this country is very open and accommodating of visitors and immigrants and does not need to prove any more points to anyone.

  2. @Anon: In my view, the issue boils down to two main points:

    1. Islam is not terrorism. More narrowly, the Muslims seeking to build the mosque are not terrorists and they had nothing to do with 9/11. We must not punish them for the crimes of others.

    2. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion and expression. Disallowing construction of the mosque would violate both.

    There is a third point to consider -- that of the symbolism / emotional distress mentioned by yourself and Max -- but to me this point is simply not as important as the first two. As I see it, in order to argue against the mosque one must either (a) disagree with one of the two points I presented, or (b) value the feelings of some over the fundamental rights of an entire population and the integrity of the Constitution. Is one of these true, or am I missing some subtlety in your argument?

    Finally, you write: "as for showing american culture as being accommodating, as an outsider visiting the USA, i'll certify this country is very open and accommodating of visitors and immigrants and does not need to prove any more points to anyone." I hope I have made it clear that arguments in favor of the mosque are not founded in some eagerness to "prove a point," but rather to protect the fundamental rights of an innocent minority.

  3. When it's said mosque at ground zero, it's not actually at the place where WTC stood. I think it's 2 block away from it. And, in fact a small community building which serves particular faith in question already stands there. Making it a Mosque then is just a mere formality.
    I believe making a mosque at the particular place where WTC stood is most certainly not right. A memorial may be built there, or may be a religious place which represents all faith.
    But I don't see anything wrong with a mosque 2 blocks away from Ground Zero. Any protest against it just shows the kind of intolerance that people have developed.