The Park 51 Controversy

Once again I’m embarrassed to be a Christian in the United States.  We are known by the company we keep.  The public outcry and political maneuvering focused on Park 51 is short-sighted and smacks of manipulation.  Christians have been found to be part of this public outcry.  It is at times like these that I wonder if people even attempt to think through issues.

A group has plans to build an Islamic Center at 51 Park Avenue, in New York City.  It is reported to be just 2 blocks from “Ground Zero” where the World Trade Center once stood.  Some call that insensitive.  Some want the “hallowed ground” of “Ground Zero” to be respected.  Polls of public sentiment indicate some 61% of those polled object to the establishment of the Islamic Center there.  President Obama, who has voiced affirmation of the right of the group to construct the Islamic Center, is increasingly believed to be Muslim.  (Slow head shake goes here.)

Plenty of others have weighed in recently attempting to infuse the public conversation with facts.  Two other mosques already are located within a dozen blocks of the World Trade Center site.  A room in the Pentagon close to the site where the plane crashed on 9/11 has been set aside as an interfaith chapel and is used by Muslims for prayer on a regular basis.  If we call ground “2 blocks away” (and even that designation is questionable) “hallowed”, then why not an outcry against some of the other businesses in the area?  Strip clubs, sex shops, and “Gentleman’s Clubs” are there.  President Obama is Christian.  Islam has been in this country for a very long time, mosques being built beginning 95 years ago.  There are 2 million active Muslims in the United States today, and their numbers are growing.

Those facts don’t matter to many.

There is concern expressed by Newt Gingrich that it is “…radical Islamists who want to triumphally prove that they can build a mosque right next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by radical Islamists…”.  It is that kind of rhetoric that stirs up this debate, making it an emotional issue, far from the facts of the situation.

I have a few observations.

  1. If this Islamic Center is blocked, it has negative implications for the zoning and construction of any religious structure, including Christian churches.  Maybe community leaders don’t want the “negative influence” of Christianity on commerce, schools, or neighborhoods?  Preposterous?  No.  Christian congregations have been blocked from construction in neighborhoods because of traffic concerns, concerns about noise, concerns about feeding and housing the hungry and homeless, and any number of other concerns.  Most of the objection to the Islamic Center in NYC is to the “assumed message and intent”.  Facts don’t matter.
  2. Even if the intent of the construction of the Islamic Center is to “rub our noses in Islam’s growing influence”, don’t we decide what it means to us?  The congregation I serve views itself as a dynamic, growing, and faithful congregation.  Some outside the congregation see it as a heretical club leading people away from faith.  We decide what something means for us.
  3. Do we seriously believe that the construction of an Islamic Center, even if it were to be built by radical fundamentalist Muslims would change the nature of “Ground Zero”?  Does denunciation of the reality of the Holocaust really change many minds about its historicity?
  4. Republicans running for office or in the national spotlight are most frequently seen as making this Islamic center an issue.  This is the political party that presents itself as for “smaller government” and fewer government restrictions on businesses.  Are they really advocating denying the permits for this Islamic Center?

There is so much more.

Take a breath.

Listen to what is being said.



5 responses to “The Park 51 Controversy

  1. I think that you may perhaps have missed the point. It isn’t that anyone is barring the construction of the mosque, rather as I understand it, they would simply like for it to be moved a couple of blocks away from ground zero. This is not an issue of religious freedom because both groups believe in this but rather one of taking note of the sensibilities of those who have been affected by this tragedy and of the public sentiment. Just as Christians avoid building any churches near concentration camps and the like (though it was not Christianity that killed upwards of 6 million Jews) all that is asked is for Muslims to display the same concern and sympathy in this instance.

  2. ponderingpastor

    I couldn’t disagree more. The only way this is “2 blocks” from Ground Zero is measuring from the edge of the large Ground Zero site. It is about 6 Manhattan blocks from the actual North Tower which was the closest tower. How far is far enough? Three blocks? Four? Who gets to decide?

    Additionally, what consideration is there for the Muslim population of the area? Is this proposed Islamic Center close to the population center for the “target population”. Is it located within the expected growth pattern for the “target population”? I’d guess that was a factor in looking at the possible site. Why don’t we consider that convenience factor just as important as its proximity to Ground Zero? Simple reason. Some kind of prejudice.

    Imagine this scenario. The planned Islamic Center is moved 10 more blocks away from Ground Zero. Property price is higher. Center of target population is further away. The story of the reason for the move becomes part of the important back story and rather than attracting centrist Muslims, it attracts embittered and persecuted persons. A mosque serving the people near Ground Zero still needs to be built. Here we go again.

    The assumption is that the Islamic Center planners didn’t display the same concern and sympathy you describe. How do you know?

    This is yet another example of the tyranny of the majority. One of the guiding values of this country is protection of the minority.

  3. With all due respect, where have I ever said that the proposed mosque is only 2 bocks from Ground Zero, I only recall saying that the opposition would simply prefer it to be moved a couple of blocks down. Given your misunderstanding of my statement, I don’t think that I have to respond your questions which deal with the proximity issue.

    Now, as I recall last night’s showing of CNN, one argument against the building of the mosque was that it wasn’t located at an area with a predominant Muslim population, in fact if (I remember the statement correctly) on would have to pass by 6 different mosques just to get there. So I must contend your point that runs along the lines that this mosque is at a prime target area. That aside, the very Imam at the head of this operation is questionable, as a transcript from a discussion on John King USA reads, “He’s gone overseas and changed the book that he’s publishing in this country. He’s got it under a different name overseas, where he’s calling on people to impose Sharia on the United States. What he says overseas is different from what he says here and I’ve got a real problem with that.” Telling indeed.

  4. In regards to location: shouldn’t the families of these 9/11 Muslim victims have a place nearby to pray and seek comfort for those they have lost just as the Christian’s do.

    Samad Afridi
    Ashraf Ahmad
    Shabbir Ahmad
    Umar Ahmad
    Azam Ahsan
    Ahmed Ali
    Tariq Amanullah Touri Bolourchi
    Salauddin Ahmad Chaudhury
    Abdul K. Chowdhury
    Mohammad S. Chowdhury
    his son was born 48 hours after the attacks – one of the first 9/11 orphans.
    Jamal Legesse Desantis

    Ramzi Attallah Douani
    SaleemUllah Farooqi
    Syed Fatha
    Osman Gani
    Mohammad Hamdani

    Salman Hamdani (NYPD Cadet)
    found near the North Tower, with his EMT medical bag beside him.
    Aisha Harris

    Shakila Hoque
    Nabid Hossain
    Shahzad Hussain
    Talat Hussain
    Mohammad Shah Jahan
    Yasmeen Jamal
    Mohammed Jawarta
    Arslan Khan Khakwani
    Asim Khan
    Ataullah Khan
    Ayub Khan
    Qasim Ali Khan
    Sarah Khan
    Taimour Khan
    Yasmeen Khan
    Zahida Khan
    Badruddin Lakhani
    Omar Malick
    Nurul Hoque Miah
    Mubarak Mohammad
    Boyie Mohammed
    Raza Mujtaba
    Omar Namoos
    Mujeb Qazi
    Tarranum Rahim
    Ehtesham U. Raja
    Ameenia Rasool
    Rahma Salie-7 months pregnant

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