Manhattan minaret is major brouhaha

"Nine years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Muslim Americans still receive some of the worst scorn our society has to offer, and with the recent proposal of an Islamic community center just two blocks from ground zero, misinformation and disparagements of Islamic faith are in no short supply. People still don’t understand that most American Muslims are not, and do not support, America-hating extremists or violent religious radicals. These bogey-man ideas persist because, as the old axiom goes, people always fear what they don’t understand.

"There’s a lot of evidence to back up that statement, especially in America. Anything or anyone that goes against the grain society’s approved activities list is instantly singled out and ostracized. Its happened throughout American history to Native Americans, Catholics, Jews, women, homosexuals, people of African decent, and those are just the big names.

"It’ is this fear of the unknown that has made the planned Islamic community center one of the most overblown and infuriating political controversies in recent memory. I call it a community center and not a mosque because the mosque is just one room in this proposed 13-story building. Calling it a mosque is like calling Oswego State a hockey rink.

"Personally, I see no problem with this community center being built. This is America, and Muslims, or any other group, can do and build what they want. A lot of people disagree, and this has promulgated some of the most ignorant arguments and statements created on any issue yet this century, which is covering a lot of ground.

"There are a few talking points that the protesters repeatedly use when they explain why they’re opposed to the center, and most of them can be debunked by common sense. One example is some people’s belief that the community center is really a training ground for terrorists. Sorry if this question seems a little obvious, but wouldn’t one of the 47 million tourists New York draws each year notice if the tell-tale monkey bars and men in black masks suddenly popped up in downtown Manhattan?

"After Sept. 11, people have become so paranoid that they think every Muslim on Earth is a threat. Terrorists are from fanatical groups that make up an extremely small portion of the worldwide community and have been repeatedly condemned by the religion. People need to realize that every religion on Earth has radical factions that have insane beliefs. Christians wouldn’t like it if everyone assumed they were homophobic because of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, would they? So people should stop doing it to everyone else. This isn’t a training ground. It’s basically a YMCA that just happens to be run by Muslims. Unless you think young people learning about different cultures is evil, there’s no wrong-doing here.

"Another argument is that building the center is a bad idea because it would send a bad message to terrorists: that having an Islamic center near ground zero would somehow make it look like terrorism is tolerated. There are two things wrong with this. I already stated the first reason earlier: that this is bad stereotyping. Second, I don’t understand why people are so preoccupied with what terrorists think about us. Why do they care? I certainly don’t. These people are insane and evil. If I hate someone, I don’t care what they think of me. Maybe there’s a ridiculous chance they will see the center as a validation of their actions. But their mission was to inspire fear, and if we spend too much time worrying about how they’ll perceive the actions we take, then their mission was a success.

"The last, and most egregious, argument against the center is that ground zero is somehow sacred, and an Islamic center would be a slap in the face to all the people who died there. There’s just one problem with that: there are strip clubs and adult bookstores near ground zero. A community center designed to educate people about Islam is un-American, but the Pussycat Lounge and Thunder Lingerie are perfectly fine. I’m glad these people have their priorities straight. It’s unbelievable that people can overlook this blatant fact. If you’re going to make an argument on anything, let alone this issue, make sure it can’t be invalidated by anyone with access to MapQuest.

"Not surprisingly, one of the largest groups in protest are the families of Sept. 11 victims. I can’t tell these people that their opinion is wrong, because I can’t even begin to comprehend the grief brought on by that tragedy, nobody can. But I know that not all families feel this way, many others have been extremely vocal in their support of the community center. I hope that their actions may change the minds of some of the opponents.

"The bottom line is there is absolutely nothing wrong with building this center. America was founded on the belief of religious freedom, and the protesters are betraying that belief. The hostility toward the Muslim community proves that this center is more than necessary, it’s essential. It would be a sign of good faith towards Muslims, and it would show that this country can be accepting of anyone. If you still think the center is in bad taste, then here’s a story for you. There’s a non-denominational chapel that holds a Muslim service every year on 9/11 that honors the Americans that died. Outside this chapel there’s a memorial that reads "United in Memory, September 11 2001." Where is this place? It’s in the Pentagon, right on top of the area where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed. I would like to hear the argument against that.

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