9/11 was not the day that Islam attacked the United States. September 11, 2001 was the day that Al Qaeda attacked the United States with the purpose of knocking our nation off its keel. Al Qaeda are usurpers of a faith, in the way that many humans since the beginning of time have killed in the name of their God. Their hopes for the cowardly assault on civilians were simple; force the United States into a mindset contrary to its history, make the United States abandon its cherished ideals. Where they can never hope to conquer us, they could inspire us to conquer ourselves.
They have been, in many ways, successful on a grand scale. We have willingly given up many of the protections of the 4th Amendment. We have willingly conceded the long-contested battle over a right to privacy. We have sacrificed much on the altar of; “It will keep us safe”. We have departed from the fervor of; “Give me liberty, or give me death!” We have abandoned the wisdom of; “Those who would give up a little freedom, in exchange for a little safety, deserve neither freedom nor safety.” Now, far past the 11th hour, we concede another of our nation’s founding principles.
The text of the 1st Amendment is simple yet inclusive. It protects the fundamentals of free expression for both individuals and groups. It channels the spirit of the original Pilgrims still evident in our Founding Fathers; Pilgrims who were considered a cult in England and Holland. To protect the rights of the religious and the manner of their expression, was a bold and original ideal then and now. There was not then, nor is there now, a test imposed on practitioners to determine the worth of their faith, or its place in the world. There are only these simple lines:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The attack by that sorry mob of self-serving fanatics was not then, and is not now, a definition of Islam. It was the ultimate statement of cowards, carried out by the ultimate fanaticism of weak-minded zealots. Al Qaeda and its emulators have killed far more Muslims than Christians and Jews. To accept their claim to be representatives of Islam, as a prima facie case, is to ignore all the other facts in evidence. You may not ascribe to the tenets of Islam, you may even believe the religion to be dangerously misguided, but it matters not as this is a question of liberty. All of which brings us to the now infamous “Ground Zero Mosque”.
If some misguided soul had formulated the dim idea to build a mosque, church, temple, or synagogue on Ground Zero, I would be writing in protest myself. That site is hallowed ground, and should be consecrated to the memories of all who fell. That edifice yet to built has been long discussed; the hows and the whys of its building debated over many months by planners and survivors alike. Any building on that site dedicated to one faith would be a miscarriage of purpose. But the tricky little widget in the case of the “Ground Zero Mosque”, is that it isn’t located at Ground Zero.
The Cordoba Center is to be built on private property around the corner. There are religious facilities of many faiths within a few blocks of Ground Zero. Why should this facility be any different? This is not, after all, a recruiting depot for Al Qaeda. We are not, after all, a totalitarian nation like Iran who might be expected to determine where a church or synagogue can or should be constructed. It is somewhat ironic that the Moors, Muslims who ruled the city of Cordoba in Spain, where renowned for their tolerance. They did not, centuries ago, give a second thought to the practicing of Judaism or Christianity in their lands. Are we Americans, long the setters of example where liberty is concerned, now to abandon our principles in fear and anger?
This is an issue beyond the politics of our nation. This cuts directly to our souls as individual Americans. We the people, are the individual carriers of the American Dream and the principles that dream is built on. Many survivors of 9/11, and many who lost loved ones, are aggrieved by this development. Other survivors see it as an example of what makes us better than those craven souls who perpetrated that terrible crime. But we aren’t meant to establish rights via polling sample in America, and the right to peaceably assemble and practice one’s religion is a right long established. Many of the citizens, as well as the city and county of New York, have stood up in defense of the project. These were Christians and Jews, Muslims and Agnostics, who said yes to the Cordoba Center. These were Americans who said yes to freedom, even though that freedom may come with a twinge of painful reminder.
The Rational Middle is listening…