Ground Zero mosque controversy highlights American ignorance

September 16, 2010 — by Jason Wu and Will Edman

In mid 2009, a group of Christians, Jews, and Muslims created the Cordoba Initiative, an association that planned to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero in New York called Park51 that would house a mosque.

As the project neared completion it sparked a fierce national controversy, largely thanks to misinformation about the proposed building. What the media excitedly brand as the “Ground Zero mosque” is actually neither located at Ground Zero nor, by definition, truly a mosque. The community center would actually be located two blocks away and out of sight from Ground Zero, and the mosque would take up only two floors out of the building’s 13.

In a recent act of defiance against Park 51, Florida pastor Terry Jones announced that his church would burn the Quran if Park51 does not cease development (he later backed down). The same constitutional rights that protect Jones’ freedom of speech in threatening this hateful act must also protect freedom of religion for Muslims.

The community center proposal has nevertheless faced opposition from those who believe that the building would insult 9/11 victims’ memories. However, Park51 would feature a memorial to the victims of 9/11, an attempt at good will toward victims and their families that has largely gone unnoticed.

Many Americans believe that Park51 instead honors Islam’s role in the 9/11 attacks, but this misconception only highlights the ignorance that surrounds the issue. Compared to an estimated thousand members of the extremist group Al-Qaeda responsible for 9/11, there are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. The 9/11 attacks were not an Islamic crime but a crime committed in the name of Islam by extremists whom most Muslims reject. Linking the world’s second largest religion with this relatively minuscule group is a gross generalization, effectively associating the erection of a community center that happens to contain a mosque with the glorification of a terrorist attack.