20 August 2010

My Take on the Mosque at/near Ground Zero Controversy

At the risk of stating the obvious, the events of 11 September 2001 has left a gaping wound in the national conscience that has never fully healed, even nearly a decade later. That there would be strong emotions are understandable--perhaps even expected--under the circumstances, especially among those who knew friends or loved ones who were in or near the towers, aboard the doomed aircraft, at the Pentagon, or were first responders at any of these locations.

But we must remember that not counting the terrorists, the people who perished that day, particularly at the WTC site, represented a number of different nationalities, backgrounds, and faiths, including, I would imagine, a number of innocent and peaceful Muslims who would have absolutely nothing to do with the Taliban or Al Quida, and who I think would be disgusted to learn that they were so associated in the course of the public debate of recent days.

Should there be diaglogue between the opposing groups in reference to the proposed center, with mutual respect as to each other's viewpoints? Absolutely. Should we oppose terrorists and terrorism? Without question. Should we care about finding a way to honor those who died? Of course. But at the end of the day, I submit to you that we dishonor those who died when we take our freedoms for granted. And I submit to you that we do precisely that when we presume that all Muslim adherents pledge their allegience to Al Queda or that all scholars of the Qu'ran would call for shedding innocent blood after the manner of 9/11. I'm reminded of the fact that in an earlier generation, it was followers of another faith who was on the receiving end of some fairly horrid accusations. Except these were followers of the Old Testament, or more accurately, the Torah. In still another period, followers of the Book of Mormon were literally driven from place to place, even under this very flag.

The bottom line is that we must not let our anger blind us to the point where we destroy, or seek to destroy, all that is sacred and important. And that includes the Constitution of the United States, up to and including the First Amendment, which, as an attorney, I have taken an oath to uphold and protect. --SJR

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