For the past month or so, along with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (link) the planned community center at 51 Park Place in New York City has dominated the news. Now, normally a community center would sound like a great idea; a place for kids to go to stay off the street and others to take classes. So what's the problem with it you may ask? It just happens that this planned community center is located six blocks from Ground Zero and it's being run by Muslims. Because of those two factors, the fanatical right has gone on a rampage trying to prevent it from happening.
Now this is just Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin's views, but as you can see, Fox News has been all over this issue. There are however some fallacies with this story. First of all, this is not a mosque. A mosque is a place of worship only. The Cordoba House at Park 51 is a community center with a recreational area, classes for people of New York to take, and a prayer space on the top two stories of the proposed building. So in other words, it's basically a Muslim version of the YMCA. Critics are saying that it's going to be a breeding ground for terrorists, if basketball players and creative writers are now considered terrorists. Secondly, it's not even located at Ground Zero, but six blocks away in the former Burlington Coat Factory store that closed after it was hit by debris on September 11, 2001. They chose this location because they were able to purchase the property for a great deal. You won't be able to see Gound Zero from the center and vice versa. This is not going to be a monument to the terrorists who orchestrated attacks but an attempt by the Muslim community to reach out to the rest of New York and say "we feel your pain." Muslims are peace loving people and the terrorists are just a fraction of a fraction of that, just as the protestors of the Westboro Baptist Church don't represent all of Christianity. I have friends from high school who were Muslims and they were very nice people. So far the fanatical right hasn't come up with a real reason for not building it other than that it wouldn't be right. What do you mean it wouldn't be right? Wasn't our great country founded on the notion of religious freedom? The first amendement to the Constitution guarantees that freedom and now Republicans want to take it away. What if it were a radical Christian group that attacked the Twin Towers? Would we be against the building of a YMCA six blocks from Ground Zero? I don't think so, because then the Bible-belt south would be up in arms.
I could go on about my views about this proposed community center, but I think Keith Olbermann's special comment on it from the August 16 episode of Countdown on MSNBC sums it up pretty well.