Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Sacredness of Ground Zero: Part 3 - A Truly Sacred Space

Out of the destruction comes hope, out of the hatred blossoms a chance for reconciliation. The media has been bombarding us daily with the controversy over the Park 51 project yet it's only recently that I've heard any mention of the prayer space allotted to Muslims in the Pentagon mere feet from a 9/11 memorial.

So what's the difference between this space and the Park 51 project? Is it size, the distance, perhaps the owners and operators? Has the space within the Pentagon escaped scrutiny because it remains out of view (out of sight, out of mind), or is it because of its use as an interfaith chapel? The main outcry by opponents of the Park 51 project is "Not There, that space is hallowed, sacred, anywhere but There." Yet Muslims congregate less than 100 feet from the attack on the Pentagon. I began to Google Protest at Pentagon... but thought twice before Google logged my search (I don't want government agents knocking on my door in the middle of the night).

The Park 51 project is not a 13 story mosque as many believe, it will be a community center with the top levels ( the top 2 if I remember correctly) as a dedicated Muslim prayer space. The 13 story building will include
  • outstanding recreation spaces and fitness facilities (swimming pool, gym, basketball court)
  • a 500-seat auditorium
  • a restaurant and culinary school
  • cultural amenities including exhibitions
  • education programs
  • a library, reading room and art studios
  • childcare services
  • a mosque, intended to be run separately from Park51 but open to and accessible to all members, visitors and our New York community
  • a September 11th memorial and quiet contemplation space, open to all
It is a community center which will include a mosque as stated on their website,
Future plans for Park51 include a world-class facility which will house a mosque. Intended to operate as a separate 501(c)(3), the mosque will be a welcoming prayer space accessible to Park51 members as well as all New Yorkers, but will be independently run.
This information was not found by stealth espionage, it was pulled directly from the site. So Why is this project being blown way out of proportion? It is a community center which includes a mosque, not a mosque which will include a community center. So again, what is the difference between this space and the space in the Pentagon? Outside of size, and distance away from the attack site, the only other significant difference I can think of is that the Pentagon site is not owned by any Muslim group since it is an interfaith chapel which allows time for different groups, whereas the Park 51 project is an independent project to be led by Muslim Americans. The mosque will be run by a separate non-profit with their own board of directors.

There is another mosque an additional 2 blocks down (4 blocks from Ground Zero) which predates the World Trade Center. So why all the fuss, is this really about the "insensitive goals" of the Muslim community? And if the Park 51 project is such a threat why not protest and call for the removal of the one 4 blocks away from Ground Zero? Why not make a one mile "No Mosque Zone" thereby pushing back this "evil" takeover of our American values? To be perfectly honest I can not relate to the family members who lost their loved ones during the attack since I have yet to experience losing someone close. But Islam did not attack us on 9/11, terrorists did. The terrorist were Muslim, yes, but they are not representative of all Muslims. To say Terrorism= Islam is like saying The Klan= Christianity. The attack was done by an extremist militant group which not only despises religious freedom but want their fellow Muslims to convert to their brand of Islam or die. Most people forget that the majority of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings are aimed at fellow Muslims for their "heretical beliefs". Yet Westerns have trouble making the distinctions between extremists and moderates by lumping them all into one group.

I believe the Pentagon interfaith chapel is sacred (although I believe all land to be sacred) because it embodies the spirit of what America should be and what it values. Now I'm sure there's tension between some of the religious groups from time to time but I think it's phenomenal that believers can share the same four walls without attacking each other. So why not a community center run by Muslims seeking to embrace the same tolerant interfaith spirit embodied in the Pentagon chapel mere inches away from the 9/11 memorial? Is another mosque two blocks closer to Ground Zero any more of a threat than one a mile away? It is just a building, a space, for the Muslims already living in New York to meet and pray. Those whom opponents consider the Enemy are already here the only real difference is that the building makes them more visible. This country should be one which takes the higher, nobler ground, defends its freedom for ALL, and welcomes diversity. The only reason we fear our neighbor is because we really don't know them, so get out and introduce yourself.

1 comment:

Don said...

Thanks for bringing to our eyes the Pentagon chapel. I knew about it but it was good to see it along with the details of it.

I have posted twice now on the mosque from quite different angles:

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