Despite dissent from families of those who lost their lives, and many other New Yorkers and concerned Americans, which created a very heated debate, the New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the plan by the Muslim community to build an Islamic cultural center/Mosques, at a location known as Park51, two blocks north of Ground Zero, site of the World Trade Center holocaust.
I wrote in a previous post, “The presence of A Mosque at Ground Zero could promote healing and interfaith tolerance. It also is a clear statement that America is what it claims to be. Critical thinking on the issue should inform anyone that, yes, the terrorists were Muslim, but that their actions were not consistent with the teachings of Islam no more than pedophilia is consistent with the teachings of Catholicism.”
So, I am pleased that the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to allow the Muslim-led project, Cordoba House, to move forward with their plan.
New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision and the city’s support for the proposed mosque and community center just blocks from the World Trade Center site.
The Mayor’s speech from all appearances was a sincere and deeply felt expression of what was in his heart. All those in New York City should be proud to live in a place whose leadership embraces a stance where “there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God's love and mercy.”
The following are the parts of the Mayor’s speech that were particularly poignant:
“This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.
“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.
"For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.
"On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, 'What God do you pray to?' 'What beliefs do you hold?'
"The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.
"Muslims are as much a part of our city and our country as the people of any faith. And they are as welcome to worship in lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for better, the better part of a year, as is their right. The local community board in lower Manhattan voted overwhelmingly to support the proposal. And if it moves forward, I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire city.
"Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure, and there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God's love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us can attest."
Immigration (illegal or not), our diversity, and our open door to anyone who is willing to take that personal risk of venturing into a new country, who has a vision and willingness to participate and contribute to our culture is America’s narrative, it’s the story of us.