Sunday, September 5, 2010

Building a mosque near Ground Zero - opinions for and against

Sunday’s edition of the Asbury Park Press contains dueling op-eds on the proposed construction of a mosque near the World Trade Center site. The op-eds are written by Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum located in Paterson, NJ, who is in favor of the mosque’s construction, and John Skoufis, a retired chemist who lives in Denville, NJ, who is not in favor of its construction.

Mr. Assaf frequently writes about Palestinian issues and finds it hard to condemn terrorism unequivocally. I had not read anything by Mr. Skoufis before today but a Google search indicates he brings a “conservative” approach to many issues.

Assaf begins,

“President Barack Obama's remarks supporting the right to build a mosque near ground zero reverberated across the country, nationalizing a passionate debate over the project. The dispute is the most prominent in a series of debates around the country where Muslims have sought to build mosques.”

[A comment from your editor, Mr. Obama’s support was tempered by his questioning the smartness of building a mosque so close to Ground Zero. This is a typical Assaf ploy. But enough from me.]

He continues

"Shamefully, Republican leaders and right-wing media pundits have made it their objective to use the issue not only to undermine public support for Obama but as a tool in the upcoming midterm elections. Gratefully, a few Republican leaders have sided with what's right. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have decided that scapegoating American Muslims was, in fact, too costly politically."

Read the full op-ed.

This is from John Skoufis,

"The proposed building of a mosque/cultural center near ground zero has engendered vociferous debate from extremists on both sides of the issue. One side tries to marginalize opponents by portraying them as bigots and Islamophobes while the other side makes unfounded claims that all Muslims are terrorists.

"We need to tune both out and discuss, rationally, our position.

"I will leave it to others to make their case for condemning those who object to this building. But the siren cry of bigotry and First Amendment and legal rights do not suffice since the vast majority, more than 70 percent, believe this mosque has both legal and constitutional rights to build while simultaneously objecting to the location. Some 70 percent of Americans cannot be labeled as bigots or against religious freedom."

Read the full op-ed.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I agree with Dr. Aref Assaf that American Muslims must not be blamed for acts by Muslims in faraway lands any more American Jews be blamed for Israeli (Jewish) atrocities against Palestinians. Secondly, American Muslims are already praying in NYC regardless of how close or far from WTC. They are productive, patriotic and law abiding citizens like most people who call America their home. You have no right to tell they can have their cake(rights) but not eat it. Take your fight to AlQaeda not your fellow citizens who just as you are were victimized by the horrific attacks.I agree with the writer that the whole anti mosque argument is steeped in religious bigotry. Opponents deny the charge but how do we explain their opposition to every mosque that's planned for whether in NYC or some remote place in NJ, Tennessee or California? Is not this hypocrisy?

Stephen M. Flatow said...

Many opposed to the WTC mosque base their opposition on the expressed objections of victims' families. They liken it to a Japanese request to build a Shinto shine alongside the Battleship Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii--something the Japanese have never tried to do.
Isn't the families feelings a legitimate criteria on which to base opposition?

shana maydel said...

I have been following the discussions and debates on the building of a mosque near Ground Zero and though I believe in "freedom of religion" there seems to be a prickly undercurrent, a sensitivity issue that can not overlooked. Nearly nine years after the Sept. 11 attacks ignited a wave of anxiety about Muslims, many in our community still have an uneasy relationship with Islam. If what the pollster say is true, nearly 60 percent asked, said people they know had negative feelings toward Muslims because of 9/11.

Over all, 50 percent of those surveyed oppose building the project two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, even though a majority believe that the developers have the right to do so.
I don't think everything in this world is black and white; there is always a gray area and the gray area right now is sensitivity to those affected by 9/11, the survivors of the people lost.

I would say that while Muslims have a right to construct the center near ground zero, they should find a different site.
This is neither religious bigotry nor hypocrisy, as even those who defend the plan to build a mosque can't help but question the wisdom of the location.