I reserve my political and religious rants for those that I have an established rapport with and in settings that are conducive to conversation and respectful debate. Usually. But, this is a rant on a subject that hits too close to home for me, both in geography and in ideology, to wait for that kind of setting.
There is a group of Americans, New Yorkers, that purchased a building in Lower Manhattan over a year ago. The building has been vacant for years and sold for an amazingly low price. It is in a very slow part of the city without much action. You have to be intentionally walking down that side street to even see the building. These Americans want to renovate the building and make it a good spot for the neighborhood and a place that can revitalize this old building and this slow block in the city.
But, these Americans are Muslims.
So therefore it is an issue.
The absolute travesty of the "debate around the Ground Zero Mosque" is we even need to have this 'debate.' The fact that there are other Americans that feel that this is a contentious subject of conversation makes me extremely sad and extremely angry. Sad that this isn't an announcement in the local paper but a debate that the citizens of the freest country in the world feel the need to have. Angry at the misinformation and sheep-like behavior of its opponents who obviously haven't spent any time looking at the facts of the situation. The intentional ignorance and suspicions espoused by those saying that these Americans shouldn't have the same rights as any other American based on their faith is ludicrous.
The Park51 project is going to be a community center run by one of the most publically moderate iman's in the world. Since the horrific acts of September 11, 2001, Mr. Abdul Rauf has decried the extremists in Al Qaeda and has been one of their most vocal opponents in the Muslim world. The community center that will be housed at Park51 will be open to men and women, will have basketball courts and a cooking institute, and will also be a meeting place for the leaders of several interfaith communities that Mr. Abdul Rauf has been a leader of for years.
If could be said, that for those reasons, women and non-Muslims being allowed inside, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich share the same perspective on the project as Osama bin Laden.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was spot on when he spoke to the issue in early August: "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."
The best perspective I've heard on this ridiculousness of this controversy comes from the media personality I dislike more than any other. But, on this subject, and perhaps only this subject, Keith Olbermann and I agree. (Seriously, I really dislike this guy, but this is worth taking the 12 minutes to watch)
But, as a skeptic of the media in general, I went down to Park51 this weekend to see what all the fuss was about. What I found was what I had hoped (and known) I would find: New Yorkers of all walks of life going about their day to day, enjoying the freedom that we all have here in America. The freedom that was, is, and always will be worth fighting for.