Building A Mosque Near Ground Zero

Hinduwebsite editorial
From The Editor's Desk

(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)

We know ours is a little voice in a world of cacophony. But we will speak anyway.

A lot of controversy is generated in recent days about the proposal to build a mosque or an Islamic cultural center near the Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood.

It is true that the World Trade Center was destroyed by a bunch of Muslim fanatics.

It is also true that USA is a democracy where people have the freedom to practice their religion and build places of worship within the confines of the law and the constitution.

Now we cannot tell Christians where they can build their churches, can we? Nor we can tell the Muslims where they cannot.

The American Muslims have as much right as the Americans of other faiths to practice their religion.

We cannot lump them all together and condemn them as terrorists. At the same time we cannot ignore the fact that the World Trade Center was brought down by overzealous Islamic fundamentalists, who did not care for the lives of innocent people because they had a score to settle. Let us not forget that some of these fanatics are still alive and active in various parts of the world. 

In these circumstances what is the best course to follow? What is the best way to stop the construction of the mosque, without breaching the fundamental rights of our people and without infringing upon their right to practice their respective faiths?

 Now some people on the Fox News Channel and some rightwing blogs argue that Muslims cannot build a mosque near Ground Zero, because Muslims were primarily responsible for 9/11 just as we cannot allow Japanese to build a Shinto temple near Pearl Harbor!

This is a fallacious argument. The same people would not talk about Italy or the Italians in the same vein, although they were in league with Germans during the 2nd World War and were as much to blame as the Japanese for waging a war against Americans, because the Italians are primarily Christians and it is where Vatican is located.

It is also doubtful whether the same people would argue that no churches should ever be built anywhere in Japan, especially in Nagasaki and Hiroshima because some Christian Americans invented the nuclear bombs and nuked these places. To say so would be stupid and unrealistic.

It is our objective opinion that no decisions should ever be made based on the religious identity of people or purely on religious grounds. Every nation is made up of diverse groups of people who hold different religious beliefs and may come from diverse cultural and social backgrounds.

We cannot deal with them based upon their color or creed. Every major religion of the world represents a minority group in some part of the world and minorities everywhere suffer from certain social and religious disabilities in the hands of the majority.

Just as the Hindus cannot say that Christians cannot build their churches in the Hindu religious centers of India (in fact it is where Christians build most of their churches), the Christians in the USA cannot decide where people of other faiths should or should not build their places of worship in the USA.

At the same time, we must acknowledge that it was religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, which precipitated 9/11.

We must remember that it was religious narrow mindedness and bigotry which caused the death of thousands of innocent people on that fateful day.

Let us admit that 9/11 was precipitated by certain religious beliefs held by some people, who used religion to make a statement and provoke the whole world. If we accept this as true, we have then two options in front of us regarding the cultural center.

1. Allow all religious faiths to build their places of worship near the Ground Zero as a mark of universal brotherhood, religious amity and tolerance.

2. Since religion was responsible for all the trouble, let us not allow the construction of any religious shrine or monument anywhere near the place.

Since in the present circumstances the first option seems to create more controversies than it resolves, the second option seems to be more appropriate and effective in putting the controversy to rest.

Let us allow Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews alike to  open their shops or do their business or practice their respective professions near the Ground Zero, including in the new buildings that are coming up there.

But do not give them permission or to any religious group or institution, however powerful and influential they may be, to build a place of worship representing a particular religion anywhere near there. Alternatively, permission may be granted to an inter religious faith organization to build a place of worship in such a manner that people of all faiths may go and worship God in their own individual ways.

But let us ensure that no one particular group should be favored or allowed to have their say in this matter because they represent a majority or a minority opinion.

Whatever may be the final outcome, let us not forget that it is not religion but the wickedness of man against man which is responsible for most of the human tragedies or in the political jargon, "man made disasters" (Of course we are not speaking here about the oil spill in the Gulf or the mortgage meltdown!).

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