Why can't we all just get along?

Nathan Zoschke

Nathan Zoschke
Nathan Zoschke

In New York, Park51, a proposed 15-story Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero, spawned a national controversy over the First Amendment, Islam, national security and cultural sensitivity.

In Florida, a fanatic pastor planned to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, sparking a similar firestorm over the very same issues. Ironically, he used the building of Park51 as justification for his deplorable actions.

While Park51 and the Quran burning are protected under the First Amendment, the question at hand isn’t one of legal rights. It’s onr of ethics, morality and, in my opinion, plain decency.

Both controversies could have easily been avoided if religious leaders had taken into consideration the sensitivities of others.

Some have argued the Park51 project was not a political stunt, but the proximity of the project to Ground Zero is obviously more than an unintended coincidence.

Don’t get me wrong: Muslims should be able to worship anywhere they want and Muslims collectively bear no responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, but the 9/11 attacks were committed by Islamic terrorists who used their religion as justification. For many people, the presence of a mosque near Ground Zero looks like a commemoration of 9/11.

Several friends of mine suggested that out of fairness, Christian churches, Buddhist shrines and Jewish synagogues ought not to be built near Ground Zero if the Park51 Project is scrapped (out of voluntary collaboration that is, not government coercion).

I agree with them. Ground Zero is sacred ground. Many of the bodies from the 9/11 attacks were never retrieved and remain buried at Ground Zero. New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and, unsurprisingly, the victims of 9/11 represented a broad spectrum of religions.

Religion, despite its tremendous potential to unify people and promote altruistic causes, is divisive.

Building any house of worship close to Ground Zero creates a false pretense of special approval and preferential treatment for the adherents of one religion and leaves everyone else out.

The 9/11 attacks occurred because of religious extremism and intolerance.

The Quran-burning pastor is little different from the extremists he bears such outrage toward.

The pastor, whose name is not worthy of mention, was apathetic to pleas from General Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that burning the Quran may cost the lives of U.S. military personnel.

The idea of a mosque near Ground Zero was justification for him to consider burning the Islamic holy book, and the idea of a Quran burning incited flag burnings in the Middle East. Does anyone else see a pattern here?

We will continue to see terrorism on our own soil and across the globe as long as we perpetuate a culture of selfishness and religious division.

Park51 was an excellent opportunity for Americans to affirm their support of the peaceful Islamic majority. It was also an opportunity for project leaders to listen to well-reasoned objection and consider relocating farther from Ground Zero, but they had no intentions of building anywhere else.

Unfortunately, neither side was willing to listen to the other.

Even though the Florida Quran burning was cancelled, the cause was hijacked by a fringe church in Kansas that pickets syngagogues, gay events and military funerals. They burned a copy of the Quran, along with the American flag, on Sept. 11.

The bigots won, and we all lost.

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