Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Religious freedom makes America great

Published: September 3, 2010
Section: Opinions

The United States of America was founded with the ideas of religious freedom and a lack of a national church written into its constitution. This is a direct contrast to the country of origin of the majority of the 9/11 hijackers, Saudi Arabia, where religious freedom is but a pipe dream and the construction of a church or a Jewish temple is illegal. Sadly, during the last few months many Americans have seemingly forgotten the importance of religious freedom to American strength.

This summer there has been non-stop press coverage regarding the planned Islamic community center that is within a few blocks of the felled World Trade Center. Because Brandeis University was founded with the ideals of tolerance and acceptance for all, it should outrage Brandeisians that there has been so much hostility toward a group of people wanting to build a place of worship on privately owned property.

Furthermore, it has been even more disturbing that much of the comments about the proposed project have often been laced with incredible ignorance and bouts of racism regarding Muslims. With the exception of the families of 9/11 victims, the voices that have denounced the community center have largely been shrill. Representative Peter King of New York and Sarah Palin are particularly guilty of this, as they have unsurprisingly engaged in demagoguery on this issue to incite conservative voters for the upcoming midterm election.

The uproar surroumdimg this issue, and the fact that there has been so much resistance to other Islamic centers, such as the one that was suspiciously closed by public officials right before the start of Ramadan in the town of Bethpage, New York, is disturbing. Even more disturbing is what happened in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where protests against the construction of a mosque failed. Sadly, the situation ended tragically when an arsonist destroyed the construction equipment at the site. These cases are just two examples showing that a minority of Americans are genuinely anti-Muslim. Instead of outrage, Americans and Brandeisians alike should be proud that a group of Muslims, who reject extremism, want to build a holy site near ground zero that also includes a memorial to the victims of 9/11.

Ultimately, rejecting extremism and violence in the name of God is what this proposed Islamic community center should be about. Islam as a religion was perverted by the 9/11 hijackers and their Al Qaeda masterminds. The presence of an Islamic community center near ground zero filled with moderate American Muslims would be a stark contrast and powerful symbol to counteract the ideology that the United States is a country hostile to Islam.

Ultimately, that is the most tragic part of this whole debate, as it has empowered Islamic extremists and their twisted ideology, as they can now use this as propaganda and as a recruiting tool for their organizations throughout the Muslim world.

Ultimately, none of these debates really matter. The proposed Islamic community center is going to be built on private property, which means the Cordoba House builders and financiers are under no obligation to justify their decision of what they’re building to the public at large. Also, the movement to make the entire area a landmark is ridiculous considering a strip club and a sex shop are in the area.

All that being said, a Muslim community center a few blocks from the site of the worst terrorist attack in American history would send a strong message to the rest of the world, and especially Islamic extremists, that the United States is undaunted in its struggle for religious tolerance and freedom for all.