Letter to the Editor: Mosque near Ground Zero

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Dear Beth Mendenhall, thank you for hitting the nail on the head in your editorial piece.

A Saudi Arabian national, I was profoundly touched when I heard Thomas Jefferson’s words at The Hall of Presidents attraction at Disney World last April: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Yet, of late, I have been left to live in a state of bafflement — to put it mildly — in the wake of growing controversy over the plans to establish a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan.

Overheated rhetoric, political posturing, inflaming sensibilities of 9/11 victims’ family and friends and prevarication about the center have been but a few tactics employed, while not exclusively, by the political right to blow the issue out of all proportions and demonize Muslim Americans.

Sarah Palin was the first to speak out against the idea, calling on “peace-loving Muslims” to intervene and impede the “unnecessary provocation” because “it stabs hearts.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, however, grabs the lion’s share of the incessant efforts to kill the new facility proposal.

And one might wonder: did it ever occur to Palin or Gingrich that it is in the pursuit of the American Dream that this project sees the light since it would be a slap in the face to terrorists that Americans still relish liberty and equality for all?

Some voiced concerns the congregation’s location is too close to ground zero. But then how far isn’t “too close”? And, by the way, doesn’t it defy common sense that Muslim Americans should pay the price merely because the 19 hijackers happened to pray in the same direction?

Others went a step further to express fears that the center would be a terrorist command post. But in light of the open declarations of war on Islam in talk radio and TV shows, the anti-mosque protests sweeping the country, the plans to burn the Quran and the ever increasing number of hate crimes against Muslims, I believe Muslim Americans have more to fear from their fellow Americans than the other way around.

In every story, there exist characters running on an endless fuel of bigotry and scaremongering. The American Story shouldn’t allow them a role, and neither should the country lose sight of the ideals on which it was founded such as religious liberty.

– Zaki Safar — Colorado State University alumnus, former president of the Muslim Student Association

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