|Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf- The National photo|
The project known as Park51, is to be a 13 story structure and reportedly will have a 500 seat auditorium, a swimming pool, basketball courts and a memorial to the 9/11 victims among other amenities.
I read the interview and the Imam seems a very reasonable man with good intentions and a firm grasp of the American system. He says his goal is to promote understanding between religions and that is a noble cause. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.
The United States' Constitution and Bill of Rights absolutely guarantees the free practice of one's religion without hindrance from the government ( . It also confers private property rights so one can use what they own with a very few justifiable limitations. The Imam's project is covered by both of these rights by the law of the land and I am all for him using his rights as he sees fit.
In the interview the Imam said the opposition to the mosque comes from a small, radical and vocal group spurred on by certain political forces. Polls in the U.S. and even in New York City reveal this is just not the case. In almost every survey, the majority of Americans are uncomfortable with the Imam's plans.
As an American, I am all too aware of the effect the September 11 attacks have on the American psyche. Our lives changed forever, no longer were we secure in our part of the globe. We lost a lot of our naivete that day. I watched the events unfold on TV and it made an indelible impression on me. It seemed every 15 minutes something else horrific was happening. The first plane into the towers, the second plane, the Pentagon strike and then United Flight 93 crashing into a Pennsylvania farm field. Then the towers fell, it was sensory overload. All within a few hours.
So us Americans are still smarting from the experience. It's a wound that will eventually heal but that will take time. The scar will never go away. We are still pissed-off. The mass media in the U.S., for various reasons, still paint Muslims and Islam in a bad light using the 9/11 radical extremists as examples. Because of this, Islam needs a public relations "makeover" in my country. Many U.S. citizens are Muslim and they are being done a disservice from the bad press (and the extremists) and I urge them to get more proactive.
While I am all for the Imam exercising his rights to proceed with his controversial mosque, I have to question his ability to choose his battles wisely. Unfortunately his wish for more understanding and tolerance between religions may backfire if he gets too insistent against majority sentiments. As a current resident of an Islamic country, there are things I am free to do but choose not to because at a young age I learned not to poke hornets' nests with short sticks.