Mosque battle confounding

What good is the Bill of Rights? Or, more specifically, what good is the First Amendment, since many people seem content to ignore one of its earliest and clearest tenets: Citizens of the United States of America have the right to freely practice their religion.

If this is indeed the case, then why has the recent controversy over a mosque and community center being built in New York City been such a hot topic of contention?

On one side of the argument are those who believe that building a mosque so close to the former World Trade Center site is an insult to those who died, and that the community center will become a meeting place for planning another attack on the United States. Counter to this is the view that in hindering the building of this mosque and community center, we are depriving these people of their right to practice their religion freely. Furthermore, there have been no indications that the reportedly well-respected imam or the community he will lead have any sympathies toward a more radical form of Islam.

There is an unbelievably large number of people who believe Muslims destroyed the World Trade Center nine years ago. This misconception needs to be clarified immediately: the entire Muslim community in the Middle East did not get together and plot ‘how to terrorize those vermin in the United States.’ To believe so demonstrates an uneducated narrow-mindedness which is truly unfathomable. Let us make one thing clear: A small group of highly radical Islamic extremists is believed to have been behind the attacks, and to hold the whole Muslim community accountable – all 1.57 billion of them – is as absurd as it is unfair. Google ‘Islam’ and one will find it an inherently peaceful religion.

As to the argument that building a mosque at this particular site is an insult to the victims of 9/11, anyone who has been to New York knows how limited space is. More than likely, the site in question was selected because it was the only one available of appropriate size, not as a slight against the victims and their loved ones. Also, as many have said throughout the controversy, building the mosque at this particular site will demonstrate that not all Americans are full of hatred and prejudice.

These Muslims in New York are not trying to laugh in the faces of the people whose lives were torn apart on Sept. 11. They are not sadistic religious extremists who will turn on us once we look away. They are simply people trying to go about their lives, provide for themselves and their families, and practice their faith freely – as they should.