Home > Israel, Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal > Will Ground Zero mosque promote reconciliation or disharmony?

Will Ground Zero mosque promote reconciliation or disharmony?

 By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

SAN DIEGO — Is the question “Do Moslems have the right to build a new Islamic Center and Mosque next to Ground Zero?” or “Should Moslems build a new Islamic Center and Mosque next to Ground Zero?”

If the question is one of “right,” there is no question at all. The United States Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and that the government will not unduly interfere with religion. While government agencies may be able to deny the construction of religious institutions based on zoning, traffic, etc., they cannot withhold permission simply because people do not like a particular religion.

Forbidding the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero would be similar to preventing a synagogue building next to a church because the Christian Bible says that Jews called for the execution of Jesus.
Furthermore, all Moslems are not terrorists. It would be morally reprehensible to hold all Moslems accountable for the murders of 9/11. As the Torah reminds us this week: “Parents shall not be put to death for children, nor children be put to death for parents: a person shall be put to death only for his own crime.” (Deut. 24:16) It would be unfair and unjust to punish all Moslems for the acts of a few.

Whether building such a Mosque is wise or the right thing to do, however, is another question.

Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative, the group that wants to build the Center, stated: “We believe that Park 51 will become a landmark in New York City’s cultural, social and educational life, a community center to promote the American values we all aspire toward and to realize a better city for all.”

Cordoba Spokesperson Oz Sultan said: “We will continue going forward with the project. It’s a project that will build bridges.” He added that the Cordoba Institute is “committed to promoting positive interaction between the Muslim world and the West.”

It seems to me that if a structure that is intended to foster reconciliation between Moslems and non-Moslems and build bridges in the community is, instead, having the opposite effect, its planners should voluntarily change their location.
Although not all Moslems are terrorists, almost all terrorists are Moslems and have acted in the name of their religion.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the majority of peaceful Moslems have not done enough to condemn their coreligionists who do commit murder and mayhem against those who disagree with them. One rarely hears the Moslem world condemning acts of terror against Israelis, for example.

The pain and anguish of 9/11 are still very fresh for survivors and those who lost loved ones in the attack on the Twin Towers. If a new Islamic Center and Mosque built close to the center of their sacred ground renews their pain and anguish, the leaders of the Cordoba Initiative should respond with the same sensitivity they seek from others. They should build their Center and Mosque somewhere else.

Rabbi Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue

  1. Xavier
    August 22, 2010 at 8:12 am
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