The Freedom to Build

Story by Emily Gresbrink

While the issue of war and religion has been in the news for an extensive amount of time (basically, the last ten to twenty years), the issue has most recently hit home. News of an Islamic mosque being built near the remains of Ground Zero in New York City has caused many Americans to feel uncomfortable, offended and even angry.

In fact, riots broke out just this past week in various cities across the country in response to the site choice, and even the construction altogether.

While I realize this can potentially be a sensitive issue for some people, I do feel that there are some major key points that people are forgetting to see in their passions on the issue.

The first point is that in reality, a mosque is no different from any other building used for religious purposes.

A mosque, to the followers of Islam, is what a church is to those who practice Christianity. The same goes for a temple for those who practice Buddhism or Judaism.

Next, people have forgotten, misunderstand, or simply do not know some important factors behind the religion of Islam.

Upon learning about the religion in a religious studies class last fall, and the input of some friends who practice Islam, it is safe to say that Islam is indeed not at all (in its most basic nature) a violent faith.

They are humbled people, devout to the teachings in the Qur’an. In fact, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Zakat, is entirely about giving to others in need.

The Kaaba, located in Mecca Saudi Arabia, is where millions of Muslims make their Hajj (or religious journey) to pray for unity. How is this in any way violent? The reality of the situation is that only the extremists of Islam are giving this faith base a bad name in the media.

We need to keep in mind that it is not only Islam that has extremist followers; all groups – religious, political, you name it ­- have extremists.

Long story short, I think we should let the mosque be constructed near Ground Zero without interference.

If we ever want to make peaceful advances with how America gets along with other countries, this is a critical stepping-stone to do just that.

We need to treat this building with the respect it deserves, or at least treat it in a way we would expect to be treated.

For example, if a Christian sees a church of another branch (such as a Lutheran seeing a Baptist church), they can choose to not go inside, and vice versa.

We should be able to respect the diversity in our country that makes us unique and keeps us safe. The constitution protects our country’s freedom to practice religion, and this building is no exception.

The reality of the situation, however, is that the violence and buzz will continue until the issue is pacified.

I understand and sympathize with those who lost family and friends to the War in Iraq as well as the 9/11 attacks. I can see why they would find the presence of a Mosque offensive, as it was Islamic extremists responsible for the attacks.

The association is there, but keep in mind (as I mentioned above) that not every person who practices a particular religion is an extremist, and not all Muslims are extremists.

When you get down to it, think of it like this: in the end, it is just another building we should respect as we would want our own houses of worship to be respected.

Perhaps those who are choosing to build near Ground Zero simply chose the site as a means of peace or pacifism. Perhaps the lot was a good price. Perhaps it was entirely coincidental.

We may never know the answer, but regardless, the building is going up and I highly recommend that the issue be treated with discretion and mature thought rather than public displays of violence and action.