In the ramp up to this weekend’s anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, two issues preoccupied the country. One was the desire of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero in lower Manhattan. The second was a Gainesville, Florida pastor, Terry Jones, who threatened to have his congregation of approximately fifty members burn the Koran as his commemoration of the attacks.
My question has always been, should anything be built at ground zero except a monument to those who died there? Of the 2752 people who died at the World Trade Center site, only about 1600 were positively identified, leaving “10,000 bone and tissue fragments that cannot be matched to the list of dead,” according to CBS News. This means that the remains of the victims cannot be separated from the site. They are now part of the soil, concrete, dust, and physical material present at the location, meaning the only appropriate building that should be allowed there is a monument. No mosques, churches, temples, or shrines, no new trade center buildings, no commercial real estate period. Of course, this is unacceptable to the capitalists who say lower Manhattan real estate is simply too valuable to devote to a reflective park or monument. But to build anything other than a monument is sacrilege, and erecting new buildings on the site and throwing in a few trees and footprint-sized reflective pools in an attempt to satisfy the victims’ families is unacceptable.
Having said that, should the Imam be allowed to build his mosque?
This was not an attack by Muslims on the American way of life. Muslims died there, too, and in a recent story in The New York Times, it is clear a Muslim prayer room existed in the Trade Center buildings before they were destroyed. The room was located on the 17th floor of the south tower. The article goes on to state that “About three dozen Muslim staff members of Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the north tower, used a stairwell between the 106th and 107th floors for their daily prayers.” The hijackers were extremists who perverted some aspects of Islam to service their own hatred for America. America includes Muslims, and these men killed members of their own religion in the attacks.
The World Trade Center site should avoid all religious affiliations and remain a sacred secular monument. All of the victims, whatever their nationalities, home cultures, religious beliefs, and lifestyles, were Americans. Those hijackers did attack the American way of life, and they targeted Americans, therefore, the site is in the same category as other monuments to events of American history, like Civil War battlefields and Pearl Harbor. Would we consider building large commercial high-rise buildings or Buddhist temples at Manassas, Virginia where the Battle of Bull Run took place? Those structures would be out of place there as they are also out of place at ground zero.
As for Mr. Jones and his gun-toting pathetic congregation, why are we giving this guy any publicity? Have we not learned that people like him crave attention?
Burning books proves nothing. How many people went out and bought the Koran this week because of the attention generated by Jones?
And unlike the reverend, I have actually read the book. It is a compilation of beautifully written, poetic literature. Yes, it is a sacred text, like the Bible and the Talmud, but it is also literature. Since the invention of the printing press and the rise of technology, burning books means nothing. We can make more. The Koran is published in multiple editions for study, worship, recreational reading, et cetera. Terry Jones simply promoted the Koran onto the bestseller list, I am sure.
But what I find disgusting is that he showed the world the worst of America, the red-necked, white trash ignorance that has so infected this country in its brief history. Yes, we elected the first black man as president, but the stain of racism, bigotry, and ignorance on the fabric of America remains.
We must stop falling into the trap of diversion—Muslims at ground zero are not a threat to national security, burning books is stupid, and President Obama might be a secret advocate of Islam, but who cares? What is he doing to get us out of this economic mess? What can we do to improve our schools, besides spending nearly 600 million dollars to build one school while firing thousands of teachers and cutting programs?
We have more important things to worry about right now, and an ignoramus like Terry Jones, when ignored, will slither back into the hole he crawled out of once CNN turns off the lights and camera and goes home.