American Life, Politics, Religion, Terrorism

The Boomerang of Respect

“So, I bet you support that mosque they want to build at Ground Zero, too.”

(To be accurate, the proposed site is 2 blocks away.)

Since I posted Stand Beside Her, and Guide Her, this is the tone of a few emails I’ve received. (It’s fine to have strong opinions, folks who stumble onto my blog, but have the guts to own them and post your comments publicly.)

No, for the record, I DON’T support building a mosque near Ground Zero. But I also don’t think it makes sense to file frivolous lawsuits, boycott businesses in the area, or ‒ not even! ‒ take matters into our own hands. Guess who we start resembling when we contemplate solutions like that.

I think this is a decision that the American Muslims who own this property and are managing this mosque development project need to make for themselves, whether voluntarily to choose another location in Manhattan.

Sure, it’s a free country. Sure, the law allows you to build anything you want to on private property. Both the President and the mayor of New York cited the Constitution’s unequivocal guarantee of religious freedom, a foundation of this nation. I couldn’t agree more.

Having said that, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right. Doesn’t mean it’s kind. Doesn’t mean it’s appropriate, or respectful.

I was among the many volunteers who handed out bottles of water to recovery workers at Ground Zero during those late September days after the airspace reopened. We probably hydrated an equal number of frantic citizens still handing out flyers in search of missing loved ones, who they already knew, in their heart of hearts, had been lost.

(Thankfully, I hadn’t been in New York on that particular Tuesday morning, but I freaked out my family completely when they couldn’t reach me by phone until more than a day later.)

I knew people on one of those 4 hijacked airplanes. I knew people who worked above the 100th floor in the north tower. I knew people who lived in lower Manhattan, who were found safe, but for whom for hours or days we all were scared to death.

I also knew someone who survived the day, but didn’t survive the event.

A colleague and friend’s wife, a broker at Merrill Lynch, who from her office across the street watched people jump out of windows to their deaths, committed suicide in 2002. I had dinner with them in October 2001 and she was barely hanging on. She was wearing a business suit…and track shoes, the only shoes she could ever wear after that day, “in case I have to run home,” like she did all the way from Ground Zero to 98th & Lex, about 6 miles/9 kilometers, on September 11th. What a waste of a beautiful person with a beautiful life. RIP, Alison.

We all know it’s true that Muslims were among the dead on September 11th and that jihad is not a universal goal among Muslims. But I have, for my fellow Americans who want to worship Islam in this new mosque, just one simple request in this one special case: for Alison’s sake, and her loved ones, and for the sake of every family who had their hearts ripped out on September 11th, please have pity.

Forget for a moment what’s legal and imagine it was you.

Kindness, understanding, generosity, respect…they’re boomerangs. They’re the right kind of payback.

Imagine the uproar if next door to any mosque in America somebody built ‒ on private property, which they’d have an equally legal right to do ‒ an Islamic Terrorism Awareness Center? Even people who don’t think a mosque belongs anywhere near Ground Zero would find that highly provocative and offensive, and would say so. In a civil society you just don’t do stuff like that.

…and unless you’re tone-deaf and heartless, you don’t do stuff like this, either.


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