Mosque of the Red Death

If you’d have told me a month ago that I would agree with former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, I might have bet you a million dollars that you were dead wrong. Thank God no one did because earlier this month, Sarah Palin posted a comment on twitter with regard to a mosque planned near Ground Zero. “Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real.”

I can understand why she would be opposed to the mosque. Like most people who lived through the experience, particularly those traumatized by this tragedy – firefighters, police officers, survivors and those who lost family and friends – might not approve either. Initially, when I heard of the plans, I was outraged. Build a mosque near Ground Zero? We can’t let them get away with this. And by they, I meant Islamic radicals. During a local news report about the proposed mosque, a project referred to as Park51, an Islamic woman shouted at opposers during a town hall meeting, saying that Ground Zero is now sacred ground. 

It isn’t sacred, I thought. It’s desecrated.

Upon further investigation, I learned that at the center of this controversy is a plan to build a 13-story project a few blocks away from Ground Zero that will house a mosque, a gym and a community center for several groups, including the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, which promotes cross-cultural understanding between Islam and the West. Daisy Kahn, a spokeswoman for the group said, “We agree with Ms. Palin that it is time to heal from the wounds of the tragic events of 9/11. We peace- loving Muslims have a responsibility to lead the effort of rebuilding Lower Manhattan. We envision a community center for multi-faith collaboration that is focused on promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion.”

Mayor Bloomberg weighed in on the controversy saying, “Government should never — never — be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray. We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here and praying the way they want to pray.”

As a gay man, I often confront intolerance especially when it comes from religious organizations who tell me how I should live. I suppose I should practice tolerance more often when it concerns non-gay issues. I’m still not totally convinced they should erect a mosque near Ground Zero, but at least now I know I don’t agree with Sarah Palin.

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