No Tolerance for Intolerance

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The World Trade Center was destroyed Sept. 11, 2001, because the Twin Towers stood as a powerful symbol of all that makes this nation great. The Muslim extremists who steered two airliners into the WTC had no tolerance for freedom of religion.

But on that day, Muslims were among the thousands burned in the rubble beyond recognition.

For this and other reasons we are stunned and saddened by the opposition to the building of an Islamic center near Ground Zero. If that opposition succeeds, the terrorists who hijacked the four planes that day will have won. Although many of the people who have become vocal in their opposition may be sincere, they are allowing the memory of their loved ones to be exploited by others driven by intolerance and a political agenda.

We take issue with those who challenge the patriotism of anyone who defends the right to build the Islamic center and accuse the supporters of the mosque of not caring about the victims who died on 9/11 and their families. This approach to the controversy makes meaningful dialogue impossible.

Islam is one of the world’s major religions. Rather than giving in to irrational fear, New Yorkers should welcome the building of the center as an opportunity to open a dialogue between the West and Muslims.

In a letter published in last week’s edition of the TimesLedger Newspapers, City Councilman Daniel Dromm wrote, “The proof of the wisdom of the First Amendment is the myriad of religions in this country that have co-existed with a harmony barely imaginable more than 200 years ago.”

People of all faiths are welcome in the city and so are their houses of worship.

Gov. David Paterson has offered to give the organization planning to build the mosque other property in the downtown area if it will give up the site near Ground Zero. This is a well-intentioned gesture, but should not have been necessary.

The fact that this has become an emotional issue for the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 is understandable, but their hurt and fear cannot and should not override the First Amendment or this city’s history of religious tolerance.

Updated 6:10 pm, October 10, 2011
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