December 18, 2014

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Keep religion away from Ground Zero

Aug. 19, 2010

By Kayla Purvis

9/11. What kinds of emotions stir up for you when you read about, hear about or see photos from it? I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s mostly negative feelings. Being close to a family directly affected by Sept. 11 gives me a very good look at the harsh reality of its aftermath. Building a mosque at Ground Zero is extremely disrespectful, and I cannot believe it was approved.

It’s not about religious intolerance. It’s not even about religious tolerance. It’s about standing up for the people who lost their lives on that ground because of people bearing the name of that particular religion. I think people are scared — scared to put their foot down and say no. No one wants to be accused of being racist. Showing respect for your own citizens by putting a restriction on building over their death site is not racism.

I don’t want the mosque to be built at Ground Zero. Not because it’s a mosque, not because of Islam and not because of racial profiling. But because thousands of Americans — of all nationalities — were killed in the name of Islam. Why then should we allow the construction of a shrine to that religion? By all means, build a mosque. But not on Ground Zero.

I am not arguing that mosques should be banned; that violates the first Amendment, and I believe in the freedom of religion. But I am arguing that approving the mosque at Ground Zero was a poor and disrespectful move. And it still would be no matter what religion it concerned. What if 9/11 was conducted in the name of Christianity, and the building of a church on Ground Zero was passed? How many of you would then have an issue with it? There is an extreme imbalance in the religious tolerance scale, and those who claim to be “open-minded” need to think about whether their tolerance is heavily one-sided.

In my experience, people accept most religions except Christianity simply because it’s the most controversial belief in our society. In all my years in public school, never have we accurately and correctly addressed the beliefs of Christianity. We freely talk about the values from the other major world religions, but never about Christianity. Why? Because people can’t see past the controversial beliefs (such as resurrection) and accept the values of love, forgiveness and trust that the whole thing is based on. Why is it acceptable to let one religion be a social taboo, but not any of the others? During World War II, being Jewish was taboo in certain places, and today we are taught that that was wrong. Take a look at today’s view of Christianity.

My point is, saying no to the mosque is being argued as religious intolerance by those who approve it. My question to those people who do approve of the mosque is this: What if it were any other religion? Consider them all. Would you really say yes to a synagogue? A temple? What about a church?

It’s no different than a killer requesting that his victim’s family hang his picture up on the wall.

We can show religious tolerance and acceptance without resorting to disrespecting the thousands who were killed at Ground Zero. I will not bend over backwards and disregard all those people just to avoid being called a racist. If someone wants to believe you or I are racists, then they will. Some people who read this will regard my opinion as racist. I say, “So be it.” But if anyone took a second to put aside their bias regarding my religious beliefs, they would see that what I am saying is not based in religious tolerance or intolerance. It’s based in sympathy and respect for the people we consider victims of an attack that shook our country.

Just because a mosque would stand on that ground does not mean that suddenly profiling and hard feelings and blame toward Islam would disappear.

It’s not profiling Muslims as terrorists. It’s not viewing one religion as superior to another. It’s having enough courage to say that honoring your dead is more important than pacifying someone else for the sake of saving face.

Williston resident Kayla Purvis is a rising senior at Champlain Valley Union High School.

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