Saturday 14 August 2010

The house Barak wants to build

If you didn't know it, plans are afoot to construct an Islamic Cultural Centre cum mosque in the shadow of the site where almost 3,000 people died on 11 September 2000, after Muslim hijackers flew two airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

Not only that, the plan has the support of New York’s mayor and President Obama. “As a citizen, and as president”, Obama says, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”

The president made his remarks at a White House dinner to celebrate the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. In making his statement, he waded into a national controversy that has sparked passionate and angry debate.

Republicans were quick to jump on the president's remarks. Representative Peter King of New York said it was "insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero."

While the Muslim community had the right to build the mosque, said King , "they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much."

Top Republicans including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich announced their opposition. So did the Jewish civil rights group, the Anti-Defamation League.

While insisting that the place where the twin towers once stood was "hallowed ground", President Obama said the proper way to honour it was to apply the "American values" of tolerance and respect to those who were different.

While his pronouncement wil find favour among Muslims of the world, the president's stance runs counter to the opinions of the majority of Americans, according to polls. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released this week found that almost 70 per cent of Americans opposed the mosque plan.

Some September 11 victims' relatives, see the prospect of a mosque so near the destroyed trade center as an insult to the memory of those killed by Islamic terrorists in the 9/11 attacks.

So what should America do? Should it apply the vallues of tolerance and respect to those who apparently don't share those values. Should America forgive and forget?

Well, try to imagine the response of the Jewish people and the western European nations if a Hitler Appreciation Society requested permission to build a Nazi Cultural Centre at Auschwitz.

Imagine what would happen if the Japanese proposed building a Japanese Cultural Centre at Pearl Harbour.

The seismic shock would register 10 on the Richter scale.

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