Tuesday, September 14, 2010
the mosque at Ground Zero
One of the casualties at the former World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 was the Muslim prayer room on the 17th floor of the South Tower. No one knows how long it was there, but it existed long before a bomb was detonated below the North Tower on
February 26, 1993. Most significantly, it continued to operate, without controversy, until it was destroyed on 9/11/2001.
The North Tower also had a prayer gathering place for Muslims. Staff members of the Windows on the World restaurant used a stairwell between the 106th and 107th floor for their prayer services.
The second of the five Muslim pillars of faith requires prayer five times a day: dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, evening, and night. For most Americans, prayer throughout the course of the day is, at best, an afterthought, but it is usually not done at all except for the sporadic Bible study classes that are occasionally held at workplaces during the lunch hour. For devout Muslims (who are followers of the world’s most popular religion) prayer is an essential part of their day.
At some point in time, the majority of the religions of the world have been subjected to some type of discrimination.
When my Irish ancestors went through Ellis Island in the latter part of the 19th Century, they frequently encountered signs at potential places of employment that read:
Since 90% of Ireland was, and is, Roman Catholic, the signs actually were saying “Catholics need not apply”
Discrimination against Catholics continued well into the 20th Century. I am old enough to remember that some of my fellow Americans did not vote for John F. Kennedy in 1960 simply because he was a Catholic.
“The troubles” in Ireland lasted hundreds of years, but were finally brought to a conclusion on April 10, 1998, in large part due to the efforts of former president William Clinton. With the signing of the Good Friday agreement in Ireland, most of us would have concluded that discrimination against Catholics had finally come to an end.
Unfortunately, that’s still not the case. Here’s a couple of quick examples:
1) In January of 2010, elections were held for board members of the European Commission. One candidate in particular, Viviane Reding, faced opposition STRICTLY because she was Catholic. Although she WAS elected to office on February 6, her story exemplifies the fact that discrimination against Catholics still exists in Europe.
2) 90% of Mexico is Roman Catholic. If you’re a Catholic living in North America, and you’ve gotten all worked up about the problem of illegal immigrants, I’d recommend that you dust off your Bible, and read Matthew 5: 43-48. Since Jesus had told us that we should love our enemies, what would He tell us about how we should treat those whose share a common religious background ?
When One World Trade Center becomes operational in April of 2013, it will likely include a memorial to the 2752 people in the buildings who were killed on 9/11. Included in that total are the 23 Muslims who died on the same day.
Muslims have been part of the work force of the World Trade Center since its inception, and will continue to be when the new building begins operation in three years. Although the daily work force will come and go, the names of 23 Muslims permanently etched into the foundation will serve as a stark reminder that the victims of religious intolerance come from all walks of life, even those who are seemingly “on the same side”.
Since construction of a mosque at Ground Zero would inflame passions on both sides to the point that compromise would be impossible, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever see a mosque at that location. However, building a Muslim center two blocks away, in the heart of Manhattan, would be the strongest possible argument against the false argument that America was at war with Islam.