The plans for a new mosque near where the World Trade Center once stood have triggered furious outrage. Those critics say Islam is an evil and violent religion that led to the deaths of nearly three thousand people in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The nonprofit Cordoba Initiative aims to build a 15-story community center that would include a swimming pool, gym, performance art center and the mosque.
Cordoba says the center is part of a continuum of efforts to restore interfaith tolerance and respect between Muslims and the rest of the world, particularly in the United States.
But the opposition is getting louder.
Sarah Palin took to Twitter to ask peace-seeking Muslims to see the mosque as a slap in the face and to oppose it. Newt Gingrich came out and said the federal government should stop the project.
The Anti-Defamation League, a national Jewish group, announced its opposition to the mosque by appealing directly to the leadership of the planned center, saying building a mosque so close to ground zero would cause unnecessary pain to the victims and their families.
I couldn't disagree more.
One of the most harmful effects of 9/11 is the rise of anti-Islamic sentiment in America.
And it's not because of Islam, not even because of the terrorists who hide behind it; it's because of fear mongering.
In an effort to make sense of the terrorist attacks and perhaps because of what members of our own government were saying, many Americans came to believe an oversimplified and erroneous explanation: Muslims hate Americans because of our freedom, and Islam is the root of this hate. Therefore, Islam is an evil, violent religion, and anyone who believes in it must hate America too. End of story.
Hate crimes against Muslims have skyrocketed, yet few have been prosecuted. A few months ago a mosque was fire bombed in Florida. Though there were people inside at the time, luckily no one was hurt. It took an organized effort to get media attention. Had it been a church, it would have been breaking news.
Because most don't know enough about Islam to refute the myths, hatred and violence against it goes unchecked. As a nation, we should be ashamed.
Even though anti-Islamic attitudes seem to thrive, it looks like the new mosque near Ground Zero will be built.
But many still insist the mosque is opening, not healing, old wounds. To some extent they are right. The new mosque near Ground Zero