For those who think the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero in New York is an affront to the memory of the nearly 3,000 people murdered on 9/11, this New York Times story might be illuminating. It seems employees and visitors used an Islamic prayer room in the South Tower of the World Trade Center for years prior to the terrorist attacks. An excerpt from the article:
“Leaping down the stairs on Sept. 11, 2001, when he had been installing ceiling speakers for a reinsurance company on the 49th floor, Mr. Abdus-Salaam had a brief, panicked thought. He didn’t see any of the Muslims he recognized from the prayer room. Where were they? Had they managed to evacuate?
He staggered out to the gathering place at Broadway and Vesey. From that corner, he watched the north tower collapse, to be followed soon by the south one. Somewhere in the smoking, burning mountain of rubble lay whatever remained of the prayer room, and also of some of the Muslims who had used it.
Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.”
The terrorist attacks on 9/11 were a tragedy that affected Americans and others of different faiths, including Muslims. Moreover, those attacks were perpetrated by murderous extremists who no more represented all Muslims than fundamentalists who bomb abortion clinics and gay bars in America have represented all Christians.
We have no doubt that there are Americans, including some families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, who are genuinely troubled by the presence of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero. But we wonder how many know that Muslims, some of whom prayed each day in an Islamic prayer room in one of the Towers, were also victims on that terrible morning. Sadly, in too many cases we are seeing politicians, pressure groups and media “commentators” once again exploit a tragedy and use faith to divide Americans for their own personal gain.