The American Constitution and Matters of Faith
by Charlie Leck
At 51 Park Place, in Manhattan, a group of loving, kind and generous Muslims want to build an Islamic Community Center. They want to show those of the world who continue to visit Ground Zero, only two blocks away, that the true Islamic world seeks peace and cooperation and is not at war with America. It will be an extraordinary center, with facilities for learning and sharing, play and recreation, and a small space for contemplation and prayer (something that is at the heart of Islam).
Who would think it would create an intense and broad protest?
Oddly, it has. Politicians, conservative news organizations and private citizens are protesting and claiming it would be an affront to those who died at Ground Zero on 9-11. In fact, as a gesture of love and peace, it is intended to be quite the opposite. The kind and brilliant man behind it, Feisal Abdul Rauf, hopes to draw people together in a common search for ways to cooperate in establishing universal peace and understanding.
The Mayor of New York City makes the most sense in this matter and reminds us of a tenant at the heart of the U.S. Constitution (about which we have written a lot lately).
“Government should never — never — be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray,… We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here and praying the way they want to pray.”
I can only say, “Amen, Mayor Bloomberg.”
And to Mr. Rauf I can only say: “Go for it. We need to be brought together and not driven apart. We cannot war with Islam. Such would destroy our national soul and it would quite please Osama bin Laden that we are showing that our Constitution really means nothing.
Radical fundamentalism in religion is dangerous. It is dangerous among Christians who believe their faith is the only way and the only truth. It is dangerous among those of the Islamic faith or any other faith. It leads to strange thinking and to violence. It leads to envy, intolerance and hatred. I see it in many of my Christian friends who so ignorantly and unthinkingly believe that they are saved and people of other faiths are occluded by God.
What the world needs, from people all faiths, is tolerance and brotherly love. It is the only way to dig ourselves out of the very ugly hole in which we find ourselves.
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