I have tried to remain quiet on this issue in the hope that common sense would prevail. However, since it seems that what is a very simple matter is being hijacked for political expediency, I can no longer in good conscience remain silent.
As a Libertarian, the ground zero mosque issue is not really an issue. The Constitution protects the religious rights of all religions and the right not to believe. The Constitution also protects the rights of organizations and individuals to own and administer legally owned property. The laws regarding the regulation and enforcement of zoning, something I often don’t agree with, have permitted the use of this building by the organization wanting to build a center there. Everything else is irrelevant.
On September 11th 2001, nineteen men hijacked four airplanes and flew them into buildings, killing over 3000 people. It is a moment that is etched in the psyche of every person who witnessed it live, either in person or on the TV. I can’t imagine the pain and suffering that these families felt, or feel even to this present day. I cannot imagine the anger or hatred that some may still hold towards those responsible. However, we do not guide our decisions in law by the feelings of the victims. Neither do we allow the opinions and whims of the majority to violate the constitutional rights of other individuals. We either uphold the Constitution and the rights protected therein, or we disregard it all as a failed experiment and become the very kind of nation that our founding fathers fought against and feared us becoming. Then the terrorists of September 11th truly will have won.
Those individuals who committed this heinous act of violence did not stop off first and ask American Muslims for permission before flying these planes into buildings. Neither did they consider the consequences of how this act would hurt American Muslims in our society. On the contrary, one of the most shameful things I have found about the political manipulation of Sept 11 is the refusal to even mention the Muslims who were murdered that day as well.
There were 63 known Muslim victims on that day. Since politicians, xenophobes, and people driven by religious fundamentalism wish to exclude these people, I thought I could possibly introduce you to some of them. Mohammad Salman Hamdami came to this country from Pakistan when he was 13. He was a part-time ambulance driver, medical student, and NYPD police cadet. He was also a practicing Muslim. When he saw smoke coming from the twin towers, he drove right to the scene and tried to help. Since he wasn’t working and no one knew his whereabouts, the media were happy to brandish him as a terrorist and say that he was involved in the plot due to his ethnicity and religion. And there is Rahma Salie, a passenger on the American Airlines flight that crashed into the North Tower. Rahma, a Muslim of Sri Lankan origin, was traveling with her husband Michael, a convert to Islam, to attend a friend’s wedding in California. Rahma was 7 months pregnant with their first child. Rahma’s name was initially put on an FBI watch list, because her “Muslim-sounding” name was on the passenger manifest, and her travel patterns were similar to those of the hijackers (she was a computer consultant living in Boston). Although her name was eventually removed from the list, several of her family members were barred from taking flights to her memorial service. Her mother, Haleema, said, “I would like everyone to know that she was a Muslim, she is a Muslim and we are victims too, of this tragic incident.” Then there is Baraheen Ashrafi, who was nine months pregnant with her second child. Her husband, Mohammad Chowdhury, was a waiter in the Windows of the World restaurant, located on the top floors of Tower One. He went off to work the morning of September 11th. She never saw him again. Their son, Farqad, was born 48 hours after the attacks, one of the first 9/11 orphans to be born. I wonder what the eight-year-old Farqad is thinking today when he hears that a mosque his father might have worshipped in should not be built because it’s an affront to his father’s memory.
There are many more stories of Muslim firefighters who ran up stairs to help people that day. Muslims nursed the victims in hospitals, Muslim doctors treated the victims. They live in our country and they are an integral part of our society. To collectively blame every Muslim for the actions of a few is probably the most un-American act I can think of. Our country was formed by the ideals of individual liberty, not blaming the innocent for a crime committed by the other.
If we truly desire to defeat terrorism, then we have to understand what terrorism is. It is a tactic that uses fear to force people to act in ways that are against their nature or beliefs. To defeat terrorism, we must embrace the ideals of freedom and liberty and protect the rights of all individuals and not just those of a select few. The path that some politicians have chosen for political expediency, the religious crusade of some, this hatred of the other: these things are not American ideals, they are fascist ones.