Letter: Hit or miss with the First Amendment?
Freedom of thought and expression lies at the heart of America. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, of the press, of religion and the right of assembly: a national commitment to tolerance of unpopular ideas and of those who espouse them.
So attempts like those now under way in New York, to block a Muslim group from opening a community center and mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center, strike at our most fundamental values. The politicians and commentators leading the fight against the center are stoking a mob mentality that could scarcely be more un-American. They seek to make enemies out of their own countrymen.
There are 600,000 Muslims in New York, 2 to 4 million in the United States. The 19 Muslims that attacked New York on Sept. 11, 2001, were part of a radical heretical group that does not represent the majority of Muslims living in our country.
The blatantly hate-filled activities of those who are protesting this building on private property which is meant to bring diverse communities together with its recreational facilities, pool, fitness room, performing arts center, and yes, prayer room (mosque), not at Ground Zero, but two blocks away, may actually strengthen the hand of extremists who wish to portray America as anti-Islam and to transform our real fight against terrorists into a war against Islam itself.
We are now in the ninth year of a war with terrorists who have dishonored Islam, the faith for which they claim to be fighting. It’s not surprising that some Americans who lost beloved friends and family on Sept. 11 might prefer that this facility be located somewhere more removed from Ground Zero.
But freedom in America belongs to everyone. New York is home to 600,000 Muslims and 59 of them died in the attack. We must not lose sight of the sacrifices that generations of Americans have made to protect the rights of all, sacrifices that will have been wasted if those rights can be shoved aside because some of us are discomforted by the placement of a community center and mosque which are not even in viewing distance of the tragic Ground Zero.
In celebration of our inherent freedoms and support for the community center, I urge you to sign a statement prepared by Common Cause, a national bi-partisan organization with chapters in 35 states upholding the principles of our Constitution. You may go online to www.commoncause.org/islamiccentersupport.