—Neda Bolourchi, from her powerful commentary in The Washington Post’s opinion pages.

Earlier this week, we posted video of Mayor Bloomberg’s moving speech in which he advocates building a mosque near Ground Zero, and we asked, “How do we go forward and be sensitive to all parties involved?” One way is to make it an imperative that we pay attention and listen to the many points of view out there. And, ones we haven’t heard that much from are Muslims who were victims of the 9/11 attacks. Ms. Bolourchi’s voice is one to hear.

Share Your Reflection



When I was teen, my father worked near the old WTC. I can remember taking the train into see him in the evening -- at the station, there were two banks of 15 or 16 escalators -- at rush hour, you had to walk perpendicular to the 14 or 15 headed down to get to the 1 headed up. Memories of the noises, the smells, the pigeons, the cars, the yells, swinging briefcases, & mostly, the crowd come back to me when I think of the WTC. It is this ambience, I believe, that the builders of One WTC hope to recreate. Maybe they won't succeed, but to the extent they do, I don't see how this place -- as a place -- can carry much in the way of "sanctuary," "grave," or "shrine" outside of an individual's imagination. I respect the love & fidelity that allows a person to carry such feelings inside her in the midst of this noise and chaos. But the love and fidelity that can so shut out such powerful external stimuli -- how can it be both so strong as to do this yet so weak as to be destroyed by the mere concept of a particular building being near?

At one point the writer conflates religious buildings of all kinds with ideology & asks that no religious buildings be built near this place. How can we take such a request seriously? And what of the religious buildings already nearby? Why are they all right, but nothing new is acceptable? One of my favorite buildings downtown is Trinity Church -- all those tall buildings dedicated to nothing but money & there's a comparatively small church with a graveyard no less! Should that be brought down to assuage someone's grief? Trinity is an Episcopal church & I believe it remains with the current Anglican communion -- it has not joined with the conservatives who are angered by gay bishops or female priests. Doesn't taking either side in the Anglican rift make Trinity a kind of monument to ideology of some sort that the writer proposes not be allowed near One WTC? Why is the Cordoba House representative of an ideology but the mosque 4 blocks away not?

What is actually at "ground zero" is going to be a $100 million office building doing the sort of business done in the Wall Street district. Does anyone expect that its tenants, design, or ultimate uses can be vetoed by representatives of the victims? If we don't allow commerce to be vetoed by these people's feelings, why allow other buildings, farther away, to be controlled by their feelings?

There's also the issue of the extent to which a person is good at predicting her feelings. Research suggests none of us are good at this. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/...

Finally, there is the issue of time and place. The writer lives in Los Angeles. She goes to NYC infrequently -- it is primarily a place of memory for her -- frozen in her memories -- not a place that is alive & -- as all living things are -- changing. Once the people of NYC decided (with many dissents, of course) to replace the old WTC with One WTC, the idea that this land would be treated like a shrine or the victims' relatives consulted at every step is a bit precious & unrealistic. Who do we think we're protecting? & from what? There are many ways to mourn. Miss Havisham, in Great Expectations, shows us one -- a kind of mourning where everything is a shrine to grief & those unborn at the time of the tragedy are made slaves to a victim's sad memories. Is that the kind of mourning we as a group should practice?

Very compelling!

For anyone who objects to the building of this proposed mosque near ground zero there is something of great significance you should consider. By holding onto your anger, your suspicions, your doubts, your fears regarding this project, and Muslims in general, you are giving a few Islamist terrorists power over you and your life; over your ability to make decisions that can help lead to greater unity and peace in the world. Instead of being able to act from a true, heart-felt knowing of what is right and what is best for all, you are instead allowing yourself to be limited to reacting in a selfish, knee-jerk manner. You are declaring your inability to strive towards the highest standards of humanity and instead you are regressing to primal, tribal survivalism.

Our calling is much higher than that. We have an opportunity, and even an obligation, to rise to -- it is to strive towards and uphold the highest of civil, legal, human and spiritual ideals. This is true on a purely rational basis if we wish to consider this matter solely on legal and Constitutional grounds. It is also true when we consider this from the standpoint of what will ultimately be best for us as individuals, as a country, and as members of humanity in general. It is even more true when considered from a truly spiritual point of view - as differentiated from the points of view held by any particular organized religions.

If we reject this opportunity to accept, and even to encourage and assist, the building of bridges that will help facilitate our deeper connections with the world's Muslims, it will be a great loss -- a hindrance to the healing that can and will take place if we can only be open to it. This mosque needs to be built and we all need to at least accept it with open minds even if we might not be able to embrace it with open hearts. If we can come together and do that, a great healing can result from this -- a healing that we all desperately need.

If the Muslims were at all sensitive to people feelings they would move their center several blocks away. I thought Bill McGurn had a great op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. See http://online.wsj.com/article/...

I think it is sad that the thoughtless response to this planned mosque and cultural center has so politicized this expression of faith that it reopens wounds such as this. Can it really be an inspired politics which so eclipses our tolerance and unity in this way? In these tough times, it is not divisiveness we need.

I think it’s absolutely imperative that Cordoba House/Park 51 be included in the reconstruction of the WTC area. There are so many reasons I don’t know where to begin.

1. To honor the Muslims who lost their lives in the Towers. Not the terrorists, obviously. I mean the ones who were there working or visiting. There is polling data saying that nearly 40% of Americans have a negative view of Islam by associating it with terrorism. But the Muslims who lost their lives when the Towers went down were just good people going about their daily lives, like everyone else there that day.

2. Beyond honoring the Muslims who died that day, Cordoba House/Park51 would also be a symbol of outreach to our fellow Muslim citizens and visitors. An acknowledgment that they too are a are part of this country, as much as African Americans, Latino/a Americans, Native Americans, European Americans, and all of the other ethnicities and cultures and religions that make up the United States. It would be a symbol of the religious tolerance upon which the founding documents of this country are based. It’s time we walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

3. And finally, Cordoba House/Park51 would not just be a symbol but also a living, breathing reality of connection and witness to grief. Not just for American Muslims, but Muslims all over the world. It would be a spoken word of connection with those around the world who aren’t too fond of Americans, proof that not everyone in this country is intolerant, that may of us long to find connection amongst our differences, long to build true global community.

Please, those of you who are scared of or angered by this Muslim cultural center, please try to set down your intolerance of people who look differently or worship differently. Please see that not all Muslims are terrorists, the overwhelming majority are not. That they, like you, want the best for their children, want a community of care, want this world to be the best it can be. Just because the words in their prayers are different than yours, they too love god and want to live a life filled with value and goodness. Do not ascribe the actions of a few Muslims to all Muslims. Certainly you wouldn’t say that Timothy McVeigh represents all white Americans, would you? Just because the religious and cultural beliefs of Muslims are different than yours, it doesn’t mean your religious and cultural beliefs are threatened!

We're a free and tolerant people. However, a mosque proposed to be as close to ground zero as the one proposed is "crossing the line" and is insensitive to the feelings and sentiments of those who lost loved ones in the carnage. My view: "Build your Mosque if you wish... but somewhere else!"