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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!