New York City officials have voted to allow construction of a $100 million mosque near the site of the World Trade Center. I mean no disrespect to Muslims, but this is an unspeakably bad idea. The 9/11 hijackers brought down those towers, and killed thousands, in the name of Islam. Of course it is wrong to blame all Muslims for 9/11. But why on earth rub salt in the wounds of the 9/11 dead by allowing a mosque to go in just two blocks from where jihadists incinerated or crushed over 2,700 innocent victims, in service of their faith? Proponents of the project call it a “seed of peace”, but tell me, would they call a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor a seed of peace? Would they call a German cultural center two blocks from the gates of Auschwitz a seed of peace?

There are some things you just don’t do, no matter how well-intentioned. You may recall in 1993, Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns to remove themselves from a convent they established on the grounds of Auschwitz, after years of Jewish protest. Even though the Nazis did not massacre Jews there in the name of Christianity, Jews saw the presence of the convent on the most notorious site of the Holocaust as an affront. It was plainly not meant to be, but it was, and one can certainly understand why, given what happened on that site, and the history of anti-Semitism in European Christianity. If reconciliation and peace is what one wants to see between Jews and Christians in the Holocaust’s wake, erecting a site of Christian religious worship on the site where millions of European Jews were gassed and burned is not the way to do it.
Though the numbers of dead in the 9/11 attacks were incomparably smaller than the Holocaust, the inescapable fact is that those killings were carried out by Islamic religious fanatics who believed they were serving Islam through mass murder. Again, it would be very wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for what those monsters did. At the same time, however distorted the religious views of those terrorists may have been, it is deeply offensive to build a giant mosque in what would have been the shadows of the Twin Towers, had they not been brought down explicitly for the greater glory of Allah. I see the desire to erect such a building on that site not as a gesture of interreligious peace and reconciliation — which we need — but rather as an outrageous act of nerve and arrogance.
You may disagree. I want to hear from you, but do be civil, no matter which side you take.
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