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Andy Ostroy Headshot

Why the Ground Zero Mosque Should Be Built

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The proposed building of a Muslim mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has created a firestorm of anger and emotion not just in Lower Manhattan, but all over the country. The public outcry over the $100-million, 13-story Islamic community center and mosque has mostly centered around 9-11 victims' families, locals and Republican politicians, who view the site as sacred ground. At the heart of the controversy is the belief that the mosque would be a monument to terrorists, and that it might even be funded by terror organizations, as Long Island Congressman Peter King has asserted, calling for an investigation.

The building--which had housed a Burlington Coat Factory until 9/11, when one of the planes' landing-gear smashed through the roof after hitting the World Trade Center--would cost $4.8-million to purchase, and would also include a swimming pool and performance space that would be open to the public. Muslim officials have said that the mosque would be a way for them to help rebuild the community.

Let me be 1000% clear on something: What happened on 9-11 was horrific and serves as a constant reminder of how vulnerable we are to enemies who seek to destroy us. We must do everything in our power to proactively protect our citizens from further attack. I live just blocks from Ground Zero, and have a personal stake in this tragedy as well as its aftermath and place in history. But we will as a nation be destroyed if we allow the 9-11 attacks to turn America from the great melting-pot and land of opportunity into the land of religious discrimination, fear and retribution. If so, then the terrorists have struck us again.

Yes, Ground Zero is sacred ground. No one should or would ever dispute that. But that can mean different things to different people. Perhaps in the interest of healing we should honor it and those killed by not using it as monument for more bias and vitriol. Wouldn't religious tolerance and acceptance be a far greater legacy for that site than one that perpetuates the kind of wholesale hatred and intolerance that was at the root of the very attacks themselves?

Interestingly, King was asked over the weekend if he'd support the mosque if it were built at another New York City location and he replied yes. That would clearly indicate that his opposition was more a product of political posturing, and of a sweeping indictment of all Muslims not just those who attacked us on 9-11, than actual fear of terrorist funding and sponsorship. If his concerns that terror organizations were behind this particular mosque were genuine wouldn't he be opposed to its existence anywhere?. Which is why we cannot allow this sacred ground to become a breeding ground of hate and revenge, or to become a political pawn for rabble-rousing legislators.

And if people still need a reason to believe the mosque deserves to be built on that site, consider this: Sarah Palin is against it (she recently Tweeted that Muslims should "refudiate" it). I can't think of another reason to support something than the fact that the grammatically-challenged Mama Grizzly is against it.