a few u.s. voices of reason on the lower manhattan muslim centre

Whenever I see anything about the opposition to mosques and Muslim cultural centres all over the US, my first, entirely selfish reaction is: thank goddess I don't live there anymore. What a bunch of bigots.

Of course millions of USians are not bigots, but their voices are drowned out by a dominant culture of small-minded intolerance. I'd love to see thousands of communities around the US come out for a night of candlelight vigils, something like "We support all our neighbours' right to worship as they choose". I don't know if anyone is organizing such a thing, and it's not where I can put my own energies, but wouldn't it be a beautiful thing to see and support.

Here are a few letters to the New York Times from USians who bring some sanity to an overheated debate which should not be a debate. I'm omitting a few letters from the other side, but you can click through to read.
Letters: The Divide Over the Islamic Center

Re “New York Poll Finds Wariness for Muslim Site” (front page, Sept. 3):

I’m very disappointed with the poll results, as I’d thought New Yorkers were better than that. Although I live in Manhattan and have an income above $100,000, my demographics are otherwise aligned with those New Yorkers who oppose the Islamic center, and I want my voice to be heard.

I’m Jewish, well past 45, and would not vote for a candidate who opposed the Islamic center. Further, I think that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s speech on Aug. 3 was one of the most eloquent speeches I’ve ever heard.

We New Yorkers are extremely fortunate to have a voice of reason and compassion leading our city. Mayor Bloomberg stands in stark contrast to most other politicians (national, state and local). I say all this as someone who has a view of the World Trade Center site from my apartment, but that does not mean I want us to abdicate the responsibilities of a free society.

Susan J. Levinson
New York, Sept. 3, 2010

To the Editor:

Many who oppose the Islamic community center claim that it is insensitive for Muslims to place it so close to ground zero, but I have not yet heard any explanation as to why or how it is insensitive. In fact, the only way one could plausibly feel that it is insensitive is if one, on some level, harbors negative feelings toward Muslims or feels that Islam equates to terrorism.

The fact is that, yes, the attacks were executed by Muslims, 19 of them to be exact, but how exactly can one justifiably restrict the rights of all Muslims because of the actions of 19 extremists? Are there no churches in Oklahoma City? Should teenagers not be allowed to walk the halls of Columbine High School?

John Arthur
Morristown, N.J., Sept. 3, 2010

I have never been more dispirited than I was after reading your article. More than 60 years ago, Americans sacrificed in blood and treasure to defeat an idea: that a society could treat an ethnic community that worships differently as a feared and despised enemy within, possessing no rights and suitable only for what the majority wishes to do with it. I never thought that one act of terrorism would suffice to make us forget that, but apparently we have.

By making us sacrifice in our very hearts the values of individualism, freedom and openness to people from across the globe seeking a better life, the terrorists have already won.

R. Kevin Hill
Portland, Ore., Sept. 3, 2010

As a 9/11 family member, I applaud your Sept. 3 editorial “Mistrust and the Mosque.” I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my sister, Karen Klitzman, as she took her last breath on the 104th floor of Tower 1. Nor did I get a chance to ask her how she felt about the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque, or the ensuing controversy.

But I do know that she would have been deeply offended, as I have been, by the growing number of public figures (many of whom I otherwise respect) who are invoking her memory, along with those of 9/11 victims en masse, to promote ignorance, prejudice, and religious and ethnic discrimination.

Rather, as we approach the ninth anniversary of 9/11, I know she would have wanted us to remember how much she valued freedom, tolerance and understanding.

Susan Klitzman
New York, Sept. 3, 2010

With respect to your editorial, I disagree with those who say building a mosque near ground zero is unnecessarily provocative or, in the words of your poll, “controversial.” Simply being a Muslim is not a provocation. Praying to your God, or studying your history is not a provocation. And while these things now may be controversial, that is a great sadness.

David S. Hammer
New York, Sept. 3, 2010

Thank you for the principled stand that The New York Times has taken on this subject. I am a Muslim, but above all else I am an American. In addition, I am a prosecutor. Every day I work tirelessly to put away criminals and pursue justice.

The people who committed the horrible acts of 9/11 are murderers, regardless of what religion they allegedly follow. Criminals come from all kinds of backgrounds and from all religious followings. Whether the criminal is Jewish, Christian or Muslim, we should never judge the entire religion.

There is a part of me that is deeply hurt and saddened by the reaction of my fellow Americans regarding the building of this mosque. I hope that one day, America will view Muslims as fellow Americans.

Mahmoud M. Awad
Riverview, Mich., Sept. 3, 2010

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