Muslims, the mosque and inclusivity

August 26, 2010

I believe that Ground Zero at the World Trade Center is sacred for all Americans — Christians, Jews, Muslims and those of many other faiths, or no faith — because those who died there on 9/11 included all of the aforementioned — all victims of radical terrorism. Somehow the current furor over the building of an Islamic Cultural Center and mosque at Park51 ignores this fact, and ignores that there are worship places of other faiths nearby. Ground Zero is no less sacred for Muslims than it is for Americans of any faith. In the misbegotten name of sentimentality we are being asked to deny this sacredness.

As illustrated by Time magazine in their August 30, 2010 article, Islam in America, our history has been sadly exclusive — anti- Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, African-American, Chinese, Japanese. But having such a history does not make it right. If we have learned anything from our history, in the 21st Century it must be that being an American citizen is inclusive of all ethnic, racial, national, and religious backgrounds, nothing less. The privileges, rights, responsibilities and protections of citizenship pertain to all, no exclusions, no excuses.

Why is this so? First and foremost, our constitutional foundation demands this, notwithstanding that our progress in this regard has been slow in coming since the Constitution was drafted in 1787. It is sad that the "Sacred Ground" argument is ignorantly exclusive of Muslims. It is doubly sad that, in this political season having its birthright in the Constitution, some politicians who fancy themselves as leaders loudly exclaim this hyperbolic exclusivity solely to foster fear and garner political support based on fear. Once again we should heed the advice of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, especially fear mongering.

Second, our having a Constitution is predicated on the concept of the rule of law. The rule of law, unlike physical laws of nature, is a matter of belief and trust. Our belief and trust in this precious rule makes our society and culture work. Without it we could not exist; we would have chaos. But this rule requires more than just belief and trust. To be effective, to be real, this rule must equally apply to all citizens, not just a few, not just the self-selected. It must be inclusive of all ethnic, racial, national, and religious backgrounds.

As an eleventh-generation Anglo-American I find it deplorable that in 2010 a large segment of our population, ignorant of the rule of law, our Constitution, and the Muslims buried in the "Sacred Ground," would argue in the name of sentimentality that to be Islamic is to be less than American, undeserving of the full rights thereof. I believe that guilt by association is simply un-American

John W. Robinson, Annapolis

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