I've been reading and hearing about the new Muslim cultural center and mosque that's planned for the memorial (of sorts) of Ground Zero. I've heard praise and critcism and bashing, and some have good points, and others are just brownnosing their party line. So here's my view: I think it's misguided, and it will send the wrong message to the Islamist terrorists that attacked us in the first place. It would present an image of defeat and concession to our agressors. 

Now some of you are confused, others nodding your heads, and still others probably want to slap me and call me intolerant. But let me explain. 

In history, when an Islamic people took over an established land, the first thing they would do is take the temples and holy places of the local people, tear them down, and build mosques. These terrorists attacked the World Trade Center because it was a central part of American and Western life, essentially a secular temple to commerce. Now, as Ground Zero, it is the final resting place of many of our dead, and the site of death and transformation for those whose bodies do not remain at the site. It has become a memorial, a site that still inspires reverence in New Yorkers and visitors a decade later. It is a holy place for America. 

If we were to build a mosque on the site where our "temple" of commerce and the funeral pyre for the attack victims, what message would we send our agressors? One of concession. That we are defeated, that we surrender. And somehow, I don't think that's what we want to do. We may want to wash our hands of this badly handled war, but we'll hardly admit defeat to do it. 

I've heard that it's a way to make reparations to all the Muslims that were mistreated and subject to prejudice and abuse because of our fear. While it's an admirable thing to do, and a lovely goal, this is not the way to do it. 

Take the story of the Auschwitz nuns. These Carmelite nuns moved in next to the old Auschwitz camp to pray for the souls of those lost in the Holocaust nearly 50 years after the tragedy, and caused an uproar in the Jewish community. The Jews thought the idea of a Catholic convent on the site of such great Jewish sufferring was disrespectful, to put it mildly. They were further outraged when an outside organization billed the effort as a "guarantee of the conversion of strayed brothers." Despite the fact that there were many non-Jews who died in Auschwitz and the other camps, that the nuns believed that they were only doing the greatest good possible, and that they had every legal right to be there, Pope John Paul II (a Pole who hated the Nazis, grew up during the War, and witnessed many of the atrocities committed) asked the nuns to leave and do their work at another convent built for them. 

Just because you think that you're doing something good, and because you have the legal right to do it, doesn't mean it's the right and the healthy and the helpful thing to do. The attack on the Twin Towers was not a Muslim attack on a Christian nation, it was an Islamist attack on the greatest symbols of Western culture. This was never a purely religious war. It's a war of fear, domination, and destruction of one culture for the establishment of another. It's a war of the left-brained extremist insanity on a country that's learning to balance its hemispheres. It's a war of words over images. It's the last ditch attempt of a controlling abuser to reign in his newly-empowered victim. And doing for them what their ancestors have done in declaration of victory is only telling them that they can win. 

The other problem I have is that we're focusing on the victims of our reaction rather than the victims of the attack. And while we're talking about building a new religious center, how about we rebuild one that was destroyed in the attack: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. This was the only house of worship of any religion or path destroyed in the attacks. It was a refuge for Greek sailors, Wall Street traders, and many others. 

I may be Pagan, but I'm sympathetic to this problem. How many Pagans would be devastated if your grove of trees, clearing, family temple, or the few established temples or even the Pagan convent in NY were to be destroyed? If Stonehenge were bombed? If the Temple of Athena were razed? Okay, maybe I'm overblowing a bit with the last couple, but the point is that it was a safe haven for people, no matter their religious preference. Churches are called sanctuaries for a reason. 

Before you go trying to apologize for valid paranoia, help restore the victims of the attacks first. 

For more information on St. Nicholas Church and the efforts to restore it:
Rebuild St. Nicholas Church at Ground Zero First Facebook campaign

So why do I care? Well, I was raised Byzantine Catholic, a segment of the Catholic Church that's ritualistically and doctrinally very close to the Greek Orthodox Church. In fact, the most major difference is that the Orthodox don't recognize the Pope. I still believe a lot of things that I was taught as a Catholic. 

Even more, I understand the need for the sanctuary. I feel the pain of the parishoners who've lost their spiritual home. 

Anyway, that's my bit on that.