Maybe the August news shortage is what has caused the airwaves to spill over with hysteria over a proposed Islamic center in Manhattan, two blocks from the site of the 9-11 attack.
Maybe it's the hostile partisanship infecting our national discourse. Whatever it is, or why, when Newt Gingrich starts equating Muslims with Nazis, something ugly and ominous is afoot.
First, some facts. The site is not at ground zero. It's two blocks north of the World Trade Center site. What's being proposed is a community center with meeting rooms, a swimming pool, a day care center and auditorium as well as space for religious services. Organizers say they've modeled it on institutions such as the YMCA and Jewish Community Centers. It would have an interfaith board and offer interfaith programming.
Daisy Khan and her husband, imam Faisel Abdul Rauf, have been trying for years to build such a center. She told the New York Times they had no idea the proposal would create such an uproar. "It never occurred to us," she said. "We have been bridge builders for years."
Because the 9-11 attack was carried out by fundamentalist Muslims, the plans have distressed some of the families of the 2,800 who died. They and others are asking why Khan and Rauf aren't more considerate of their feelings.
Yet the project wouldn't be the first mosque near ground zero. It wouldn't even be the second. Two others have been operating for decades, one only four blocks from the 9-11 site. Should those religious institutions be ejected? It's not hard to see why Khan and Rauf would think a third mosque wouldn't be a huge deal.
The center will be on private property with the zoning it needs and all necessary municipal approvals. Do mosque opponents believe the government should seize it? Deny it based on religion?
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