Us and Them: We Are Not Saudi Arabia

Oranges within Apples by Osman Azami

On August 3, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously opposed granting landmark status to the site of the proposed controversial mosque and Islamic community center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan and cleared the way for it to be built.

Opponents argue the construction of the center is insensitive to those who died in the attacks. Although I greatly respect the feelings of those who lost loved ones in 9/11, we still live in the United States, a champion of individual rights, where people are guaranteed freedom of religion.

Despite everything we criticize, we still live in a great country that allows us to study what we please (with some exceptions in the state of Texas) and practice what we believe as long as we don’t pose any harm to others. Unfortunately, some people believe the Constitution only applies to certain people with a certain skin tone.

Park 51, two blocks north of ground zero, has cleared the final hurdle. It’s done. End of story. Opponents, protest as you please. After all, it is your constitutional right. But, what’s more troubling is that there have been battles around the nation over proposed mosques in areas as “historically significant” as Murfreesboro, TN or Temecula, CA. Some cite concerns over the traffic, parking, and noise.

That seems about right—the Tea Party has added traffic to its agenda and has decided to protest a mosque in Temecula, CA on the grounds it will make their Friday commutes longer.

Some opponents do truthfully admit they feel the problem is Islam itself. According to a recent New York Times article, Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition, “they quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law.”

All right, for one, the people who protest outside mosques at Friday prayers probably don’t know what Islamic Shariah law is. I’m going to question their knowledge of worldly affairs. Secondly, I didn’t know the constitution was so important to them. It actually seems they are the ones who want to replace the Constitution, not the Americanized Muslims.

If it is Rick Scott’s constitutional right to buy the governor’s seat in Florida and that his opponent doesn’t receive matching funds after a certain point, as previously guaranteed by a Florida law, it is definitely a group’s constitutional right to build mosques as they please.

I expect this protest from Sarah Palin and the likes, but I didn’t from Newt Gingrich—a man I generally respect although he has different political beliefs. On his website, he wrote “there should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”

Sure, there is a double standard. But the day we start acting like Saudi Arabia is the day we can expect to live like them. We aren’t Saudi Arabia. The people building the mosque are American--not Saudi. The United States guarantees freedoms to all of its citizens, and because of that, we will welcome others of different cultures with different ideas and continue to advance. We aren’t Saudi Arabia or most other countries. We have to do better. We can’t fear the unknown.

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