By Diane Gooch
To many of us in the Two Rivers area, September 11, 2001, was more than a national tragedy; it was also a personal one. Among the thousands of innocent Americans murdered were my brother Paul Geier and many close friends. I admire and commend family members of victims who have translated their grief into activism on behalf of causes related to the events of that day. But for me, honoring my brother has been something my family has mostly done in private.
During my recent campaign for Congress, many well-intentioned supporters encouraged me to discuss the tragedy more openly, but I resisted that idea. Instead, I articulated my belief that our nation must remain vigilant and strong against the threat of global terror, even though most polling indicated that was not consuming voters as much as it used to, which itself is a worrisome realization.
But my silence ends now. It is unacceptable to build a mosque within blocks of the site where the World Trade Center once stood. It has nothing to do with what is allowed under the building code, or deemed legal by the city. It is especially irrelevant to discuss the virtues of religious freedom in the context of this debate. It has to do with understanding and respecting the fact that this is not an ordinary buildable lot. This is hallowed ground where the souls and remains of thousands of innocent Americans who were murdered by Islamic terrorists still reside.
I have no problem with building mosques in New York City, which hundreds of thousands of Muslims call home. In fact, the city today has over 100 mosques. However, it is not sensible to build a mosque at the site of two heinous attacks by Islamic terrorists that led to the death of thousands of innocent Americans. The World Trade Center was attacked once in 1993, and ultimately brought down on 9/11, both times by Muslims carrying out "jihad," or holy war against the United States.
I believe in tolerance. I believe in celebrating our religious and cultural differences. We also need to differentiate between militant Islam and the rest of Muslims who reject their violent manipulation of the faith. But it is sensible, in this case, for the Muslim community to select another site for their mosque and cultural center as a sign of good faith and mutual respect for the family of the victims.
The Chairman of Cordoba, the group seeking to build the mosque, is a man named Faidal Abdul Rauf, who when discussing the attacks of 9/11 told CNN "U.S. policies were an accessory to the crime that happened. We [the U.S.] have been an accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. Osama bin Laden was made in the USA." These are not the words of someone who understands the enormous pain that the families of innocent murdered Americans feel to this day. They also are more provocative than conciliatory considering that proponents of the mosque suggest building it would help the healing process.
We must not allow the terrorists who executed these attacks to undermine the spirit that make us so great as a nation and a people; our resilience, open-mindedness and love of freedom which we value as Americans. At the same time, we must reject being taken advantage of as a result of these virtues. We should never have to apologize for standing up in the defense of the memory of our victims on 9/11. There is tolerance, and there is insensitivity. This is a case of insensitivity. If the purpose of building this mosque is to "bridge the great divide," then maybe they should pick another spot.
This column was copied, with permission, from the TwoRiverTimes