September 14th, 2010
01:21 PM ET

My Take: Michael Moore and moving the Islamic center to ground zero

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

I usually ignore Michael Moore, who has long seemed to me a liberal doppelganger of the worst conservative ideologues. But when he said on September 11 that the Islamic community center should not be built near ground zero but on ground zero my ears perked up.  Hadn’t I heard that before?

Yes, because I had written it, nearly three months ago, in a Belief Blog post called “Ground Zero mosque good for America and New York.”

Here’s what I wrote:

Opponents say the Cordoba Initiative mosque and community center, which would rise two blocks from Ground Zero, is too close to that site. I say it is too far away. I believe a small mosque ought to be integrated into the redesign of the World Trade Center site itself — a reminder in steel and stone that the United States is not at war either with Islam or with our core values.

Here’s what Moore wrote, a position he reiterated yesterday to Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero.

I want it built on Ground Zero.

Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.

He then put his money where his (big) mouth is, pledging to match the first $10,000 raised for this Islamic community center by the Cordoba Initiative.

I am with Michael Moore on this one, but I’d like to add another reason.

Over the last few days the New York Times and other media outlets have reported on a makeshift mosque that existed on the seventeenth floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center—a place where Muslim cooks and secretaries and bond traders and janitors could go for their five-times-a-day prayers. Such spaces for prayer and prostration exist all across New York City, and across the United States, wherever Muslim taxi drivers, for example, stop to pray together in an empty supply room or on a sidewalk in the open air.

If anywhere in Lower Manhattan is declared off limits to a mosque, if it is decided that 2 blocks or 4 blocks or 10 blocks is too close, what does that mean for the Muslims who will be working in the office buildings now under construction at ground zero? When Muslims start to gather for worship on the 17th floor will protesters sweep in to condemn them? Will they be told they cannot pray?

Not in my America. And not in Michael Moore's.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Celebrity • Culture wars • Islam • Mosque • Muslim • New York • Opinion

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