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May 31st, 2010
03:19 AM ET

A Muslim voice at ground zero

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

The United States has from its inception seen itself as something new. But populism—the politics of nostalgia—has a long history here. And the nation’s capital is, among other things, a Necropolis—a site for the memorialization of the dead.

How a nation memorializes the dead matters, not least by revealing what it lives for. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial tells us that the dead are to be remembered by name. So does the Oklahoma City National Memorial, whose 168 chairs represent the individuals taken by terror on April 19, 1995.

The memorials we are now building out of the ashes of 9/11 tell us something about the United States, too, as does the Ground Zero site itself, which is why the recent scuffle over whether there is to be a mosque in the vicinity is a matter not just for the Tea Party spokespeople who oppose it or the New York City community board that voted 29-1 to support it. It is a matter for all Americans, and the questions it calls are two.

The first concerns the so-called war on terror. Is the United States at war with Islam? If so, there should be no mosque near Ground Zero, and perhaps no mosque anywhere in Manhattan or for that matter in the United States.

The second is whether we are at war with the First Amendment. The United States may well be the most Christian country on earth (at least three out of every four Americans call themselves Christians) but until the First Amendment is repealed it is also a country that guarantees religious liberty to Christians and non-Christians alike.

So I disagree with Rod Dreher’s claim that a mosque at Ground Zero is “insane.” And I agree with Joe Klein’s call to build that mosque in the name of American freedom.

But building a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is not enough. If the Ground Zero site, forever hallowed by those who disappeared into death there, is to reflect American values, the religion of Islam should also have a place at the Ground Zero memorial itself.

Like the Vietnam and Oklahoma City memorials, the 9/11 memorial will include a litany of the names of the dead. It should also include the names of Muslims worldwide who denounce the terrors of 9/11 as a crime against humanity and against Islam itself. These people are out there by the millions.  Let’s gather their signatures online and display them in a database at Ground Zero.

For every right-wing talk show host who says the mosque, if built, should be bombed, there are in my view millions of Muslims who know their tradition well enough to denounce terror in the name of Allah. Am I right? Let's find out.

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

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Culture wars • Islam • Politics • Religious liberty • Violence

soundoff (883 Responses)
  1. ApeHanger

    "The first concerns the so-called war on terror. Is the United States at war with Islam?"

    I believe most of the non-Arab world is at war with Islam. As far as I'm concerned, we should not be accommodating people whose philosophy is that of death and destruction. If they want to build a mosque in New York City, find another location. The city dump would be a good place to start.

    June 5, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  2. Dan

    If people were killed in the name of Christianity on 9-11 would anyone object a church being built there? just wondering.

    June 5, 2010 at 8:17 am |
  3. CPT

    You want the name of Muslims who don't agree with 911 listed along with the victims? I think this article is insulting. Asking that a mosque not be put near where a thousands of people were murdered in the name of Islam is not about religious freedom. Its about respect. If my child killed another family's child, I would not be running around demanding that they allow me to be part of the funeral rites becuase I didn't agree with it. I would stay as far away as possible so I did not remind them even more why their child is dead, out of respect for the living and the dead. The muslims need to be respectful of all the murdered people and their families, quit whining about THEIR feeings, because they aren't the victms, and move on.

    June 5, 2010 at 7:38 am |
  4. Roland

    check the bank accounts of those who voted in favor of the build. no shame to the ones who lost their love ones and to all of america

    June 5, 2010 at 2:04 am |
  5. AJV-1055923

    "One good point, if Muslims erupted in protest against the extremists who blasphemy against their religion by committing acts of violence in its name with the save fervor they protest the drawing of the Prophet Muhammad, the world would see them more accurately."

    Some of us in the world do see them accurately. The muslims have jumped for joy every time that something heinous is done to a Jew, a white person, a european person, and American or any non or BAD muslim, in the name of islam. If the religion that these muslims practice makes them afraid to stand-up for what is right and against what is wrong, out of FEAR OF RETALIATION FROM FELLOW muslims; I believe that we have all of the information we need. There are NO inclusive muslims. They are hateful because they are taught that they are superior.

    As it stands now; we are screwed! There are too many people here and abroad who believe that some minor group of muslims is the problem and that they and all of the other muslims are 'misunderstood'. BS! Look at the writing on the wall, the black part; the black part is the only part that counts. We have all of the information that we need from the actions of muslims in America and abroad. They hate us or they don't care if their fellow muslims wipe us off the face of the earth.

    The sooner this turns into a TOTAL WAR, THE BETTER. In total war, there is a winner and a looser. At this rate, the PC people will be telling us that not only are we white and therefore bad, but, we should kill ourselves because the poor muslims are so far advanced that we will never understand them.

    I understand them, they are stone-age; treat them that way. They are not pets, they are creatures of prey.

    June 5, 2010 at 12:41 am |
    • Stephen Douglas

      AJV-1055923....No kidding, let's see the Muslims in the streets protesting the homicide bombings. How about that? Pretty amazing they think drawing cartoons is more insulting than murdering 3000 people. Just unbelievable. Please take a moment to read my post above this. I have been sitting here going back through my Qur'an this evening so Muslims can't say I made it up. There are some very good Muslims, but Islam is a dangerous, provocative, intolerant cult. It should not even be recognized as a religion.

      June 5, 2010 at 1:03 am |
    • Umme Omar

      whenever there is a clamity/disaster (natural or brought by man) Islamic relief is in the forefront of all the aid reliefs across the globe (Including Haiti) Visit their website and see for yourself. I have nothing but the greatest admiration for the way in which Islamic Relief responds to these dreadful disasters.” -Prince Charles

      June 5, 2010 at 10:32 am |
    • Umme Omar

      Muslims do not jump when tragedy strikes human beings. In fact unlike the rest of Americans who waste their money on shopping, Muslims give away charity to islamic relief. There are so many verses of Quran which commands Muslims to give charity to poor and needy (regardless of their race, color or creed) How come people with hateful thoughts miss these verses?

      June 5, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  6. DVG

    As the president of Turkey has said, there is no moderate islam, only islam.

    We did not declare war on islam, it has been at war with the entire world since it's inception.

    It is a political movement married to a philosophical belief. The combination is not compatible with any other culture.

    The abnomily is not those who practice violence with this belief, but vice versa. I do not hold all muslims in contempt, but I do condemn islam. The inevitable direction a believer must follow by adhering to the tenents of islam steer the course to the inevitable end result, a worldwide caliphate state ruled by sharia law. This is not acceptable.

    Many have pointed out that there is violence in the bible. These people would also point out Christians have sometimes behaved badly and violently. This is indeed true. There is a distinction to be made though.

    Jesus never ever ever accepted violence. He never sought death or injury to any person. His message was of peace and sacrifice. He accepted the ultimate sacrifice, his life.

    Contrast that with mohammed. He used the scimtar, death, and destruction to promote his beliefs. That is the foundation upon which islam has been built. It is logical for believers of islam to pursue their ends by any means possible.

    To build a mosque to further this message of destruction is another method of acheiving that aim.

    June 4, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      You read history books written by islam haters. The message of all the Prophets, Apostles and messangers of God is to call people to one God and show kindness towards His creation. You do not believe In Muhammad (PBUH) that is your problem. His last sermon of Hajjul wada is the same as the dream speech of martin Luther King Jr. No white has supermacy on blacks and no blacks have supermacy over whites. Everybody is equal in the eye of their Lord except one who is most mindful of him. Just today a white man shot a black man in South Carolina and dragged his body for 10 miles. It is a hate crime.

      June 4, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      what you read about Muhammad (PBUH) is Islam haters' version and it is not true. But this hate crime News of South Carolina is so true. Do not be so stuck up. Just get connected to reality.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      If you really care about USA, you should let go of this hate for other faiths. The reachings of Quran are all about kindness and passion. read its correct translation.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
    • Stephen Douglas

      Umme Omar...I have been doing some reading and research of my Qur'an in order to determine what all I may have forgotten. The fact is that DVG is absolutely correct.

      Throughout the Qur'an there are "revealations" tellng Muslims to kill others for different reasons. There is a verse that says the Prophet does not burden himself with prisoners until the people are crushed...what happens to them??? It says "Vanquish the unbelievers who are a people without understanding"... "Fight and slay the pagens wherever you find them, beleaguer them, but if they repent and establish regular prayers then open the way for them" (i.e., terrorize them until they accept Islam). "Fight those that believe not in Allah nor the last day"..."Fight the pagens all together as they fight you all together"..."Unless you go forth in the cause of Allah He will punish you with a grievious chatisement"..."When we decide to destroy a population, we first send a definite order to those among them who are given the good things of this life and yet transgress, then we destroy them utterly"...

      AND I AM NOT THROUGH THE THIS CR@P!

      My favorite is 33:50 – "O Prophet we have made lawful to you your wives; and those prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to you; the daughters of your paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of you maternal uncles and aunts, and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her; this only for you, not for the Believers at large." (ol' Muhamed made sure he was taken care of, didn't he??)

      There is so much more, but you know this. How can any sane person condone and promulgate this? Islam is a violent, manipulative, intolerant, brainwashing cult. Fight, kill, fight, kill, follow Allah or suffer, a constant barrage of threats and rewards, threats and rewards.

      The building of a mosque anywhere near ground zero is a deliberate provocation and shows a complete insensitivity to the families of the victims.

      June 5, 2010 at 12:50 am |
    • Total non sense

      Islam is the ENEMY OF HUMANITY PERIOD. Anyone with a IQ higher then 10 can see that. Islam is also rellowed by the most cowards peoples on earth (actually i am not sure they quualify as humans), sending womens, childrends and mentaly hill suicide bombing innocents. Destruction is the Islam only way of life. There is not a single country rulled by islam that is not a embarrasement for the human race. Liar, or the most clueless idiot on this board is by far Umme Omar, he will try anything to make islam look good, but it is a lost cause. Islam need to be banned just like Nazi , because islam is a million time whorst then anything Hitler ever did.

      and by the way, Umme Omar your the one who need a really good reality check. any non muslim who read the koren clearly understand that it is a manual for the destruction of the human race.

      June 5, 2010 at 1:37 am |
    • stephen douglas

      Umme Omar, Umme Omar, Umme Omar....Give it up already. Regarding hate crimes, I just flipped over to the headlines for today KNOWING I would find something like this:

      Afghan police say bomb outside Kandahar governor's office wounds at least 6 people
      Published June 05, 2010, Associated Press

      It is every single day that I can find similar articles. All over the world, Muslims killing other Muslims and anyone else in their way.

      You and others argue these are not really Muslims. Yes, they are. They just interpret the Qur'an differently than you, but they are still Muslims – just like the murdering cowards who higjacked the jets and flew them into the towers.

      And that is the problem with Islam: As long as some Muslims are able to interpret the Qur'an in a murderous way, due to the MANY references about killing and fighting non-Muslims, Islam will remain a dangerous, vicious, violent "religion". And it is due mostly to one person – Muhammed, the original Muslim terrorist.

      You have the right to practice this glop in the U.S. and I will defend your right, but I'll be d@mn3d if I will ever agree it is a religion of peace and tolerance. A mosque anywhere near ground zero is an insensitive, deliberately provocative move by the Islamic leadership, and will be deemed a shrine to a group of murdering cowards. Prothero and his wussy ilk are fools.

      June 5, 2010 at 11:45 am |
    • Silhouette

      Stephen,

      I don't know who taught you interpret meanings of texts in foreign languages, but I can see that you aren't very smart with any other language other than the one you were born listening to hicks around you. Or maybe you just want to interpet them differently for some reason.
      Either way, just want to point out that Arabic is a very old symbolic language. You need to do more to learn and interpret it correctly.

      June 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
    • Silhouette

      As for the one bombing news you pulled from somewhere, please try listeneing to other news sources that will tell you about the every single day drone attacks by the coward US forces who don't even have the guts left to actually man a plane to kill innocent people. I mean remote controlled planes killing innocnet people on regualr basis? Try looking it up on BBC.It a dialy routine that will not be reported by CCN of Fox, which I can tell is the source of your hatred and brainwashing.

      June 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  7. Silhouette

    rar "israel was givven that land by God thats why they came back for it and will defend it you came here but did nothing to earn it"

    Well, until this fanatic ignorance seeps within fundmentalist christians we can forget about any peace. Keep in mind, doesn't matter how tired you are of talking about this issue or how quickly you want to change the topic when this one comes around, this injustice is the core of all issues. Until you actually start thinking logically and understand that no race is above any other race and there is no such thing as a racist god that favors people based on what their race is, things will never change. And I assure you they never will, the only way this illegitimate state can exist there is by force as it doesn't have any true ground there.
    Tell you what, this mentality makes you two things: a racist and an apologist. Racist becasue of your decision to support someone based on race. And an apologist because you really beleive that someone of a different race is actually superior than you.

    As for the last part of youe sentence, I don't know what you expected me to do to 'earn it', but would like to know what you did you 'earn it', other than ofcourse being born here which isn't exactly an honor in life, btw.

    June 4, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • rar

      silhouette. my family and friends have been in the millitary and fought the wars.Something you know nothing about. as for racist i said nothing about race. you did. you mohams are all about race card and your oh whoa is me i'm being profiled because i am a moham. all you people do is try to come here and try to take what others fought for and earned Silhouette is a perfect name for you because you are without substance. BTW your mohams are illegitimate because you people are the real infidels. you know starting your own religions.invent a whole new god for yourselves.

      June 5, 2010 at 8:00 am |
    • Silhouette

      Like I said, stop fighting wars with people who have done no harm to you. This insecurity and fanaticism in your people needs to end.
      I mean wars are normal if there is a disagreement between two groups, but there is a huge difference between fighitn in the name of god and fightin in the name of a group of people that fooled you into mental slavery for them. This is the reason your agression througout history reeks of hatred due to racism and insecurities.
      And also, please point a single 'war' that you or whoever your friends/family fought in which your opponent was the same size as you or bigger. Every time you go somehwere to attack its either a much weaker country or you gang up on them by bringing your puppets with you. On the other hand, if the opponent is someone you know will kick your butt pretty sound, like Russia or China, you either run away with your tail between your legs, apologizing, or simply use the same old cunning methods of making someone else do your job like you did with Russia/ Afghan war.
      You really want to beleive you have the guts to do anything meaningful? Sorry, that not the case. Superior technology and weaponary, yes. Heart, reasoning? Never had it never will. When you are hollow at heart you don't win wars – See Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan...actually every single war where you thought you could take them down because they were smaller and weaker than you, and everytime got mud in your face, thats just reality.

      June 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  8. sanethinker

    Life after oil is a b a r r e n one,dates and camel are more appropriate, oil needs MNC/cheap labor from asia to dig refine and distribute. No g r a t i t ude as they are paid for the commodity.

    June 4, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
  9. rar

    umme i could tell you did not come here to seek asylum but you should have stayed in india as we don't not need It's from there. we have plenty of them here you probably just work cheaper than the americans do. or you have some connections here. did you come here because of the caste system in inda? as i said you come from a richer family so you have the means to tweak your connections . please don't tell me about usa this and that as you don't know what you are talking about you will only defend mohams and nothing else. you do not know what it is to earn freedoms you just go and take what other people died for, for granted

    June 4, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      rar I told you all that so that you know that we Muslims are not free loaders on USA economy. We are peaceful law abiding citizens of USA. You do not have enough IT professionals, not at least as smart as Asians are, that is why you r outsourcing to India and China and other countries. India, for one, is a growing economy because people of all faiths have got over with their acrimonious past and have drawn closer to each other. Peace and love can achieve what war and hatred cannot. I think USA would be better off if we got rid of people like you.

      June 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
    • rar

      hey umme i know that you would like to get rid of me. its because i'm onto you mohams and i'll fight back. you preach love and friendship until you have a high population compared to your target country. then you try to impose your sharia laws and you show your swords. go back to india to help the poor people over there if you think you're so smart.

      June 5, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  10. sanethinker

    Instead of debate on development there would have been fierce argument about breaking seize on Gaza and Jihad in rest of the world.

    June 4, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  11. sanethinker

    Imagine what would have been the GDP of Ja p a n if any I s l a mic country in v a d e d it? you guessed it.

    June 4, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  12. Silhouette

    Jack,

    You are thought to beleive that you are under attack (and only for 10 years for that). There are people outside this country that you will never hear about because those news are not covered. But there are generations of unjustice that is being done to these people by Israel/ US. At some point (if one day they really come up with some proof that 9/11 was indeed done by some fanatic arabs) it has to backfire. We are talking about millions of people versus 3000. You tell me, how long would you wait if you were in their situation? You gotta give them credit for being patient enough for over 60 years, while one incident on this soil has been made to sound like calamity.

    And lastly, I don't hate anyone for any reason. I call this country my home now, and if anyone tries to mess with it, I will do whatever is in my ability to push them back. As far as I am concerend we are just regular people with different views about reality. Its just that some are based on incomplete info, because they are shunned to hear anything from the other side.

    hope no one has any hard feeling at the end of the day.

    June 4, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
    • stephen douglas

      Just curious as to why, honestly, do you call this your home now? What prompted you to move to the U.S.?

      June 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
    • rar

      silhouette i'm tired of the talk about injustices to mohams and palestinians and how this is your country now and you would defend it . i doubt it. you probably came from a rich family over there and you just like it here because you love the freedoms of choice and such luxuries over here. israel was givven that land by God thats why they came back for it and will defend it you came here but did nothing to earn it

      June 4, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      rar...I am not sure about silhouette why she/he came to this country or if she/he is rich or not, but I can tell you about myself. I did not come to USA seeking assylem. I came here as an IT professional because this country needed IT profesionals. USA did not have enough of them so they sponsored my husband and me and many others from India, China, pakistan and other countries. Like it or not, we are very intelligent people and hard working too. Would never use office hours for personal things. Your oil without which u would not be able to come to work, comes from Arab countries, mostly Muslim. You and us are part of this society and we should not harbor hatred for each other. But as I can see it, you are much driven by your hatred for us. You are not sincere to USA. You doubt Silhouette would ever defend USA. I am sure you wont defend USA if it comes to that.

      June 4, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  13. Jack

    I'm going home but before i leave i want to leave you with this. We don't hate muslims, we're mad because we have been under attack and moderates do nothing or say nothing. All I can see here is muslims just concerned about the right to build the mosque and not being sensitive to our countrymens heart's and defending their religion.

    June 4, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      all you see is Muslims? I am the only Muslim here and I am not insensitive to the people of USA. I AM one of them. You are just looking at my name, right? Secondly you are attacking my relgion by making false accusations and mad at me because I am defending it. Thirdly...you are going home? So you were working all this time? You were being dishonest. I would never use office time for other things which are not related with work.

      June 4, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
    • Majnun

      Jack,
      Do some research and you'll find out that there are a huge number of moderate muslims that are horrified by how their religion is being used. Wahabis are radical, and many are from Saudi Arabia. But there are many other groups, for example, most Sufis are pacifists. There has been a huge outcry against terrorism by moderates, but it's not covered by the press. Also, the radicals have been funded by the billions $$$ for decades. There are no radical Christian groups getting billions, allowing them to grow. Fanacism has been useful to our military. Now we blame an entire religion...

      June 4, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
  14. Silhouette

    Can you please forward this to me in some form? URL?
    Trust me I have no love or hate for him, because I don't know him to that extent, just like I don't know most of the people in the world. But I am pretty sure what you are referrring to is some sort of distorted translation which in some indirect way leads the watcher to assume something.
    Had this been authentic enough to be presented to public, they would have ran it to death on mainstream news by now.

    June 4, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  15. Jack

    The tape shows he new of the plot before hand. How did he know that?

    June 4, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  16. Silhouette

    Everyone all over the world was 'given the information' through news channels. whats the point?

    June 4, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  17. Jack

    Silhouette... I will repond to what you said about bin laden. Apparently you didn't see the tape where he's given the information that the towers were bombed sucessfully.

    June 4, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  18. Umme Omar

    Here goes another of your assumption about Muslims. good practicing Christians, followers of Christ (PBUH) do not lie either. Good practcing jews followers of Isaq , Moses, Aron (PBUT) do not lie too. Only people who hate other nations lie because they are dictated by their hatred. Hate blinds them off from reality. It is so logical and common sense.

    June 4, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Jack

      Well that's the key phrase "good practicing" I would say just an honest person doesn't lie. They don't need to be of any religion but many of all religions lie, lets get real here.

      June 4, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      well jack, I answered your question what I think of Christians, and I answered you that. I think you are trying to turn Christians against me. This is your agenda. You want to get Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths get at each other's throats. You are not sincere with USA.

      June 4, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      jack you know what, you really don't have to worry about honesty anymore and what religion honest people belong. You were writing these messages from work. This is not honesty. Not believing in God is the biggest lie. You think this all Universe was made at chance? Be honest with yourself first. When people do not believe in God, they don't fear Him, they are just driven by their own desires.

      June 4, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  19. Jack

    Umme... You act like all muslims are perfect people and are above the rest and they don't lie but Christians do, that's the problem.

    June 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  20. Silhouette

    "Jack

    We're a responsible nation with a little forsight. If it were up to the rest of the world every nation would have nuclear weapons. We are the only ones with balls enough to try and stop it. You should be glad we're here because if we were not the world would be very different."

    After this comment above, I rest my case with you 🙂

    June 4, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.