Park51: A Time to Wage Peace - NBC New York

Park51: A Time to Wage Peace

America needs a calm and rational discussion about the downtown Islamic center



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    Barth Silberstein (2nd L) and Comrade Shahid (R) Supporters in favor of an Islamic cultural center and mosque clasp hands on Sunday.

    The furor over the building of an Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is having a polarizing effect throughout the nation.

    America needs a calm and rational discussion, not furious words exchanged like spears. Instead of taking extreme positions on one side or the other, our leaders need to find ways to calm us down.   The current path is highly destructive.

    Of all those who have spoken out in recent days, our own Governor, David Paterson, seems to make the most sense. He asked to meet with the two sides to offer an alternative, the use of state land to find a possible alternative site for the planned facility. So far, the two sides have not agreed to meet with Paterson. He said:

    “I think we owe it to the people who live [near Ground Zero] and we owe it to our country to resolve this thing as soon as possible.”

    The President and Mayor Bloomberg have come out strongly for the protection of religious freedom as guaranteed in the First Amendment. Obama at first said that the Muslim community had a right to build a mosque anywhere. Then he pulled back---saying: “I’m not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”

    How’s that again?  It sounds like a 180-degree turn by our President. Translation: “You have a right to belong to any religion and practice it but, as to putting a mosque there, I’m not going there.”

     At least Mayor Bloomberg is consistent. He has stuck to his position that the right “to practice your religion was one of the real reasons America was founded.”             

    On Sunday, passions on both sides were vented by hundreds in lower Manhattan. Some shouted at each other but there was no violence.

    Both Archbishop Timothy Dolan, leader of New York’s two million Roman Catholics, and Paterson have offered to mediate the dispute over the $100 million project. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who’s on a Middle East trip, says that the attention his plan is getting is actually positive and he hopes it will bring greater understanding.

    Pundits have weighed in strongly throughout the country. The airwaves have overflowed with passionate rhetoric. But it’s not a healthy thing for our nation. At a time when the economy is still teetering—we’re still fighting two wars, and millions need decent jobs—we don’t need this.

    In the Old Testament, when Solomon was confronted with two women claiming the same baby, he dealt with the situation by saying that perhaps the baby should be cut in half. By their reactions, he was able to decide who the real mother was.

    In the absence of a modern day Solomon, perhaps we need a mediator or arbitrator to decide what is the best way to advance the interests of all of us -- bringing domestic peace and upholding the basic rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.