To the editor:
Ever since 9/11, America has been trying to engage in a battle of ideas against radical Islam. America can’t really get involved in a debate within Islam, so that has meant trying to find and support moderate Muslims around the world. This strategy has been supported by liberals and conservatives alike. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have supported worldwide efforts to support moderate Muslims who were trying to rescue their religion from extremists. This has meant funding mosques, Islamic centers and community leaders that share a peaceful and pluralistic vision of Islam.
However, with the opportunity to continue to promote these ideas in our own back yard, we hesitate. This is why I am glad to see that Obama supports efforts to build an Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man who is leading the effort to build the Islamic community center known as Park 51, is a moderate Muslim clergyman. The Times reported that he wants the center to help “bridge and heal a divide” among Muslims and other religious groups. He speaks of the need for Muslims to live peacefully with all other religions. He emphasizes the commonalities among all faiths and advocates equal rights for women.
When we tell the world, “Yes, we are a country that will even tolerate a mosque near the site of 9/11,” we send a powerful message of inclusion and openness. You never know who is hearing that message.