“Ground zero mosque” shows America’s prejudices

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    The concept of Islamophobia has been running rampant through the debate over the construction of the alleged “ground zero mosque.” First of all, the mosque is actually scheduled to be an Islamic community center, with more emphasis on education and community activities.

    Former comedian and Sen. Al Franken said jokingly, “It’s a community center. They’re going to have a gym. They’re going to have point guards. Muslim point guards.”

    It is not going to a training ground for terrorists or a symbol of victory on Sept. 11.

    The next issue is the location of the community center, which is actually two blocks from ground zero. As someone who grew up in New York and visited the city hundreds of times, I have to say that two blocks is a longer distance than it sounds and would probably be a 10 to 15-minute walk. The Cordoba House, the name of the community center, is not being constructed on hallowed ground. It is replacing an old Burlington Coat Factory that has been out of business for years.

    This debate does make a serious commentary of the status of religious relations in this country. Since Sept. 11, many Americans have cast negative and inaccurate stereotypes on Muslims in this country. Muslims are often characterized as fundamentalist extremists bent on destroying the American way of life and being resentful of the freedoms U.S. citizens enjoy, one of which is the choice to practice religion freely.

    These depictions could not be further from the truth. The American people cannot hold an entire group responsible for the actions and attitudes of a few. By trampling on the freedom of religion of Muslims, the American people are doing exactly what the terrorists want the United States to do8212;abandon the freedoms and liberties others resent.

    This debate might be moot because, according to a recent Politico report, the Cordoba House seems unlikely to be constructed due to lack of funding for the project. The Cordoba Initiative has set a $100 million fundraising goal for the new community center which, according to the report, they are not close to reaching.

    However, if this community center is not built because of religious intolerance, rather than lack of finances, the United States would become a hypocritical nation that does not practice what it preaches in the First Amendment.

    Chris Varano is a sophomore sports broadcasting major from Dallas.

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