Opposition to mosque reveals distrust, ignorance

Logan Mcdonald

A community center is being built in New York City. But not just any type of community center, a Muslim community center that contains a mosque. And not just anywhere in the city, but two blocks away from where the World Trade Center stood. Shocked and appalled yet?

For what seems to be a local issue in its entirety, the construction of the Park51 Community Center has turned into a national topic of discussion. Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani have all raised their voices over concerns that building a mosque near the location of the World Trade Center is insensitive to the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. And a recent poll by Time magazine shows that 61 percent of Americans are opposed to building the center as well.

The ramifications of such a vocal opposition of what is being called the “ground zero mosque” go beyond sensitivity for the families of victims, and reveal a mistrust and misunderstanding of American Muslims. In the same Time poll, over a quarter of the respondents believed that Muslims should be barred from the Supreme Court, as well as the presidency. Some light is shed on this ignorance by the fact that 62 percent of the people polled admitted they do not personally know a Muslim American.

So it seems that as many people who are opposed to Park51 also don’t know any Muslims.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

A general lack of knowledge and understanding of the Muslim faith is widespread across America. I’m sure most Americans have no idea that the holy month of Ramadan, which involves fasting from sun up to sun down, is going on right now. For a lot of Americans, the words Islam and Muslim are closely associated with the word terrorism. And it seems as though the word mosque is just as closely associated to terrorist recruitment. When you hear 9/11 victim and Muslim in the same sentence, most likely you’re expecting culpability rather than compassion. It’s easy to gloss over the fact that dozens of Muslims died in the Sept. 11 attacks alongside everyone else.

We can place blame for these word associations on politicians or news organizations, but it seems more likely that the people to blame are ourselves. The reason Americans don’t know anything about Islam has just as much to do with apathy as with a fear of the unknown. When Newt Gingrich compares Muslims to Nazis, he shows that he knows absolutely nothing about a faith that encompasses more than a billion people. When a quarter of the population in America believes the president of the United States is a Muslim, it appears that a lot of Americans are living under a rock.