A couple of weeks ago Mr Fareed Zakaria wrote an article for an Indian daily, Hindustan Times. The article was titled “Reap the faith”. In his article Mr Zakaria puts forth a case for supporting the Mosque near ground zero in New York. Though his own reasons for it (construction of a mausoleum) in the article are not very compelling, however his reference to the speech on the same premise by New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg is quiet coercing.
Mr Zakaria’s reason for building the Mosque could be generally summarised as: a) it would be a slap in the face of radical Islamists & b) it could be a foundation for the “reformist movement” in Islam. Mr Bloomberg’s speech, on the other hand is a passionate plea, reinforced with a judicial proviso. It’s difficult not to be swayed by Mr Bloomberg’s reasoning; he sheds light on some very significant moments in United States history on freedom of religion and separation of Church and State. Both Mr Zakaria’s and the Mayor Bloomberg’s credentials are remarkable and their integrity cannot be questioned, but that, I am afraid may not be enough for others to see their point, for this is no ordinary scenario.
Taking into account, pure facts, there’s no case here for those protesting against the construction of a mosque. The land for the proposed mosque is held privately, and the owners are free to use it in any way they deem fit, any hindrance would be impeding their fundamental rights. However the Anti- Defamation League (ADL) which is against the construction of the mosque opposes it on the grounds that the families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks are against it. As Mr Zakaria points out that Muslims were among those who died and some families have ‘mixed feelings’ so ADL does not have a definite mandate. Hence, it all boils down to what the owners of the land want and why?
As we already know what they want, the next question is why a mausoleum? Would it not be better to assemble some kind of a cenotaph which is not devoted to any religion, but instead celebrates Humanity? I am sure that most families who lost their loved ones would approve of it. Besides, and perhaps more importantly, it would give the American people the sense of serenity, which would, otherwise, almost certainly be a feeling of having been wronged. And if it were to pan out this way, the anti-Islam sentiment would take even deeper roots. Like I said before, this is a very sensitive issue, and an error of judgement could generate communal prejudice and hatred.
It could also be argued that the wish of the holders to construct a Mausoleum, rather than a non-religious entity, is itself a somewhat radical slant, for, a moderate person belonging to any religion would not be so steadfast in his approach. The onus lies on the owners of theland, if they want to honour the memories of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, they must ensure that they do not give it a religious or communal colour. Failing which, could result in far reaching and possibly calamitous consequences.