Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
-Amendment I, United States Constitution
Earlier in 2010, we learned that imam Feisal Abdul Rauf had proposed a Muslim community center two blocks from the World Trade Center. Within it, among many other facilities, would be a mosque. Its name is Park51, though it has been called the “Ground Zero Mosque”, primarily by its opponents.
I don’t care much for that question. It supposes a power that the majority has over the minority, despite protections in the Constitution. Is the question asking “Should we repeal the 1st Amendment?” Because unless you do that, what legal action can a city take against a religion?
And as a Latter-day Saint, I can’t help but take the imam’s side on this issue. How many of our proposals for temples have been fought by protestors? We sincerely believe we are out to save the world, one soul at a time, yet the misinformed and the malicious gather to fight our efforts. (If you are against the mosque, have you informed yourself? Have you read what Park51 is about? Here, I’ll link to it again.)
It’s difficult to discuss this topic without it degrading into an argument about the merits and problems with Islam. Suffice it to say, as Latter-day Saints, we don’t believe that Islam has all the truth.
But that doesn’t matter. Our 11th Article of Faith reads, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”(italics added)
Can our stance be made any more clear than that? Though we may disagree, we will defend your freedom. We will fight by your side against the tyrants who would deprive both you and I of our liberty.
And we have in the past. In the premortal existence, when Lucifer plotted to take away man’s agency, we sided with our Savior. We fought for our freedom to choose, even though that meant some souls would not return to our Father in Heaven. That’s the value we placed on freedom.
Some have accepted that Muslims have every right to build a mosque near Ground Zero, but still don’t think they should do it. After all, people who lost loved ones on 9/11 may take offense at an Islamic place of worship so close to that site. That was my initial reaction, too: hey, it’s a free country, but, um, are you trying to pick a fight?
But now that I’ve taken a closer look at the Park51 website, specifically the FAQ, I’m in favor of their chosen location. That’s where there’s more room for discussion. But as for the question of allowing Muslims to build a mosque… well, there should be no question.
If you disagree, I have to ask: Do you love Muslims?
Say you learn that somebody you’re about to meet is Muslim. Do you feel like you dislike them already? That you might like them, but they’ll have to work a little harder to earn your friendship?
If so, is that charity? I don’t think so.
We’ve been commanded to love our neighbors. Love them as ourselves. And even if you consider Muslims to be your enemy, please remember, you’ve been commanded to love your enemies, too.
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Matthew 5:44
Of course, now that I think about it, that commandment goes beyond just loving perceived enemies – it includes those who are training at this moment to carry out terrorist attacks. And I realize I haven’t prayed for them, that their hearts might be softened, that they might see the error of their ways.
Time to live my beliefs a little better.