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Ground Zero mosque testing our tolerance

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

RENEE ANTONELLI VALENTE: I wasn’t working at my former job on the 96th floor of World Trade Center II the day the towers were hit. But I know families who lost loved ones. I also lost a few friends of my own. So I completely understand the emotion behind the struggle over building a mosque near the site.

Those who are for the idea cite religious freedom. They say that Muslims as a whole are not responsible for that horrible day. That you cannot punish an entire people because of the actions of a radical few. That everyone has the right to worship in a location where people from all races and religions, including Islam, were slaughtered.

Renee Antonelli Valente

Those who lost loved ones or were hurt in other ways see a grotesque insult added to injury. That in the name of Jihad these people were killed. That Muslim countries backed these terror cells with money that could only come from the richest of the rich and received support from the most powerful of those in power. That certain Arab countries knowingly gave refuge to those responsible.

We’re not talking a small, errant group of rag-tag Muslims. The suicide pilots encompassed a far larger, more powerful population than people would care to believe. They should not be likened to white supremacists or redneck hillbillies, because those groups of whack-jobs do not have the money, political backing, or popular support that the jihadists had to pull off such a complicated, well-planned and costly attack.

Our government won’t “hide” a bunch of skinheads hell-bent on destroying a particular race of people, nor will the richest of our rich provide those shotgun-slinging rednecks an endless supply of weaponry and finances.

That’s not saying that, in the name of politics, they don’t sweep under the rug other atrocities and give weapons to other people or countries who will eventually use them against us. That’s another story. But based upon the massive undertaking, both logistically and financially, and the preparation that 9/11 required — not to mention the asylum granted afterward — I can understand generalizations people make in discussing Muslims.

That, however, does not make it right.

The United States was built on, and is maintained by, the premise of freedom — political, religious and otherwise. That doesn’t say the sentiment adequately covers all groups. Consider, for example, Proposition 8.

Still, religious freedom is one of the rights a vast majority of our population exercises, and we should all be able to do so without fears of repercussion or exclusion.

Even from my limited knowledge, I can say with certainty that The Koran doesn’t espouse the hate these radicals are polluting the world with. The Muslim religion, in and of itself, isn’t responsible for training and funding these groups. Just like the Christians and the Jews and the Buddhists and everyone in between, they all believe in something other than themselves, be it a supreme being or an ideal, and they try to live accordingly.

So why penalize millions of Muslims and deny them the right to a place not only to worship their God but to also mourn those who THEY lost that despicable day?

The amazing part of this back-and-forth is that logic could lead you to see no right or wrong answer to this. But please, in the name of tolerance, let’s remember that by its very definition, tolerance is not intended to be selective.

So for those at the ACLU and all the other groups who are preaching this tolerance, let us remind them that saying “Merry Christmas” is OK, too. So is singing “God Bless America” at a Yankees game. And gay marriage? Sorry, good ‘ol boys: That’s part of it, as well.

Perhaps we can find a sensitive solution to both viewpoints, a “generic” non-denominational worship site where people can come in as people, not as Muslims or Christians or Jews or gays. Maybe we can find a way to stop fixing labels that further alienate us as brothers and sisters.

It is no one’s business whom we pray to, what “holidays” we worship, or where men choose to stick their penises. So don’t force me to believe your religion or politics. Don‘t stop me from saying “Merry Christmas.” And, for Pete’s sake, dude, don’t hit on my husband.

If you do, it STILL won’t make me want to alienate your freedom of expression.

You’ll just be expressing yourself with a black eye.

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