Not All The 9/11 Families Oppose The “Ground Zero Mosque”
Of the all the emotionalism that has been raised during the course of the debate over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” the one you hear most frequently is the idea that building an Islamic community center two blocks away from Ground Zero is somehow an insult to the memories of the victims of September 11th. Indeed, some of the 9/11 families have been part of the opposition, but not all of them:
Herb Ouida, whose son Todd died in the attacks, says he supports the Cordoba Initiative’s project.
“To call it a mosque is not right. It’s a community center that includes a prayer center,” Ouida told AOL News today.
The 68-year-old father from River Edge, N.J., says he is deeply concerned about the tone of some of the opposition to the project.
“What we are doing [when we oppose the community center] is we are saying to the world that we are at war with Islam. And we can’t be. I want my grandchildren to live in a better world,” he said.
“To say that we’re going to condemn a religion and castigate a billion people in the world because they’re Muslims, to say that they shouldn’t have the ability to pray near the World Trade Center — I don’t think that’s going to bring people together and cross the divide.”
On 9/11, Marvin Bethea rushed to the World Trade Center to try to save lives, and has had trouble breathing ever since. The former Emergency Medical Services worker says he had to retire in 2004 when the breathing problems he acquired from toxic materials at the site made it too hard for him to work. But Bethea said he supports the Islamic center anyway.
“Even though my life has changed, I don’t hate the Muslims,” Bethea, 50, said. “Especially being a black man, I know what it’s like to be discriminated against. I’ve lived with that.”
Bethea believes racism is stoking the controversy.
“I understand the families are hurt and lost,” he said. But “how do you sit here and condemn all Muslims as being terrorists?” he said. “That’s just bigotry and hatred. We’re a better nation than that. The diversity that we have, this is what New York is about. But we have such prejudices, some of us. We have a long way to go.”
Charles Wolf of New York City lost his wife, Katherine, in the attacks. “She was a wonderful girl,” said Wolf, 56.
He said he supports the Muslim community center “100 percent.”
“I’m not going to brand any group for the actions of a few of the fringe,” Wolf said. “The fact that the extremists who did this to us have now moved us in this direction through our fear and hatred, to be exactly like them … it will come back to haunt us.”
“This country was founded on the principles of religious freedom for all,” he said. “Are we doing to start denying that to people? If we start doing that we start dismantling the values this country was founded upon.”
There is, understandably, a lot of emotionalism in the responses of the survivors and their families, but let’s not put forward the lie that all the 9/11 families are united on this, or that supporting this project means you don’t care about the people who died that day.