Let Peace Reign, Beginning with the Religion of Peace

by Derrick G. Jeter

“Islam is a religion of peace.”
So we’ve been hearing since September 11, 2001. It’s understandable really, for Muslims to tout this claim. After all, Christians have made similar claims whenever the Inquisition or the Crusades are brought up; or to a lesser extent, when some nut does something stupid in the name of Christ. Christianity is the religion of peace—of the Prince of Peace. My concern here, however, is not to compare Christianity with Islam, or to delve into the truth of modern Muslims’ claim about the peacefulness of Islam, or even discuss whether the Muslims who flew planes into the World Trade Center were an aberration of Islam’s true tenants. Rather, I’m concerned about the practice of Islamic peace in regards to the mosque scheduled to be built a few blocks from Ground Zero.
In recent days, the mosque has become the political hot potato in New York and the country. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg lectured those opposed to the mosque that the issue is one of the First Amendment—that those who want the mosque built have a fundamental right to build it wherever they want. Fair enough. No one—at least no one serious—has argued that Muslims don’t have a right to build a mosque, even one so close to what many in America consider hallowed ground. But apparently the arguments for opposition to the mosque have been misunderstood by the proponents; either that or the proponents are not interested in really listening to those on the other side of the question. Even Barack Obama, at the Ramadan dinner at the White House this year, felt compelled to weigh in. But like Bloomberg, he lectured the American people that Muslims have a right to worship in the United States. Of course they do, but this misses the point.
The arguments against the mosque are not ones of rights as outlined in the First Amendment, but in doing what is right. If Islam is a true religion of peace, then why the insistence in causing so much turmoil and pain simply to assert their rights? Or as Charles Krauthammer put it:
A place is made sacred by a widespread belief that it was visited by the miraculous or the transcendent (Lourdes, the Temple Mount), by the presence there once of great nobility and sacrifice (Gettysburg), or by the blood of martyrs and the indescribable suffering of the innocent (Auschwitz).
When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there—and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized or misappropriated.
That’s why Disney’s 1993 proposal to build an American history theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated by a broad coalition that feared vulgarization of the Civil War. . . . It’s why the commercial viewing tower built right on the border of Gettysbug was taken down by the Park Service. It’s why, while no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive.
And why Pope John Paul II ordered the Carmelite nuns to leave the convent they had established at Auschwitz. He was in no way devaluing their heartfelt mission to pray for the souls of the dead. He was teaching them a lesson in respect: This is not your place; it belongs to others. However pure your voice, better to let silence reign. [1]
Better still: let peace reign. And let peace begin with the “religion of peace” by building their mosque some other place.
[1] Charles Krauthammer, “Sacrilege at Ground Zero,”August 13, 1010, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/12/AR2010081204996.html, accessed August 16, 2010.