In Theory

A recent installment of "In Theory" focused on a project by a Muslim group to build a YMCA-like community center a block from the old World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. The project's promoters in the Muslim community said they didn't see this as an affront to the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and that this was their way of speaking out for peace and against perceived extremist elements within their religion.

On July 18, a message posted on Twitter, which was attributed to Sarah Palin, caused a stir: "Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing"

As a religious and spiritual leader, do you think this statement was appropriate and that it promotes healing and peace, or does it undermine that?

I think the statement was appropriate and that it does promote healing and peace. I think that for too long Americans have been told that healing and peace can somehow be found in a moral vacuum that excludes truth.

There is no biblical justification for keeping silent as the promoters of Islam do something so insensitive and hurtful as to build a mosque a block from the site where Islamic terrorists killed thousands of innocent Americans without regard to the political or religious beliefs of those attacked.

James 3:17 tells us "the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable....".

If the Islamic religion is really a religion of peace, then allow America to heal without placing a mosque so close to the site.

Jesus said, "by their fruit you shall know them."

This is a great opportunity for them to show their love and peace by not treating Americans as if they care nothing for how we feel about how we were attacked on 9/11.

Pastor Dwight Tomlinson

Liberty Baptist Church

Newport Beach

A Muslim community center near the site of the old World Trade Center may help to educate people and promote peace. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is now being built on the site and it is fitting for religious organizations to be near this sacred ground. St. Paul's Episcopal Chapel and St. Peter's Catholic Church are close by.

It is magnificent to see the religious freedom and tolerance so prized in our democracy expressed right here. Most Americans know the difference between the terrorists who flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and our Muslim American neighbors.

I've never read Twitter but I don't agree with the statement that a Muslim presence near Ground Zero is a provocation, whether made by Sarah Palin or someone else.

The Rev. Deborah Barrett

Zen Center of Orange County

Costa Mesa

I was one who commented on it favorably when it was presented in "In Theory" previously. Recently, my faith proposed a new Temple in Newport Beach and there was a furor over allowing it to be built, so we have been on the receiving end of negative feelings.

If Mrs. Palin did make the statement as reported (and a "Twitter posting" does not make it so), it reflects the unfortunate approach of many who associate "Islam" with "terrorists." If the building which presently stands on the property is remodeled and presented as a Community Center for Muslim youth and adults, the Islamic community needs to be most careful that whoever acts as a leader does not in any way demonstrate in word or deed that it is other than evidence of their desire to "promote peace and understanding."

One of their supporters indicated that it was "…taking back the agenda away from the extremists who have defined it for the global Muslim community."

If it turns out to be the opposite, the backlash against the Muslims community will be significant. I, for one, will be watching closely and praying for it to lessen tensions and promote goodwill.

Tom Thorkelson

Director of Interfaith Relations

Orange County Council

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

It definitely undermines it. Most Muslims decry the atrocities of 9/11. I can see how most Americans might see building a mosque near ground-zero would be provocative, but I see it differently. If Americans instead welcomed a mosque — what would it tell the rest of the Islamic world? It would broadcast to the world that Americans know 99.99% of Muslims are peace-loving people and that the terrorists attack do not represent them. This would be a huge message that the U.S. respects all faiths and supports the continuing effort to draw more Muslim countries into an alliance with the U.S. The changing of anti-U.S. propaganda is necessary for a peaceful world.

Bruce Gleason

Director, Freethought Alliance, Backyard Skeptics

Not surprisingly, Sarah Palin's potential comments are off base and completely inappropriate. She demonstrates a lamentable American and embarrassing Christian attitude that only serves to undermine peace, tolerance and acceptance. The presence of a Muslim Community center is completely appropriate, a witness to peace, and a statement about religious freedom in America. I apologize on behalf of Christianity. Her comments are adversarial and divisive, and completely undermine the very purpose of the Muslim community center in the first place, which demonstrates her lack of respect for Islam.

How dare she use violent language like "It stabs hearts"?

That's hyperbolic and wrong. She should apologize for her unnecessary provocation.

The Rev. Sarah Halverson

Fairview Community Church

Costa Mesa

Dear Sarah (Palin),

It's not about the mosque. It's not about honoring the dead. It's not about healing the wounds that will still be open half a century from now. It's not about terrorists or terrorism. It's not about the heartland or the coastline. It's not about elections or political parties. It's not about freedom of the press, or freedom of religion or American values. It's not about who's to blame. It's not about Islam or Judaism or Christianity.

It's about us. It's about our nation. Do we as a people choose to live out of our fears? Do we feed our fears by matching threat with threat, violence with violence, and anger with anger? The purpose of humanity is to delight in God. There is no room in delight for fear. The more we live by fear, the more we lose our way, our purpose, our identity, and our freedom. I believe it's time to cease all our fearful agitations, defenseless, and retaliations. Our healing will be found in delighting in the ways of God.

Pastor Mark Wiley

Mesa Verde United Methodist Church

Costa Mesa

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