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Upholding Our American Values

Ground Zero Mosque Counters bin Laden’s Radical Views

SOURCE: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

President Barack Obama hosts an iftar dinner, the meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast for Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, in the State Dining Room at the White House on August 13, 2010. He emphasized the American tenet of religious freedom just as New York City is immersed in a deeply sensitive debate about whether a mosque should be built near the site of the World Trade Center that was destroyed during the September 11 terror attacks.

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The United States is at its strongest when Americans have the courage to stand up for the values that make this country great. President Obama is upholding the best traditions of our Constitution by supporting Muslim Americans’ ability to build a mosque and community center on private property near Ground Zero.

September 11 left deep scars on Manhattan and the United States. The family and friends of the 3,000 who perished have suffered the most, yet all Americans share in the pain of that fateful day. Ground Zero is hallowed ground and will forever live in our hearts. But it is misguided to believe that we honor the victims by rejecting the values they cherished while succumbing to the very fear and hatred their murderers were trying to provoke.

Osama bin Laden wants Muslims to believe that America and the West are at war with Islam. That distorted view is the best and virtually only way he has to recruit young Muslims into his murderous cause. That cause targets America and our allies, but his primary mission is to destroy contemporary Islam, and the majority of his victims are Muslims.

The biggest threat to bin Laden is precisely the kind of Islam that is embodied in the Cordoba Initiative mosque and community center. Muslim Americans practicing their religion in freedom, rejecting the perversion of the faith that drives Al Qaeda, and preaching against radicalism and violence is exactly what bin Laden fears. Building this facility will help the United States and its allies prevail in this struggle against violent extremist groups like al Qaeda by undermining Osama bin Laden’s narrative that America is at war with the Muslim world.

We understand the raw emotions triggered by memories of September 11, but we are not at our strongest when we are fearful. The American experiment with freedom and religious liberty would not have been unique if it was easy and would not have survived without brave decisions to sustain it. We support building this mosque.

Ken Gude is Director of the International Justice and Security Program at the Center for American Progress.

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