Aug 242010
Authors: Ian Bezek

The Christian community’s illogical reaction to plans for the construction of an Islamic prayer and cultural center –– often labeled a mosque by opponents –– several blocks from Ground Zero has been maddening.

As a practicing Christian myself, I am angered when other Christians tarnish the name of my religion with their reprehensible activities. Many people who call themselves Christians seem to view it as their religious duty to attack Muslims and others who don’t fit into their rigid ideologies.

Many of these self-proclaimed Christians supported the unnecessary and destructive war in Iraq because they viewed this as an opportunity to engage in a “war against Islam.”
And now they are again showcasing their rage and prejudice against Islam in their myopic response to the proposal for the building of the prayer center near Ground Zero.
The proposal, now named Park51, is to build a 13-story, $100 million Islamic center at a site two blocks from Ground Zero.

The project was originally named Cordoba House, after the city of Córdoba, Spain, where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together in peace for several centuries. Organizers of the project state that their building will serve as a similar cross-cultural center that will help heal the wounds faced by New Yorkers after 9/11.

But Christians mistakenly believe that the word Muslim is synonymous with terrorist. The Economist summed up the situation when it wrote, “Every single argument put forward for blocking this project leans in some way on the misconceived notion that all Muslims, and Islam itself, share the responsibility for, or are tainted by, the atrocities of 9/11.”
In the minds of many Christians, Islam is more than merely a religion. Instead, it’s a virulent political ideology that is constantly plotting America’s downfall.

It’s so dangerous, in fact, that the Constitution must be shredded. While Christians usually profess a great devotion to the Constitution, they are willing to turn against it when unspeakable dangers, such as Muslims wishing to pray, emerge.

You would think the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion and the right of people to assemble peaceably would, in and of itself, be enough reason to allow Muslims to build a prayer center.

In fact, if you walk into just about any Christian church on Memorial Day or the July 4 weekend, you’ll find the pastor thanking God for giving Americans the right to worship and pray in freedom.

But sadly, many Christians seem to think these rights only apply to themselves. While Christians shouldn’t, they say, be subject to the wall of separation between church and state that Thomas Jefferson created, other religions shouldn’t even be allowed to build buildings or peaceably assemble on land they’ve legally purchased.

I call on my fellow Christians to realize the scary situation we find ourselves in. Our religion’s reputation has been devastated by crazed zealots. Now when many people think of Jesus, they think of wars in the Middle East or attacks against peaceful Muslims.

The Republicans have figured out that if they demonize a minority, be it gays in 2004, immigrants in the past two elections or now Muslims, they can get votes. Those of us who are Christians, who truly seek to care for the world as Christ did, must reject these political ploys.

Any self-proclaimed Christian who promotes war or seeks to demonize minorities like Muslims does not speak for me or other reasonable Christians.

Just as I am thankful that America gives me the right to practice Christianity how I choose, I am thankful that Muslims have the same right. And so, I hope the Muslim prayer center project is allowed to proceed.

It’s time for Christians to realize that the First Amendment applies to all religions, not just the one with the most votes.

Ian Bezek is a senior economics major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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