How far is too far?

Posted on September 14, 2010 by


Over the weekend America mourned the anniversary of the September 11th attacks that shook this country nine years ago.  Many people had the weekend on their mind and were remembering the events that happened on that day.  However leading up to this anniversary there has been controversy at the sight of ground zero.  A proposed mosque community center has been brought to the attention of people and they are in heavy disagreement.  The main protest comes from the fact that the center is two blocks from ground zero.  Whether it’s an issue that the mosque is in such proximity to ground zero or the fact that plans for its development comes so close to the anniversary of September 11th, people don’t want it there.

Proposed Site for Community Center

In a Quinnipiac University poll, voters agree 53 – 39 percent, with 8 percent undecided, “that because of the sensitivities of 9/11 relatives, Muslims should not be allowed to build the mosque near Ground Zero.”  And by a 71 – 21 percent majority, voters agree “that because of the opposition of Ground Zero relatives, the Muslim group should voluntarily build the mosque somewhere else.”

This brings up issues with the fact that in America there is freedom of religion defined in the constitution.  The same poll found that:  By a 54 – 40 percent majority, voters agree “that because of American freedom of religion, Muslims have the right to build the mosque near Ground Zero,” the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. Another 7 percent are undecided.

While many Americans were caught up in the anger of the mosque and the consideration of constitutional freedoms, there was another issue that was developing in a small town by the name of Gainesville, Florida.  Reverend Terry Jones is the leader of a small church which has about 30 church members proposed an “international burn a Koran day” which was scheduled to take place on the anniversary of September 11th.

Eternal fire is the only destination the Quran can lead people to, so we want to put the Quran in it’s [sic] place — the fire!”-Terry Jones

He later stated that the mosque being built near ground zero was his inspiration behind the event and would call off the Koran burning if the builder of the mosque would move to the location farther away from ground zero.

I don’t care if it’s moved today or 10 years from now as long as eventually there’s no mosque at ground zero” -Terry Jones

Problem here? Technically no, Reverend Terry Jones is protected by the constitution’s freedom of speech and has every right to burn all the Korans he wants.  However, many think this is a tremendous problem.  Burning a Koran is the worst insult to Muslims and many government officials, including, President Barack Obama, contacted Jones pleading with him to not go through with the event.

Officials feared the protest would put American lives in danger serving overseas.  The Taliban would use the images of Americans burning Korans as a powerful image to fuel hate for Americans and our allies.  Protests against the Koran burning are turning violent even turned deadly as demonstrates chanted anti-US and anti-Christian slogans.

“I am very concerned by the potential repercussions of the possible (Koran) burning. Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday,”It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan… It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community,” –General Petraeus

So how far is too far? It is clear from the heavy amount of protesting that both sides are going too far but are still within their rights.  The public opinion is a major factor in deciding what will work and what will not.  I think that both have gone too far.  When the freedoms of one person are putting the lives of others in jeopardy, that is too far.  The actions of the church were going to directly affect the lives of Americans serving overseas and also the lives of innocent civilians.  The issue of the mosque is going too far because it is adding insult to injury for the victims of the September 11th attacks. There are over 100 mosques in New York City why do we need another one right next to a place that radicals of that religion destroyed?

Luckily, Jones called off the event saying that he had struck a deal with the leader of the planned Islamic Center near ground zero who agreed to move its controversial location.  However, this is only until he meets with the leader in person until they can come to a deal.

Regardless of the these two events, the real problem is that they both generated so much attention to themselves that people overlooked what was really important on that day, remembering the lives of those lost in the September 11th attacks.  A large shadow was cast over the ceremonies and was a distraction from the memories of the people that really deserved our attention.