WASHINGTON – While religious leaders are urging Christians to love their Muslim neighbors as the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks draw near, Florida Congressman Allen West (R) and the Christian Action Network reminded the public that there is still continued opposition to the New York City Islamic center being built near ground zero.
Surrounded by the families of seven 9/11 victims, West spoke against the mosque and Islamic center being erected near the site of the fallen twin towers in a Wednesday press conference.
Comparing the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to the Pearl Harbor bombing, West said no one who attacked the United States should be allowed to put a victory monument to their people at an attack site.
"If 10 years or nine years after Pearl Harbor, if the country of Japan had come to the United States of America and said 'we wanted (sic) to erect a memorial to Japanese naval seamanship at Pearl Harbor,' what would have we said?" he stated. "I think that along that same parallel, that's what we see here."
The $100 million mosque and Islamic center called the Park51 project will be located two blocks away from the sight where the twin towers formally stood, now called ground zero.
Plans reveal that the 13-story center would include a mosque, daycare, preschool, gym and 9/11 Memorial.
Park51 developer Sharif el-Gamal previously said that he did not intend for the project to cause controversy. However, there have been several protests, public rebukes and a legal challenge against the planned New York City mosque and center.
Mosques that have been proposed in areas such as Murfreesboro, Tenn., have garnered similar protest aimed at the centers and the religion they represent.
Many Christian leaders such as megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton are now instructing their mainly white evangelical congregants, who are often seen as the face of mosque protests, to show Muslims some compassion.
Hamilton states that there are many things upon which Christians and Muslims agree and he urges Christians to show love rather than fear or hatred toward Muslims.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has chided public figures for trying to ban mosques from various neighborhoods, saying that he would "fight to the death" to protect the religious rights of all Americans including Muslims.
However, Land also has expressed concern that Park51's placement is too close to ground zero.
"It still remains a fact that the people who perpetrated the 9/11 attack were Muslims and proclaimed they were doing what they were doing in the name of Islam," Land, also executive editor of The Christian Post, wrote in a Washington Post commentary.
Many victims' family members too have expressed opposition to the project since it was approved. Christian Action Network (CAN) President Martin Mawyer screened the film "Sacrificed Survivor" at the Wednesday event to broadcast the victims, family members and first responders' words of disapproval for the project.
Surviving parents present at the event also voiced their opposition.
Jack McDermott, father of slain Wall Street trader Matt McDermott, said, "As to the situation with downtown Manhattan and the mosque, I think it's a tragedy that people are attempting to do something which is very distasteful to me."
Some of the victims and the groups present placed blame on the Muslim faith and Islamic culture for the attacks. A distressed Bruce DeCell, father-in-law to fallen commodities broker Mark Petrocelli, said, "We are war with the Islamic culture." Additionally, West commented that the Islamic faith has taken a violent turn and needs to undergo a reformation much like Christianity has.
However, West agreed with Alice Hogland, a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat and a mother of slain United Airlines Flight 93 passenger Mark Bingham, who said the mosque is not a question of religious freedom, but of morality.
Hogland noted, "I urge the developer and all the folks behind the Park51 project ... to reconsider this ill-conceived project. This is not a legal question. There is no question that anyone in the United States has the right to express his religious beliefs. There is no question that they have the legal right to build within two blocks of the site where 2,977 or so people died at the hands of Islamist terrorists. The question, it seems to me, is the moral right, is the moral issue."
"Is it appropriate," she questioned, "to build an Islamic center if you find yourself so opposed by people who were so touched by the tragedy [and] who are still are nursing sick hearts and open wounds from the loss of loved ones."
West spoke words of tribute to the 9/11 victims. West noted that his wife, Angela, is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and once had dealings in the World Trade Center's towers.
"I stand here today with these survivors to make sure of one simple thing: that their story, that their loved ones will never be forgotten," said West.