It’s been 11 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and September 11th has come to be seen as a day to put aside our differences and appreciate the freedoms we enjoy. Even over a decade later, though, there’s still healing to be done, and there’s no denying that the attacks have had certain lasting impacts on our society. One of the most lasting, in my opinion, is a widely-shared antipathy towards Islam that reflects poorly on our nation.
Chief among the freedoms we enjoy, and for which I’m thankful today and every day, are the freedoms laid out by the first amendment in the Bill of Rights:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
But the fact is, not everybody fully enjoys these freedoms these days. Over the past decade, it’s become all too common for the proposed construction of a mosque to inflame religious and ethnic tensions. I’m thinking of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” a recently-build mosque in Murfreesboro, TN that spawned widespread opposition, and most recently, a proposed Islamic Center here in the Twin Cities.
Speaking as a devoted atheist, I fully understand that many people have objections to the practice of Islam. However, those objections are irrelevant. They’re trumped by the freedoms of religion and assembly that were explicitly granted in our Bill of Rights, and those freedoms may not be denied to any citizen.
We will not fully recover from the 9/11 attacks until we recommit to ensuring full freedom and equality for all under our laws. It’s been 11 years since the 9/11 attacks. Osama bin Laden is dead. It’s time for us to stop treating American Muslims as our enemies.
We are superior to those who attacked us 11 years ago. We’re superior, in part, because all Americans have a constitutionally-protected right to the exercise and expression of their own beliefs. The construction of mosques in America isn’t an attack on those values, it’s the ultimate expression of those values. We should not just tolerate these mosques, we should embrace them.