What do Americans mean when they talk about "sacred ground?"

What do the 57% of Americans mean when they claim that "Ground Zero in NYC is sacred ground?" Mostly, I suspect, we don't really know - except to say that many of us have big feelings about the September 11th tragedy that we still can't fully comprehend. A minority of folk might want "sacred ground" to mean a place of historic national significance - like the Lincoln Memorial or the Vietnam Wall of Remembrance - and still fewer might think that something of the Lord was revealed in the rubble of the Twin Towers.

Whatever a majority of Americans think we mean, however, I'll bet it has nothing to do with the fact Muslims consider Ground Zero part of their sacred ground, too. And have since 1999 when the World Trade Center set aside a room for prayer on the 17th floor of the south tower. What's more, Muslims were murdered in the terrorist attack as well as Christians, Jews, Buddhists and those with no faith. The New York Times puts it like this today:

Opponents of the Park 51 project say the presence of a Muslim center dishonors the victims of the Islamic extremists who flew two jets into the towers. Yet not only were Muslims peacefully worshiping in the twin towers long before the attacks, but even after the 1993 bombing of one tower by a Muslim radical, Ramzi Yousef, their religious observance generated no opposition

“We weren’t aliens,” Mr. Abdus-Salaam, 60, said in a telephone interview from Florida, where he moved in retirement. “We had a foothold there. You’d walk into the elevator in the morning and say, ‘Salaam aleikum,’ to one construction worker and five more guys in suits would answer, ‘Aleikum salaam.’ ”

One of those men in suits could have been Zafar Sareshwala, a financial executive for the Parsoli Corporation, who went to the prayer room while on business trips from his London office. He was introduced to it, he recently recalled, by a Manhattan investment banker who happened to be Jewish. “It was so freeing and so calm,” Mr. Sareshwala, 47, said in a phone conversation from Mumbai, where he is now based. “It had the feel of a real mosque. And the best part is that you are in the epicenter of capitalism — New York City, the World Trade Center — and you had this island of spiritualism. I don’t think you could have that combination anywhere in the world.”


So let's get real when it comes to sacred ground. Let's separate out our fuzzy and ill-shaped civil religion from what is truly sacred and get on with being Americans who welcome and encourage one another into our best selves. Let's start searching for the common ground - sacred or secular -because any thing less keeps the wounds open and it is time for some healing.

I think the Imam of the Park 51 Community Center got it right in his NY Times Op Ed piece on Thursday when he wrote: We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House. More important, we are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for many reasons.

Above all, the project will amplify the multifaith approach that the Cordoba Initiative has deployed in concrete ways for years. Our name, Cordoba, was inspired by the city in Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle Ages during a period of great cultural enrichment created by Muslims. Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures.

Our broader mission — to strengthen relations between the Western and Muslim worlds and to help counter radical ideology — lies not in skirting the margins of issues that have polarized relations within the Muslim world and between non-Muslims and Muslims. It lies in confronting them as a joint multifaith, multinational effort.
(www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/opinion/08mosque.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=BUILDING%20ON%20FAITH&st=cse )

I am with you Imam Rauf - let's get it on and find common ground - together.

1. www.indiapaintbrush.com/sacredground.htm
2. www.mesquiteislamiccenter.com/


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