This past week the newspaper and news stations have been flooded with tons of stories about the protests regarding the building of an Islamic Cultural Center on the site of the September 11th attacks.

Let me go on record to say that building such a center would be a smack in the face. Not to Americans, mind you, nor would it be an outrage to those who lost their lives that day nor their loved ones.

It would be a sharp blow against terrorists.

Al Queda and other Jihadi forces are simply trying to paint America as a place where Islam is hated, where our culture rails against that religion and their tenets. Idealistic young people are often called to the side of the Muslim extremists because they too, feel that America doesn’t want them, that America rejects them for who they are and for what Islam stands.

The result is the worse kind of religious intolerance: terrorism.

Perhaps those protesting might keep that same kind of intolerance in mind when they shout things like “No clubhouse for terrorists.” That only gives radicals further traction in their encouraging new recruits to their hatred against Americans. Anwar al Awlaki the radical extremist behind the Fort Hood attacks has been pushing his message that the United States is at war not with terrorism but with Islam itself and young people have found that message attractive. From NPR:

Brian Fishman is a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation. He’s been tracking Awlaki for years and is concerned that the latest controversy over the Islamic center will end up making Awlaki look prescient.

“Over the past nine to 12 months, Anwar al-Awlaki has tried to promote this notion that the West, and particularly the United States, will turn on its Muslim citizens,” Fishman said. “And some of the anti-Islamic tone that has been going around the country in connection with the mosque debate feeds into this notion that people like Anwar al-Awlaki can take advantage of.”

In a nation that celebrates freedom of religion, a notion by the way, that these extremists hate, I can only imagine that the pictures shown of people opposing a simple community center, a YMCA-like structure with a Muslim base instead of a Christian one, simply fuels the fires for folks like Anwar al-Awlaki.

Can we celebrate the freedom that we espouse? Can we show the world that we value peace over hatred? Can we show extremists that we are tolerant of religion and that their hatred of American freedom cannot win out over that same freedom?

In the end for us Catholics, it comes down to that constant age-old question that we at Googling God, keep bringing up:

Who is too hard for us to love?

Can we respond to hatred with love? Can we build a community center, centered on tolerance for Islamic culture or will hatred tear as further and further apart?

I’m not sure Jesus would approve of the latter.

A final thought: I wonder if a proposal to build a Wal-Mart on the site would be met with the same sort of disapproval? Or a strip joint? Or a Catholic Center?

God’s working hard here trying to inspire us all to love each other. Will we have the courage to listen?

(Editor’s Note: The top picture is credited to the New York Daily News. I selected it to show a number of things. First, the site is not a Mosque. It is a simple community center. Secondly, learn how to spell dishonor. Thirdly, this is exactly what the terrorists want to display).

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