'Bring the Spirit of Assisi to Ground Zero'

A friar who worked as a chaplain at New York's Ground Zero site has brought a much-needed Franciscan response to those who argue that a mosque and Islamic center should not be permitted two blocks from the place where the World Trade Center once stood."Bring the spirit of the Assisi gathering to Ground Zero!" Father Brian Jordan wrote in a New York Daily News op-ed piece, referring to Pope John Paul II's inter-religious events. Father Jordan co-authored the article with a Muslim businessman and a former city public-safety official who is Jewish, writing:

We are three New Yorkers who hail from three different faiths but cherish the religious and cultural pluralism of New York City. We would like to inform Mark Williams of the national Tea Party and all those who strongly object to the proposed Muslim cultural center near the World Trade Center that Islam is a wonderful, faith-filled religion just like Judaism and Christianity.Islam did not bring down the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. What brought the towers down were 19 men who were deeply misguided and brainwashed by an ideology that is not blessed in the teachings of the prophet Mohammed in the sacred Koran. To believe otherwise is to equate Catholicism with the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 by Irish American Catholic, Timothy McVeigh, or to connect Judaism with the 1977 Son of Sam murders with a Jewish American, David Berkowitz.

The News has provided New Yorkers a break from the campaign being waged in the Murdoch media through their usual formula: a heavy dose of outraged commentary and "fair and balanced" news coverage that highlights the claims of those who agree with the commentators (with a little space somewhere in the middle for those who disagree because, after all, they are "fair and balanced.")In this case, we've seen a column by the New York Post's Andrea Peyser ("Mosque Madness at Ground Zero") being played up by Sean Hannity as if it were handed down from an oracle. Then there is the allegedly "fair and balanced" Fox news coverage that begins and ends with coverage of groups that agree with the commentators.Ground Zero is a place that inspires prayer, and it would be wrong to bar people on the basis of religious affiliation from gathering nearby in prayer. Father Jordan and his co-authors (Richard Shierer, who headed New York City's Office of Emergency Management on Sept. 11, 2001, and businessman Muhammed Luquman), having sifted the facts of the dispute, remind us of that.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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