Dear Editors of Pitt News, Steve K, et. al.
I am greatly disappointed to see this column as both a new student to the Pitt campus and, as such, a first-time regular reader of the Pitt News. I am an Iraq war veteran and, while I knew no one personally that perished on 9/11/2001, I do know far too many friends and colleagues who have died on their behalf. To the families of the victims of those attacks this is an emotional subject, because to them those attacks were not levied against this nation, but against their very families. Because of such a close emotional connection, their input into this debate should be tactfully and respectfully disregarded. This is not Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center, but in fact a run-down Burlington Coat Factory in a neighborhood that has practically been abandoned for a decade.
To correlate what I mean about disregarding the opinions of the victims’ families in what has become the type of issue the First Amendment was designed for, I would compare it to my feelings for the Westboro Baptist Church and the families of the funerals they protest. I value the protection of the First Amendment and still proudly defend it. Yet I would deny it to those sign-carrying swine who would protest a veteran’s funeral, probably while also violating the rights preventing against “cruel and unusual punishment. I am far too emotional about this issue to think rationally.
Whether or not you think we are at war against Islam, the “hearts and minds” we are so desperately trying to win are Islamic hearts and Muslim minds. The tragic irony is that Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf and his followers are Sufi, the exact sort of liberal-minded Muslim we should be courting in order to win the greatest battle in any war against terror, a battle that will not be fought with soldiers or guns or bombs. Even the Bush Administration got that part right. Terry Jones threatened to burn the Quran and thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, two people he would have never met anyway died in protests against the mere threat. This sort of thinking proves the philosophy of the extremists correct: that Americans equate “enemy” with “Islam.” But it isn’t just Islam, either. There is a Catholic Church, St. Nicholas, that sat directly across the street from Ground Zero and was annihilated when the towers fell. This debate has caused that project to stall as well, because if Park51 is ultimately moved, it could mean doom for not just this church but for some essential American principles.
Joshua M. Patton