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Your Views: Muslims have right to build ground zero Islamic center
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Note: Students from Chestatee High School wrote letters to the editor to The Times on a number of subjects as part of a social studies class project for teacher Ernie Davis. More of their letters will appear on Monday's Opinion page.

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In recent weeks, there has been much debate against the so-called "ground zero mosque." Many people are outraged by the proposal to build a mosque near such a tragic site in American history.

What many people don't realize is the mosque isn't even all that close to the ground zero site. The Islamic center will be two streets over, close to another mosque that is four streets up from ground zero.

Though the project isn't official yet, there have been attempts to raise money to start building. The building itself will be open to anyone who wishes to come in. It will be more like a community center than an actual church-type setting. It is proposed to have a gym, swimming pool, child day care center, a bookstore and a massive prayer space. This center is being built to promote inner-community peace, not to cause problems.

I believe many people have the whole situation wrong. When growing up, we were always told the First Amendment guaranteed freedom of speech, assembly and religion. As an American, I've grown up knowing this was true. I didn't have to fear being punished for my beliefs, whether it be about religion or morals.

So why should peaceful Muslims, which have perhaps lived in America their whole lives, be punished for a terrorist attack that didn't come from a religion, but from an extreme terrorist group?

The biggest misconception Americans have is that all Muslims are to blame for the attacks. The Islamic religion has its own views, just as any other religion.

Terrorists aren't the only people that follow this religion. People tend to ignore the fact that women and children also would use the mosque for their own worship. There are over a million American Muslims. Why should they suffer discrimination against their religion because people are afraid of terrorist?

Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, a much respected Muslim man, has got behind the project in New York. He has devoted himself to easing the tension between Muslims and Americans. After 9/11 Rauf did sensitivity training for the FBI.

The point of the project is not to offend Americans, "dance of the graves of those who died" or to simply be disrespectful to the families that suffered losses after such a horrific day.

The Islamic center will show that even when America gets knocked down, we still have enough sense to stick with what our founding fathers left for us. We will not profile Muslims as terrorists, we will respect them as we would respect any other religious group. That is what America is all about.

Marissa Eaton


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