The Japanese American Citizens League on Thursday expressed its support to build an Islamic center near the World Trade Center in New York City as an expression of religious tolerance.
“The JACL recognizes that Muslims have prayed in this space throughout the past year in exercise of their fundamental freedoms to assemble and practice religion. We also believe the strongest expression of American values that promote tolerance and as outlined in our constitution must be made when difficult and emotional choices confront us,” the JACL said in a statement.
Plans to build Park51, a $100 million Islamic cultural center and mosque near ground zero have sparked a national discussion over freedom of religion and the sensitivities of the relatives of Sept. 11 victims.
The JACL noted a similar instance in 1944 when then New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia opposed a hotel for Japanese Americans who were seeking to resettle after leaving wartime relocation camps.
“The hostel was in a location sensitive to many Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor – roughly a mile from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. After the ACLU, churches and other organizations began to voice support for the hostel, it opened and by the end of the war it housed about 35 of approximately 2,000 who resettled in the city.
“The JACL supports the rights of Muslims to practice Islam and of the Cordoba Initiative to build on the location it has selected which has been approved by city planning officials. In the face of war and the tragedy of Sept. 11 it is too easy to place blame on others and allow intolerance to prevail. We must do better than to leave Muslim Americans with the impression that intolerance has no definite end. We must begin by not reinterpreting our emotions over Sept. 11 but instead, by affirming the ideals that have defined our democracy,” said the JACL.