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Letter: The Furor Over the Islamic Center (New York Times)

To the Editor:

Re “Proposed Muslim Center Draws Protesters on Both Sides of the Issue” (news article, Aug. 23):

Many opponents of the proposed Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, including some who demonstrated there on Sunday, insist that they support religious freedom but still believe that it is insensitive to build the center two blocks from ground zero.

At first glance, this view may seem reasonable. It captures the enduring trauma of 9/11 while recognizing a constitutional right to religious freedom. But on closer reflection, this stance rests on a prejudice and intolerance that contradict religious freedom.

Those who call the project insensitive must believe, consciously or not, that the people who would pray at the center are, by virtue of their faith alone, tainted by the terrorists who committed the 9/11 atrocities.

Preventing Muslims, or any religious group, from freely practicing their faith is unconstitutional and conflicts with our core American values. Those who oppose the Park51 project have every right to speak their minds, but in the end, discrimination is a losing proposition, and obeying the Constitution is not optional.

We must not assist those who seek to undermine our nation by betraying our most fundamental American liberties.

Louise Melling
Donna Lieberman

The writers are, respectively, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union and executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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