Op-Ed

Solution to the mosque debate

By Kris Olson

So much has been said on all sides of the "Ground Zero mosque" issue, rehashing arguments seems futile. Supporters of Park51's construction have pointed out that the building is no mosque at all, but an Islamic community center, much like a church is to a YMCA.

I could reiterate that the First Amendment's freedom of religion extends to all religions in all cities. I could discuss how the opposition to the center seems as much about anti-Islamic prejudice as about respect for 9/11 families, as evidenced by the protests of mosques nowhere near Manhattan, such as the one in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

I could express sympathy for any readers who assume Ground Zero refers to soil that has no calories.

Instead, I'm here to present a solution that will cut through the debate's raw emotion and satisfy all points of view — from Wall Street to Main Street. And for the first time in the history of that metaphor, I actually mean Main Street.

Let's build Park51 at CentrePointe.

Why not? Instead of letting the would-be pinnacle of Lexington's skyline lie dormant as a bare lot, let's put that sucker to use. Muslims from Manhattan to Murfreesboro to Mayfield are being ostracized, and we have the perfect space with which to provide a safe haven.

With the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games arriving soon, Lexington can't afford not to build a mosque downtown. Once the hundreds of Arabic horse owners arrive for the big games, they will need a handy place to worship.

(On second thought, I should probably use the term "Islamic," instead of "Arabic," since millions of Arabs are Christian. For example, the word Allah is nothing more than the Arabic word for God, which means some Christians use the word Allah. That implies there is more in common between Islam and Christianity than certain commentators and politicians would have us believe. And that people have brought this issue up in an election year means ... well, I digress.)

In addition to showing our visitors how multicultural Lexington can be, Community CentrePointe would be a boon to the surrounding businesses. We may even bring in a few new ones like Bedouin, Ba'ath, and Beyond.

Oh, I know some of you will say silly things like, "The mosque will be a training center for terrorists."

But I didn't hear anyone complaining that McCarthy's and Molly Brooke's would become training centers for IRA agents.

And I haven't heard anyone mention the frightening prospect that the upcoming CVS on the corner of Main and Vine will become a training center for CVS employees.

Let us reject this manufactured fear and turn CentrePointe into a powerful symbol to the world.

As George W. Bush said while standing on the rubble of The Dame: "I can hear you, Phoenix Park can hear you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."

Then again, if enough people think a mosque at CentrePointe is too close to downtown for their comfort, I wonder if some space at Lexington Mall might still be available.

Kris Olson of Lexington is a recent Transylvania University graduate.

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