As national debate persisted over the proposed construction of a Muslim community center at a site two blocks from Ground Zero in New York, a panel of professors and experts on interfaith issues gathered in Gaston Hall on Tuesday to discuss the project and the public's reaction to the proposal.
The Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding facilitated the event, which enabled panel members to debate whether the status of the Park51 Islamic Center stood as a referendum on American values and constitutional rights.
"Muslims, like people of all faiths, have a constitutional right … to build [religious centers]," said professor John Esposito, founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding
Thomas Farr, professor of religion and world affairs and senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, did not completely discount the vocal opposition to the project. "Even a constitutional right [to build the center] doesn't mean you ought to do it," Farr said.
"I don't think the view that all Americans are bigots is helpful … We need a civil conversation," he added.
Bishop John Bryson Chane, eighth Episcopal bishop of Washington Parish, said a decision against construction would endanger American freedoms.
"If the mosque is not built, then we will have caved in," he said. "We have placed the idea of American democracy at great risk."
Intisar Rabb (COL '98), assistant professor of law at Boston College Law School, said he questioned the legitimacy of some opponents' viewpoints.
"There should be informed opinions before hateful ones, not protected by the First Amendment," Rabb said.