No place in the world, no place in human history, is as richly varied and vibrant and dynamic as New York City. You hear the cars, you hear the people, you hear them rushing to their various destinations, you hear the sounds of business and of pleasure, you hear the cheers, you hear the cries, the buzzing sounds of human activity. And that is how it should be.
Always. Now close your eyes — I know it’s a beautiful day, but close your eyes. I have been told that this day nine years ago was just such a beautiful day — and remember, or try to remember, or try to imagine the sounds which were heard here on this spot under this same blue sky exactly nine years ago. The sound of shock, the sound of destruction, the sound of panic, the sound of pain, the sound of terror.
Did New York deserve this? Did America deserve this? Did the West deserve this? What, my friends, would you say to people who argue that New York, that America, that the West had itself to blame for those horrible sounds?
There are people in this city who argue this. And they are angry because we are gathered here today to commemorate, to make a stand, to draw the line. My friends, I have come from the other side of the Atlantic to share your grief for those who died here nine years ago. I have not forgotten how I felt that day.
The scenes are imprinted on my soul, as they are on yours.
But our hearts were not broken in the same way as the hearts of the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives here. Many relatives of the victims are here in our midst today.
I wish to take this opportunity to express my deepest and most heartfelt condolences to them and to all of the people of New York and America. Humbly, I stand here before you as a Dutchman and a European.
I, too, however, cannot forget. How can anyone forget?
Let me remind you of the words from Darryl Worley’s 9/11 song. Have you forgotten how it felt that day?
– – – – – – – – –
To see your homeland under fire And her people blown away Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going thru a living hell Worley’s response is our response: No, we will NEVER forget. We are here today because we have not forgotten all the loved ones that were lost and those left to carry on.
And neither has the world. When the forces of Jihad attacked New York, they attacked the world. Among those lost were people from 55 nations, people of every religion and every persuasion. No place on earth had a more multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-lingual workforce than New York’s proud towers.
That is exactly why they were targeted. They constituted an insult to those who hold that there can be no peaceful cooperation among people and nations without submission to Sharia; to those who wish to impose the legal system of Islam on the rest of us.
But New York and Sharia are incompatible. New York stands for freedom, openness and tolerance. New York’s Mayor recently said that New York is “rooted in Dutch tolerance.”
Those are true words. New York is not intolerant. How can it be? New York is open to the world. Suppose New York were intolerant. Suppose it only allowed people of one persuasion within its walls.
Then it would be like Mecca, a city without freedom. Whatever your religion, persuasion or gender is, in New York you will find a home.
In Mecca, if your religion isn’t Islam, you are not welcome. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf claims the right to build a mosque, a house of Sharia here — on this hallowed ground.
But, friends, I have not forgotten and neither have you.
That is why we are here today. To draw the line.
Here, on this sacred spot. We are here in the spirit of America’s founding fathers. We are here in the spirit of freedom. We are here in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, the President who freed the slaves. President Lincoln said: “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”
These words are the key to our survival. The tolerance that is crucial to our freedom requires a line of defense. Mayor Bloomberg uses tolerance as an argument to allow Imam Rauf and his sponsors to build their so-called Cordoba Mosque.
Mayor Bloomberg forgets, however, that openness cannot be open-ended. A tolerant society is not a suicidal society.
It must defend itself against the powers of darkness, the force of hatred and the blight of ignorance. It cannot tolerate the intolerant — and survive.
This means that we must not give a free hand to those who want to subjugate us. An overwhelming majority of Americans is opposed to building this mosque.
So is an overwhelming majority everywhere in the non-Islamic world.
Because we all realize what is at stake here. We know what this so-called Cordoba mosque really means. Imam Rauf maintains that American secular law and Sharia law are based on the same principles.
He refuses to condemn terrorists because he says terrorism is “a very complex question”. He says America is “an accessory to the crime that happened on 9/11.”
“In fact,” he literally said, “in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.”
He also says that “terrorism will only end when the West acknowledges the harm it has done to Muslims.”
That is why this man should not play the game he has in mind here in Manhattan. His “Blame the West, Blame America”-message is an insult. Americans — and by extension, all of us whose civilization was also attacked on 9/11/2001 — are not to blame for what happened here nine years ago today. Osama bin Laden is not made in the USA.
The West never “harmed” Islam before it harmed us.
Most Americans do not want this so-called Cordoba Mosque to be built here. They understand that it is both a provocation and a humiliation. They understand the triumphant narrative of a mosque named after the Great Mosque of Cordoba which was constructed where a Christian cathedral stood before the land was conquered by Islam.
An overwhelming majority of Americans is opposed to building an Islamic cultural center close to Ground Zero. There is no lack of mosques in New York. There are dozens of buildings in which Muslims can pray. It isn’t about a lack of space for prayers.
It’s about the symbolic meaning. We who have come to speak today, object to this mosque project because its promoter and his wealthy sponsors have never suggested building a center to promote tolerance and interfaith understanding where it is really needed: In Mecca — a town where non-Muslims are not even allowed to enter, let alone build churches, synagogues, temples or community centers.
Ordinary Americans object to the mosque project because currently no fewer than ten major multi-million dollar mosque projects are being planned in the United States as well as dozens in Europe, while not a single church is allowed in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, while Jews are not even allowed to move their lips in prayer on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, while the oldest Christians in the world, the Copts, are not free to renovate their churches, let alone to build one in Egypt.
My friends, that is why we are here today. What happens in New York must be seen in the perspective of the world.
The events nine years ago made an enormous impact everywhere. Most people shared your pain, but, unfortunately, some did not.
Nine years ago, when the news of the terrible atrocity in New York reached Europe, Muslim youths danced in the streets. In a poll, two thirds of the Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands expressed partial or full understanding for the 9/11 terrorists.
If a mosque were built here on Ground Zero such people would feel triumphant. But we, we will not betray those who died on 9/11.
For their sakes we cannot tolerate a mosque on or near Ground Zero. For their sakes loud and clear we say: No mosque here! For their sakes, we must draw the line. So that New York, rooted in Dutch tolerance, will never become New Mecca.
But, let us also express our gratitude for the heroes of 9/11, those who went down in that Pennsylvania field, those who were standing freedom’s watch at the Pentagon, and those who were here in New York nine years ago to risk and lose their lives for the victims.
Friends, in honor of these victims, these heroes and their families, I believe that the words of Ronald Reagan, spoken in Normandy on the 40 th anniversary of D-Day, resonate with new purpose on this hallowed spot.
President Reagan said: “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.” And, we, too, will always remember the victims of 9/11 and their loved ones who were left behind; We, too, will always be proud of the heroes; We will always defend liberty, democracy and human dignity; In the name of freedom: No mosque here!
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