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It is quite clear that many American Muslims are offended by some of the rhetoric used by opponents of the “ground zero mosque,” and would view their standpoint as insensitive to the feelings of others. They might view any disagreement with the decision to build a mosque near ground zero an infringement on their First Amendment rights.

I would like to remind everyone that in addition to the freedom of religion, the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech — even when it may be offensive to others. Many of us, in the interests of civility, choose to temper language that may be construed as hurtful to others, even though we would be completely within our rights spewing the most hateful vitriol imaginable.

In the same respect, while few reasonable people deny that the organizers of the mosque are within their legal rights, they are exercising them in a manner that is offensive to millions of Americans. And so, as I temper my language by simply stating that I am opposed to the decision to build a mosque near ground zero, I ask that the organizers also exercise some civility by choosing a different location for their project.

If their choice is to ignore the feelings of millions with their construction, they have no reasonable expectation for courtesy by those rebuking their position. I am certain that I will be labeled a bigot for opposing this project, because apparently being an American in this day and age means unconditionally accepting ideas that offend you. To the author of the Sept. 2 letter “Muslim GI proud to protect U.S.”: Rather than be ashamed of your country, you should be proud that you live in one where differences are voiced with words, and not resolved with stonings, mutilations and summary executions.

Sgt. Kyle L. Johnson

Joint Security Station Justice, Iraq

Not all Muslims attacked U.S.

The debate as to whether to allow the Muslim community to put up a mosque near ground zero is a struggle for every American, but more so for those of us who strongly believe in our rights as Americans and also lost a loved one in the Sept. 11 attacks.

My aunt died that day; they never found her body. The only thing that was found was her wallet, no longer black but an ash gray. Besides the wallet, the only thing we have left is a voice mail left for her parents after the first tower was hit, stating that she was OK and she was on her way out of the second tower. Unfortunately, she didn’t have enough time to get out.

As mad as it makes me and as hurt as I am for [the loss suffered by] my uncle and cousin (who wasn’t even a year old at the time and did not get the chance to know his mother), I feel that we would go against what it is to be an American if we deny Muslims the right to build a place of worship.

I am a soldier fighting for our country, for freedom of religion. That is the great thing about being an American: We have the freedom to be whom we are. It is not all Muslims who conducted the attack against us, just some brainwashed extremists who happened to be Muslim. Look at Timothy McVeigh; he was American and he killed 168 innocent Americans.

The problem is that a lot of people from Iraq and Afghanistan are not educated. A lot of them do not know the exact translations of the Quran because they are not able to read it. So what do they do? They rely on what someone else tells them about the Quran. It is like the game of “telephone” you played as a kid. As the message gets passed along, the message gets misconstrued. This is where extremist beliefs come from. I think that the mosque should go up.

Sgt. Heather Campbell

Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan

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