Photo credit: El Marco
Is this really about “insensitivity” to 9/11 families, a “slap in the face”, dishonoring the memories of the victims by being a “monument to terrorism” and planting the flag of Islam on American “hallowed ground”? Or is it about striking a blow at the ones who are actually responsible for the events of 9/11? A rejection of extremism and terrorism? Or simply a much needed community center for locals living in Lower Manhattan?
The center is not at Ground Zero but two blocks away, and the Cordoba Initiative seeks to build a center, not a mosque. The center is not designed as a local mosque for a Muslim community but rather to serve the wider community.
It is meant to improve interfaith and Muslim-West relations and promote tolerance — not just to provide services to Muslims.
Yet don’t let facts stop the Islamo-conspiracists from calling it a “mosque”.
Here’s how Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf describes and defends it (Oh, but beware the Sufi Islamist engaged in the Shia practice of taqiyya!):
The project has been mischaracterized, so I want to explain clearly what it would be. Our planned 13-story community center is intended for Park Place between Church St. and West Broadway. It is not a mosque, although it will include a space for Muslim prayer services. It will have a swimming pool, basketball court, meeting rooms, a 500-seat auditorium, banquet facilities and many other things a community needs to be healthy. The center will offer theatrical programming, art exhibitions and cooking classes. These are amenities missing now from this part of the city.
And, yes, the center will have a public memorial to the victims of 9/11 as well as a meditation room where all will be welcome for quiet reflection. The center will support soul and body.
The center will be open to all regardless of religion. Like a YMCA, the 92nd St. Y or the Jewish Community Center uptown, it will admit everyone. It will be a center for all New Yorkers.
Sharif el-Gamal, CEO of SoHo Properties and lead developer of the Park 51 project, in an interview:
2. Why must the project necessarily include a mosque? Wouldn’t a general prayer area, which could be reserved in advance by any religious group, be more appropriate and compatible with the community-centric interfaith mission of the project?
We will include a September 11th memorial and quiet reflection space where people of different faith traditions and beliefs, sacred and secular, can find quiet time and solace. Park51 will also include general spaces and world-class facilities for all New Yorkers to benefit from, whether that’s a Hebrew class meeting weekly or a yoga studio looking for space on a regular basis. We’ll have an auditorium to engage large audiences, and sophisticated classroom space as well.
With respect to the mosque, which will take up only a small portion of the final space, it’s a question of meeting a need. This mosque will be open to all. There are probably one million Muslims in the tri-state area and several hundred thousand in New York City. We should understand that Muslim New Yorkers are part of the city and have been for a very long time. Just a few days ago, I stopped to pray at a midtown mosque, and the congregation was led by a New York City Police Officer. He was a Muslim serving our city, keeping us safe.
There’s hundreds of thousands of Muslim New Yorkers like him. We’re doctors, lawyers, businessmen, cab drivers, teachers and students. That’s what people need to know.~~~
this is going to be a community center. Park51 is not a political organization. We do not have a political agenda, and we will be open to all New Yorkers. What we do not have room for are extremist views and opinions. Radical and hateful agendas will have no place in our community center or in the mosque. We are building this center for New York City, because we’re New Yorkers. We’re Americans. We have families here and futures here.~~~
Park51 is an independent project led by Muslim Americans. This project will be separate from The Cordoba Initiative and ASMA. The next step is forming a non-profit and applying for tax-exempt status. Imam Feisal and I are serving as the project managers until then. This non-profit will be run by an Executive Director, yet to be selected, support staff, and a 23-member Board of Directors.
Imam Feisal will be one of the Directors, and will oversee the Cordoba House, which will direct the interfaith programming within Park51.. We have not yet selected the other members of the Board of Directors, but we will be picking people very carefully, based on their record of leadership, relevant experience and positive contribution to New York City and the country. The board will not be limited by religion.
The mosque will be run by a separate non-profit whose Board of Directors will reflect a broad range of experience. While the mosque will be located in the planned final structure of Park51, it will be a distinct non-profit. Neither Park51 nor the mosque, which hasn’t been named yet, will tolerate any kind of illegal or un-American activity and rhetoric.~~~
6. Why was the site’s proximity to Ground Zero considered a “selling point”  ? What other locations in lower Manhattan, if any, were considered that could serve the same purpose?
We are not at Ground Zero. In fact we’re as close to City Hall as we are to Ground Zero. Lower Manhattan is pretty small. You can’t see Ground Zero from our current building and on completion of our planned building some years from now, there won’t be any views of the Ground Zero memorial from the building. To honor those who were killed on September 11th, we have planned for a public memorial within our future facility as well as reflection space open to all.
Let me tell you a little bit about the history of this project. We’d been looking for at least seven years to find a space to accommodate the growing population of Muslims in lower Manhattan. We found this site in January of 2006 and getting to the finish line and acquiring the real estate was proof that persistence pays off. We had also been eager to contribute to the revitalization of lower Manhattan, in part because this is our area of business and also because as New Yorkers we wanted to give back to our city and help make it a better place to live.
Prior to purchasing our current facility at 45 Park Place, there were two mosques in lower Manhattan – although Park51 is not affiliated with either of these mosques. One was Masjid Farah, which could fit a maximum of approximately 65 people, and had to hold three or four separate prayer services on Fridays just to fit the crowds.
The second mosque, at Warren St., accommodated about 1,500 worshippers during Friday prayers – people had been praying on sidewalks because they had no room. They lost their space around May 2009. We made the move to buy 45 Park Place in July 2009 in part to offset the loss of this space. Currently, our space at 45 Park Place, accommodates around 450 people every Friday. We are also easily accessible from many different parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, which was an important consideration.
At the same time, we thought, why not give back to lower Manhattan and fulfill a pressing need? We looked for a building that could grow into a community center. In Lower Manhattan, the biggest community center is at Bowery and Houston and it’s in a basement. There are new residential towers going up in lower Manhattan as we speak. Four Seasons is planning the tallest residential tower in the city a block away from our site. If you think of all of the community centers in Manhattan, they are further north. Residents need services, investment in the neighborhood, activities and opportunities. Community Board 1, which represents the residents of lower Manhattan, acknowledged the needs we were fulfilling when they gave us their clear support on two separate occasions.~~~
Islam has a long history in lower Manhattan. And fundamentally, this project embodies the very same American values that those who attacked us on 9-11 sought to deny.
How many oppose the building of this so-called “mosque” at Ground Zero (…er…two blocks from it, I mean) out of concern that radical Islamists are behind the funding and that Rauf is not the “moderate” he portrays himself as being?
Photo by El Marco
And how much of the opposition is fueled by those who simply don’t tolerate mosque building and Islam ANYWHERE in the States? Irregardless of supposed Muslim Brotherhood connections, ties to extremists, political Islam and wahhabism, etc.?
Metro Nashville School Board member Karen Johnson is leading opposition to a new Islamic Center that would move into the vacant Carmike Theater on Bell Forge Lane in Antioch.
Johnson launched a petition drive today for neighbors to oppose the move, even though the Islamic Center of Tennessee already has a contract in place to purchase the building.~~~
This is the third instance of residents opposing an Islamic center or Muslim mosque from moving in this year. In Williamson County, a proposal for an Islamic Center was withdrawn after public opposition. In Murfreesboro, a proposal for a new mosque is moving forward despite vocal opposition from residents there. That proposed site is on land zone for a religious use.
Plans for a new Islamic center south of Murfreesboro have some residents denouncing the Muslim religion and others calling the dispute one of the ugliest displays of religious intolerance in the county’s history.
Questions of whether the public was given adequate notice about the proposed mosque and community center off Bradyville Pike quickly turned into attacks on the Muslim faith during the public comment portion of Thursday’s Rutherford County Commission meeting.
“Everybody knows they are trying to kill us,” Karen Harrell said. “People are really concerned about this. Somebody has to stand up and take this country back.”
In June 2010, a Tennessee Republican candidate, Lou Ann Zelenik, opposed the Muslim community’s proposal to build a mosque in Murfreesboro, charging the Muslim center was not part of a religious movement, but a political one “designed to fracture the moral and political foundation of Middle Tennessee.”
She warned, “Until the American Muslim community find it in their hearts to separate themselves from their evil, radical counterparts, to condemn those who want to destroy our civilization and will fight against them, we are not obligated to open our society to any of them. “
“The Islamic foothold is not strong here, and we really don’t want to see their influence spread,” said Pastor Bill Rench.
“There is a concern with all the rumors you hear about sleeper cells and all that. Are we supposed to be complacent just because these people say it’s a religion of peace? Many others have said the same thing,” he said.
Leaders of the Islamic center were surprised by the level of criticism, especially from a few religious groups, saying their current makeshift mosque and Islamic community center have been in town for more than a decade and members always have felt welcome.
“Our children go to the same schools their children go to. We shop at the same stores where they shop,” said Mahmoud Harmoush, the imam of the Islamic center and an instructor at Cal State San Bernardino’s World Languages and Literatures Department.
“All of a sudden our neighbors wake up and they’re opposed to us building the Islamic center there, the mosque. I hope it’s a small group,” he said.
A recent series of unsigned emails and anonymous Web postings has called for a protest during Friday prayers outside the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, in Riverside County. Protest organizers are upset at the Islamic group’s plans to build a new mosque to replace its current makeshift mosque.
One of the emails, obtained by CAIR, declared: “Islam is not a religion. It is a worldwide political movement meant [sic] on domination of the world. And it is meant to subjugate all people under Islamic law….”
The email goes on to say that Muslims “hate dogs. … Tennessee was able to stop the Mosque so bring your Bibles, flags, signs, dogs and singing voice on Friday.”
Protests about the building of mosques are relatively new, says Joe Feagin, a professor on racial and ethnic relations at Texas A and M University in College Stations.
“I don’t remember seeing any discussions of protests and attacks on mosques until 9/11,” he says.
But, since then, he says much of the discussion of Middle Eastern people is negative.
INRE the Ground Zero mosque… interesting you bring that up since that caused quite the uproar in FA familia spirited debate not too long ago. However everyone that casually says “just build it elsewhere” hasn’t figured out that the trend to ban, or severely harass mosque and their included cultural centers, has been increasing post 911. TN is battling mosques in their state… any location. Boston is royally PO’d about the mosque being built there. In 2008, a senior Church of England member wanted an outright ban on mosques in Britain in fears of becoming “…an Islamic state”. In 2007, Austria’s governor of Carinthia was attempting to ban them in his province. And as of May 2008, a more than hefty amount of Euro nations i.e. Italy, France, Britan and Switzerland, were all raising a ruckus for mosque building.
Has anyone stopped to think that building this “Islamic Community Center” in this location might be a bad idea because it represents a target?
It’s a fair point, and one of the reasons why I thought, “this is a really bad idea”. It’s just asking for trouble. And should a misguided nutjob vandalize/bomb the Islamic Center, it will be a feather in the cap for the global jihad movement.
And when you have Geller and the “pitchfork and torches” mob holding up some pretty inflammatory signs, it’s going to inspire some of the wrong types to think they’ll be doing a noble, patriotic, necessary act to “defend” the nation by attacking a community center, built and funded by those of the Islamic faith. Because they’ve been told it’s “a mosque”; a “slap in the face” to the family members of 9/11 victims; a “victory flag for Islam”; a “monument to mohammed”.
To tell the truth, this will turn into a symbol to be used by the Islamists as propaganda whether it is built and remains safe, it is built and then attacked, or it gets canceled. And that is regardless of whether Rauf is in on the joke or not.
I’ve been saying this since the first post that was made on the topic. And it’s because of the volume of the opposition that has some pretty vitriolic elements to the rhetoric. The “Stop the Islamization of America” brigade has made this a win-win situation for the jihadis. If it gets built, they can claim a kind of victory because so many Americans are saying “this is a slap in the face to 9/11 victims”. No it isn’t. Unless that’s the perception you want to take and run with.
If it doesn’t get built due to the pressures of the vocal opposition (rather than on account of a legal basis), then the jihadis still win because their propaganda against the U.S.- that Muslims are persecuted by American imperialists- appears to have some merit in this.