Islamic Center Near Ground Zero May be Too Close For Comfort

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A city commission on August 3rd, 2010 denied landmark status to a building near the World Trade Center site. According to the Associated Press, the Landmarks Prevention Commission voted 9-0, saying the 152-year-old building wasn’t special enough or distinctive enough to qualify as a landmark.

The decision removed the last roadblock to a proposed Islamic cultural center to take the place of the old Burlington Coat Factory store on Park Place, just over two blocks from ground zero.

The Plan

The plan for Cordoba House has been the dream of Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan. NPR reports that Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan, foresee building a community cultural center, with facilities for athletics, arts, performances, lectures series, forums and weddings, as well as a prayer space.

“Our religion has been hijacked by the extremists, we believe it will be a place where the counter-momentum against extremism will begin,” Daisy Khan told The Associated Press Friday. “We are committed to peace”, she added.

Early plans call for a 13-story, $100 million Islamic center to replace their current location at Riverside Church in upper Manhattan. Like Riverside Church, the Cordoba House will be used by many different faiths for multiple purposes.

The commission’s decision drew praise from Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he called the mosque project a key test of America’s commitment to religious freedom.

“The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts,” said Bloomberg. “But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves, and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans, if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.” Bloomberg added that denying religious freedom to Muslims would play into terrorists’ hands.

High-profile opposition

Sarah Palin posted on her Facebook page that, “To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks.” Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich also says “No mosque,” on his website late last month.

Emotions ran high against the Cordoba House as people on the streets called it a victory mosque that disrespects those who died in the 9/11 attacks. After the panels vote shouts of “Shame on you” and signs saying, “Don’t glorify murders of 3,000. No 9/11 victory mosque” were made present.

‘America Works Because Of Religious Freedom’

Reacting to the charge that people say she is trying to bring Muslim extremist law to the U.S., Khan replied: “Muslims pray, they fast, they give charity. Most American Muslims don’t want to do anything that violates American law. America works because of its religious freedom and because it doesn’t allow one religion to dominate another and we are very happy as Muslims with that arrangement.”

Zead Ramadan, president of the board of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said, “The people here are trying to connect this vile attack on our nation to the religion Islam; though that exact act stands against everything that Islam stands for.”

My two cents

Mayor Bloomberg is 100% correct in saying that this is, “a key test of America’s commitment to religious freedom.” Emotions still run strong regarding 9/11 because it was a traumatizing event that made us all feel vulnerable. However, we must not forget the basic principles on which this great nation was built. Doing so would make us look like hypocrites and only turn more people against us.

Does it make sense to ban Japanese shrines on Hawaii because of the attack on Pearl Harbor? Would it be a good idea for Israel to ban Catholic churches since the Catholic church sat idly by and watched the Holocaust happen?

Blaming an entire religion for the acts of a certain sect will only breed more extremists. We must not shun our brothers and sisters who are also against terrorism! Doing so will only strengthen our enemies abroad and here at home. Hasn’t it been said, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”?

Building an Islamic center near ground zero will show America’s commitment to religious freedoms and show the world that we understand the difference between Islam and terrorism.

Works Cited:

Associated Press – Panel Clears Way For Mosque Near Ground Zero

Margot Adler (NPR) – Islamic Center Near Ground Zero Sparks Anger

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