Is building the mosque close to Ground Zero insensitive to the tragedy of 9/11, as opponents say, and will it embolden and glorify the terrorists?
Or is this an issue of freedom of religion and tolerance as President Barack Obama and others project supporters contend?
The "Ground Zero Mosque" is the name given to a structure proposed for construction at 45–51 Park Place in Manhattan, New York City.
The official name of the project is Park51; it was given the title "Ground Zero Mosque" due to its location, which is approximately two blocks from where the towers of the World Trade Center stood prior to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001—a location now termed "Ground Zero."
The "Ground Zero Mosque" project has been the focus of great controversy, both because of its location and because part of the development would include a Muslim place of worship.
On the morning of 11 September 2001, the towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan were struck by two commercial aircraft that had been hijacked by extremist Arab terrorists. A third hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a fourth—possibly intended to strike the United States Capitol Building—crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after the airplane's passengers attempted to thwart the hijacking. The most serious loss of life and property occurred at the World Trade Center site.
The founder of the company, Sharif El-Gamal, is a native New Yorker who converted to Islam as a young man. Though he originally planned to build condominiums on the site, El-Gamal was inspired by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a leading American Muslim activist and religious scholar, to build a community center instead. Rauf, the leader of a New York City mosque for more than twenty years, is known for his moderate religious stance and openness toward other religious communities. He publicly condemned the 11 September terror attacks, and, in the aftermath of that tragedy, Rauf reportedly came up with a plan to construct a cultural center that would encourage people of all faiths to interact and discover common ground.
Rauf named his project Cordoba House, after the city of CordÓba, Spain. Located in southern Spain, the city was an important part of an Islamic empire that stretched northward into Europe from Africa, and flourished during the tenth and eleventh centuries. The city reflects a blending of Islamic and Western culture that highlights the positive influences of each.
The project was ultimately renamed Park51, after the address of the site; however, Rauf's planned worship center within the building retains the name Cordoba House.
First and foremost, Park51 is not a mosque, just as the famed Jewish Community Center at 92nd Street is not a synagogue but a cultural center that draws residents of all backgrounds and beliefs. (Rauf himself is a member of the Jewish Community Center of Upper Manhattan.)
In addition, the building sat unused for several years, and that other businesses in the immediate area—such as strip clubs and gambling establishments—are more offensive than a cultural center. The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg has endorsed the project in the face of mounting opposition, contending that those people who protest the building of a mosque are ignoring the basic religious freedoms guaranteed in the United States Constitution. In addition, he has stated that the location near Ground Zero is a "very appropriate place" for building a mosque, to demonstrate to the world that America is a country that welcomes all faiths.
In August 2010, President Barack Obama stated that Muslims, like Americans of any other religion, have a right to build a mosque on private property regardless of location.
"But now the ugliness has become widespread. People are being assaulted because of who they are, and constitutionally protected attempts to build mosques are being thwarted out of fear and ignorance. Political and religious leaders must cease waffling on this issue and unequivocally support both the right of Muslim citizens to build a place of community and worship--open to all--and the appropriateness of building in proximity to a place where cunning and cruelty took the lives of so many." (2010 America Press, Inc. americamagazine.org)
"Ground Zero Mosque." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.
"New York mosque fight stirs all the wrong passions." USA Today 16 Aug. 2010: 08A. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.
"Mosque hysteria." America 13 Sept. 2010: 4. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.