NY TIMES Editorial, September 2, 2010
The furor over the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near ground zero keeps giving us new reasons for dismay. As politicians and commentators work themselves and viewers into a rage, others who should be standing up for freedom and tolerance tiptoe away.
Opponents of Park51 protest on August 22, 2010.
To the growing pile of discouragement, add this: A New York Times poll of New York City residents that found that even this city, the country’s most diverse and cosmopolitan, is not immune to suspicion and to a sadly wary misunderstanding of Muslim-Americans.
The poll found considerable distrust of Muslim-Americans and robust disapproval of the mosque proposal. Asked whether they thought Muslim-Americans were “more sympathetic to terrorists” than other citizens, 33 percent said yes, a discouraging figure, roughly consistent with polls taken since Sept. 11, 2001. Thirty-one percent said they didn’t know any Muslims; 39 percent said they knew Muslims but not as close friends.
Diagram showing how plane parts from United Airlines Flight 175 fell on 45 Park Place during 9/11 attacks
A full 72 percent agreed that people had every right to build a “house of worship” near the site. But only 62 percent acknowledged that right when “house of worship” was changed to “mosque and Islamic community center.” Sixty-seven percent thought the mosque planners should find “a less controversial location.” While only 21 percent of respondents confessed to having “negative feelings” toward Muslims because of the attack on the World Trade Center, 59 percent said they knew people who did.
It has always been a myth that New York City, in all its dizzying globalness, is a utopia of humanistic harmony. The city has a bloody history of ethnic and class strife. But thanks to density and diversity, it has become a place like few others in this country, where the world rubs shoulders on subways, stoops and sidewalks, where gruff tolerance prevails and understanding thrives.
An artistic rendering of the proposed Park51
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are two pinnacles of American openness to the outsider. New Yorkers like to think they are a perfect fit with their city.
Tolerance, however, isn’t the same as understanding, so it is appalling to see New Yorkers who could lead us all away from mosque madness, who should know better, playing to people’s worst instincts.
That includes Carl Paladino and Rick Lazio, Republicans running for governor who have disgraced their state with histrionics about the mosque being a terrorist triumph. And Rudolph Giuliani, who cloaks his opposition to the mosque as “sensitivity” to 9/11 families without acknowledging that this conflates all prayerful Muslims with terrorists, a despicable conclusion.
As the site of America’s bloodiest terrorist attack, New York had a great chance to lead by example. Too bad other places are ahead of us. Muslims hold daily prayer services in a chapel in the Pentagon, a place also hallowed by 9/11 dead. The country often has had the wisdom to choose graciousness and reconciliation over triumphalism, as is plain from the many monuments to Confederate soldiers in northern states, including the battlefield at Gettysburg.
New Yorkers, like other Americans, have a way to go. We stand with the poll’s minority: the 27 percent who say the mosque should be built in Lower Manhattan because moving it would compromise American values. Building it would be a gesture to Muslim-Americans who, of course, live here, pray here and died here, along with so many of their fellow Americans, on that awful September morning. But it’s all of us who will benefit.
Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company
Don’t Move The Mosque; Modify It
THE DAILY DISH by Chris Bodenner 02 SEP 2010
Yossi Klein Halevi, writing to Imam Rauf as a “well-wisher and friend,” suggests a solution to the Cordoba controversy:
I believe that you intend to create a center of Islamic moderation near Ground Zero. And it is precisely for that reason that I am turning to you with a plea to reconsider your plans to build the center in its current form. Instead, I urge you to consider turning the site into a center for interfaith encounter. Build the mosque—but do so together with a church and a synagogue and a center for common reflection for all three faiths and for those with no faith. Do this, Imam Feisal, not to surrender to your critics but to honor their pain, and, in the process, to honor Islam.
The chairwoman of the community board that voted for the center concurs.
Leon Wieseltier stands beside Imam Rauf:
In a time when an alarming number of Muslims wish to imitate Osama bin Laden, here is a Muslim who wishes to imitate Mordecai Kaplan. Turn away, from him? But he may be replaced at his center by less moderate clerics, it is said. To which I would reply with a list of synagogues whose establishment should be regretted because of the fanatical views of their current leaders.
Andrew Sprung sits “in awe of [Leon's] moral clarity”:
Wieseltier notes in this piece that Imam Rauf has recited the Shema, and he alludes to his proclamation at a memorial service for Daniel Pearl, “I am a Jew” (which, as Jeffrey Goldberg has pointed out, could get him killed). Here Wieseltier returns the favor, placing Jewish crime [e.g., the Baruch Goldstein massacre at Hebron] beside Muslim crime, and Muslim rights beside Jewish rights. This gesture lends him the authority of someone immersed in his own tradition but not besotted by it.
COPYRIGHT © FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2010 BY THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY GROUP.
9/11 Families Ask Mosque Protesters Not to Rally on Anniversary
Relatives of those killed in the attacks want the day set aside for remembrance and service,
not protests against the Ground Zero mosque.
DNAinfo By Julie Shapiro September 3, 2010
LOWER MANHATTAN — The ninth anniversary of 9/11 is the wrong day to hold rallies about the planned mosque and community center near Ground Zero, say relatives of the New Yorkers who died in the World Trade Center.
The group Stop Islamization of America is planning a massive rally near Ground Zero for the afternoon of Sept. 11, and those who support the project plan to hold a counter-protest.
“On this one day, we’re hopeful there don’t have to be rallies and protests, that we leave that day to remembrance and service in memory of those who perished,” said Jay Winuk, whose brother, Glenn Winuk, 40, a volunteer firefighter, was killed in the attacks.
“Whether you’re pro or con on the mosque issue, that’s not what this is about,” said Winuk, who declined to give his position. “This isn’t an appropriate day to do a protest of this sort.”
Winuk and David Paine, co-founders of My Good Deed, an organization that promotes volunteerism on the anniversary of 9/11, sent a letter to both sides this week, asking them not to rally. The letter was signed by about a dozen family members, including representatives of the Tribute WTC Visitor Center and September 11 Families Association.
Pamela Geller, executive director of Stop Islamization of America, said in a statement that her protest would go forward as planned.
“The rally is one of remembrance, dedicated to honoring the memory of those who were murdered, and making sure their memory is not desecrated by this mosque,” Geller said. “How does such a spectacle in any way dishonor the victims of the 9/11 attacks?”
Geller plans to hold a memorial service at the beginning of her rally and is asking participants to bring American flags, rather than signs, to give the event a more somber tone.
Another group of 9/11 family members, including retired FDNY Chief Jim Riches, whose firefighter son was killed on 9/11, said in a statement that they feel a “moral obligation” to fight the Park51 project on the anniversary.
“For many family members, the looming, unresolved mosque controversy has made the upcoming September 11th anniversary even more upsetting and troubling,” the statement said.
“There can be no peace and reflection for the 9/11 families who strongly feel that this proposed mosque is disrespectful and insensitive,” Riches continued. “On 9/11, as the world is focusing on Ground Zero, families want to be able to raise their voices and say to the world that this is wrong.”
A spokesman for Park51 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Copyright © 2009 – 2010 Digital Network Associates dba DNAinfo.com.
Park51, originally named Cordoba House (and sometimes inaccurately referred to as the “Ground Zero Mosque”), is a planned $100 million, 13-story, glass and steel Islamic community center and mosque, to be located about two blocks (600 feet or 180 meters) from the World Trade Center site, in Lower Manhattan. The facility’s design includes a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare area, bookstore, culinary school, art studio, food court, September 11 memorial, and prayer space that could accommodate 1,000–2,000 people. The center would replace an existing 1850s Italianate-style building that was damaged in the September 11 attacks.