I've been both appalled and baffled to see a proposal to build an Islamic Community Center in lower Manhattan turned into a cause celebre and thought I'd offer my thoughts on the topic. I'm distressed to see the right wing using this non-issue to stir up both anti-Islamic and anti-liberal elements. It seems so transparently calculated to me and the campaign so full of lies that I can't understand why people are falling for it.
This is from the National Republican Trust: "On Sept. 11, they declared war against us. And to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero."
There have been lots of calls not to build a "9/11 Victory Mosque" and other demagogic statements. The building under question has been called "Hallowed Ground."
Okay, so what is the project really?
First of all, it's going to replace a defunct and boarded up clothing store: Burlington Coat Factory. It's a couple of blocks from where the World Trade Center stood. Downtown Manhattan was my work neighborhood for close to 30 years, and I can tell you it has never been hallowed ground - not before or since the 9/11 attacks. The few blocks around the WTC site have an assortment of office buildings, discount shops, fast food places, a strip club (I assume, from the sign, I've never been inside), a library. And yes there are also a couple of mosques and a few churches in the area.
I'm including a picture of what the proposed site looks like now.
What they're proposing to build there is not a 13-story mosque but a 13-story Islamic community center. Its organizers say it will be similar in scope to The 92d Street Y, a wonderful Jewish community and cultural center on the Upper East Side. Like the 92d Street Y, it will have auditorium space, recreational space (a basketball court and a swimming pool), classrooms, meeting rooms, and prayer space. And, like the 92d Street Y, it will be planned for and accommodating the practices of a specific religion (there will, for example, be a cafeteria with only halal food) but open to all.
How could there be anything to object to in this plan? I can't see it. There's no connection between the people building this and Al Qaeda. To say that because they are Muslims they're connected to terrorists makes as much sense as saying all Christians are terrorists because some anti-abortion terrorists have killed doctors and claimed their crime was required because of their Christianity.
The only reason that anyone would object to this imo is anti-Islamic bigotry. As an American that sentiment offends me. As a member of another minority religion, it frightens me.