The Imam behind the Park51 development hopes that opening his books will open hearts for his Islamic community center.
In an effort to bolster fundraising and ease any suspicion towards the $100 million dollar price tag for the Park51 Islamic community center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has allowed the US Government to sign off on all donations made to the development.
Also, according to a report in today’s New York Post, Rauf stated that “the mosque and Islamic cultural center will have a board of directors that will include Muslims, Christians and Jews.” This may be seen as yet another olive branch towards easing dissent towards building a mosque and islamic center near Ground Zero.
The inclusion of an inter-faith board of directors might have been in response to Julie Menin, Chairwoman of Community Board 1’s open column in the Daily News calling for a revised interfaith plan for the Park51 development. In that column Menin states, “I believe it is still possible to bridge the gap without compromising the core principles of what this project is about — not by moving the mosque further away from the site of the attacks, but by bringing other faiths in.”
How do you feel about the US Government being allowed to sign off on all donations made to the Park51 development?
Not one to sit idly on the political sidelines, Michael Moore has called for the building of a mosque not near Ground Zero, but on Ground Zero.
“Why?” Moore asks on his official website, “Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.”
After publishing the letter over the weekend, on the 9th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Michael Moore has reported that he has collected $50,000 dollars towards the cause. The proceeds of which will go to Park51’s fundraising efforts which started last week.
The entire cost to build the Islamic community center at Park Place is approximately $100 million dollars.
Amidst this win for the Cordoba Initiative, Park51’s Imam has been “exploring all options” in regards to the controversial mosque and community center. One of the options on the table includes an indefinite postponement of development.
According to an article published in The New York Times the Imam is quoted as saying, â€œWe really are focused on solving it, and solving it in a way that will create the best possible outcome for all. I give you my pledge.â€
It seems we havent heard the last from Donald Trump in regards to his bid to buy the Park51 site.
Although the purported majority stakeholder, Hisham Elzanaty rebuffed Trump’s bid to buy out his stake last week — Trump made a nationwide concession on the Today Show that his deal is still on the table.
Trump offered the bid but also made a backhanded insult to our area, stipulating that his bid was not because he “the location was a spectacular one (because it is not).”
While touting a new season of “The Apprentice,” Trump explained the motivation behind his bid. “I’ve seen the turmoil downtown and it’s going to get worse. This is a small time developer who is really into it for the money.”
In response to Trump’s offer, Elzanaty’s lawyer called the bid, “just a cheap attempt to get publicity and get in the limelight.”
“There won’t be a mosque.” Trump went on to elaborate, “This is a small time developer who is really into it for the money. He hasn’t said yes — but in my opinion, he’s going to sell.”
Trump then went on to admit, “But what do I know about real estate?”
Although freedom of religion has been an important point in the debate surrounding the Park51 development, a new Quinnipiac Poll has been released confirming that New York voters defer to the sensitivities of 9/11 families.
According to the poll:
“By a 54 – 40 percent majority, voters agree “that because of American freedom of religion, Muslims have the right to build the mosque near Ground Zero,” the independent poll finds. Another 7 percent are undecided.
But these same voters agree 53 – 39 percent, with 8 percent undecided, “that because of the sensitivities of 9/11 relatives, Muslims should not be allowed to build the mosque near Ground Zero.
And by a 71 – 21 percent majority, voters agree “that because of the opposition of Ground Zero relatives, the Muslim group should voluntarily build the mosque somewhere else.
By a 45 – 31 percent margin, New York State voters say they have a “generally favorable” opinion of Islam, with 24 percent undecided.
The heated, sometimes angry, debate over the proposal to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has New York State voters twisted in knots, with some of them taking contradictory positions depending on how the question is asked,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
A majority agrees that American freedom of religion gives Muslims the right to build the mosque near the site of the terrorist attack. Republicans disagree 54 – 39 percent.
Because of the sensitivities of relatives of the terrorist victims, an almost identical majority, including many of the same voters, believes Muslims should not be allowed to open the mosque.Overwhelmingly, across all party and regional lines, New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location,” Carroll added.
New York City voters say 63 – 28 percent that mosque proponents should voluntarily choose another site, compared to 76 – 17 percent among upstate voters and the same 76 – 17 percent among suburban voters.”
Publishing a public statement this morning, Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board #1 in Manhattan, made a public statement about the Park51 development.
CB#1 has been one of the earliest proponents for the development, but in today’s statement — shows that in light of national discord, the community board may be changing their tune. Julie Menin suggests an interfaith project should replace the original intent of the Park51 development.
The statement published in the NY Daily News reads as follows:
“The lowerÂ Manhattan community board 1 chair, Community Board 1, voted overwhelmingly to support the Islamic cultural center to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero when the project was presented to our board in May.
I stand by my vote.
That said, the project has now become a symbol of discord and dissidence, the white hot emotional center of a volcanic shouting match. Raw nerves have been exposed on both sides of an ugly religious and ethnic divide – and the gulf between supporters and opponents has only grown with each protest, each argument, each accusation.
Both sides claim the moral high ground – sustained on the one side by religious freedom and the other by preserving the sanctity of hallowed ground.
What started out as largely a local issue has now been overtaken by national partisan politics, with national politicians, many with their own agendas, weighing in on what is best for this community.
Now it is very clear that something must be done to address this dissension and to move to heal, not divide. I believe it is still possible to bridge the gap without compromising the core principles of what this project is about – not by moving the mosque further away from the site of the attacks, but by bringing other faiths in.
The mosque and community center near Ground Zero should not be enshrined as a battleground of discord, but rather be transformed into an inter-faith center for reconciliation and peace-containing nondenominational houses of worship to be shared by Muslims, Christians and Jews. Its purpose – to bring us closer together, not split us further apart – could be reaffirmed in modified plans.
Under this idea, there could be, as currently planned, two floors for the mosque – but there could also be a floor dedicated to an inter-faith, nondenominational space. In addition, a major national or local organization dedicated to spreading religious tolerance could establish a meaningful presence there. There are many such reputable groups that would surely welcome the opportunity to help heal.
The project, open to all, would celebrate all faiths and inter-faith understanding.
Government, of course, has no role, and should have no role, in determining the use of an as-of-right project (meaning, a project such as this that requires no city zoning approvals to be built.) This is particularly true when a religious use is involved. Only the developer of the project can and should decide what the use of the project will be.
With that said, the dissension surrounding this issue is simply not productive. We need to try to overcome the divide on this issue and teach the next generation howÂ New York andÂ America unified after 9/11 and how this country was founded on respect for all religions, freedom of religion and the right and ability for religions to peacefully co-exist in the melting pot that characterizes New York and America.
It may be hard for many to imagine in the wake of 9/11 that we can rise above gut feelings of pain and retribution. But we can take the harrowing horrors of 9/11 and bridge our differences, without erasing them.
There actually already is such a facility dedicated to bringing us all together. It exists on the grounds ofÂ the Pentagon, which was also attacked on 9/11. As part of an effort to heal and recover, an interfaith chapel was built on that hallowed ground. Its construction stirred no controversy. It is a place where Christians, Muslims and Jews can and do worship.
It is a small interfaith chapel, but it shines as a bright beacon.
How inspiring it would be for a similar beacon of hope to shine in lower Manhattan. We are the survivors of two attacks by terrorists. We need to reach out once again to our better selves, find common ground that reasserts our commonality of purpose and that unifies our community, our city and our nation.
The proposedÂ Park51 cultural center offers many benefits, including recreational, cultural, educational and meeting facilities that our growing lower Manhattan community needs. And a floor or two devoted to celebrate Jewish, Christian and Muslim worship in a nondenominational setting would not simply help to overcome divisions, but serve as a model to the world of the resourcefulness, harmony and strength of this city, and this nation of immigrants we call America.
Menin is chairperson of Community Board 1 in lower Manhattan.”
He was 14 at the time of the September 11th attacks, probably unaware that merely 5 years later he would be responsible for finding one of the most controversial developments in the nation.
According to reports published in the New York Daily News today, Francisco Patino was working for developer Sharif El-Gamal to help research and find an appropriate location for the Park51 development.
“I told him to go out and find available buildings for the project, and he did. He’s a phenomenal kid,” Gamal is quoted in the same article,Â “We were looking at buildings all over the area. I liked a lot of them but this was the one we ended up on. It was just meant to be.”
Patino, 23, currently works at Chase Manhattan Bank and has gained notoriety as a contestant on “American Inventor” a popular TV show that aired in 2006.
The article also mentions, “Patino was barely a man in 2006 and had only come to this country when he was 12. No young newcomer could be expected to understand the sensitivities beneath the contradictions.”
Before Ground Zero earned its capital letters and became the defacto term for the area of the NYC terrorist attacks on 9/11, it simply meant “a scene of great devastation.”
Throughout their existence, the Twin Towers were one of the most revered architectural skyscrapers of their time. Millions flocked to the 110-story observation deck to take pictures, buy t-shirts and mementos. Post 9/11, tourists still flocked to the area: a grotesquely different view that could no longer be called the Twin Towers. “Ground Zero” was a different word for a much-changed, different place.
There has been a lot of discussion about what should be considered “Ground Zero.” Putting definitive boundaries is a slippery slope. Here is a list of buildings that were affected by the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
The World Trade Center and its buildings:
1 World Trade Center
2 World Trade Center
3 World Trade Center – Marriott (Former Vista Hotel)
4 World Trade Center
5 World Trade Center
6 World Trade Center
7 World Trade Center
Other buildings/structures destroyed or damaged on 9/11:
90 West Street
St. Nicholas Orthodox Greek Church
1 Liberty Plaza Building
Old Post Office Building
BMCC/CUNY Fitterman Hall
Bankers Trust Building
World Financial Center Bridge
World Financial Center Winter Garden
American Express Building
Merill Lynch Building
Gateway Plaza Complex
The building which endured damage furthest North of the Twin Towers footprints is the Borough of Manhattan Community College’s Fitterman Hall. The building at 30 West Broadway was destroyed by the collapse of 7 World Trade Center on 9/11.Â Today, the boundaries of the now demolished building, is not considered “Ground Zero.” Although, from the site of the proposed Park51 center, you can look West at the site where the building used to be. Is it that we implicitly feel the destruction of the CUNY building isn’t part of the boundaries of devastation?
Here is a Google Map look on the corner of West Broadway and Park Place. From a simple turn on the corner you can see the former Fitterman Hall and the former Burlington Coat Factory.
To limit the term “Ground Zero” to the footprints of the Twin Towers automatically diminishes any destruction suffered on 9/11 beyond the chain linked fence that exists today.
To set boundaries means that insensitivities can be easily hurled from both sides of the Park51 debate. Like a game of tag, using the term Ground Zero is tantamount to having a “base” or “being safe.” Is it though?
The term “Ground Zero” should not be leveraged on either side to discuss who is right and who is wrong.
Residents of Battery Park City who were displaced and had to flee the neighborhood because of air and water concerns are also victims of the events that occurred at Ground Zero — although hardly recognized as such. Â Many residents did not have homes to return to that day, could not return until their buildings were deemed safe.Â Devastation of businesses, houses of worship and homes were widespread in areas not colloquially considered “Ground Zero.” Does that make their experience post 9/11 any less important or less part of that scene?
To limit “Ground Zero” — which generically means “a scene of great devastation” — to just the footprints of the Twin Towers is a great disheartenment and disservice to the survivors of the attacks: the residents, businesses, schools and those who have endured to rebuild this community. Just ask anyone who lived in Battery Park City at that time. If the Cordoba Initiative wants to be part of the rebuilding, acknowledging instead of denying they are a community center at “Ground Zero” would be a first step in a good direction. Wouldn’t it be an honor to be part of rebuilding Ground Zero? After 9 years of almost inaction at the site, anyone who wants to improve on our community should be welcomed.
Perhaps the next step is to teach America and beyond that “Islam,””Muslims” and “mosque” are not dirty words.
September 11th marked the line between a United States before and after terrorism. In New York City it also marked the changing of the guard between two mayors. Both of their legacies rely upon the memory of the World Trade Center’s reconstruction. Who would have guessed that an addition of a mosque at Ground Zero would serve as the dividing line between the two mayors.
On one side, Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a born and raised New Yorker, saw through New York’s change under his administration and after September 11th became “The America’s Mayor” for his poise during the terrorist attacks on New York.
On the other side, Michael Bloomberg, who upon his election as Mayor inherited the post traumatic New York environment, only three months after the attack. Bloomberg has been guiding the city for almost a decade after the attack.
Although both men have made major strides in what is arguably one of the toughest cities to run in the country — it’s interesting to note their divergent opinions sharing only one element — their vehement beliefs in their stance.
â€œItÂ sends a particularly bad message, particularly (because) of the background of the imam who is supporting this. This is an Imam who has supported radical causes, who has not been forthright in condemning IslamicÂ (terrorism) and the worst instincts that that brings about.
â€œSo it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at ground zero, but itâ€™s a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! Weâ€™re gonna allow that at ground zero?
â€œThis is a desecration,â€ he added. â€œNobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Letâ€™s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Letâ€™s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.
â€œI mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is, it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you andÂ I are.â€
In response to all the opposition the building of the Park51 mosque has received, Bloomberg re-iterates the constitutional right for freedom of religion as the basis of his opinion.
â€œThe World Trade Center Site will forever hold a special place in our City, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves â€“ and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans â€“ if we said â€˜noâ€™ to a mosque in Lower Manhattan. â€œLet us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans.
We would betray our values â€“ and play into our enemiesâ€™ hands â€“ if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists â€“ and we should not stand for that.
â€œFor that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime â€“ as important a test â€“ and it is critically important that we get it right…
â€œPolitical controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure â€“ and there is no neighborhood in this City that is off limits to Godâ€™s love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us today can attest.â€
What do you think about the divergent ideas from both mayors?