The idea of a mosque built in the area surrounding ground zero seems to divide the multicultural American public over issues of religious freedom and moral sensitivity.
The alleged ground zero mosque is a privately owned building two city blocks away from the site of the 9/11 attacks. After being damaged in the attacks, the building remained empty until it’s purchase by real estate company Soho Properties in 2009. Soho properties purchased the building as a part of it’s Cordoba Initiative. Before this purchase, the buildings previous tenant was a Burlington Coat Factory location.
[ What’s the Cordoba Initiative? ]
[According the official site, the Cordoba initiative is working to improve relationship between Muslims and western culture. Cordoba refers the capital of Muslim controlled Iberian Peninsula during the 10th and 11th centuries. In this time, there was a truce between Christian, Muslim and Jewish Kingdoms. The Cordoba House at Park51 is a planned $100 million, 13 story Islamic community center that will include a memorial space for the 9/11 attacks and a separate mosque open to the public. Among the planned features is a culinary school, 500 seat auditorium, restaurant and fitness center with a pool. The site goes on to explain that Cordoba House will be a place of multiple faiths coming together to understand each other. ]
As suggested by recent polls, the public is split in half on the issue, with a slight majority against the center being built. An August poll conducted by Marist Poll concluded that 53% of Manhattan residents support the center, however.
The biggest trend I have noticed among the opposition of the center is the lack of accurate information. By continuing to call Park51 a “Mosque on Ground Zero”, the actual nature of the project is perverted. The average American is rightfully offended by the idea of a solely Islamic place of worship being placed on the 9/11 site, but this is not that situation. What Soho Properties is proposing is a center for understanding, intended for the diverse public.
[President Obama recently spoke in support of the center during a White House Ramadaan dinner on August 13th.
“Let me be clear: as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country,” Obama stated. “And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.”
The president came under fire for these words of support from several media outlets and families of the attacks. He later clarified these statements by saying he was speaking in support of freedom of religion and not the location of the center.]
Another concern from the informed public is the amount of emotion involved in the project. While the Cordoba House has good intentions, the proximity of an Islamic center so close to the 9/11 site is something that will never be accepted by a portion of Americans. Too often is the image of Islam represented by misguided extremists.
These Americans will continue to view Islam through the same extremist veil that blinded the Jihadists on the morning of September 11th and led the 645 reported hate crimes in the week following.