‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Raises Controversy

A building commission in New York City is planning to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, the site where the 9/11 attacks occurred. The construction has raised opposition and fears from locals, politicians, and civil society groups around the country. Many say that building the mosque so close to the where the attacks occurred is insensitive to the victims and their families. The Anti-Defamation League claimed, ‘Building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Centre will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right’. The mosque, which will be part of a 13-story Islamic community centre called the Cordoba House, will include a pool, classrooms, an auditorium, and a 9/11 memorial.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the construction of the mosque on the grounds of ‘openness, acceptance and religious liberty’. Supporters say that building the mosque is consistent with the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right of freedom of religion. Bloomberg said that denying religious freedom to Muslims would be a victory for terrorists, and that people need to make a sharp distinction between Muslims and religious fanatics. He noted that the 9/11 attacks came from fanatics who ‘didn’t want us to profess our own faiths, to speak our minds, to follow our own dreams and to live our own lives’. Bloomberg said that fire fighters and other rescuers who died in the Sept. 11 attacks had done so to protect Constitutional freedoms.

Others say that building the mosque will promote tolerance of Islam and a diversity of religion. Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, said, ‘The time for a centre like this has come because Islam is an American religion. We need to take the 9/11 tragedy and turn it into something very positive. It will also serve as a major platform for amplifying the silent voice of the majority of Muslims who have nothing to do with extremist ideologies’.

Former Republican congressman Rick Lazio claimed that the vicinity around Ground Zero was a ‘sacred area for New Yorkers’ and that his opposition to construction of the mosque was not about religion. ‘There are over 100 mosques in New York City’, he said. ‘It’s about this particular mosque’.

The mosque is being built by an organization called the Cordoba Initiative, whose website states that its goal is to foster a better relationship between the Muslim world and the West, ‘steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions’. The Initiative is headed by the controversial Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. The Imam said in a television interview shortly after Sept. 11 that ‘United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened’, and has written a book supporting the institution of Sharia law in America. He has also refused to label the Palestinian Hamas group as a terrorist organization. To add fuel to the fire, the Cordoba House is set to open on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 next year.

Another issue raising some concern is the mosque’s source of funding. Rauf told an Arabic-language newspaper that the mosque would be funded by Arab countries instead of local congregations, which raises fears that religious extremist groups may take part in the financing. Radical Saudis have funded many mosques in Western countries, including one in Manhattan. A mosque funded by radicals, in such close proximity to the 9/11 attacks, has the danger of being celebrated as a symbol of jihadist victory.


3 Responses to “‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Raises Controversy”

  1. 1 Tom August 13, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Cordoba House is not a mosque but a cultural centre. As you state, it will include a prayer area, sports facilities, theatre and restaurant. Nor is it being built at Ground Zero. The proposed site is two blocks to the north.

    Surely the location and the date are precisely the point? By situating Cordoba House at the site of the attempt to divide Muslims and the West, on its anniversary, New York can reclaim that space for unity and tolerance.

    Of course, because the choice of location and date is essentially a symbolic gesture, there is scope for it being interpreted in different ways. Hence Sarah Palin, in her now-notorious tweet, urged “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the proposed “mosque”, because it “stabs hearts”, whilst Mayor Bloomberg retorted, “to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists”.

    These are as two avenues available to the United States. Obama has been notable by his absence from the debate, but it is to be hoped his country will choose the path of tolerance and accept this show of unity.

  2. 2 getintorights August 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practise their religion as anyone else in this country,” Obama said late Friday.

    Couldn’t have put it better myself….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

RSS Media Law and Freedom of Expression News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.


  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 25 other followers

%d bloggers like this: