Friday, September 7, 2018

The mosque at Ground Zero - the update

Prior to the destruction of the twin towers on 9/11, there were two mosques located close to the site that would eventually be named the World Trade Center. The New York Times profiled two mosques that have been in existence for years not far from ground zero. Masjid Manhattan, founded in 1970, is four blocks away from the World Trade Center site, on Warren Street, and Masjid al-Farah, which used to be on Mercer Street, is 12 blocks away on West Broadway. Prayer services have actually been held at the 45 Park Place location since the latter part of 2009. According to the Park51 website, one of the main reasons for including a mosque in the new center is that the previously existing ones aren’t large enough. These mosques, of course, were in addition to the prayer rooms that were in each of the towers when they were completed in 1970.

 Park51 (originally named Cordoba House) is a development that was originally envisioned as a 13-story Islamic community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan. The developers hoped to promote an interfaith dialogue within the greater community. Due to its proposed location two blocks from the World Trade Center site, it was widely and controversially referred to as the "Ground Zero mosque" . 

That title, obvious, attracted a lot of negative publicity, which you can read about at the link below:

The project would replace an existing 1850s building of Italianate style that was damaged in the September 11 attacks. The original design was by Michel Abboud, principal of SOMA Architects, who wrestled for months with the challenge of making the building fit naturally into its lower Manhattan surroundings: on the one hand, it should have a contemporary design, and, at the same time, it should look Islamic. His design included a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare area, bookstore, culinary school, art studio, food court, and memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks. It also included a prayer space for the Muslim community, which would accommodate 1,000–2,000 people.

In late September 2011, a temporary 4,000-square-foot (370 m2) Islamic center opened in renovated space at the Park51 location. In summer 2014, it was announced that there would instead be a 3-story museum with a prayer space, as well as condos, at 49-51 Park Place. The plans were changed again in September 2015, when the owner announced a 667-foot (203 m), 70-story luxury condominium building at the site. In May 2016, financing was secured for a 43-story condominium building with room for an Islamic cultural museum.

One of the primary opponents to the Park 51 development was a woman named Pam Geller, who felt victorious when plans for the original site were changed. Her column, on the less than reputable site called Breitbart, is shown below:

Pamela Geller (born 1957/1958) is an American political activist and commentator. She is known for her anti-Islamic writings, opposition to the proposed construction of an Islamic community center near the former site of the World Trade Center, and sponsorship of the "Draw the Prophet" cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. She describes her blogging and campaigns in the United States are against what she terms "creeping Sharia" in the country. The Southern Poverty Law Center have described Geller as "Islamophobic".

Pamela Geller has been targeted by Islamic fundamentalists, including most notably a plot inspired by an ISIS supporter as retaliation for her "Draw the Prophet" cartoon contest. She is currently the president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) which she co-founded with Robert Spencer. The American Freedom Defense Initiative (also known as Stop Islamization of America) has been designated an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The British government barred Geller's entry into the UK in 2013 saying her presence would "not be conducive to the public good."[ She and Spencer co-authored the book The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America in 2010. Multiple media outlets have called her "far right", while others, such as the BBC, contrast her right-wing support for small government with her culturally liberal positions on abortion and same sex marriage.

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump also tried to take credit for the change of plans at the Islamic Center at Park 51. An article titled, “How Donald Trump Stopped the Building of a Mosque at Ground Zero” turned up on a website titled “”. When I tried to open it up, tough, the computer I was on said that it was blocked due to the strong possibility that it contained a virus. Again, I am not surprised.

One of the prayer rooms in the World Trade Center was in a stairwell just outside the restaurant known as Windows On The World. To my knowledge, there is no restaurant planned for the new Liberty Center, but there are PLENTY of dining options close by. For a trip down memory lane, though, here’s a magical view from a place that no longer exists:

Although Pam Geller will likely be pleased that there will be no mosque at Ground Zero, the rest of us can rejoice in the fact that the Muslim community is finally becoming an accepted group in American society.

Allah be praised.

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