The proposed Mosque/Community Center on or near Ground Zero in Manhattan features the usual talking head suspects. The allegedly "Christian" Right is up in arms about it being on the doorstep of the hallowed space.The map below shows, yes it is pretty close - maybe 5 minutes walk - but then again so are any number of churches, most notably Trinity Episcopal, Wall Street. Another little touted geographic fact is that it's only a mile from the proposed pool and gymnasium to the Statue of Liberty ferry, which allows one to hop the ferry for the two mile journey to the statue itself. Double ironic juxtaposition!
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Moreover, the proposed building is only two streets over from a mosque on Warren Street it is intended to replace. As Lisa Sharon Harper reports:
Dr. Sarah Sayeed, president of Women in Islam, Inc. and program director for the Interfaith Center of New York, explained in a recent interview:There has been a mosque on Warren Street, four blocks from the World Trade Center site, for many many years. My dad used to go there for prayers when I was a little kid. A lot of the Muslim people who work at City Hall or in the financial district would go to that mosque.
The Warren Street Mosque lost its lease and had to find a new location. Some people in that community came together and were able to purchase the building on Park Place and West Broadway, where the Islamic Community Center is now proposed; two blocks closer to Ground Zero. The people in the purchasing community partnered with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who had another mosque in Tribeca -- also close to Ground Zero. Imam Feisal serves on the board of the Interfaith Center of New York.
Their vision included a full-blown community center that serves the wider community, not just the Muslim community. It's conceived in the tradition of the YMCA, with a pool, a place for seniors to congregate, a place for the arts and a multi-faith chapel and prayer space. So, it's really a cultural center that is being built by a group of Muslims. They're also talking about having an interfaith advisory group to help shape the work in the building.
It's all too easy for the rabble-rousing Right to conflate any muslim with al-Qaeda, to equate the building of a multi-purpose community center with just a mosque. Or even for that matter, to continue to perpetrate the lie that our president is a muslim (not that there's anything wrong with that) to such an extent that the number of Americans believing it is actually going up.
There's a great article over at the Washington Post about New Yorkers getting tired of outsiders butting into their business.
Ali Mohammed's food cart stands equidistant between the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and a planned Islamic center that has become the prime target of national conservatives who, after years of disparaging New York as a hotbed of liberal activity, are defending New York against a mosque that will rise two city blocks from Ground Zero.
Newt Gingrich has argued, among other things, that the Muslim congregation shouldn't build the center because "Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington." Sarah Palin has weighed in, too, in opposing the "Ground Zero mosque." The pain she said, is "too raw, too real."
Mohammed, like many other New Yorkers, has reached his saturation point. "They got nothing to do with New York and they don't care about New York," said the 56-year-old from Brooklyn, igniting a Marlboro Light. "They are trying to create propaganda."
This is a point of consensus for New York's entire body politic, from the center's most vocal opponent to its most full-throated defender.
Believe me, New Yorkers don't need outside opinions. they have quite enough themselves. Gingrich's comments surely deserve a real life equivalent to Godwin's Law. And since when has Newt Gingrich deserve the right to comment on anything in public?
We don't have a state religion in the US, and that means the pseudo-Xtian Right should shut the hell up and worry about something real. The proposed building should be allowed to go ahead. It still has to meet all the appropriate financial, technical, planning and construction hurdles, but let's not start making up rules.