||It has been suggested that this article be merged into Park51. (Discuss) Proposed since April 2013.|
Although the Park51 building would not be visible from the World Trade Center site, opponents of the Park51 project have said that establishing a mosque so close to Ground Zero would be offensive since the hijackers in the September 11, 2001 attacks were Islamic terrorists. Supporters have pointed out that some victims and victims' families are in favor of the Park51 project and that some victims were also Muslims. Prominent supporters and opponents of the project can be found among the families of the 9/11 victims, the American and worldwide Muslim communities, and local and national politicians, making it a divisive political campaign issue in the 2010 midterm elections. The controversy over the project has coincided with unexpected protests of mosque projects in other states, leading to concerns that relations between Muslims and non-Muslims within the US are deteriorating.
- 1 Polls
- 2 Funding sources
- 3 Abdul Rauf's views of the project
- 4 The controversy as a recruitment tool for radical Islamists
- 5 Opposition
- 6 Support
- 7 Documentary
- 8 References
Polls showed that the majority of Americans, New York State residents, and New York City residents opposed building the center near Ground Zero. Polls showed either a plurality or majority of Manhattanites supported building the center.
In July 2010, the majority of Americans were opposed to the mosque/Islamic center. By a margin of 54–20%, American adults were opposed to a mosque being built near Ground Zero, a national Rasmussen Reports poll found that month. Furthermore, according to an August 10–11 Fox News poll, 64% of Americans (a majority of each of Democrats (56–38%), Republicans (76–17%), and Independents (53–41%)) thought it would be wrong to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center so close to Ground Zero, and 30% felt it would be appropriate.
A CNN poll conducted August 6–10, 2010, found that Americans opposed the Park51 project by a margin of 68–29%. A majority of each of Democrats (54–34%), Republicans (82–17%), and Independents (70–24%) were opposed. An Economist/YouGov national poll taken the week of August 19, 2010 confirmed these findings. Overall, this poll found that Americans opposed the Park51 project by a margin of 57.9–17.5%, with 24.5% undecided on the question. Democrats (41.0–28.0%), Republicans (88.3–1.7%) and Independents (57.6–21.3%) were opposed to the project according to this poll.
In addition, by a margin of 52–31% New York City voters opposed the construction, according to a Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll carried out in June 2010. At the same time, 46% of Manhattanites supported it, while 36% opposed it. Opposition was strongest in Staten Island, where 73% opposed it while only 14% supported it. A higher percentage of Republicans (82%) than Democrats (45%) opposed the plan.
A Marist Poll taken July 28 – August 5, 2010 showed a similar city-wide margin of registered voters against it (53–34%, with 13% unsure), although those in Manhattan supported it, reversing the figures: 53% to 31%, with 16% unsure. An updated Marist poll in September 2010 showed that support for Park51 had grown, with 41% in favor and 51% opposed. Support among African Americans, liberals, Democrats, and residents of the Bronx had increased. Manhattanites remained supportive.
Statewide, by a margin of 61–26% New Yorkers opposed the mosque's construction at that location, according to another poll in August 2010, by Siena Research Institute, whose poll question wording was criticized by a writer at Slate magazine. A majority of both Republicans (81%) and Democrats (55%) were opposed to it, as were conservatives (85%), moderates (55%), and liberals (52%). Among New York City residents, a margin of 56–33% opposed it.
Some polls tried to gauge public opinion of Muslims' right to build Park51 near ground zero. The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll of New York State residents released August 31, 2010 found a 54–40 percent majority of voters agreeing 'that because of American freedom of religion, Muslims have the right to build the mosque near Ground Zero'. A Fox News national poll taken August 10–11, 2010 found that 61% felt that the project developers had a right to build a mosque there (a majority of Democrats (63–32%), Republicans (57–36%), and Independents (69–29%). The Economist/YouGov poll taken the week of August 19, 2010 concurred that Democrats (57.5–24.9%) and Independents (62.3–25.2%) believed Muslims had a "constitutional right" to build a mosque at the site, but found that Republicans (31.8–53.2%) did not believe that Muslims had such a right. The poll found that 50.2%, overall, supported the constitutional right to build at the site, 32.7% were opposed and 17.1% had no opinion.
The Economist/YouGov poll also noted that 52% of Americans believe that "Muslims should be able to build mosques in the United States wherever other religions can build houses of worship", as opposed to 34% who believe that "there are some places in the United States where it is not appropriate to build mosques, though it would be appropriate to build other houses of worship" and 14% who believe "mosques should not be permitted anywhere in the United States".
Imam Abdul Rauf has promised to identify all financial backers of Park51. Developer Sharif El-Gamal said in an August 27 interview that they will refuse money from groups such as the government of Iran and Hamas as well as any other "organizations that have un-American values".
The New York Post states that initially Imam Abdul Rauf said the project would be funded entirely by the Muslim American community, though later he told a London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that he would seek funding from Muslim and Arab nations. The latter story is also reported by NBC.
Claudia Rosett, a journalist with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a weekly columnist for Forbes, questioned the source of the funding for the project. Some U.S. politicians such as Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who is an Independent Democrat, and Republicans Peter King and Rick Lazio (N.Y.-2), asked for an investigation of the group's finances, especially its foreign funding, despite the fact that fundraising for the project had not yet begun. King said: "The people who are involved in the construction of the mosque are refusing to say where their [$100 million] funding is going to come from." Lazio said: "Let's have transparency. If they're foreign governments, we ought to know about it. If they're radical organizations, we ought to know about it."
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, called for transparency in the funding of the project, suggesting foreign sources could imply an ulterior agenda. Reza Aslan responded to Dr. Jasser's demand by saying that it was "absurd" to assume that overseas funding must necessarily involve extremism. He also said that it would be acceptable to demand mosques to be transparent about funding if the same was also demanded of a Catholic church or a Jewish temple.
Mayor Bloomberg said: "Where does [the money] come from?' I don't know. Do you really want every time they pass the basket in your church, and you throw a buck in, they run over and say, '... where do you come from? ... Where did you get this money?' No." The TV news anchor Rick Sanchez said: "...if you start going into who is giving money to whom ... you have to go to my church. You have got to go to Rome and start asking where the money is going into Rome. And you have to go to the Mormons and ask them, well, what are they doing with their money?"
Vogel and Russonello cite claims that donations "totaling $900,000, that the government of Qatar and a foundation run by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal have made to nonprofits or projects headed by Feisal Abdul Rauf" are involved. They further explore the funding of the mosque's opponents.
Abdul Rauf's views of the project
Abdul Rauf, a Kuwaiti-American Sufi Muslim, was the chief proponent of the project until he was replaced in January 2011. Some U.S. politicians and others voiced concerns about his views. Others, including The Economist have described him as "a well-meaning American cleric who has spent years trying to promote interfaith understanding".
In an interview September 8, 2010 Abdul Rauf was asked if he would have done anything differently had he known the controversy would erupt. His answer: "If I knew this would happen, this would cause this kind of pain, I wouldn't have done it. My life has been devoted to peacemaking."
The controversy as a recruitment tool for radical Islamists
Counterterrorism analysts have noted that the developing controversy over Park51 has provided a "recruitment opportunity" for radical Islamist groups. According to Evan Kohlmann, the senior partner in the New York-based security firm Flashpoint Global Partners, "[t]he reaction is, at least on the part of extremists, fairly gleeful - that America is playing into our hands, that America is revealing its ugly face, and that even if it doesn't further radicalize people in the Middle East, there's no doubt that it will radicalize a kind of a key constituency that al-Qaida and other extremists are seeking to covet [sic], seeking to court, which is the small number of homegrown extremists here in the United States".
Newsweek quotes a Taliban operative as explicitly connecting increased opposition to the mosque with increased support for the Taliban's cause. "By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor," the Taliban operative stated. "It's providing us with more recruits, donations, and popular support."
Some relatives of victims of the September 11 attacks said they found the proposal offensive because the perpetrators who committed the attacks did so in the name of Islam. A number said that it was not an issue of freedom of religion, property rights, or racism, but rather one of sensitivity to the families of those killed, in choosing the specific location of the mosque.
A group of victims' relatives, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America, called the proposal "a gross insult to the memory of those who were killed on that terrible day". Debra Burlingame, a co-founder of the group whose brother died in the attacks, said:
This is a place which is 600 feet from where almost 3,000 people were torn to pieces by Islamic extremists.... it is incredibly insensitive and audacious ... for them to build a mosque ... so that they could be in proximity to where that atrocity happened... The idea that you would establish a religious institution that embraces the very shariah law that terrorists point to as their justification for what they did ... to build that where almost 3,000 people died, that is an obscenity to me.
Sally Regenhard, whose son was a firefighter who was killed in the attacks, and who has testified before Congress on 9/11, said that the center would be "sacrilege on sacred ground", and that "People are being accused of being anti-Muslim and racist, but this is simply a matter of sensitivity." Former NY Fire Department Deputy Chief Jim Riches, whose son Jim was killed, said: "I don't want to have to go down to a memorial where my son died on 9/11, and look at a mosque," adding "this is all about location, location, location. It's not about religious freedom ... be sensitive to the families." Michael Burke, whose brother died, wrote: "Freedom of religion or expression and private property rights are not the issues.... Decency is; right and wrong is... [M]any believe that their "rights" supersede all other considerations, like what is respectful, considerate, and decent. A mosque ... steps from Ground Zero in a building damaged in the attacks is ... astoundingly insensitive".
C. Lee Hanson, whose son, daughter-in-law, and baby granddaughter were killed, felt that building a tribute to Islam so close to the World Trade Center site would be insensitive: "The pain never goes away. When I look over there and I see a mosque, it's going to hurt. Build it someplace else." Rosemary Cain, whose son was killed, called the project a "slap in the face", and said "I think it's despicable. That's sacred ground", and "I don't want a mosque on my son's grave". Nancy Nee, whose brother was killed, said: "It's almost like a trophy. The whole thing just reeks of arrogance at this point."
Evelyn Pettigano, who lost a sister, said: "I don't like it. I'm not prejudiced.... It's too close to the area where our family members were murdered." Dov Shefi, whose son Haggai was killed, said: "the establishment of a mosque in this place ... is like bringing a pig into the Holy Temple. It is inconceivable that in all the city of New York, this site was specifically chosen." Cindy McGinty, whose husband was killed, said she hoped that officials would keep an eye on the funding source for the mosque, adding: "Why did they pick this spot? Why aren't they being more sensitive? I don't trust it." Barry Zelman, whose brother was killed, said: "We can say all Muslims did not do this, which is true. But they [terrorists] did it in the name of that religion. You wouldn't have a German cultural center on top of a death camp."
Rosaleen Tallon-DaRos, whose brother died, urged that the mosque not be put on that site, as did Tim Brown, a New York City firefighter who survived the attack. He said: "The families lost their loved ones to terrorists, Islamic, Muslim terrorists who do not believe in religious freedom." Maureen Basnicki, a Canadian whose husband Ken died, questioned the message of the mosque and said that "this all adds hurt and insult to our injuries."
The building of the mosque near Ground Zero has been criticized by some Muslims.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community does not directly oppose the building of a mosque near ground zero but views that the sentiments of non-Muslims should not be unduly hurt. They state that there are other places where mosques can be built and they do not see why that particular location has been chosen. The head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Masroor Ahmad in London, stated that:
If a mosque is built at the proposed site, then the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community would like to see churches, synagogues, Hindu places of worship and places of worship of all other religions also built near Ground Zero. That would be a good example of how from an act of evil and terror has emerged unity and peace.
Muslim neoconservative journalist Stephen Schwartz, Executive Director of the non-profit Center for Islamic Pluralism, said that building the mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is inconsistent with the Sufi philosophy of simplicity of faith and sensitivity towards others and disregards the security of American Muslims. He also criticized what he termed Abdul Rauf's radical and suspect associations.
Another founding member of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, Zuhdi Jasser, who is also the founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a group of Muslim professionals in the Phoenix Valley of Arizona, strongly opposed the mosque, saying:
For us, a mosque was always a place to pray...not a way to make an ostentatious architectural statement. Ground Zero shouldn't be about promoting Islam. It's the place where war was declared on us as Americans."
He in addition said:
American freedom of religion is a right, but … it is not right to make one's religion a global political statement with a towering Islamic edifice that casts a shadow over the memorials of Ground Zero. … Islamists in 'moderate' disguise are still Islamists. In their own more subtle ways, the WTC mosque organizers end up serving the same aims (as) separatist and supremacist wings of political Islam. 
Neda Bolourchi, a Muslim whose mother died in 9/11, said: "I fear it would become a symbol of victory for militant Muslims around the world."
New York currently boasts at least 30 mosques so it's not as if there is pressing need to find space for worshipers. [W]e Muslims know ... [this] mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the infidel. The proposal has been made in bad faith, ... as Fitna, meaning "mischief-making" that is clearly forbidden in the Koran.... As Muslims we are dismayed that our co-religionists have such little consideration for their fellow citizens, and wish to rub salt in their wounds and pretend they are applying a balm to sooth the pain.
I don't think the Muslim leadership has fully appreciated the impact of 9/11 on America. They assume Americans have forgotten 9/11 and even, in a profound way, forgiven 9/11, and that has not happened. The wounds remain largely open [...] and when wounds are raw, an episode like constructing a house of worship – even one protected by the Constitution, protected by law – becomes like salt in the wounds.
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, general manager of Al-Arabiya television, also criticized the project in a column titled "A House of Worship or a Symbol of Destruction?" in the Arab daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, saying:
Muslims do not aspire for a mosque next to the September 11 cemetery...the mosque is not an issue for Muslims, and they have not heard of it until the shouting became loud between the supporters and the objectors, which is mostly an argument between non-Muslim US citizens! 
I totally agree with President Obama with the statement on the constitutional rights of freedom of religion. [But] it shouldn't be so close to the World Trade Center. We should be more concerned with the tragedy than religion.
A number of American politicians spoke out against the Park51 project:.
Among them have been Republicans Senator John McCain (AZ, 2008 presidential nominee; "would harm relations, rather than help"); Sarah Palin (AK, 2008 vice presidential nominee; posted to microblogging site Twitter, "Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate" (sic)); Mitt Romney (former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate), Senator Johnny Isakson (GA; "could be totally insensitive"), Senator Olympia Snowe (Maine; "insensitive to the families"), Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo (not "proper"), Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson ("inappropriate and insensitive"), Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and North Carolina congressional candidate Ilario Pantano ("It is about ... territorial conquest. This mosque is a Martyr-Marker honoring the terrorists").
"Cordoba House" is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors, who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world's third-largest mosque complex... every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest.
Gingrich also decried the proposed Islamic center as a symbol of Muslim "triumphalism", and said that building the mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks "would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum". Commenting on what Gingrich said, The Economist claimed that "Like Mr bin Laden, Mr Gingrich is apparently still relitigating the victories and defeats of religious wars fought in Europe and the Middle East centuries ago. He should rejoin the modern world, before he does real harm."
New York Republicans who criticized the plan included former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (a "desecration; Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor ... Let's have some respect for who died there and why they died there."), former NY Governor George Pataki, Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.; ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee; "offensive to so many people"), and former NY Congressman and current NY gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio. NY gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino (R) noted: "The vast majority of New Yorkers and Americans have rejected their idea. If a bridge was their intent, why jam it down our throats? Why does it have to be right there?"; he said that if he were elected Governor of New York, he would use the power of eminent domain to stop construction of the mosque, and instead build a war memorial in its place.
New York Republican Congressional candidate George Demos also objected. He said that the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the only religious structure destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, should be rebuilt before moving forward on building a mosque in the area, and called for an investigation into the mosque's financing.
New York City Council Member Dan Halloran became the first elected official in New York City to publicly criticize the project, "If we want a nation of peace," said city councilman Dan Halloran, whose cousin died on 9/11, "then peace comes with understanding. And they need to understand that this is sacred ground to New Yorkers."  He went on to add, "New York City is the greatest city in the world", a place of religious tolerance, but that tolerance "starts when you say 'I understand your pain, and I am not going to inflict more on you.'" Halloran described Ground Zero as "sacred ground to New Yorkers".
Paul Sipos, a member of NYC Community Board 1, said:
If the Japanese decided to open a cultural center across from Pearl Harbor, that would be insensitive. If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting. I have absolutely nothing against Islam. I just think: Why there?
A Republican political action committee, the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee, a Washington-based organization, created a television commercial attacking the proposal, saying "we Americans will be heard".
Democratic Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman indicated that he felt the project should be halted, pending further evaluation of its impact on the families and friends of 9/11 victims, project's sponsors' intentions, and their sources of funding.
New York Democratic Assemblyman of District 92 and Attorney-General-candidate Richard Brodsky said it was: "offensive to me...raises concerns and bad memories, and needs to be dealt with on a human level. The murder wasn't an Islamic crime, but it was a crime committed in the name of Islam by people most Muslims reject."
Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada said "it is time to bring people together, not a time for polarization and I think it would be better off for everyone if it were built somewhere else." Jim Manley, a spokesperson for Reid earlier said, "The First Amendment protects freedom of religion... Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else." 
Democratic National Committee chairman, former Democratic Presidential Candidate, and 79th Governor of Vermont Howard Dean calls the mosque "a real affront to people who lost their lives" and wrote "the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are 'justified' or not." Dean also argues that most people opposed "are not right-wing hate mongers".
Democratic Representative Mike McMahon of New York's 13 District provided a written statement which includes: "We have seen very clearly in the past weeks that building a mosque two blocks from ground zero will not promote necessary interfaith dialogue, but will continue to fracture the faiths and citizens of our city and this country. As such, I am opposed to the construction of the Cordoba Center at the currently-proposed location and urge all parties to work with local community leaders to find a more appropriate site." 
Democratic Representative Steve Israel of the 2nd District in New York said in Newsday, "While they have a constitutional right to build the mosque, it would be better if they had demonstrated more sensitivity to the families of 9/11 victims. I urge them to do so before proceeding further."
Democratic Representative Tim Bishop of New Yorks 1st District also disagrees with the location, "As a New Yorker, I believe Ground Zero is sacred ground and should unite us. If the group seeking to build the mosque is sincere in its efforts to bring people together, I would urge them to seek an alternative location which is less divisive. I dispute the wisdom of building at that location, not the constitutional right."
Democrat John Hall of northern New York's 19th District was also quoted as being against the chosen location, "I think honoring those killed on Sept. 11 and showing sensitivity to their families, it would be best if the center were built at a different location"
New York City fireman Tim Brown opposed the mosque, saying: "A mosque ... that's using foreign money from countries with shariah law is unacceptable, especially in this neighborhood". Brown allied with the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), a conservative law firm founded by Pat Robertson that champions the rights of Christians to build and worship freely. Brown sought to pressure Abdul Rauf to disclose fully the project's funding sources. Peter Ferrara, General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union (not to be confused with the ACLU), observed: "The Cordoba Mosque was the third largest mosque complex in the world ... built on the site of a former Christian church, to commemorate the Muslim conquest of Spain. This perpetuated a cultural Muslim practice of building mosques on the sites of historic conquests."
More than 20,000 people signed an online petition for the Committee to Stop the Ground Zero Mosque, and unsuccessfully lobbied the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to give the location landmark status, which would have added a major hurdle to construction.
Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said "putting a mosque ... very close to Ground Zero is unacceptable.... Even though the vast majority of Muslims ... condemned their actions on Sept. 11, 2001, it still remains a fact that the people who perpetrated the 9/11 attack were Muslims and proclaimed they were doing what they were doing in the name of Islam." Bill Rench, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church which is located near the proposed mosque site, also spoke out against its construction.
The Zionist Organization of America opposes the construction of Park51 due to its location, and questions about Abdul Rauf. The Simon Wiesenthal Center also opposes the location of the planned Park51.
Speaking in his capacity as a "spokesperson for the conservative Tea Party political movement", Mark Williams called it a monument to the terror attacks. He characterized the proposed religious facilities at the site as a place which would be used for "terrorists to worship their monkey god". Williams would be expelled from the National Tea Party Federation two months after making this remark, for racially inflammatory remarks regarding a later and unrelated controversy.
Writing in the National Review, political blogger Daniel Pipes stated his opposition to the construction of any Islamist institution anywhere although he did not object to a truly moderate Muslim institution in proximity to Ground Zero.
Notable British comedian and internet personality Pat Condell criticized the construction of Park51 in a video entitled "No mosque at Ground Zero" where he claimed that it was representative of Islamic triumphalism and that the United States was soon on the verge of Islamization and have its freedoms trimmed, as Europe has.
Some relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks expressed support for the project.
Colleen Kelley, who lost her brother William on 9/11, says, the "irony in the debate over the section of the building that would house a mosque is that one might assume that God (the same God to Jews-Christians-Muslims) would be pleased with any type of effort that involves prayer and service to others."
Orlando Rodriguez and Phyllis Schaefer Rodriguez, whose son died in the attack, say they "support the building of the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan" and "feel that it would honor our son and other victims".
Herb Ouida, whose son Todd died, said: "To say that we're going to condemn a religion and castigate a billion people in the world because they're Muslims, to say that they shouldn't have the ability to pray near the World Trade Center – I don't think that's going to bring people together and cross the divide."
Marvin Bethea, a former EMS worker who was forced to retire in 2004 because of breathing problems caused by working at the 9/11 site, believes racism is a factor in the controversy, He said "even though my life has changed, I don't hate the Muslims. Especially being a black man, I know what it's like to be discriminated against. I've lived with that."
Donna O'Connor, whose pregnant daughter died on 9/11, expressed the opinion that "This building will serve as an emblem for the rest of the world that Americans ... recognize that the evil acts of a few must never damn the innocent."
Ted Olson, former Solicitor General in the George W. Bush administration, whose wife, television commentator Barbara Olson, died in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, has expressed support for the rights of the Park51 organizers to construct the new site. In remarks on MSNBC, Olson said "we don't want to turn an act of hate against us by extremists into an act of intolerance for people of religious faith."
Bruce Wallace, whose nephew died as he rushed in to help the victims, says "the media seems eager to trumpet the feelings of those hurt by the idea of the center. They mostly ignore my feelings and those, like me, who feel the center is an important step for Americans."
Judith Keane, whose husband was killed on 9/11, says "To punish a group of Americans who live in peace for the acts of a few is wrong. The worst atrocities in history found their base in fear of those who were different."
Talat Hamdani, whose son was a first responder in the rescue effort and died in 9/11, co-wrote an article supporting the center in the interest of pluralism. She has also criticized the argument about sensitivity arguing that it was more about the legality of the situation and "our rights as Americans. We are protected under the Constitution. There is freedom of religion." Implying that the ban could be the thin edge of the wedge she said "You know, if it's one faith today, it's going to be another faith tomorrow. That is scary. And to scapegoat the Muslims for the acts of a foreign terrorist, that is – that is hatred." She went on "... if that argument is valid, then, by that token, Timothy McVeigh's actions also makes all Christians terrorists. So, that is wrong."
The anti-war group September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, released a statement in support of the center, saying "we believe that welcoming the Center, which is intended to promote interfaith tolerance and respect, is consistent with fundamental American values of freedom and justice for all," adding it will be "an emblem for the rest of the world that Americans stand against violence, intolerance, and overt acts of racism and that we recognize that the evil acts of a few must never damn the innocent".
Terry Rockefeller, whose sister was killed, said: "this doesn't insult her at all. This celebrates the city she loved living in. It is what makes America what we are."
Sue Rosenblum, of Coral Springs, Florida, whose son Josh was killed in the WTC attacks on 9/11, said in reference to the planned Mosque: "What are we teaching if we say you can't build here? That it's OK to hate? This is a country based on freedom of religion."
|Wikinews has related news: US president Barack Obama backs mosque near Ground Zero site|
On August 13, 2010, in a speech at the annual White House Iftar dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, President Barack Obama acknowledged the right of Muslims to build the Islamic center. Obama said, "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. 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." Obama clarified the next day that he was only speaking of legal rights and "was not commenting... on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there".
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly endorsed the project, saying that Ground Zero was a "very appropriate place" for a mosque, because it "tells the world" that the U.S. has freedom of religion for everyone. Responding to opposition, he said:
The government should never, never be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray. We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here, and praying the way they want to pray.
"Democracy is stronger than this," he added. Remarking on opposition to the mosques' location, he said: "To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists. We should not stand for that." Responding to a question about the pain the mosque plan is causing some family members, he said:
I don't see an enormous number of people. I was at a fundraiser ... maybe 50 ... people who had lost [family] members. 100% in that room kept saying, 'please keep it up, keep it up'.... our relatives would have wanted this country, and this city, to follow and actually practice what we preach.
Bloomberg was asked if he was satisfied that "he is indeed a man of peace given his background where he's supposedly supported Hamas, blamed the U.S. for 9/11 attacks?" The mayor responded: "My job is not to vet clergy in this city.... Everybody has a right to their opinions. You don't have to worship there.... this country is not built around ... only those ... clergy people that we agree with..... It's built around freedom. That's the wonderful thing about the First Amendment – you can say anything you want."
Community Board 1 Financial Committee Chairman Edward "Ro" Sheffe opined: "it will be a wonderful asset to the community." New York City Councilwoman Margaret Chin said: "The center is something the community needs".
Additional New York politicians supported the proposal. They included Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer ("I'll do everything I can to make sure this mosque does get opened"), U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler ("the government has no business deciding"), NY State Senator Daniel Squadron, NYC Comptroller John Liu, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
Nadler remarked that "a mosque in the Pentagon ... hasn't drawn any criticism", despite the Pentagon also being a target of the 9/11 attacks. What is referred to as the "Pentagon mosque" is, more precisely, a non-denominational chapel which was built and dedicated in 2002 in honor of Pentagon employees and passengers of American Airlines Flight 77 who died in the September 11 attack. Daily Muslim prayer sessions are held there weekday afternoons, and weekly Muslim services are led by an imam from a local mosque every Friday, which means the room can be considered a mussallaah, a sacred space where Muslims "consistently perform their mid-day prayer when they do not have access to a mosque". This Muslim use of the Pentagon facility has drawn no complaints.
Orrin Hatch, a Republican Senator from Utah, voiced support of the project on religious freedom grounds. Hatch is a Mormon and cited an instance where a neighborhood tried to prevent a Mormon temple from being built.
Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) published a statement of support on August 20, 2010 to his campaign website defending the Cordoba House's planned Islamic community center. Congressman Paul attributed the controversy over the community center to Islamophobia and neo-conservatives who disregard their commitment to the First Amendment and property rights to agitate voters.
Representative Keith Ellison, the U.S.'s first Muslim congressman, supported the mosque's location on the basis of the First Amendment and religious tolerance, and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick also voiced support, saying: "The sooner we separate the peaceful teaching of Islam from the behavior of terrorists, the better for all of us."
Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to Republican President George W. Bush, criticized Republican opposition to the project: "And here we are, reinforcing al Qaeda's message that we're at war with Muslims." Another former Bush aide, speechwriter and policy advisor Michael Gerson, agreed that prohibiting the mosque would "undermine the war on terrorism":
The militants hope, above all else, to provoke conflict between the West and Islam -- to graft their totalitarian political manias onto a broader movement of Muslim solidarity. America hopes to draw a line that isolates the politically violent and those who tolerate political violence -- creating solidarity with Muslim opponents and victims of radicalism.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a founding member and leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said of the planned Cordoba House: "We have to build everywhere," and "In every area we have, (as) Muslim(s), we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer." Zahar also said "We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places."
Former US President Bill Clinton also supported Park51, after noting that many Muslims were also killed on September 11. He suggested that the developers could have avoided controversy if they dedicated the center to the Muslim victims of the attacks.
Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura gave his support to Park51, arguing that the First Amendment allows for a mosque to be built near Ground Zero. Ventura also argued that denying the right for a mosque to be built near Ground Zero would be similar to removing churches from Oklahoma City, where the Oklahoma City bombing occurred (the deadliest act of terrorism in the United States prior to 9/11), if Timothy McVeigh, the man who perpetrated the attack, was a Christian. Ventura also demanded that opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque should be ignored because "people need to remember, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights should be written in stone. You cannot subject them to the popularity. They are there to protect unpopular things, like the First Amendment. The First Amendment is to protect unpopular speech simply because popular speech doesn't need to be protected. It's as simple as that. And you can't, you know, bend the Constitution to the blowing winds of whatever polls might say, otherwise it's a worthless, useless document which in many ways they're turning it to that anyway." 
Ibrahim Hooper, Communications Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), charged that the controversy was "manufactured" by "bigots". He also asserted that only a vocal minority was complaining. And Nihad Awad, CAIR's Executive Director, said that the opinion of Republican Congressman Peter King "should not be considered, because his ideas are extreme". Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek journalist and CNN host, also strongly supported the project, and returned a prestigious award he received in 2005 from the Anti-Defamation League, saying he was "personally and deeply saddened" by their opposition towards the subject mosque. He wrote: "...Rauf, is a moderate Muslim clergyman. He has said one or two things about American foreign policy that strike me as overly critical – but it's stuff you could read on The Huffington Post any day. On Islam, his main subject, Abdul Rauf's views are clear: he routinely denounces all terrorism – as he did again last week, publicly."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a U.S. Jewish civil rights group that had spoken out against anti-Muslim bigotry, denounced what it saw as bigoted attacks on the mosque. Its head opined that some of those who oppose the mosque are "bigots", and that the plan's proponents may have every right to build the mosque at that location. Nevertheless, the group recommended selecting a different location, and appealed to the builders to consider the sensitivities of the victims' families, saying that building the mosque at that site would unnecessarily cause more pain for families of some victims of 9/11. As a consequence of their statement Fareed Zakaria the winner of the ADL's 2005 Hubert Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize has returned the prize and the prize money.
The New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union supported it as well, citing principles of religious freedom. The Interfaith Alliance also supported the mosque, while indicating that it agreed with the need for transparency as to who is funding the project.
A petition circulated by the liberal political action committee Votevets.org garnered 14,000 signatures in support of the center, including 450 war veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and 4,000 veterans from wars from other eras.
Mark R. Cohen, professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, opined that "The presence of ... mosques like the one planned near Ground Zero, which will be an educational center as well as a place of prayer, is one good way of transcending ... ignorance."
Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis, of the University of North Texas Jewish Studies Program said that when it comes to the issue of freedom to practice religion in a private sphere, such as on a piece of private property in Lower Manhattan, freedom of religion is virtually inviolate.
Padraic O'Hare, professor of Religious and Theological Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College, argued that prayer leads to peace: "Build a Muslim house of prayer near Ground Zero? ... Hand me the shovel."
During a CNN interview, Reza Aslan, a scholar at the University of California, Riverside, defended Imam Abdul Rauf as "cited by government's sources in the United States as one of America's most pluralistic peace promoting religious leaders in the country". He defended the center as an "American-Muslim" center similar to the Jewish center built close to it.
During the 2010 US Open tennis tournament Pakistan's Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi said, "For me, as a Muslim, that's what makes America the greatest country in the world - freedom of religion, freedom of speech. If the mosque is built, I think it's a huge gesture to all the Muslim community out there in the world. I would really appreciate it."
In 2012, filmmaker David Osit produced a documentary about the Park51 controversy, specifically following the story through the experiences of developer Sharif El-Gamal. The film is scheduled to air on PBS in the fall of 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Protest relating to Park51 in New York City (22 August 2010).|
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