Debate Forum Center 08/11/10

Proposed Site for Mosque Near Ground Zero Stirs Emotion

New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission gave the final approval needed for a proposed mosque and Islamic cultural center near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by voting unanimously last week to deny landmark status to a 152-year-old building.

Organizers of the mosque have said they hope to use the project, which includes plans for lecture halls, classrooms, a gym and catering facilities as well as a mosque, to promote interfaith dialogue and to battle extremism. Opponents, angry over the proximity of the project to Ground Zero, had hoped that a landmark designation would derail plans to replace the existing building with the
13-story, $100 million Islamic center.

The issue has divided elected leaders in New York City and New York State. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a strong supporter of the project, recently stated that the first responders at Ground Zero died protecting the city, the country and the Constitution. Referring to the opponents to the project he stated, “We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting.” Those who support the mosque believe that the location of the mosque will be a point of American pride. Only near Ground Zero could a mosque stand as testimony to everything great about America: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.

However, the proposed site has sparked a heated controversy as opponents of the proposed mosque argue that building a 13-story Muslim culture center so close to the 9/11 site is an insensitive act. They argue that the proposed location of the mosque is an insult to the memories of the families of those who lost loved ones only a few hundred feet from the proposed site. They point out that there are over 100 mosques in New York City. It is the site that is the problem they claim, and not the construction of another mosque in New York City. Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League seemed to capture the core of the argument against the Ground Zero mosque when he stated, “If you want to heal us, don’t do it in our cemetery.”

There is also some controversy about where the funding for this mosque is coming from. At this point the organizers are choosing to not
disclose the source of their funds for the $100 million Islamic center which fuels the opponents’ claims that radical Muslim groups are
behind the effort.

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