Let the 9/11 mosque 'breathe free'

By Jennifer Lipman
August 23, 2010

Daisy Khan, the wife of the imam behind the "9/11 Mosque", has compared the opposition to the plan to antisemitism. She’s absolutely right.

When I visited Washington last year, what struck me was America’s passionate belief in the constitutionally-affirmed right to freedom of speech.

Americans everywhere talk proudly of an ideology of tolerance, or refer to President Franklin Roosevelt’s "Four Freedoms" speech in which freedom of religion was proposed as a fundamental right. Where is that freedom now?

The logic is that it is hugely insensitive to build a mosque at the site of the worst peacetime attack on America in decades. Essentially: the World Trade Centre terrorists were Muslim, ergo doing something good for Muslims is an insult to the victims.

Except "Muslims" like "Jews" or any other religious group are not one entity. We joke “Two Jews, three opinions” and so forth, but the same is true of Islam. Certainly, world events indicate there are Islamic extremists, but by no means that all Muslims subscribe to extremist views.

The couple behind the Cordoba Initiative – a community centre of which a mosque is just one aspect – certainly don’t seem to. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has spent his career working to improve dialogue and understanding between religions. That is something that we should welcome, not try to stifle on the grounds of sensitivity.

As Hal Goodman writes in the Jerusalem Post: “What if they opposed a synagogue?” What, indeed?

This newspaper, the Jewish blogosphere and anyone with an ounce of decency would be up in arms at the thought of a religious group being denied a place of worship. And rightly so; there is no such thing as freedom for all, except one.

The people who will be praying in the mosque are not the same as the terrorists who hijacked planes nearly nine years ago. While they may share a religion, they don’t necessarily share the interpretation.

Inscribed on the Statue of Liberty is this verse, written by Jewish immigrant Emma Lazarus in 1883: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

America has always held itself up as place where people who have not been able to elsewhere can breathe free. It is sad that so many feel this is no longer the case.


Jonathan Hoffman

Mon, 08/23/2010 - 16:21

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All very worthy but if the husband/wife/child/father/mother of a 9/11 victim opposed the mosque as being grossly insensitive (while accepting freedom of worship) what would you say to them?

The “What if they opposed a synagogue?” argument is patently absurd since it was not Jews who were responsible for 9/11 .......


Mon, 08/23/2010 - 16:28

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Of course not every Moslem is a terrorist but it is a fact that every one of those terrorists repsonsible for 9/11 was a Moslem.
There is a far greater tacit under current of acceptance amongst Moslems generally for what the terrorists believe ie the destruction of Israel and the West, than the JC is aware of.
For the JC to be supporting the case for a Mosque near ground zero is ridiculous and an insult to the memory of those innocent victims that lost their lives on that day.
This is an exceptional case and an exception must be made, there must be no Mosque near ground Zero.


Mon, 08/23/2010 - 16:36

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'The people who will be praying in the mosque are not the same as the terrorists who hijacked planes nearly nine years ago. While they may share a religion, they don’t necessarily share the interpretation. '

spot on!

Excellent post...


Mon, 08/23/2010 - 16:48

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So Jon I Cohen and Jonathan, according to your logic, no settler should be allowed to pray in Hebron because of because of Baruch Goldstein. Or no new synagogues should be built in herzlia because of yigal amir or in new York because of Meir kahane. They were all terrorists after all who terrorised in the name of their warped version of judaism.


Mon, 08/23/2010 - 16:53

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My heart is torn over this issue.

It does seem to be an extraordinary provocation, and a highly insensitive one. But then again I read that there are already 3 or 4 Mosques in the area so I wonder why this particular building has attracted so much attention. There also seems to be a lot of scary rhetoric being thrown around which is bound to make a lot of people feel uneasy.

Provided that the backers of the Mosque reject Islamism, Jew hatred, forceful establishment of the Caliphate and terrorism, and do so vocally, and don't invite speakers who advocate any of the above, I don't think it's that big a deal.

Perhaps there needs to be some sort of dialogue between the backers and the opposition.


Mon, 08/23/2010 - 18:10

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Matt, you are exactly right about the rhetoric, this is an issue which has been spun up beyond all proportion by sections of the American press, probably the same elements that seem so keen on promoting the myth that Obama is a Muslim.

The fact is the building is several blocks from Ground Zero and is in fact a Islamic centre aimed at promoting cultural dialogue, much more than a mosque, so I doubt that these Muslims would be the same dudes who advocate restoring the Caliphate.

Charlie Brooker has written about it, (Jon, you may want to put on some gloves before clicking on this link.... It's from the Guardian.)

'The planned "ultra-mosque" will be a staggering 5,600ft tall – more than five times higher than the tallest building on Earth – and will be capped with an immense dome of highly-polished solid gold, carefully positioned to bounce sunlight directly toward the pavement, where it will blind pedestrians and fry small dogs. The main structure will be delimited by 600 minarets, each shaped like an upraised middle finger, and housing a powerful amplifier: when synchronised, their combined sonic might will be capable of relaying the muezzin's call to prayer at such deafening volume, it will be clearly audible in the Afghan mountains, where thousands of terrorists are poised to celebrate by running around with scarves over their faces, firing AK-47s into the sky and yelling whatever the foreign word for "victory" is'



Mon, 08/23/2010 - 18:36

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One thing I will say is that Islam is here to stay in the West. I don't see any point in bemoaning the fact.

The nature of Western Islam is still to be determined. Will it stand for peace, tolerance and co-existence? Or will it be confrontational, aggressive, totalitarian?

I think the answer to that depends on "our" behaviour as much as "theirs".


Mon, 08/23/2010 - 18:42

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An excellent post, and I agree wholeheartedly. Many, many Muslims were shocked and horrified by what happened - a friend of mine told me that in his mosque they prayed for the victims, the injured and the people of New York. Why shouldn't those Muslims who value peace have a mosque at the site?


Tue, 08/24/2010 - 13:26

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Take a look here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11070481

It's not at Ground Zero and it's not a mosque. Two blocks in New York could just as well be on another planet.

I really don't see what the fuss is about; it's legal. End of. If the community center with its prayer room (not a mosque) is used for any illegal purpose it can be closed down and prosecutions made.

If those funding the center have connections with anything illegal then action should be taken.

An interesting question is 'how big IS the Muslim community in Lower Manhattan?' And do they really need a center? Interesting questions, but that does not make it illegal or deliberately provocative or triumphalist.

I remain to be convinced otherwise.


Tue, 08/24/2010 - 16:29

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yes, it won't be a mosque (nor even an "islamic cultural centre"), it's to be a community centre, open to all

it's to be built by the cordoba initiative, whose aims seem to be to make muslim countries more democratic, rather than democratic countries more muslim (see http://www.cordobainitiative.org/?q=content/about-ci )

from their faq

It will be a multi-floor community center open to all New Yorkers, much like a YMCA or Jewish Community Center (JCC) with a designated prayer space (mosque) in one area to serve the needs of the large existing community of American Muslims in the neighborhood.

The community center will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their culture or background, will find a place of learning, arts and culture, and, most importantly, a community center guided by the universal values of all religions in their truest form – peace, compassion, generosity, and respect for all.

No funds for this project have been raised to date. A project of this scale will require very diverse fundraising sources, including individuals from all faiths and beliefs –who are committed to peace and understanding. We expect that our sources of funding will include individuals of different religions, charitable organizations, public funds, institutional and corporate sponsors.  

… our Trustees and Advisory Board will be comprised of a multi-faith group of distinguished individuals who will ensure that the community center stays true to its objectives of peace, tolerance and understanding between all.
…the multi-faith Trustees and Board of Advisors will also help assure that our good intentions are not hijacked by extremist elements who are against our vision of peace, tolerance and understanding.

The community center will meet the needs of all New Yorkers with six programmatic areas: 
1.    Culture and Arts - 500-seat auditorium, exhibition 
2.    Education - Lecture hall, conference rooms, library, classrooms
3.    Social Cohesion - cooking classes, senior citizens space, child care, banquet hall
4.    Religion + Healing -  Muslim prayer space, contemplation and reflection area, 9/11 victims memorial
5.    Global Engagement - Mapping studies on trends in the Muslim world, resources on good governance and principles of liberal democracy, women’s empowerment issues, youth development, countering religious extremism
6.    Health and Recreation Servives - pool, gym, medical education and wellness programs

a photo of the present building, the old burlington coat factory at 45-47 park place, is at http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/48583000/jpg/_48583880_taxi_getty....

an aerial photo, showing that its distance from wtc is less than the width of the wtc site itself, is at http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/47884000/gif/_47884803_trade_center226x320.gif

jose (not verified)

Fri, 08/27/2010 - 19:38

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Let's remember how much protest arose when Carmelites built a convent near Auschwitz. And they were not even German nuns !

The imam of the mosque (yes, there will be a mosque -- that is, a prayer place) is linked by some to the Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation that created the Hamas, was responsible for the death of Sadate. Moderate Muslims in America are very critic of the imam and of the project.

Freedom of religion can be exercised elsewhere and further away from Ground Zero, just as the Carmel could be relocated some miles away from Auschwitz.
Unfortunately, I guess the author of the article would apply double standards (one for Ground Zero, one for the Carmel Auschwitz). Looks like the Jew-flu.


Thu, 09/02/2010 - 09:00

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jose: Moderate Muslims in America are very critic of the imam and of the project.

not true … why have you made this up?

jose: The imam of the mosque … is linked by some to the Muslim Brotherhood …

yes, by you and a few others … see http://www.cordobainitiative.org/?q=content/frequently-asked-questions

“Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood because his book was translated into Arabic by a publisher with ties to the Brotherhood.”
Both charges are false. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has never had any connection whatsoever to the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Arabic translation rights to his 2004 book were arranged by the Arabic book program at the United States Embassy in Cairo.

finally, the carmelite convent was within the boundaries of the camp … it was the building in which the zyklon b poison gas was stored … for details see http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0002_0_016...

this community centre is not within the boundaries of the wtc site, it is two blocks away, and will not be visible from the wtc memorial


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