Conflict over a Muslim community center in New
York City six blocks from 9/11's "ground zero"
"I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution, under American tradition, and in American hearts, this Center, this place of worship, is just as welcome as could be a similar edifice of any other religion.¬ Indeed, America would fight with her whole strength for your right to have here your own church and worship according to your own conscience.¬ This concept is indeed a part of America, and without that concept we would be something else than what we are."
By President Dwight Eisenhower, at the opening of the Islamic Center on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington,¬ DC in¬ 1957. 1
A definition of "ground zero:"
The term "ground zero" initially referred to the spot directly under the nuclear bomb when it exploded and destroyed parts of Hiroshima, Japan during World War II. The Associated Press referred to the footprint of the World Trade Center's (WTC) twin towers as the 9/11 ground zero. Since then, the term has been used to refer to the 16 acre fenced-off site on the WTC grounds. It has also been defined as any place in Manhattan damaged during 9/11. 2
In this series of essays, we define the 9/11 ground zero as the center of the area once occupied by the twin towers.
A 13-floor community center patterned after the 93rd Street YMCA is proposed for lower Manhattan, New York City, NY. It would contain a small mosque on one floor and be located the equivalent of about 6 blocks away from "ground zero" where the twin towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) once stood. The towers were destroyed during the 2001-SEP-11 terrorist attack on New York City, Washington, and the Pentagon.
Many religious and social conservatives and conservative groups have strongly opposed this construction project. Families of the victims of 9/11 and other residents of New York City are divided on the suitability of this location for a community center. Some view it as an insult to the memories of the victims of 9/11. Others see it as a practical demonstration of religious freedom and religious tolerance -- two American principles that are an example to much of the rest of the world.
Enormous amounts of misinformation and disinformation have been initiated about this project in an attempt to obtain political advantage and to spread religious hatred and intolerance. This has been further spread by politicians and media personnel who don't bother with fact checking.
On 2010-MAY-27, a Manhattan Community Board approved the construction of the community center by a vote of 29 to 1.
As a last ditch effort, groups opposed to the center attempted to have the building landmarked so that it could not be torn down and replaced with a new structure. On 2010-AUG-03, the nine person Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously that the building was not of historical importance and thus can be demolished by its owners in order to erect the community center.
It appears that the project will now go forward, if donations totaling about $100 million can be raised. However, a nation-wide conflict has been generated, and an unprecedented level of islamophobia triggered, with demonstrations on and near the site both for and against the center.