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Religious Tolerance logo

Some basic questions concerning the Muslim community
center in NYC leading either to tolerance or Islamophobia

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Listed below are some basic questions concerning the construction of a Muslim community center in NYC. Answers to the questions can generate tolerance or intolerance; acceptance or Islamophobia:

  1. "Who are responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks?" Opinions differ:

    • Some blame the attack only on the 19 Muslim terrorists, mostly citizens of Saudi Arabia, their handlers, and the leaders of Al Queda terrorist organization, all of whom follow a violent, fundamentalist tradition within Islam which has no respect for human life. Al Queda, and its affiliates, are also responsible for terrorist attacks in many predominately Muslim countries and in some predominately Christian countries in Europe.

    • Others view Islam as a monolithic religion and believe that all of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims bear some degree of responsibility for the terrorist attack. This view is supported by a theme that runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in which blame and punishment for an evil act can legitimately be transferred to innocent persons who have no involvement with the act. Thus, any action by any Muslim group is suspect.

  2. "What is the nature of the proposed building and who is planning it? There are two main schools of thought:

    • It is a mega mosque that is being built on or at the site of Ground Zero as a triumphal monument to the Al Queda martyr-terrorists. It is being planned by an American Muslim group with terrorist ties.

    • It is a community center patterned after the 92nd Street YMCA which refers to itself as a "NYC cultural and community center with programs for all ages." It will be located two blocks away from the edge of the World Trade Center complex, and the equivalent of six blocks away from Ground Zero -- the center of the footprint formerly occupied by the twin towers. The community center will have a cafeteria, meeting rooms, swimming pool, auditorium, etc. It will also have a prayer room on part of one of its 13 floors where Muslim prayers will be recited five times a day. Although the prayer room will occupy only about 5% of the building space, the room will meet the minimum definition of a mosque within the religion of Islam.

      The center is being planned by a Sufi group as a facility to promote inter-religious cooperation and peace. Sufis are a spiritual and peaceful tradition within Islam. The leader of this project has written a number of books advocating cooperation between Islam and Christianity and an end to hatred between the two major religions. Sufis are being severely oppressed in Saudi Arabia by a fundamentalist form of Islam -- the same sect as is followed by Al Queda, the perpetrators of 9/11. Thus, the organizers of the community center and all other Americans are victims of the same extremist fundamentalist sect of Islam.

  3. "Has the inadequate recognition of the victims of 9/11 generated blind anti-Muslim hatred?"

    Grant Brooke, M.Div. who is the 2010 Religion and Society Fellow at Princeton Theological Seminary wrote an insightful article in the Huffington Post that may have exposed a generally ignored major factor that is responsible for much of the anger against the proposed community center. 1 The article deserves to be more widely read.

    Although most Americans recognize that the country's traditions of freedom of religion and property ownership gives the Sufi group the legal right to build a community center at the proposed location, most American feel that it is not appropriate to locate the center so close to Ground Zero.

    Grant Brooke writes:

    "... as I have listened to the publicly mourning and the politically capitalistic speak surrounding the Cordoba House Muslim Community Center over the past several weeks, I have come to notice the distinctive language of failed rituals.

    Our dead, it seems, have come back to haunt us because they were never properly buried.

    Americans across the nation have grasped on to the term 'families' to signify the privately aggrieved, regardless of relation or proximity to the events of September 11, 2001. 'Mosque' has become a term expressing far more the injustice of human existence than a House of God. People speak readily of the untended wounds of the dead, but practice silence on the topic of the peaceful, pluralistically driven, and loving Muslims who are seeking to build this center of community. In fact, most care little about which Muslims are building this center, or the fact that it is not in fact a mosque at all.

    A behavior that shouldn't surprise us, as any expert on grief will say that logic is not to be, in any way, expected from those in mourning. Pain is governing this moment.

    It seems our dead are rising because they have not been buried appropriately. Our dead are too easily disentombed by entrepreneurial politicians. We can see their disingenuous spirit by their opposition to healthcare benefits for the victims of 9/11 for their physical wounds, while -- at the very same time -- claiming to oppose the Cordoba House so as to avoid salting the psychological wounds of the same victims. With respect to these leaders, blaming the hopeless is hopeless.

    After all, false prophets and politicians have long been raiding tombs for the sake of their own ambitions. 'Remember the Alamo' was cried at San Jacinto, and the peaceful Armistice Day was converted to an embattled Veterans Day during a time of war. The spirits of those passed are potent tools for raising the passions of the present.

    It is with ourselves -- those who turn away disgusted by the hateful rhetoric we are hearing arising from some of these demagogues -- where we must direct our disappointment. Hate-mongers appear when societies fail to facilitate public grief, memorialize the dead, and be certain that they have been buried well. The dead must be attended to if we do not want them to be taken advantage of.

    Would there be a 'Ground Zero Mosque' controversy if those who died on 9/11 were appropriately kept down, and entombed, by a tasteful and sorrowful memorial structure? I doubt it. Rarely are we haunted by those who live under gravestones." 1

    We are limited by copyright legislation in the amount of Brooke's article that we are allowed to quote. We recommend that you read the entire article on the Huffington Post. 1

    At the time that Dr. Brook wrote this article, the 9th anniversary of 9/11 was less than two weeks away. Due to political failures at the municipal, state and federal level, there is nothing for mourners to visit at the site of the former twin towers of the World Trade Center other than a massive hole in the ground. All North Americans, and others as well, are to some degree, mourners without a suitable place to mourn.

    More information on the community center.

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Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Grant Brooke, "Hindsight: Burying the ghost of Ground Zero," 2010-AUG-28, at:

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted on 2010-AUG-22
Latest update on: 2010-AUG-29
Compiled by B.A. Robinson

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