Zero tolerance and Cordoba House By Basharat Peer
By Basharat Peer, Financial Times, August 13 2010
On the evening of July 27, a mild sun shone on the elegant and imposing New York City Hall building in Manhattan. Commuters headed underground to subways departing for outer boroughs and bedroom suburbs. In a dance studio adjacent to City Hall, a Korean-American boy practised physics-defying moves with a Mexican-American girl. A short flight of stairs up, a few hundred people had gathered in an auditorium for a public meeting of the Lower Manhattan Community Board. The meeting was supposed to be one of the city’s regular exercises in local representation, where people can raise with board members issues that concern them. Citizens spoke about walking tours, extending bus routes, hospitals … and then a man from the audience shouted: “What about the mosque!” In an instant the auditorium was charged with angry shouts of “No mosque! No mosque at Ground Zero!”
A shrill debate about religious freedom, limits of tolerance and the meaning of 9/11 has been raging for the past two months in the US around the plans of a New York imam, Abdul Faisal Rauf, and a developer, Sharif Gamal, to build a 13-floor Islamic centre with a prayer space, three blocks from Ground Zero. Supporters say the Cordoba House project will be a venue for reconciliation between Islam and the west, delivering a powerful rebuttal to the al-Qaeda terrorists who attacked the trade towers; opponents call it an offence to the memory of those who died in 2001. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a group named 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, and several interfaith leaders from New York churches and synagogues are among those who want to see the centre built. Lined up against them are the leaders of Tea Party Express, Republicans such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, rightwing bloggers and some families of 9/11 victims.
At the public meeting, the crowd continued to chant, “No mosque at Ground Zero!” as a speaker, Helen Friedman, took to the podium and held up a card: “Unmask the Mosque!” She described herself as belonging to a group called Americans for a Safe Israel and, to more cheers and claps, said: “This mosque is a Trojan horse. Remember that too came as a gift. We are letting the enemy inside the gates!” Friedman was followed by New York State Senator Daniel Squadron, who concentrated on other local issues. Then someone asked him what he thought about the Islamic centre. “We are an open, diverse community – and no community shall be prohibited from being in lower Manhattan,” he replied. He was jeered.
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Islamophobia and the 'Ground Zero Mosque' Debate - TIME
NBC, CBS refuse ground zero mosque ad - POLITICO
Fareed Zakaria's Letter to the ADL - Newsweek
Ground Zero mosque plans 'fuelling anti-Muslim protests across US' - Guardian
Ground Zero Mosque and NYU Co-Host Start of Ramadan - DNAinfo
Obama throws support behind controversial Islamic center - CNN