The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Truth of the Matter: Ground Zero Mosque

The Dispute.
     The Cordoba Initiative, headed by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is a plan to build an Islamic community center in New York City, three blocks away from Ground Zero. Media attention has magnified the dispute, and misinformation is common. Its proposed location polarized the nation, and the debate over the mosque grows more convoluted every day.

Supporters of Mosque.
     The most prominent supporter of the planned building is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In a speech defending the mosque, he cited New York’s history of religious freedom and tolerance. The Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer supports it, as do Florida Governor Charlie Crist and former presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Paul called the furor “grandiose demagoguery” and implied that the political interference in the issue is designed to distract Americans from the sluggish economy.

     Many of those whom Paul accuses of using the mosque as a tool oppose its construction because of the tragedy suffered at Ground Zero. Former governor and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said the plan was a stab through America’s heartland. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich concurred, calling the site an attempt at Islamic supremacy. Rudolph Giuliani, New York City’s Mayor during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is firmly set against the proposed mosque, as is Mark Williams, the leader of the ultra-conservative Tea Party.

People in the Middle.
     Some haven’t been able to define their positions so clearly. President Obama gave a speech apparently defending the construction of the mosque, but clarified his remarks the next day as only affirming the right to build rather than the wisdom in building so close to Ground Zero.
     The intensity of the debate surrounding the mosque is such that the middle ground has been eliminated. The shades of gray have become black and white, leaving many Americans unsure. The people in the middle generally agree that the mosque ought to be built, but would prefer a location farther away from Ground Zero. Donald Trump offered to buy out a major investor in return for a promise to move the planned center at least five blocks away from its current location on Park Place. A New York Times poll shows that 67 percent of all New Yorkers think that the mosque should be moved to a less controversial location.

Supporting Argument.
     The same poll reveals that 51 percent of Manhattan residents, who live nearest to Ground Zero, support construction of the mosque in its current location, and 27 percent of all New Yorkers believed the mosque should be built because “moving it would compromise American values.” Bloomberg concurred. “We would be untrue to the best part of ourselves … if we said ‘no’ to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.”
     Manhattan Community Board 1 is a miniature city council for the area that includes Ground Zero and the mosque site. Its Financial Committee approved the Cordoba Initiative, hoping that it would “bring much-needed amenities to the neighborhood” where the community center will replace an empty Burlington Coat Factory.
     Cordoba House itself ought to do so: it will include a restaurant, auditorium, and library, as well as educational classes, childcare, and aid for domestic violence victims and small businesses struggling financially. It will have an interfaith board with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish members. The center will also contain a monument to those lost on 9/11.
     Rauf has travelled through the Middle East as an emissary for the US State Department during Presidents George W. Bush’s and the current administrations. His mission is to discuss America’s religious freedom for people of all faiths and promote religious tolerance.

Opposing Argument.
     The protests against the mosque are often perverted by people who are more concerned with self-promotion and appearing on television than with the actual issue. Florida Pastor Terry Jones threatened to hold a Quran-burning outside of his church on September 11, igniting fury in America and abroad. Jones cancelled the burning after political pressure, public outcry, and violent demonstrations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
     These and other emotional outbursts from high-profile opponents have detracted from legitimate concerns. September 30, 2001, Rauf appeared on Sixty Minutes, where he said, “US policies were the accessory to the crime that happened” on 9/11. Muslim. He also stated that Osama bin-Laden was created by the US, casting doubt on his identity as a moderate Muslim.
     The Constitutional right to build the mosque is not contested, but the wisdom of the building site is. The proposal is viewed as insensitive to those who lost loved ones in the 2001 terrorist attacks. Many Americans think that Ground Zero is hallowed ground and the mosques proximity is insulting because, historically, mosques have been built on the sites on conquered cities . New York Governor David Paterson said that relocation “would … change a lot of people’s minds about Islam, which is really a peaceful religion practiced by peace-loving people.” It would acknowledge American suffering caused by 9/11.

The Reality.
     Democratic and Republican parties are in tumult, with members on each side of the debate. Families of 9/11 victims are split. America is divided over the issue of where the mosque should be built. As the political battle escalates, it is even harder to distinguish the voices of the ordinary people from the politicians.
     Two demonstrations were held on the anniversary of 9/11: one supported the mosque, the other opposed it. The rallies were only blocks away from Ground Zero, and distracted from the solemnity of the day and the mourners’ grief.
     The world is watching America during this ongoing struggle. Whatever the final decision is, half of America will be unhappy. If the mosque is built as planned, opponents say Muslims will view it as a victory over Americans on their own soil. If it is moved, supporters of the mosque fear that extremists will be angered and retaliate against the US. Fidel Castro, former Cuban president, observed that the entire issue is “a huge media show” that only the US could put on. Hopefully, it is also a show that the US can end peacefully.

Refer to Opinion article to read MSJ students’ opinions of the controversy. If you would like to share your own views on the mosque, please feel free to comment below.

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