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So-Called “Ground Zero Mosque” Opens, World Doesn’t End

The Islamic Cultural Center at the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory located two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center attacks, which caused so much controversy last summer, opened today to minimal notice or protest:

The so-called Ground Zero mosque, where proponents of religious freedom clashed with conservative pols and the families of 9/11 victims for nearly two years, opened Wednesday without controversy.

Instead of protesters, who tried to shut down the Park51 center several times, spectators milled about the center before entering to view a photographic exhibition.

NYChildren, as the exhibit was titled, was as much a tribute to New York City’s diversity as a display of mere photographs. It includes snapshots of a city children representative of 160 ethnicities from around the world.

The photographs were compiled by a 44-year-old Jewish shutterbug from Brooklyn, Danny Goldfield.

Interestingly the developer of the project did admit that they’d made some mistakes in the initial roll-out of the project:

“We made incredible mistakes,” Sharif El-Gamal told The Associated Press in an interview in his Manhattan office. “The biggest mistake we made was not to include 9/11 families.”

At first, “We didn’t understand that we had a responsibility to discuss our private project with family members that lost loved ones,” he said.

He added that he did not “really connect” with community leaders and activists while planning the project.

El-Gamal added that the center’s advisory board now includes at least one relative of a 9/11 victim.

I would say that the real mistake was failing to recognize the virulent anti-Muslim hatred of some on the right and the manner in which that would be exploited by those with a political agenda. For months, the projects leaders let those people have the public relations field rather than responding directly at the beginning. In any event, the Cultural Center is open, construction on the renovation of the facility is apparently beginning, and ten years from now everyone is going to wonder what the heck the big deal was all about.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jay says:

    “I would say that the real mistake was failing to recognize the virulent anti-Muslim hatred of some on the right and the manner in which that would be exploited by those with a political agenda.”

    Oh please. Nearly 70% of New Yorkers were opposed to this Mosque and I doubt that many of them are made up of this cabal of anti-Muslim haters you speak of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12

  2. @Jay:

    No, they just fell for the propaganda.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. Jay Tea says:

    Obviously it was all the attention drawn to it by its critics that keeps them well-behaved. The knowledge that they’re being watched so carefully is helping to ensure that the predictions of the critics don’t come true. We can count every peaceful day at this place as a victory against terrorism, and the direct consequence of our vigilance.

    Hey, if that logic can be used by Obama in his “jobs saved or created” arguments, and how “things would have been so much worse without the stimulus/auto buyout/cash for clunkers/green energy initiate,” why can’t I use it?

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 13

  4. Or maybe Jay it’s that the insane ideas put forward about this place by people like Gellar and Spencer were never true to begin with. In fact, I’d say that’s the conclusion that’s more likely to be accurate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  5. narciso says:

    When Al Hijira (where Al Awlaki preached to the likes of two of the 9/11 hijackers and Hassan)
    or the King Fahd Mosque in LA, or the Finchley Park facility, where Abu Quatada, Richard Reid
    and ZAcarias Moussaoui,hung out, there wasn’t any big notice initially.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  6. Fiona says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Or maybe they were simply harmless and their major opponents, who created the whole scandal in the first place, were just fear mongers looking to score political points.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  7. It simply amazing how many so called “small government” con-servatives had no problems with using the thugerment via Eminent Domain to violate these people’s private property rights. Hell Carl Paladino campaigned on it

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  8. @narciso:

    Al Hijira is the Islamic new year, you idiot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon: heh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  10. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    It’s not surprising the likes of National Review, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin have moved on and that this issue completely has fallen off the radar screens of their paladins. The attention span of the ignorant and irrational right is very limited. “Outrages” typically have very quick shelf lives. A year is an eternity to that demographic; they don’t remember what the whole hubbub was about. As for the rest of the public they’re worried about putting food on their tables.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. Jay Tea says:

    @New York Cynic: A lot of us opposed the Eminent Domain push… we just saw the move as an ‘in your face” move. Mosques have a long history of being built on the site of Islamist triumphs, and if there had been a hint of respect the Mosque backers would have recognized the legitimate objections of the opponents. Instead, they were told to sit down and STFU because their sensitivities HAD TO take a back seat to those who insisted that the rights of the Mosque backers were absolutely sacrosanct and even to say that it was a colossally insensitive move were racists and xenophobes and haters.

    A lot of us said they COULD build it, but they SHOULDN’T if they really wanted to show their respect. Especially when it was, at one point, being named after a mosque built to celebrate the Islamist conquering of portions of Europe — no symbolism there, I’m sure. And we were practically tarred and feathered for it.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  12. anjin-san says:

    And we were practically tarred and feathered for it.

    Oh you poor little victim,,,

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  13. Jay Tea says:

    @anjin-san: You wanna dig up your own statements on the matter, anjin? About the hateful bigots and intolerant Islamophobes, as I’d wager you called them…

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  14. Nikki says:

    About the hateful bigots and intolerant Islamophobes, as I’d wager you called them…

    Since when does truth amount to “tar and feathering”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  15. Jay Tea says:

    @Nikki: If name-calling qualifies as “telling the truth,” mind if I call you a vacuous git and worthless oxygen thief?

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  16. Jay Tea says:

    Just a quick summary:

    Commenters interested in discussing the Ground Zero mosque after I spelled out why I thought it was a bad idea: 0

    Commenters interested in casting insults after I spelled out why I thought it was a bad idea: 2

    I’ll refrain from extrapolating from such limited data…

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  17. mattb says:

    @Jay Tea:

    A lot of us said they COULD build it, but they SHOULDN’T if they really wanted to show their respect. Especially when it was, at one point, being named after a mosque built to celebrate the Islamist conquering of portions of Europe — no symbolism there, I’m sure. And we were practically tarred and feathered for it.

    No Jay, the reason your posts are called bigoted is because — despite your claims that they “could” build it and that it’s simply in bad taste — your posts have consistently done the following:

    1. Assume the worst possible motivation for the building of the Mosque.
    2. Suggested that this was a defacto act of aggression/terrorism.
    3. Refused to look at the larger facts around situations involving individuals in order to take the worst possible view of the situation and suggest that all Muslims are terrorists (see for example the idea that Major Hassan was recognized as an expert on terrorism and asked to lecture the military on it when the facts are that he actually disobeyed orders in giving that presentation).
    4. In tone that every Muslim is a potential terrorist — not only does this place religion above country, but it flattens all Muslims into a single dangerous category.
    5. Suggest that all Muslims implicitly (if not explicitly) support Terrorism and like to rub it in our faces.
    6. Suggest that there is something retrograde about being a Muslim (and the religion itself).
    7. Fixate on only the aspects of texts and history that cast Muslims in the worse light.

    I can keep going…

    Now of course you might argue that all of that is what Liberals do to the Tea Party. The thing is lets be serious about personal responsibility here. I’m definitely liberal leaning on many key issues and often critical of the Tea Party — but I’ve never made such sweeping negative statements about them. But YOU and YOUR posts continually reproduce a sort of confident and casual bigotry against all members of a Religion based solely on the fact that they belong to that Religion. And no evidence to the contrary can sway your opinion in the correctness of your position (which means that they are based primarily on emotional belief as opposed to evidence).

    That is the foundation and definition of all bigotry. I’m not saying that you couldn’t interact politely with a Muslim individual. Perhaps you even have Muslim friends. But despite those individual interactions your posts — taken as a whole — reveal a pattern of bigotry.

    I think all we’d like to you to do is own it (in the same way that Michael Reynolds owns his bigotry against all things Tea Party).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  18. mattb says:

    @Jay Tea:Strangely your summary fails to account for your suggestion that the only reason they behave is because we’re watching them (which is a tacit threat of the power of violence to control a minority which left to it’s own devices would take over the world):

    The knowledge that they’re being watched so carefully is helping to ensure that the predictions of the critics don’t come true. We can count every peaceful day at this place as a victory against terrorism, and the direct consequence of our vigilance.

    How do you feel about the claim that we also need to monitor the fiancial industry like a hawk because without the threat of sanction and strict enforcement, they will create products that line their pockets while potentially destabilizing local and international economies?

    Or how about the need for agencies like the EPA or OSHA to oversee business to ensure that they don’t start dumping in the name of progress?

    Isn’t it the typical conservative/libertarian line that while people will act in their own self interest, they won’t destroy the world around them if deregulated?

    Why then is the implicit regulation of ALL Muslims necessary? Why is it a victory for us against terrorism? Is that because we’re controlling the always present enemy in our midst?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  19. @Jay:

    Oh please. Nearly 70% of New Yorkers were opposed to this Mosque and I doubt that many of them are made up of this cabal of anti-Muslim haters you speak of.

    Well, actually, that 70% number was a national number, not an NYC number (which was 53%). See here. More interesting was the fact that 53% of residents in the borough of Manhattan (i.e., the people closest to the project) supported the project and only 31% opposed.

    As such, yes, there is evidence that a lot of the opposition was based in lack of information and not a small amount if Islamophobia. Further, there was the disinformation campaign that made it sound as if the mosque was going to be built at the WTC site itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. Jay Tea says:

    @mattb: That entire line of argument was about 95% tongue-in-cheek, comparing the situation to others where Obama and his administration has made similarly-unverifiable claims.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  21. Jay Tea says:

    @mattb: I had three questions about the mosque in question:

    1) Why did it have to be so damned close to Ground Zero, where almost 3,000 people were killed, explicitly in the name of Allah?

    2) Why did it have to be in a building that was damaged in the attack, arguably making it part of a great victory of Islamism over America?

    3) Why was it initially to be named after the Cordoba Mosque in Spain, which was built to commemorate the Muslim conquest of much of Europe and atop the site of a Christian cathedral?

    As I said, Islam has a tradition of building mosques on the sites of great Islamic victories or conquests — witness the Al Aqsa mosque atop the Jews’ Second Temple and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, as well as the aforementioned Cordoba Mosque.

    At one point, a bunch of Catholic nuns set up a nunnery in Auschwitz to pray for the souls of the Jews slaughtered there. After considerable Jewish protest, the Pope shut it down.

    If Israel were to build a brand-new temple right near the Cave of the Patriarchs, I’d find that equally offensive. Or the US Air Force to set up a museum in Hiroshima. Or a Shinto shrine next to the USS Arizona. There are simply some things you do not do, if you have a modicum of respect.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  22. John Burgess says:

    I can’t answer the first of your questions, Jay, but I’ll take a whack at the other two…

    2. The WTC was hardly a ‘victory for Islamism’. In fact, it spelled the start of its doom. Violent Islamism–has been battered, bashed, and is retreat just about everywhere in the world. Did violent Islamists score a point at the WTC? Depending on how you keep score, maybe. But a ‘victory’? No way.

    3. ‘Cordoba’ has lots of connotations, only one of which involves ‘victory’. The more usual connotation of ‘Cordoba’ is convivencia, a state in which multiple religions shared the same space without being at each others’ throats. Yeah, the dhimmis were second-class and taxed and all that, but it was still better than the state of the Jews in most of the rest of Europe then and considerably later.

    I suppose they could have named the mosque ‘Al-Fardous’, Paradise, if they had intended perfection, but a human period of getting along with each other seemed both consonant to their goals and something other people might recognize. Little did the group anticipate that some Americans see ‘Cordoba’ as triumphalism.

    As far as ‘respect’ goes, might it not also be the case that an effort to reduce inter-faith frictions is a worthy and respectful remembrance of those who died because of those frictions? You know, the Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and others who died in the WTC?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  23. Jay Tea says:

    @John Burgess: Pearl Harbor was a great victory for Imperial Japan. Period. That it led to the ultimate destruction of Imperial Japan doesn’t change that fact. Likewise, 9/11 was — and is — celebrated as a great victory for the Islamists over America.

    And I agree with you — Cordoba is a great way of reminding folks that Christians, Jews, and Muslims can get along just fine — as long as the Christians and Jews know their place, and acknowledge Islamic supremacy. And what better place to remind folks of that than in the shadow of where almost 3K people were killed in the name of Allah?

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  24. @Jay Tea:

    Well if I buy land and no longer owe any debts to the person I purchased it from I have every legal right to do what I wish with it. If my neighbors of the “community” don’t like it, well I can tell them to kick rocks which is my right as the land owner.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. mattb says:

    Jay,

    The “tounge-in-cheekness” didn’t quite come through on any of the posts… but to answer you questions (this is going to be really long, but worth the read … I hope):

    1. My only response is where in lower/mid-town Manhattan would be far enough away to be respectful and who gets to decide that? And would that demarcation line be forever? Not to mention that this version of history forgets the fact that there were Islamic worship/prayer spaces in the World Trade Center. Not to mention the fact that there is a Prayer Room — not a Mosque — located in the building. Finally, by this logic, shouldn’t the two other Mosques — established in the same neighborhood long before the towers fell also be closed out of respect?

    BTW, at what point should we start giving sites of Colonial massacre of Native Americans (a far more organized effort of extermination) back to them out of respect? Because I have a number of friends that would really like to start discussing those handovers…

    2. And this is the critical one: “Ground Zero as the site of a great Islamism victory over America” — I one fell swoop you have just looped all of Islam together making every Muslim in the world responsible for the actions of every other Muslim and in doing so saying that ultimately, for Muslims, no other identity can take preference over Religion. Let me clearly spell this out — 9/11 was a victory for Al Quieda and Radical Islam, not Islam as a whole. And to collapse Radical Islam which is a concept and at best a loose affiliation of extremists into the global body of Islam is a fundamentally bigoted move.

    Trying to claim that this was a victory for Islam or Muslims in America — let alone those world wide — is like suggesting that Pear Harbor was a victory fo Japanese Americans (as many of the are Shinto and that Religion was bound up in the Japanese War Machine). Or German Lutherans are somehow responsible for the actions of the Nazis.

    Again, I return to the systematic Genocide carried out by Christians in the New World (beginning with Columbus) and then extended by our forebearers… If we apply your rubric we all should really just leave huge areas of the US. Not even getting into Africa…

    2a. Which gets me to the Catholic Church argument. First, let’s be clear that there was a BATTLE over that convent — it wasn’t that the Catholics rolled over said sorry and went home. It took a decade for the Nuns to vacate the premises. The actual rhetortic used at the time by the local catholic leadership to defend the plan was firmly couched as an act of defiance (more or less saying we will not be ordered around by Israel). If the local Catholic Leadership had their way the site would never have closed. So that particular issue isn’t quite as cut and dry

    Difference 1 – The Carmelite convent was literally on the grounds of the Concentration Camp in a building that had housed the poisoned gas for mass executions — not nearby, not in a new building (or a Burlington Coat Factory).

    Difference 2 – At the time of WWII Germany was 97% Christian (the majority being Lutheran). And this is a case where Religion and Nationality (Nazism) were very consciously intermingled by the Nazi Government (in the early years — later Christians would be prosecuted as well, often accused of harboring communists?!). We cannot discuss Nazi’s without dealing with the National geopolitics and internal politics — that isn’t the case any more. The Convent controversy happened in post Communist Poland where the entire notion of Jews being exterminated at that camp had been suppressed by the Communist Government in the post war years — which meant that for many Jews it appeared that the Catholics were claiming the concentration camp (and its victims) as being primarily Catholic.

    Difference 3 – There is a fundamental difference between the Catholic Church and the practice of Islam. The Church is ultimately a unitary and fundamentally hierarchical organization (Islam is a term like Christianity – denoting all practitioners of a specific religion). There is a human that the buck stops with — the Pope. And at the time of that controversy (mid/Late 1980′s), Pope Pius XII was still largely seen as being a Nazi appeaser (a view that has only shifted within the last decade based on the work of independent historians).

    John, btw, has effectively covered 3.

    Again, you are entitled to your opinion and to think it’s not neighborly. But the facts you are using don’t reflect most of the actual facts and are largely assembled to meet your own bias against Muslims.

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  26. mattb says:

    BTW JayTea… on the entire Carmelite story also ignores the fact that the Nuns/Catholic Church still maintain a convent immediately adjacent to (but not on the grounds of) the Dachu Concentration Camp — the proto-camp that would serve as the model for all of the camps that followed and who’s population was 1/3rd Jewish.

    Shouldn’t that be moved as well out of respect?

    (source: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Dachauscrapbook/MemorialSite/Convent.html)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. Jay Tea says:

    @mattb: First up, the only comment I made here that I intended as facetious was the one that used the “jobs saved or created” comparison. I hope that if you re-read the last paragraph, you might see the indicators.

    Second, I have been very careful in my wording. I called it an “Islamist” victory, not an “Islamic” victory. “Islamist” is another term for radical/militant Muslim, not a term for Muslims in general.

    Third, about the location of the former Cordoba center — I’m not familiar enough with the geography of Manhattan to draw a circle, but “building was damaged in the attacks” makes it too close for my preferences. At that point, I start getting irritated. And when the backers of the project chose, instead of wanting to discuss the matter, started calling the opponents names (see above), I took that as a sign of arrogance and refusal to even consider the feelings and opinions of others. It was their right to build it there, by Allah, and there was absolutely no valid reason why anyone would object — only racism and hatred and Islamophobia. Let me paraphrase and sum up:

    Person A: “I’m going to put build this, and build this here.”

    Person B: “I really think that’s a bad idea. It would bother a lot of people who’ve already suffered a lot, and I wish you’d reconsider.”

    Person A: “They are wrong. In my opinion, they have no valid reason to feel that way. I have a legal right to do it, and only racists and bigots would even think of challenging my right!”

    Grossly simplified, but I think it captures the essence.

    You are demonstrating great intelligence here, and I respect that. But you are also misunderstanding me on several key points, making it seem like we’re farther apart than I think we are. I don’t think my opinion is as extreme as you are reacting.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  28. @Jay Tea:

    I have been very careful in my wording. I called it an “Islamist” victory, not an “Islamic” victory. “Islamist” is another term for radical/militant Muslim, not a term for Muslims in general.

    And, therefore, you should not associate a non-Islamist organization’s desire to build a community center with an Islamist terrorist group’s action (to use your own terms and definitions). To do so is simply unfair, unjust and prejudiced.

    QED.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  29. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Nicely finished!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. mattb says:

    @Jay Tea:

    First up, the only comment I made here that I intended as facetious was the one that used the “jobs saved or created” comparison. I hope that if you re-read the last paragraph, you might see the indicators.

    Totally saw it… which is why I didn’t address it.

    Btw, I give you a lot of credit (as always) for participating in a back and forth (which I almost always get something out of). If I seem porky on this issue it has more to do with a frustration with a general trend in debates on a number of subjects and not specifically with you.

    And, btw, there is a part of me that recognizes the problematic optics of this project. However, think that the majority of people who have pushed those issues do so by conviently ignoring a lot of things and that, ultimately, the contradictions in their position (not to mention the casual bigotry) need to be confronted and called out if any honest discussion is going to occur.

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  31. mattb says:

    It was their right to build it there, by Allah, and there was absolutely no valid reason why anyone would object — only racism and hatred and Islamophobia.

    Jay,

    Just to address this point, the issue is that the vast majority of people who objected — so loudly and so publicly — are the same ones who, as I mentioned, reject out of hand the idea that for example Native Americans might actually have a claim about land that was seized during slaughters. Or they are the same ones that point to the Auschwitz convent as a lesson in grace while ignoring that there’s another convent set up even closer to a former death camp.

    These are the people who question the funders of this project while working for (and appearing on) a network that same person is a major investor in (FoxNews and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal).

    And these are the people — and I have to include you in this based on the content of your posts — who imply that it is a matter of when (not if) this building (and organization) will produce a terrorist. And I notice that you — in your own writing — essentially say that the entire thing about the success of “us watching them” wasn’t in the least bit ironic.

    And as Steven pointed out — these are the folks who don’t live there… who aren’t part of the community and who are making (generally speaking) claims based on bigoted assumptions. These were the people who were willing to support an unqualified tea party populist gubernatorial candidate who made it a campaign promise to stop the building through the use of eminent domain. And when you push on them, they largely fall apart.

    And these are going to be the same folks — in a month or two — who will be pushing for fracking in Western/Central New York (and conveniently missing that fact that according to multiple polls, a majority of people in areas where the fracking will actually take place don’t want to have it happen there).

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