- Title: USA / FILE: New York City NYC clears path to build mosque near Ground Zero
- Date: 4th August 2010
- Summary: NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (FILE - JUNE 6, 2010) (REUTERS) ANTI-MOSQUE PROTEST AT GROUND ZERO PEOPLE HOLDING SIGNS (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) MIKE, PROTESTER, SAYING: "It's a spit in our face. Go build it uptown somewhere, don't put it here, of all places, don't put it here. Why do they want to put it here? I think it's just a spit in our face. I think they're laughing at us. I think al-Qaeda's laughing at us." VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS HOLDING SIGNS
- Embargoed: 19th August 2010 13:00
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA11LE978JQBCKXGMAAS7W94TYN
- Story Text: A New York city agency on Tuesday (August 3) cleared the way for construction of a Muslim cultural center near the site of the September 11 attacks.
In a case that triggered national debate, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to deny landmark status for an old building on the site of the planned center.
Opponents of the Muslim center, which would include a mosque, say it will be a betrayal of the memory of victims of the September 11 attacks, which were carried out by the militant Muslim group al Qaeda with hijacked passenger planes.
Critics had hoped to stall the project by having the 1857 Italianate building declared a landmark worthy of protection because the building was hit by pieces from one of the hijacked planes.
Commission members argued the building, set among a row of businesses about a block from Ground Zero, had no historic value and their vote allows the old building to be demolished.
At least one more legal challenge looms but the commission's ruling will clear the way for construction of the Cordoba House, which will include a prayer room and a 500-seat auditorium as part of a 13-storey Muslim cultural complex.
"This is a needed dialogue that needs to happen now and this community center will help build bridges and establish this needed dialogue," said Sharif El-Gamal, chairman and CEO of Soho Properties, which owns the building.
After the meeting, Megan Putney, a supporter of the planned mosque said, "I personally hope that in fact the building of this community center would actually be a way to bridge those of different religions, of different cultures, different backgrounds, and so that they can see what real Islam is versus those that took our religion on 9-11 and said that it was Islam."
The commission's vote attracted several people opposed to the mosque. One woman carried a sign reading "This mosque celebrates our murders".
"We particularly don't need a mosque in this particular area and traditionally the Muslims have celebrated their conquering of a people or a culture or a religion by building an offensive mosque over the remains of the conquests that they have made. This is yet another manifestation of that, and it is a future direction that says 'We will conquer the United States'," said Marion Dreyfus.
But the "September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows", founded by family of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, praised the commission for making its decision without caving in to politics and emotion.
"We feel that all Muslims should not be tarred with the same brush because of a very few that you can count on the digits of your hands committed an extreme act that caused us grief. Billions, literally, billions of people around the world are Muslim and not all of them are bad. It's not Islam that's bad. It's those people who committed the acts of 9-11 who are bad," said Valerie Lucznikowska (pronounced - Lootch-Nee-Kuhv-Ska) of September 11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows.
The American Center for Law and Justice, representing a firefighter who survived the attacks, said it will file a lawsuit on Wednesday (August 4) challenging the decision and seeking to stop the building of the mosque. The group said in a statement that the city was guilty of "ignoring proper procedure and ignoring a growing number of New Yorkers and Americans who don't believe this site is the place to build a mosque".
Also, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), whose stated mission is to secure justice and fair treatment to all, recently voiced its opposition to the location of the planned mosque.
Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League insisted his organization will continue to defend the group from bigotry, but appealed for more sensitivity.
"They have a right, but the question is: Is this the right thing to do? Here is a group, a Muslim group who wants to reach out to heal. They want to reconcile and heal. Well, if you want to heal, you have to consider the sensitivities of the people to whom you are reaching out, and if they are saying 'Don't do it here. This is our cemetery', then if you are moderate and you care and you want to reach out with love, then why aren't you listening?" said Foxman.
Earlier this summer, protesters against the planned location of the mosque gathered at Ground Zero.
Some opponents of the Muslim center had pointed to comments by imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, leader of the project, that "United States' policies were an accessory to the crime that happened" as evidence to the center's ulterior motives.
Rauf, a Kuwaiti who opened his first New York mosque in 1990, condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and was later chosen by the FBI to teach sensitivity training to law enforcement.
Another contentious issue was how the center would raise the needed $100 million (USD) to finance the project, giving rise to speculation that the money could come from extremist groups.
Sharif El-Gamal dismissed such allegations, saying the money would come from a mix of equity, bonds, grants and contributions. He also called the building's proximity to the World Trade Center site accidental and said it was purchased to meet the needs of a growing Muslim community.
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