Ground Zero Mosque
The "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy concerns the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center containing a mosque, two or three blocks from the wreckage of the former World Trade Center, which fanatic Islamic terrorists destroyed on 9/11, killing almost 3,000 people. The plans for the building, originally dubbed "Cordoba House" (but changed to "Park51"), are a collaboration between the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), a Muslim organization created in 1997 to promote "integration and tolerance based on Islamic values of compassion." The vast majority of Americans oppose the plan as "insensitive" to the families of the 9/11 victims.
Although the backers of the construction project have no connection with al-Qaeda terrorists, opposition to the project generally equates letting it proceed with as supporting terrorism, even if only in an indirect way.
Reaction of 9/11 Families
Several organizations that represent families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks have criticized the plan as "insensitive and uncaring" to those families and stated that the construction of a mosque so close to the site of the worst terrorist attack in American history is "deliberately provocative act that will precipitate more bloodshed in the name of Allah."
Sarah Palin stated that "to build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks." Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich compared the mosque's construction to placing a swastika next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Bill Keller, a born-again Christian and preacher, has stated that because the mosque is "a spit in the face of the people of New York," he plans to build a $1 million Christian center near the World Trade Center as well.
Dick Morris summed up the heart of the matter quite succinctly:
|“||The proposed mosque near to ground zero is not really a religious institution. It would be — as many mosques throughout the nation are — a terrorist recruitment, indoctrination and training center. It is not the worship of Islam that is the problem. It is the efforts to advance Sharia Law with its requirement of Jihad and violence that is the nub of the issue.||”|
Despite overwhelming public opposition to the mosque's construction, President Obama, at a White House dinner held to mark the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, stated that Muslims have "the right to build a place of worship and a community center" near the site of the attacks. Through his comments, Obama, purposefully or not, aligned himself with Islamic terrorist associations like Hamas, which continually argue that Muslims "have to build everywhere" in an attempt to draw more converts.
Faced with an intense popular backlash, Obama backtracked from his comments the next day and stated that "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there." The White House, however, steadfastly maintains that he was not backing away from his comments, but rather clarifying them.
- "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding."
- "my intention was simply to let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion." 
"Declaration of Victory"
Many critics of the mosque's planned construction worry that the placement of a mosque so close to the site of an Islamic terrorist attack is tantamount to allowing a declaration of victory by al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations that supported the 9/11 attacks. This became more and more evident when government of New York City offered the Islamic group the option to build elsewhere in the city, at reduced cost, which the group quickly refused. Also telling was the original proposed name of "Cordoba House," Córdoba being a former Roman city conquered by Muslims in 711 AD. Moorish troops destroyed much of the city and built numerous mosques. The city became a hugely important site in the early Islamic movement. In one concession to decency, the Park51 organizers agreed to drop the reference to Muslim conquest and rename the project.
Dr. Gamal Abd Al-Gawad, director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, Egypt, stated that the mosque's presence and location would "remind Americans of what Muslims did on 9/11" and that "it's not good for Muslims and Islam to be in the heart of such a controversy."
Faulty Comparison and Appeal to Judaism
Some supporters of the mosque, including the AMSA itself, have compared the plans for the mosque to plans by Jewish groups to construct a center (albeit one much smaller) within a few miles of the former World Trade Center. By comparing themselves to the Jewish people of New York and the world, the AMSA is hoping to draw similarities between themselves and Israel, a staunch American ally. This comparison, however, ignores the fact that neither Israel nor any Jewish group has committed an attack against Americans, either on American soil or abroad. This comparison has also drawn criticism from watchdog organizations like Jihadwatch.org, which faulted the comparison because
Radical Jews have never bombed the West side of Manhattan nor killed 3000 Americans in the name of Judaism (their emphasis).
Other supporters compared the Muslim plans to construct a mosque to the demand by the National Socialist Party of America (NSPA) to march through the village of Skokie, Illinois (home to many Holocaust survivors), in 1977. Despite the controversial nature of the march and overwhelming public opposition to it, the Supreme Court agreed with the ACLU's defense of the NSPA that their actions were covered by the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. These supporters, however, fail to note several key differences between these two situations:
- The NSPA's planned march was nothing more than a "disgusting publicity stunt" and a temporary action (a small group march for the city's center). This stands in sharp contrast to the construction of a mosque, a far more permanent and imposing structure.
- Although the First Amendment does protect many examples of free speech, the Supreme Court decided in Roth v United States that standards could be applied to obscenity or otherwise ruthlessly inflammatory speech. Some could argue, as many of the 9/11 families have done, that the construction of a mosque near the former World Trade Center would constitute exactly this type of "speech."
Viewpoints of Islamic leaders
Sarah Palin's Facebook page attributes to Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf the following quote:
- "United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened."
Faisal's website says that he was misquoted:
- The ‘60 Minutes’ piece was completely incorrect as the statement was edited out of context. In the full interview, Imam Feisal describes the mistake the CIA made in the 1980s by financing Osama Bin Laden and strengthening the Taliban. This view is widely shared within the US and the US Government today, and Imam Feisal underlines the importance of not supporting “friends of convenience” who may in the future become our enemies. This is common sense. Cordoba Initiative - Frequently Asked Questions
Statements by other religious leaders
- Obama backtracks on Ground Zero Mosque
- Ground Zero Mosque Rebuttal
- According to a TIME magazine poll from August 2010
- Washington Post
- An Intolerable Mistake on Hallowed Ground
- Dick Morris; GROUND ZERO MOSQUE: THE REAL ISSUE
- Offer Rejected to Move Mosque Away From Ground Zero
- History News Network
- Islamic Supremacist Mosque
- Sarah Palin's Facebook Page