FaithWorld

New York mosque project site faces legal challenge

cordoba

(A lower Manhattan building duet to make way for an Islamic cultural center and mosque in New York August 17, 2010/Lucas Jackson )

A New York building set to be demolished for an Islamic cultural center and mosque should be preserved as a monument of the September 11 al Qaeda attacks, opponents of the mosque project have said in court.  A lawsuit by a New York firefighter who survived the attacks in 2001 seeks to overturn a decision by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission last August denying landmark status to the Lower Manhattan building, clearing the way for the 16-story, $150 million center.

U.S. conservatives and many New Yorkers have spoken out against the proposed center, still at least six years from completion. Opponents of the project argue it would be insensitive to put an Islamic cultural center and mosque so close to the site of the toppled World Trade Center twin towers, considering those responsible for the September 11 attacks were Muslim militants.

The American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, argued during a hearing in New York Supreme Court that the site should be deemed a landmark because it was struck by the landing gear from one of the hijacked planes flown into the World Trade Center.

“That building is a monument to that day,” attorney Jack Lester told the court on Tuesday. He and the ACLJ, founded by U.S. conservative Christian preacher Pat Robertson, are representing firefighter Tim Brown, who brought the suit.

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama ready for battle with Republicans but wants no war with Islam

President Barack Obama may be ready for battle with Republicans over the economy, but he made clear Friday there was one conflict he didn't want -- a war with Islam.

Obama told a White House news conference Republicans were "holding middle class tax relief hostage" while insisting on tax breaks for the rich that would cost $700 billion over 10 years.

OBAMA/"The policies that the Republicans are offering right now are the exact policies that got us into this mess," the president said.

New Yorkers see the right to build Islamic center, but also want it moved

mosque signsNew York voters contradicted themselves over a planned Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site, with majorities saying both that Muslims have the right to build one but that they should be forced to move it, a poll issued on Tuesday finds.

Fifty-four percent of those polled believe Muslims have the right to build the center and mosque near “Ground Zero” because of American freedom of religion, but a similar 53 percent said that right should be denied because of the sensitivities of relatives of those killed on September 11, 2001. (Photo: Demonstrators in front of theIslamic center  site in New York , August 25, 2010/Lucas Jackson)

The Quinnipiac University poll surveyed 1,497 New York state registered voters from August 23 to 29, at the height of the controversy that Republicans who oppose the mosque have seized on for a political edge over Democrats ahead of November 2 mid-term elections. Read the full story here.

What would a compromise in NY Muslim centre dispute look like?

nymosque 1One requirement for a reasonable debate is to define the terms being used. The emotional dispute over the planned Cordoba House in New York, in which supporters and opponents are struggling over how to even describe it, is a case in point. Will the boxy modern building that developers have presented and local zoning boards have accepted be a Muslim cultural centre including a mosque? Or, as critics allege, a “Ground Zero mosque”, a term that evokes visions of  domes and minarets rising over the ruins of the World Trade Center. The facts speak for the first option, which is why we have chosen it for our description of this project.

A new element of confusion has entered the debate with calls for a compromise in this dispute. New York Governor David Patterson started this last week, saying that moving the project away from its proposed location would be a “a magic moment in our history” and offering state help to find a new site. He bemoaned the emotional level of the debate on Tuesday: People can’t hear each other anymore … I find it heart-wrenching. I hate to see New Yorkers squaring off against each other.”

nymosque 2New York’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan unexpectedly stepped in to welcome Paterson’s proposal and offer his services as a mediator. He first seemed to support the call for moving the project, but some media thought that seemed less clear after he met Paterson on Tuesday. No matter how sincere their intentions are, their effort to find common ground here is fraught with complications. A central problem, the  lay Catholic magazine Commonweal in New York argued, is that “calls for the Muslim organizers to change their plans out of ‘sensitivity,’ however well-meaning, would allow the prejudices of some to define the terms of freedom for others.”

NYC Muslims want more space to pray/ Latest links to Islamic center dispute

mosque space 1 (Photo: Manhattan building now on site of proposed Muslim cultural center and mosque, August 17, 2010/Lucas Jackson)

Muslims in lower Manhattan who have prayed in a crowded basement or in the streets say they are not looking for confrontation with opponents of a new mosque. They simply need the space.

Some New Yorkers traumatized by the September 11, 2001 attacks have emotionally opposed a proposed Muslim community center and mosque two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. Republican politicians seeking to wrest control of Congress from Democrats in November elections have seized on the issue.

The controversy has sucked in President Barack Obama and stirred debate about the meaning of religious freedom in a nation founded in part on that principle. Competing rallies for and against the Muslim project are planned to mark this year’s ninth anniversary of the attacks.

from Tales from the Trail:

Democrats try turning mosque debate against GOP

Democrats were stunned and somewhat speechless last August when Republicans accused them of proposing "death panels" as part of  their healthcare reform initiative.

This August,  it's the proposed construction of a Muslim cultural center and mosque near lower Manhattan's "Ground Zero" that is dominating the end-of-summer doldrums.  Once again,  Democrats are struggling to gain the upper hand in the debate. AFGHANISTAN/

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in on Wednesday, saying, "Where a place of worship is located is a local decision." The Democrat may have been tweaking Republicans from across the U.S. who are railing about the New York City mosque all the while complaining about the long, intrusive arm of the federal government.

Chrystia Freeland: Mosque madness and midterms

mosque screengrab

On “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour, Reuters global editor at large Chrystia Freeland says President Barack Obama’s speech in support of the Cordoba House cultural centre and mosque that would occupy a building two blocks from Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan displays leadership and conviction. (Photo: videograb/This Week/ABC)

Here is an excerpt from the broadcast on Sunday August 15:

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Did Bloomberg inspire Obama’s speech about NYC Muslim cultural centre?

obama mosque 1There was an interesting echo at the White House when President Barack Obama came out in favour of the proposed Cordoba House Muslim cultural centre near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York (see our news report here).  Controversy about the project, which opponents call the “Ground Zero mosque,” has been swirling in New York for weeks and went national recently when Republicans Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich joined the critics’ campaign. But until the annual Iftar dinner he hosted on Friday evening, the president had kept out of what his spokesman called “a matter for New York City and the local community to decide.” (Photo: President Obama addresses White House Iftar meal, 13 August 2010/Jason Reed)

Reading his comments, it looks like Obama not only let NYC authorities decide the issue — favourably for the project, as it turned out, as both the local community board and the landmarks commission voted overwhelmingly to let it go ahead. He may also have taken pointers for his speech from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has stood solidly behind the project despite all the emotion it has stirred up.

obama mosque 2After the Landmarks Preservation Commission cleared the last administrative hurdle to the plan — rejecting the opponents’ bid to protect the 1857 building standing on the proposed Cordoba House site from being torn down — Bloomberg delivered a forceful speech on August 3 defending two long-standing American traditions.

INTERVIEW – NY imam plans a “Muslim Y,” not a “Ground Zero mosque”

nyc mosque 1When Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf decided to build a Muslim cultural centre in lower Manhattan, the model he chose couldn’t have been more mainstream American — the Young Men’s Christian Association chapters found in cities across the United States.

The institution he had in mind was the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish adaptation of the YMCA concept that is one of New York’s leading addresses for residents of all religions or none to visit for public lectures, debates, concerts or educational courses. (Photo: A demonstrator at a Landmarks Commission’s hearing on the proposed Muslim community center in New York, July 13, 2010S/Keith Bedford)

But Rauf’s project is better known here now as the “Ground Zero mosque,” after the term for the World Trade Centre site. Families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and conservative politicians have mounted an emotional campaign to block it, claiming that locating it only two blocks north of the site was a provocation.

from The Great Debate UK:

Interfaith centre at New York 9/11 site sparks controversy

- Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is the author of several books, including ‘Who Moved my Job?’ and ‘Global Services: Moving to a Level Playing Field’.  The opinions expressed are his own. -

Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but every terrorist who attacked the U.S. on 9/11 was a Muslim.

That’s the kind of aphorism being bounced around the Internet because of the news that a nineteenth-century building located close to Ground Zero in New York may be demolished to make way for a community and cultural centre aimed at improving relations between Islam and the West.