Still a controversial issue, and frequently misunderstood, we are attempting to obtain clarity with a sensible discussion from the site of Park51. Despite a decade passing, for many, it's as if it were yesterday. Many feel this is the epitome of disrespect and others feel this is an opportunity to heal, educate and grow.
With an open mind, Matt and Aaron discuss as Matt physically makes the trek from the doorsteps of Park51 to the World Trade Center site itself. The walk is times, on camera. You decide if it's "close" to the downed buildings. You decide if it matters that plane debris struck the front of Park51. You decide if we, as Americans, are missing an opportunity to grow, or if 3000+ people died in vain.
From the occasionally unbiased Wikipedia page;
A CNN poll conducted August 6'10, 2010, found that two out of three Americans ' including four out of five Republicans ' opposed the Park51 project
Some relatives of victims of the September 11 attacks said they found the proposal offensive because the perpetrators who committed the attacks did so in the name of Islam. A group of victims' relatives, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America, called the proposal "a gross insult to the memory of those who were killed on that terrible day
A number of American politicians spoke out against the Park51 project, such as John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. Former House Speaker Republican Newt Gingrich said: "It's not about religion and is clearly an aggressive act that is offensive.
" Commenting on the project's initial proposed name, he wrote:
"Cordoba House" is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain ' the capital of Muslim conquerors, who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world's third-largest mosque complex... every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani called it a "desecration; Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor ... Let's have some respect for who died there and why they died there.
Paul Sipos, a member of NYC Community Board 1, said: If the Japanese decided to open a cultural center across from Pearl Harbor, that would be insensitive. If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting. I have absolutely nothing against Islam. I just think: Why there?
Democratic Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman indicated that he felt the project should be halted, pending further evaluation of its impact on the families and friends of 9/11 victims, project's sponsors' intentions, and their sources of funding.
Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada said "it is time to bring people together, not a time for polarization and I think it would be better off for everyone if it were built somewhere else.
" Jim Manley, a spokesperson for Reid earlier said, "The First Amendment protects freedom of religion... Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else.
More than 20,000 people signed an online petition for the Committee to Stop the Ground Zero Mosque, and unsuccessfully lobbied the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to give the location landmark status, which would have added a major hurdle to construction.
Zuhdi Jasser, President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, called for transparency in the funding of the project, suggesting foreign sources could imply an ulterior agenda. Reza Aslan said that it would be acceptable to demand that mosques be transparent about funding if the same was also demanded of a Catholic church or a Jewish temple.
Feisal Abdul Rauf, a Kuwaiti-American Sufi Muslim, initially the chief proponent of the project until he was replaced in January 2011, said "If I knew this would happen, this would cause this kind of pain, I wouldn't have done it. My life has been devoted to peacemaking.
Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah, board members of the Muslim Canadian Congress, opposed the construction of the mosque as did Rima Fakih, the first Muslim-American crowned Miss USA as Miss USA 2010, who said that construction of the mosque was insensitive to families of 9/11 victims as did
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a U.S. Jewish civil rights group that had spoken out against anti-Muslim bigotry, denounced what it saw as bigoted attacks on the mosque. Its head opined that some of those who oppose the mosque are "bigots", and that the plan's proponents may have every right to build the mosque at that location. Nevertheless, the group recommended selecting a different location, and appealed to the builders to consider the sensitivities of the victims' families, saying that building the mosque at that site would unnecessarily cause more pain for families of some victims of 9/11. As a consequence of their statement Fareed Zakaria the winner of the ADL's 2005 Hubert Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize has returned the prize and the prize money.
A Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll of New York State residents released August 31, 2010 found a 54'40 percent majority of voters agreeing "that because of American freedom of religion, Muslims have the right to build the mosque near Ground Zero
Some relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks expressed support for the project. Colleen Kelley, who lost her brother William on 9/11, says, the "irony in the debate over the section of the building that would house a mosque is that one might assume that God (the same God to Jews-Christians-Muslims) would be pleased with any type of effort that involves prayer and service to others.
Marvin Bethea, a former EMS worker who was forced to retire in 2004 because of breathing problems caused by working at the 9/11 site, believes racism is a factor in the controversy, He said "even though my life has changed, I don't hate the Muslims. Especially being a black man, I know what it's like to be discriminated against. I've lived with that.
The anti-war group September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, released a statement in support of the center, saying "we believe that welcoming the Center, which is intended to promote interfaith tolerance and respect, is consistent with fundamental American values of freedom and justice for all,
" adding it will be "an emblem for the rest of the world that Americans stand against violence, intolerance, and overt acts of racism and that we recognize that the evil acts of a few must never damn the innocent
President Barack Obama acknowledged the right of Muslims to build the Islamic center. Obama said, "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly endorsed the project, saying that Ground Zero was a "very appropriate place" for a mosque, because it "tells the world
" that the U.S. has freedom of religion for everyone. Responding to opposition, he said:
The government should never, never be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray. We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here, and praying the way they want to pray.
Additional New York politicians supported the proposal. They included Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer ("I'll do everything I can to make sure this mosque does get opened
"), U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler ("the government has no business deciding"), NY State Senator Daniel Squadron, NYC Comptroller John Liu, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura gave his support to Park51, arguing that the First Amendment allows for a mosque to be built near Ground Zero. Ventura also argued that denying the right for a mosque to be built near Ground Zero would be similar to removing churches from Oklahoma City, where the Oklahoma City bombing occurred (the deadliest act of terrorism in the United States prior to 9/11), if Timothy McVeigh, the man who perpetrated the attack, was a Christian.
Orrin Hatch, a Republican Senator from Utah, voiced support of the project on religious freedom grounds. Hatch is a Mormon and cited an instance where a neighborhood tried to prevent a Mormon temple from being built.
Republican Congressman Ron Paul also supported the rights of Muslims to build the mosque. Moreover, he criticizes those who blame Islam alone for the September 11 attacks, rather than a small fanatical group of terrorists. Paul said that the criticism of this project is based on hate and Islamaphobia.
Former US President Bill Clinton also supported Park51, after noting that many Muslims were also killed on September 11. He suggested that the developers could have avoided controversy if they dedicated the center to the Muslim victims of the attacks.