Islamic Center near Ground Zero

Ground Zero in New York

An Islamic center near Ground Zero? That’s what Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is hoping for.  Al Farah Mosque on West Broadway has already bought the building at 45 Park Place that used to be the Burlington Coat Factory. The significance of this building goes beyond the fact that it is close to Ground Zero: on September 11th, a piece of one of the two planes went through the roof of the store. The staff were in the basement.

For years the owner of the building was unable to sell it. But this past July, the Cordoba Initiative, an interfaith group founded by Imam Feisal, was one of the investors that finally bought the building. Imam Feisal’s vision for the space is to build a cultural center that would build bridges between the Muslim community and other faith communities. For Imam Feisal, the proximity of the building to ground zero and the fact that a piece of the wreckage fell in that space is a central reason why this building was choosen. A place of prayer and interfaith dialogue, Imam Feisal asserts, will send a different message than that of the extremists.

Some, however, are wary and uncomfortable that a mosque would be built so close to where the terrorist attacks occured. For them, a mosque is seen as a breeding ground for terrorism, like what happened on September 11th. My response, however, is that a mosque for most Muslims is a serene space for prayer and contemplation, much like a church or a synagogue. It is also an important place for dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. Therefore, while the location of the cultural center is sensitive, I think that it will open discussions that need to occur in order to keep moving forward. Americans need to stop looking at anything Muslim as violent and suspicious and try instead to have dialogues. If this initiative might help alleviate the fear, then I think it is necessary.

What do you think of this initiative? Do you think a place of worship can be a place for dialogue?  Why? Does it matter that the cultural center will be near Ground Zero? Please share your comments below.

3 thoughts on “Islamic Center near Ground Zero

  1. In a broad context, the idea of having a peaceful place dedicated to helping others understand Islam is a very good idea. Maybe not quite so close to the scene of a tragedy, but the idea of such a source of mutual understanding is not bad.

    However… (1) Mosques have been places where imams have fomented violent discourse and from which some groups of men have surged forward to do damage to the infidel. (2) Much like Christianity, one of Islam’s objectives is to spread the word and belief about Mohammed as the Prophet to the unbelieving world. (3) What we now refer to as “terrorism” was the underlying cause behind the aircraft which caused infinite damage on Sept 11, 2001.

    Therefore, it might be too much to expect the conversion of the building on the property into an Islamic learning center to be met with surprise and delight on the part of those living and working nearby. They were, most likely, some of the same people who fled in terror from the rolling wall of dust that ate up the streets and everything on them when the Twin Towers collapsed.

  2. No! I say NO! Build the building, just don’t build it there! wayyy too insensitive. I have nothing against their faith. ~S