August 8th, 2010
10:15 AM ET

Developer behind 'ground zero' Islamic center: 'This is not about the World Trade Center'

[cnn-video url= http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2010/08/08/chernoff.sharif.intv.cnn%5D

Q: Why not have this center a little further away from the World Trade Center instead of just two blocks right there? There probably wouldn’t be much opposition…

A: This is not about the World Trade Center. This is not about a particular location.

This is about a need that exists within the Lower Manhattan community and its need that exists within the Muslim community to have a community and a cultural center. And it’s pretty hard finding real estate in New York

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Interfaith issues • Islam • Mosque • Muslim

soundoff (433 Responses)
  1. Reality

    What drove the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the safety of mosques and what is taught therein. Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere.

    Once the bowers to Mecca, however, see that they have been conned by the "angelic" hallucinations of a long-dead, warmongering, womanizing (11 wives) Arab, these 1.5 billion lost souls will quickly become secularists, agnostics or atheists and a semblance a global peace will spread across the globe

    August 9, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  2. Reality

    What drove the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the safety of mosques and what is taught therein. Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere.

    Once the bowers to Mecca, however, see that they have been conned by the "angelic" hallucinations of a long-dead, warmongering, womanizing (11 wives) Arab, these 1.5 billion lost souls will quickly become secularists, agnostics or atheists and a semblance a global peace will spread across the globe.

    August 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  3. vincent27

    If the Imam is really serious about his opposition to terrorism, why doesn't he issue a fatwah against all those who engage in terrorists acts?

    August 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  4. Jay

    There is no place for this mosque in New york. Regardless of the rhetoric, the Islamic faith is determined to remove all non-Islamic peoples form the world. I realize there are "moderate" Muslims, but the simple fact is that the Korans instructs true Muslims to kill all outsiders. Muslims are the biggest threat to your religious freedoms in the world today.

    August 9, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
  5. Mace

    This is one of those few times when I will speak out about a subject. There's no way that building a mosque on the site of the 9-11 muslim led attacks is appropriate. Why not just build a memorial to the hijackers? Symbolism is a huge thing in the Muslim religion and letting them put up a mosque where we should still have buildings is like giving them a spot to celebrate their victory. That is unacceptable. How would the people that died in the 9/11 attacks feel about that? My uneducated guess is that they'd be less than understanding about how the people that killed them basically have a memorial erected in their honor on that spot. If that's not the way you look at it, you are probably not a Muslim. Again, letting them build a mosque there almost seems like we gave them permission to take out the old buildings, just after the fact. Unacceptable.

    August 9, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • acl812

      get your facts straight, the center is TWO BLOCKS AWAY and they are building a memorial on the site. This is why a little bit of knowledge is dangerous.

      August 9, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  6. vincent27

    Bravo Julia Corning for having the courage to speak out so cogently. Over and over again, we hear the plea to open our hearts and show tolerance to a community that simply wants to practice its faith. If that were the case, this discussion wouldn’t even be taking place. We are told we cannot lump moderate Muslims together with a limited number of radicals who perpetrate violence. Perhaps. But aren’t all Islamic governments state-run terrorist organizations? Theirs is not the action of an isolated few. Look at Iran, for instance, the home of the Islamic revolution, the country that really sets the tone for the rest of the Islamic world. Just yesterday we learned that seven members of the Baha'i community were condemned to 20 years in prison because they would not renounce their religious beliefs and embrace Islam. Historically, every country where Islam is the state religion, other religious communities have been eliminated. The problems with Islam are many, but the first to come to mind are: 1: punishment of religious offences by penal means (such as stoning women for alleged adultery); 2: women are second class citizens at best (it takes more of them in a court room for their testimony to have the same weight as a man’s); 3: no one is free to choose or reject the religion. Apostasy can be punishable by death; 4: freedom of expression is non-existent. Just try drawing a cartoon of Mohammed and see what happens. The Quran forbids the killing of Muslims by other Muslims, but that is what we are seeing on a daily basis with suicide bombing after suicide bombing. Is it not normal to be suspect of mosques and even the community at large given their horrendous track record? Mosques in Germany and Great Britain served as meeting/planning centers for attacks on the West, the enemy Jihad seeks to overcome. Just this week, German authorities finally had enough evidence to warrant the closing of a mosque because of its terrorist links. I said it before and I’ll say it again: Islam - reaping all the benefits that come with religious status while wreaking all the devastation of a totalitarian ideology. The feeble voice of moderate Muslims will remain irrelevant until Muslim men find the courage to denounce their Imams and Mullahs for manipulating every aspect of their existence and denying them the right to think for themselves and chose their own destiny and Muslim women stand up the male-dominated theocracy suppressing them, as reflected in the head-covering and veils that many of them are forced to wear.

    August 9, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  7. james

    If this is not a "victorty" shrine, why not move it to a less sensitive location? SHOW the world your desire for peace.

    August 9, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  8. james

    Since the time of the prophet it has been the practice of lslam to use your enemy’s strength against him. To the Muslim in this country the acceptance of religious freedom is a weakness to be exploited and not a vehicle for acceptance and open exchange.
    Once a Muslim majority is reached in this country you’ll find they do not grant the same acceptance of diversity they have been given.
    Remember, It is perfectly acceptable to Allah to lie to the infidel in order to promote the cause of Islam.

    August 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  9. Charbel

    My last post is for Stephen

    August 9, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  10. SourMilkSea

    Take all the "I hate Americans/I Hate Muslims" nonsense out of this...I'm a New Yorker. Diversity is a way of life. On any given day, as a 3rd Generation Italian-American, I am the minority on my local Subway Train. The neighborhoods that I grew up in that used to be italian and greek are now Korean and Middle-Eastern. Such is the way of New York City. New Yorkers dont feel racism, typically, because there are two many nationalities running around to hate just ONE or TWO. In fact, one would say that we just hate "people in our way" most days as we march our way through the Concrete Jungle on our way to our respective jobs...But we area loyal bunch. When the chips are down, New Yorkers come together...as evident by the aftermath of 9/11. The opposition towards the Community Center is that we still feel the loss of the WTC incident. How many of us grew up with those buildings as the backdrops of our school memories, our prom dances..our first jobs? How many of us have six degrees of seperation someone that was injured or killed int aht tragedy? How many of us felt the pain, relived, every time a subway train would zoom by from downtown and would trail dust and debris from the WTC...even months later? We, as New Yorkers, do not need ANYONE telling us there is good and bad in every culture...we know. However, it may be too soon for something like this Community Center. No matter what we are told, it will be a reminder of the extremists of that theology that forever changed our landscape and our lives. For anyone to say "Tough Crap. Get over it." is insensitive to the 10,000,000 people that will look at this as no different of a slap in the face as a Charismatic Christian Church to go up next door to an Abortion Clinic, just a few years AFTER some Christian Fundamentalist walked in and murdered everyone in there to "protest" actions he did not believe in....Right or wrong, there is a sting. There should be a statute of limitations on when something like this should go up. To the Muslims of America, I say this...the wound is still fresh. Salt on it will not get the liberal "one-love" response you demand. Sorry.

    August 9, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  11. Humberto Rocha

    I live in Canada Toronto, and was a appauled to hear about the Islamic center being build behind 9-11 'ground zero', 'This is not about the World Trade Center' BULL, YES IT IS, you should be ashamed and be more considered of those who lost family members, building an islamic temple beside ground zero will fuel many americans. Politicians should have interfered and not let this happen. Shame on Sharif El-Gamal.

    August 9, 2010 at 9:46 am |
  12. Boo-yaka

    I live in New York and I support this center. I think the reason they approved this is because too many people are emotional over it. You don't let emotional people decide the future progress of your community. Everyone from the Mayor, to the Police Commissioner, and local leaders from multiple different faiths support it. These are people the city entrusts to oversee all major development matters are legitimate and good for us. If there was something wrong with it then Bloomberg would've raised all hell.

    On another note, people may not have forgiveness in their hearts but killing more people and sending young men and women to die overseas does us no good either.
    If we all get together and support this thing it could serve as a first step in the right direction towards PEACE. Maybe one day they'll tolerate a church.

    August 9, 2010 at 5:58 am |
  13. Stephen


    Another comment: Unless you are a Muslim, or have had a similar experience, my personal experiences with 3 devout Muslims give me a level of understanding about Islam that you simply cannot equal. You cannot learn about that from reading a book. For you to discount that does not speak highly of your critical thinking skills, no offense intended. Maybe you simply misunderstood my message. Furthermore, I was not taught to judge others by their faith or looks as well. I speak of the religion, not the people. Why would I become such close friends with Muslims, and even date one, if I thought they were "evil"??? Furthermore, your post lacks any mention of the aspects of Islam which make it so repressive: Sharia law, status of women, status of non-muslims, etc. Why would you leave those out? What is your motive? (Are you Muslim?)

    Like I said before, just imagine if Mohammed told his followers that the only way to get to heaven would be to not harm a single human being – ever – after becoming a Muslim. (This is somewhat the idea that Jesus left to his followers, except you obviously cannot get to heaven by JUST being a kind person...). Think of how different the world would be. Once you realize that concept – how different the world would be – you truly begin to understand what Islam really is.

    Finally, I hope no offense was taken in any of this, as that is not my intention.


    – Stephen

    August 9, 2010 at 4:37 am |
  14. acl812

    In 200 years we will be judged on our current behavior and the history books will not be kind. They say the same thing we say about the treatment of japanese americans during ww2, that it was an ugly, racist mistake. And why will they say this? Because the irrational emotion will be removed from the historians judgement. They will be able to see things in a factual manner, without passion or prejudice. Our vision is clouded, our emotions get in the way, it is irrational to block this cultural center. Do we really want to be the country that blocks the rights of some people, as long as those people are not you yourself? Arab Americans and muslims died in 9/11 also, were 1st responders also, how can we act like those things never happened?

    August 9, 2010 at 3:22 am |
  15. acl812

    Opposition to this center is wrong in so many ways it is ridiculous. First our society is supposed to about freedom of religion, but that is really just a lie we like to tell ourselves, it is actually has become a freedom of christianity society only. This intolerance written here is why the founding fathers ran from Europe. To suggest that Islam has any correlation to terrorism is dumb. There are islamic terrorists, just as there are christian terrorists. Should family members of lynched black men fear christian churches because KKK members burnt crosses and lynched people in the name of christ? What about the christian missionaries sent to Africa to open the door to slave trading? Should we worry about churches being built next to the Oklahoma City memorial? Sounds stupid to you doesn't it? Asking where the money to build the site is coming from is also an insulting question that no christian center in America would ever have to answer. Yet they are willing to answer it. Men have committed evil acts in the name of all major religions, NO faith is exempt throughout history.Why? Because they all are followed by flawed men. We cling to our faiths like we choose them, yet one of the leading reasons of why MOST of us follow our particular faith is because of the region of the earth we were born in. IF you were born in India, or China, or Iran, that bible that you hold onto for dear life would be a different book. What you believe is not even based upon discriminating study of different religions, followed by an informed choice of a faith you believe in. No, it is actually based upon the random chance of life. How could something so important be determined by something so fleeting? If you never spent time TRULY studying different faiths, practicing and learning about other faiths with an open mind and heart, then don't quote them here. It just makes you look small minded and ignorant. If you got the quote from some website, but don't have that faith book in your house for you to really study, then don't use any quotes. If you live in Oklahoma, or Iowa, or xyz state, and you haven't left that state, or the country ever, or travelled to learn about other world cultures how can you intelligently speak on a religion you haven't seen in PRACTICE. I understand people are scared, but if your fear is irrational, we shouldn't entertain it, we should work to change it. We need to stop this tribal mentality. Americans always see the world form a selfish perspective. We are arrogant, believe that all other countries are beneath us, have no tolerance or desire to understand and EMBRACE other cultures, we are a bowl of stew not a melting pot. We want anyone who doesn't talk, walk, or sound like us, to change and become like us? Where is our acceptance of others, our desire to learn and accept our natural differences? Do
    americans ever say wow it must be tough to be an arab american after 9/11? Do they even care?

    August 9, 2010 at 3:10 am |
  16. Mike M

    It is incredible to read through the myriad of comments here and find that one idea seems un-represented from either side.

    The immense tragedy of 9/11 was one created by terrorists. Not Muslims, this is an important distinction, and it has been made already multiple times. Not all Muslims are violent, just as not all members of any other religion share all of their views.

    The important thing to understand is: What was the purpose of the terrorists? Al Qaida was hoping to instill fear, to divide the nation, to make themselves famous and take innocent lives.

    To fight these terrorists we must build connections instead of walls, seek to understand rather than fear, open our hearts instead of closing them to others. To marginalize Hate instead of becoming hateful ourselves.

    In my eyes the biggest tragedy here would be to let the terrorists win by making us fearful, hateful, closed minded and controlling.

    Let America continue to be a nation focused on kindness, opportunity, tollerance and freedom.

    I'm not a Muslim or a Christian and so I won't engage in the one sided rhetoric voiced here above but instead quote a poem that I understand is a part of the Statue of liberty. This oft quoted poem calls all those who seek to live by the values that, the golden land of opportunity stands for, (regardless of race or religion) to come join this nation.
    Though there are several quotes associated with the Statue of Liberty, the most popular one is "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free", from the sonnet written by the poet Emma Lazarus. In the early 1900s, a plaque with her poem was mounted inside the pedestal. The poem goes like this:

    "Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
    With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

    Let the light of Liberty Shine from Ground Zero over Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, schools, buildings borders and let those terrorists the world over no that The USA is more than buildings or people its power is in ideas and freedom.

    They May break buildings life and hearts but they will not make this proud nation bow to their ignorance and hate.

    August 9, 2010 at 2:44 am |
  17. omar

    I ask every single one of you to go into a mosque during friday prayers. They are at 1:00 pm every friday at any mosque anywhere in the world! see what they talk about, you will always be welcomed there and no one will try to convert you. see it for yourself... but if you just want to blast off generalizations, and call muslims terrorists then you are just in this world to make it worse. Quit listening to others and do your own reading and exploring. Don't be mindless sheep! don't listen to the tv and these so called religious leaders without confirming for YOURSELVES!

    August 9, 2010 at 1:56 am |
  18. Wafa

    I am Muslim, I am not an extremist. My religion was hijacked on 9-11. I want to worship freely because I am also an American and if this mosque is or isn't about the world trade center it doesn't matter. Why are we even having this conversation??? I hope that a church and a synagogue can go up near this mosque and we can learn to love one another and be free of extremists from ANY religion!

    August 9, 2010 at 1:39 am |
  19. CNNCommunistNewsNetwork

    Why would anyone think this is a good idea? It is the worst idea since...well....ever.

    August 9, 2010 at 12:09 am |
  20. Jeff


    August 9, 2010 at 12:06 am |
    • Wafa

      Muslims died too and Muslims serve in the military. Again do your research buddy

      August 9, 2010 at 1:40 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.