September 19th, 2011
10:28 AM ET
Islamic center near ground zero touts first big event as center’s grand opening
By Heather M. Higgins,CNN
New York (CNN) - Earlier this month, signs of life returned to what was once a gaping pit, frozen in sadness and rife with emotion, as part of the memorial at the World Trade Center opened on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
This week, another grand opening – this one steeped in controversy – is scheduled for just a few blocks away from the site where the Twin Towers once stood.
The first part of Park51, the planned Lower Manhattan Islamic community center that sparked an international controversy last year, is set to open Wednesday with an art exhibit that features photographs of children.
“It is a huge step forward,” said Katerina Lucas, Park51’s chief of staff. “I hope it shows we are about inclusion, not exclusion.”
The photography exhibit, Park51’s first big public event, comprises portraits of children from 169 countries who now live in New York City. The opening coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace.
When plans to construct the high-rise Islamic institution were unveiled last year, a heated debate erupted over whether it was insensitive to build it so close to the site attacked by Islamic extremists.
Though the interfaith center’s leaders said the project was rooted in a spirit of cooperation and coexistence, it provoked vocal opposition from some families of 9/11 victims, politicians and others.
The driving force behind much of this opposition was Pamela Geller, editor and publisher of a blog called Atlas Shrugs.
Geller organized a protest of Park51 on the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11 and says she is appalled at the organization’s decision to highlight the photographs of children.
“It is an obvious and cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion and divert attention away from the Islamic supremacist ties, shady financial dealings, and contradictory statements of the mosque organizers,” Geller said in an e-mail.
But Park 51’s photography exhibit is a reminder that the project is quietly moving forward, despite rumors that it had been put on hold.
With $70,000 raised in under two months via KickStarter.com, a funding platform for creative projects, the remodeled space at 51 Park Place will serve as a temporary community center until groundbreaking for the rest of the building.
The project’s developers, led by Park51 Chairman Sharif El-Gamal, have hired a staff of six and continue to hold Muslim prayers at the space, just north of ground zero. But they are not speculating about a timeline for construction.
In June, El-Gamal parted ways with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric who had been the public face of Park51, over a difference in vision.
At a recent interfaith event honoring 9/11 families, Rauf said his vision to build an American-Muslim identity and enhance multi-faith dialogue hasn’t changed in 20 years.
Even though Rauf isn’t associated with Park51 any longer, he continues to focus his energy on establishing a Muslim center in Chautauqua, New York, with the hope it can be replicated in the United States and around the world.
Park51’s planners say they are committed to their original Lower Manhattan location. They are now seeking to raise $7 to $10 million in financing.
“We have broken some ground, but there are still many hurdles,” Lucas said, pointing to fundraising as the biggest one.
Lucas, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 2009, said the upcoming photography exhibition is about showcasing the diversity of New York City, which includes Muslims.
“Islam is not about extremism,” she said. “We can have a meaningful dialogue across religions.”
It’s a message shared by Danny Goldfield, the Brooklyn artist behind the exhibit. He got the idea for his children-focused series while driving from Los Angeles to New York in 2003, right after the war in Iraq started.
“I met Danny Goldfield when Park51 was still a new idea. Danny told me about NYChildren and I said his photographs should be the first event at Park51," El-Gamal said in a statement. "I am proud to say the idea has been realized. Opening this incarnation of the community center is a fantastic accomplishment."
Goldfield photographed children living in New York City’s five boroughs from countries as different as Japan and Zimbabwe and as far apart as Afghanistan and Argentina.
While his pictures have been on display before, this is the first time he has shown them all at once.
The exhibit will be open for approximately three months. Over 700 people have been invited to the opening and Lucas said that others are welcome, too.
“I bring photos together on a wall the same way a space brings people together,” Goldfield said.
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.
Mosque on top of Fredom tower in the name of tolerance. Next step. How about a dedicated room for would be sucide bomber ? This will not cost US tax payer a dime. Paid for by petro dollar of PhonySaudi Arabia.
I'm sick and tired of the whiney wimpy family members of the 9/11 people who were killed. They should all just shut up and drink their beer.
Drink their beer? That is a childish and insensitive remark. Obviously you are a petty person filled with hate. Why would not the victims families be warry of a mosque built near the site that Islamic Terrorists destroyed. You truly have no values other than to hate Americans, because hating Americans and their beliefs is the cool thing to do these days.
Americans are so kind and tolerant to all the pagans. Americans are very nice. Americans are intolerant only to the Evangelical Christians because the Evangelicals alone speak the truth to the world.
I am usually kind to crazy people... but when they get pushy and want to rant and rave take control, a firm stand in insisting on realism is necessary.
Let Muslims rescue USA since Americans did not listen to the gentle Christians. Muslims should read the Bible to get a brain.
Send us your resume. We think you are exactly what we are looking for.
@Com-, Americans, stop being a total idiot and listen to the Evangelical Christian leaders in your land.
No way! We need Mathilda with us. Mathilda is definitely Moron material.
@Moron-, thank you. I love American morons. I'm not sure about the meaning of "moron" but you Americans use it for yourselves a lot.
@Com-, Americans, stop being a total idiot and listen to the Evangelical Christian leaders in your land.
Nothing a JDAM won't cure!
Would building a huge Christian Church be allowed in IRAQ, IRAN, SAUDI ARABIA, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, or any place else in the mid-east? Then why do we permit Muslims that want to kill all of us to build their mosques here??????
73 registered churches in Iran and many in IRAQ, IRAN, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Libya
With regards to Saudi, Will you allow Muslims to build a place of worship in the Vatican?
Google is your best friend Bigot.
Churches in Islamic land are only for foreigners and a show. Muslims converting to other religions usually get imprisoned or killed instantly.
1. America is not a Christian nation (officially). While christianity may be the largest religion we aren't legally a religious nation, unlike say ISLAMIC republic of Iran.
2. Yes they are oppressive nations, so why be like them? Last I checked America prided itself on freedom and liberty instead of being a copy image of a middle eastern nation with Islam replaced with Christianity.
Why would any of those countries set the standards for how America should act, especially in terms of personal freedom?
Instantly? Like Allah strikes them down from the sky instantly?
Boy, I'd better think about becoming a Muslim...thanks Mathilda, you've been a big help in my faith journey! Allah will surely reward you with a quicker and less painless death than the other infidels!
We're supposed to be better than them, doing that is 1) wrong, 2) unethical and 3) hypocritical if the moralism doesn't affect you.
it just dosent belong across from the site of wtc. not saying it dosent belong, and not saying all muslims are bad. But given the situation and the scenerio some sensitivity should have been taken into account for people and city that who suffered from this tragedy. This is not bigotry its reality. Put the center a mile away this never would have been a discussion.
I'd rather have an Islamic center near my home then a Catholic church filled with pedophiles.
IT IS NOT "ACROSS" from the site of the WTC! People are so ignorant. It's located north almost 3 blocks around the corner and in the middle of a block of tall buildings and YOU can't even see the WTC Memorial from the Mosque! Yet no one freaks about about the one that IS across from it, and has been there before the WTC was completed.
It was reported that the numbers are low but even victims rights groups reported that they are only looking at less than five percent of priest between 1950 and current with almost a quarter of those dead.
I am wondering where the Catholic church filled with Pedophiles you speak of?
Man, shut up. It's a multi-faith center.
lol..I see dumb ppl...damn..ok
Lets brake it down.
If somebody misses an entire sentence..then..chances are they are misquoting and just perhaps out of context. Thats alls you Americans know..you got Owned and Pwned and all that crap. Can you even point your country out on a map. Learn some Shyte. Open the Quran not Koran and read for yourself. Learn about Muslims not Moslems from a Muslim not a CNN Mason Reporter
" ..I see dumb ppl...damn..ok Lets brake it down."
Break. Brakes are on your car. Or more likely your bicycle.
" Learn some Shyte."
I already read the koran, thank you.
" Open the Quran not Koran and read for yourself."
Sure. Tell me which one is the 'right' one first so I don't waste any mo' time.
"... a CNN Mason Reporter"
wt f is a "Mason Reporter?"
Well done. You passed the spelling test. That the best you got. Which is the right one. Its the only book that hasnt changed in 1400 years. Put 50c and try again. Your cheap angles are not working. Its a historical fact. You show me a verse that has been changed from any two Arabic QURANS. Stick to the topic now bigot.
" You show me a verse that has been changed from any two Arabic QURANS."
For those non-muslim readers that missed MrContext's effort at obfuscation I'll repeat it...
" You show me a verse that has been changed from
Nice try, Mo. Your koranic 'scholars' (up to now I thought that 'military intelligence' had the corner on being the quintessential example of an oxymoron) can't even agree. If the only 'true' korans are the ones written in ancient arabic, exactly how many 'scholars' are capable of reading "ancient arabic?" A couple dozen? Or less? And even they cannot arrive at a consensus, each interpreting it differently.
So is there any particular "Arabic" koran -you'd- prefer to claim is the "best" one? How about an 'approved translation' for it? Or do you have a koran and/or an interpretation for every occasion? "I'm sad/angry/loving/frustrated/... etc. Like I said in another thread, it would seem that the koran is nothing more than a multi-purpose manifesto for the management and expansion of a fascist theocracy.
"Stick to the topic now bigot."
Thanks for being so.. demanding. I understand you saying this because -demanding- seems to be what comes natural to muslims. Problem is that this is America, and I don't have to "stick" to jack shít, and I'll say whatever I please. America is not Great Britain, Denmark or Sweden. We'll post cartoons of whomever we please, and voice our opinions about whatever trash fascist religion we care to.
... and if that písses you off, all the better.
I bet you in 5 years from now, we will forget about this ordeal.
And you will also have your Sharia to celebrate alongwith.
Don't like this center? Cool. Don't go. Grow up, people.
Who's being bigoted here? Seems its the Koran that says kill people based on their religion. How bigoted is that? Is it possible to be more bigoted than that?
What page in the Quaran says that? Thankou...
(Quran 8:12) "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them" ...to name but one.
8:12 Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): "I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them."
Next Verse please liar
Aww, here we go again. Context.. it's always context. If not context, it's translation. If not translation it's interpretation. If none of the above then it's the 'wrong koran' argument. So tell me, Mo, which is the right koran?
Oh, I see.. the one written in ancient arabic.
Nice little f'n shell game you have going on there.
Wow, you got pwned m in oz.
Striking off heads is killing the unbelievers, no matter what your context is, so.....you lose. Islam does advocate murdering unbelievers.
I wan't pwned by two guys who've never read the Quaran (nor do they know how to spell it).
Hopefully, the following note will be posted outside the center's door:=====================>
What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror? 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 and location of mosques and what is taught therein.
Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................
But to be fair:
Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.
Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, cultural centers, temples and synagogues.
Park 51 should invite GLBT as a gesture of openess and tolerance.
And serve Jesus juice aka wine 🙂
Park 51 should also serve some Pork.
One can never reconcile Islam with woman's rights, universal suffrage or Western democracy. There is no such thing as a "moderate Muslim." A moderate Muslim is an unfaithful Muslim.
So you're saying that all muslims are extremeists? That every single one is a terrorist? That's funny because I have lots of friends who are muslims who are some of the friendliest people I know. Oh maybe they are just trying to make me think that they aren't terrorists so that they can really get a good sneak attack on me. Maybe you, as well as most of the other people who have posted on this story should learn a little bit more about the culture and religion that makes up muslims before you continue to reenforce why much of the world (particularly the muslim world) doesn't approve of the American mentality.
On a seperate note, no matter what people think of muslims or Islam in general, or however significant your connection to the attacks on 9/11 are, we have to let allow this community center. The 1st amendment must be upheld. Somebody in one of the other posts mentioned something about churches not being allowed in predominantly Islamic (or in the case of Iran, entirely Islamic), besides that point being quickly refuted and shredded (even in Iran, an Islamic theocracy, there are christian churches) we still have to allow that community center because our laws force us too, we may not like it but we have to bite the bullet on this one.
When Luke says " even in Iran, an Islamic theocracy, there are christian churches," he's not really telling the truth, is he? Throughout the various predominately-Islamic nations, Christian churches and members of their congregations are routinely threatened, their buildings burned, followers imprisoned etc..
And btw, Luke states that Iran is "entirely Islamic," he conveniently forgets that it isn't. It would seem that they're working on it though...
I remember Luke. He's one of those muslims or their apologists who thinks every non-muslim is stupid and gullible enough to fall for half-truths, blatant misrepresentations and outright lies.
" ... you continue to reenforce [sic] why much of the world (particularly the muslim world) doesn't approve of the American mentality."
Imagine. But it would seem that they all approve -highly- of our American money.
So all Muslims are extremists... because by your definition any Muslim who isn't an extremist isn't a real Muslim. Huh.
What purpose does such a definition serve? It's just you redefining what "Muslim" means so you can justify hating all "Muslims" indiscriminately.
Why must every Muslim be a fundamentalist? Why must all Muslims believe the same thing? That certainly isn't true of Christians. Catholics and Baptists and Lutherans and Methodists and non-denominational Christians are all Christians, aren't they? So are the Westboro Baptist Church, and the KKK, and Young-Earth fundamentalists and most people in the Flat Earth Society. Same basic religion, very different interpretations.
Likewise, Muslims share basic beliefs but differ on many specific beliefs.
>>>"here is no such thing as a "moderate Muslim." A moderate Muslim is an unfaithful Muslim"
Yep....And my father used to tell me, when I was young and often when I had gotten older, that none of my White friends were really my friends and that they would turn on me and have my lynched in a tree.
You folks are sad, saying that no matter what relations a person has with another that YOUR fear and hatred driven relationships are the only possible truths.
Was there ever any doubt it would open? Hope they have fun and are happy there.
Lay off the crack.
The only crack I lay on is my GF and I'm not giving that up. Enjoy your life!
Why do you argue with a narrow minded biggot? You don't feed them material, you sit back and let them speak so as to entertain you with their ignorance. You never know what they'll say next. If only I could get them some booze we'd have a sitcom.
Give them some booze and you'll have the same thing- they speak openly on forums what they would never have the guts to say in RL.
Ha Ha Ha. I love coming to these blogs to be entertained by the mindless racist rants by the new age Nazi's living among us. Please don't censor yourselves because that would be like taking your Nazi Uniforms off, and we like our Nazi's in uniform, this way you can spot'em "Snap finger-Just Like That" IB. As a matter of fact, they should carry around their Confederate flags with the pictures of those racist kids who beat up and run over the black guy, picketing the opening in public so they can be interviewed. Lord knows we need some comedic relief after that dreadful "Two and A Half Men" pilot.
Ooooooh.. Nazis! The Americans in the south are racist Nazis ! Wow ! Watch out !
Could it be? Nazi Muslims? Say it wasn't so....
But wait... there's more ! An islamic 'grand mufti' by the name of Muhammad Amin al-Huseyni worked hand-in-hand with Adolph to form the Bosnian Muslim Waffen SS Handschar division to achieve a common goal of Jewish extermination.
So it isn't the U.S. southern states that are racist Nazis... Who was it? Let's all say it together now –
It was.... and is.. Muslims (you do still want the Jews gone, right? Of course you do, so you're still racist ass holes)
I wonder how long it will be before somebody bombs it.
I hope and believe never. New York City has an anti-terrorism unit that rivals that of many countries. They are committed to protecting all New Yorkers. Your vile, thoughtless, violent and bigoted comment is not appreciated. I don't suggest you say that in public during any visit to NYC, you are likely to spend a very unpleasant time being interrogated,which I would think is just and fair.
It better be never.....that would just give the radical imams around the world a talking point to fire up there followers.
Probably never, but they might need to beef up the riot squads. Especially if the Imam whips up the worshipers to violence like they did in Iraq just before the Easter massacre at that Catholic cathedral last year. There have also been episodes in England & France near their big mosques. Especially if someone draws something they don't like, or they get really big.
Show us some lovin here, have the Imam marry some gay couples to show the world you are not bigots.
Why not ask the Archbishop of New York to do it?
They should BOTH perform the ceremony at the same time. And then make out.
You actually think you are funny? I think you are an ignorant bigot and I hope that this idiotic and moronic slandering of what most New Yorkers are proud of will end soon. Please do not visit my city. I don't want to see your ugly face there.
I agree with Paul, the Archbishop would never marry them either.
As a proud Muslim , I am also Gay. I will be married by the Imam in NYC.
Certainly. Right after the Imam performs a few arranged marriages of eight year old girls, to be consumated in a nearby hotel shortly thereafter, anchor baby due in nine months.
Would that be before or after the priest "plays with" the alter boy?
New York Post
9/21/11 – "Gay Muslim men married by unconventional imam."
9/22/11 – "Gay Muslim men and unconventional imam killed by local islamic radicals."
New York Times
9/21/11 – "Local Muslim men exercise rights under recent NY civil union law."
9/22/11 – "Local Muslim men and imam murdered, perpetrators unknown, but suspect yet another hate crime."
So, enjoy your legalized analizing... but my guess is that you're more likely to be one of the "unknown suspects."
The Muslims now have their victory mosque. They can now wipe their feet on the nearly 3000 dead slaughered by their terrorists.
Which Muslims have a victory mosque?
The key attribute of a bigot is the inability or unwillingness to differentiate between individuals and group. None of the individuals involved with this project are among the terrorists who destroyed the WTC. There is no connection except in the minds of bigots.
It would appear that there are some who have taken far right wing anti Muslim propaganda to a new level of bigotry and hatred.
This country is on the verge of a civil war.
It's about time. =)
Three is no such thing as a victory mosque. Nowhere in the whole world is there one. There are just vile ignorant bigots such as you who have no clue and think your comments are relevant. Stay out of my city until you grow up.
Yeah Dumb Dumb, they can celebrate the deaths of more Muslims at the hands of terrorists than all the "infidels" ever killed. You're too blind to ever see.
@ Geoffrey warned us to...
" Stay out of my city until you grow up." That pretty much sums up the problem. I'm sure that his definition of "grow up" includes either sympathy for or conversion to the religion of peace.
Tell us, a-h. Exactly what are you going to do when we don't "stay out of [your] city?"