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.
fear is the enemy of all faiths. many people have an unfavorable opinion of muslim americans after 9/11.
should we as people of a free country restrict freedom to those seeking happiness?
fear and hatred will only leave people in the dark.
take time to understad this world.
Muslims go home your alah doesn't blend with our culture! Quit trying to build your filthy mosques on our soil that has been disgraced by Muslims! It's disgraceful and distasteful what's next u wanna build a mosque on old concentration camps?
herbert juarez is a spineless coward.
To Believe or Disbelieve;
Why would these Quran verses be here if Muslims are supposed to kill disbelievers for being by what is known by "Infidels/Polytheists/Pagans,etc.."
Read the verses to see that each can worship or believe or disbelieve what they want in "Freedoms of Beliefs & The Mutual understanding of Live and Let Live"...! Any one telling otherwise could means how much people are far from the Quran teachings or misunderstanding... This Sura was a Call for a Multi-cultured Colors living together as an integrated Nation..All was there was to pay annual dues to the "The Islamic Treasury"Al-Geziah" which was to be paid by the non Muslims just as form of an annual Tax similar to that which was applied on Muslims annually in the name of "Zakat of Wealth" to the "Islamic Treasury" which in return was developing the land/people and assisted their "Poor and Needy" of all those nationals within the land...!
It wouldn't be fair if Muslim was only to pay the annual Islamic treasury dues (Zakat)..!? And since Zakat is not applicable to non Muslims then there was another different name that serves the same purpose called "Al-Geziah"...!! Based on this understanding and submission, the Islamic Multi culture empires were built and ruled continents rather than countries...
Surat Al-Kāfirūn (The Disbelievers) – Sura 109. 1 to 6 verses by Sahih International
Surat Al-Kāfirūn (The Disbelievers) -(Sura 109)
Say, "O disbelievers,(01)
I do not worship what you worship.(02)
Nor are you worshippers of what I worship.(03)
Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship.(04)
Nor will you be worshippers of what I worship.(05)
For you is your religion, and for me is my religion."(06)
Still we find that Islam is open to integrate with Multi Culture meeting people of all beliefs although each has own religion or belief...;
Surat Al-Ĥujurāt (The Rooms) -109:
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.(13)
They consider it a favor to you that they have accepted Islam. Say, "Do not consider your Islam a favor to me. Rather, Allah has conferred favor upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if you should be truthful."(17)
Indeed, Allah knows the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is Seeing of what you do.(18)
“Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]…until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.”(Surah 9:27)
Fight those who do not believe in allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what allah and his messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the book [christians and jews], until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection. (9:29)
A second objection that one hears is that Islam is a religion of peace and war in Islam is only for self-defense. Jamal Badawi, a popular Muslim apologist, claims, "Actual armed jihad is permissible under two conditions alone: one is for self-defense, and the other is for fighting against oppression." (cited in Diana Eck, A New Religious America, HarperSanFrancisco, 2001, p. 238). Although, Badawi is quite accurate in describing the conditions of armed jihad in Islam, what he fails to say is that the definitions of "self-defense" and "fighting against oppression" are much broader than usually understood. Many Orthodox Muslims believe that if a nation's leaders do not acknowledge the rule of Islam, then those rulers are "oppressors" and thus a legitimate target for war (see John Kelsay, Islam and War, Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993, p. 35). Many Muslims argue that America is a cultural aggressor by exporting its Hollywood values all over the world, and thus any fight against Americans is done in self-defense (see the article by Mark Galli, "Now What? A Christian response to religious terrorism," Christianity Today, Oct 22, 2001). Therefore, there is no end to how a Muslim group can define "self-defense" and "oppression" and thus find an Islamic justification for violence.
That was in the beginning when Islam was being fought as an Alian Religion and had to protect it self and impose it's rule...while in regard of what you quoted;
until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.”(Surah 9:27)
This "Tribute is the annual Geziah" that non Muslims have to pay that is equivalent to what the Muslims were paying as Zakat to the "Islamic Treasury"...as I mentioned in my post above...
The quran and the bible were written by old men in ancient times and both books are equally subject to interpretation by murderous people, crazy people, selfrighteous people and common people from all walks of life.
About the only thread uniting those who believe the quran and the bible are somehow written by the "one" true god, is the complete lack of thinking. The most faithful among any of these religions is the most capable of committing the most hateful acts the world has seen.
Motto? Believe what makes you happy, just refrain from killing or hurting anyone.
Selective quotations do not prove your point. I can quote from the Korans numerous jihad references as well as references to dhimmi status and the paying of jizya to show that islam cannot coexist peacefully with other religions.
GOD was before and with and ever after thee.
His 1st born son was and is and ever shall be.
The answers to our questions shall ever set everyone free.
Sometimes harsh yet most times simply.
Forever are we upon Life’s Cosmology Tree.
People are patently GOD’s Steeples and Buildings galore.
Children are reared up sometimes against but mostly are for.
Christ the redeemer, His life is found within one’s core.
Atheists or Christians, GOD does love and adore.
Sentenced in Life, we live out to do but one chore.
The animals of socialisms those Alpha wielding drones.
As perfect as we can be down to our bones.
The Omegas’ lastly Alpha belittled yet bemoans.
GOD grants descendents toward ascension’s girded groans.
Listening intently this parody prods against objections' tones.
Here is a fine represwntation of crazy people
What the **** who the **** are they wanting to be??? Area 51??? My foot!! Park 51, find yourself another home.
I feel disgusted! Obama is not even from this country n if it were any other president, this would not be happening to our country! Im ashamed to be an american for once in my entire life
Last I checked Hawaii was part of the US...
Jessica...go back to school to learn geography, and be fully aware of the correct facts. Obama is from Hawaii which is a State...his mother was American, and his father was from Africa. Where are YOUR ancestors from? That's like people telling Muslims to go back to their own country – and frankly not caring that some of those Muslims grandparents or great-grandparents have been here for decades and have fought and died for our country. I do agree that I'm embarrased to be American sometimes when I travel...because of our words and actions the majority of the world views Americans as self centered. They're right – Americans are self centered, and because of that, Americans falsely believe that if it's not American or Christian it's wrong. Hating others because of where they're from (or because of their religion for that matter) is wrong and very 'UN-Christian'. Saying Obama is not American is like saying that Rick Perry (Texas govenor running for president – God help us if he's elected) is from Iraq. Learn your facts, please.
If there was a church or synagogue opening near the site no one would bat an eye but an Islamic center gets everyone all up in arms. Why is no one considering the fact that the non-terrorist Muslims who died (and rationally there had to be at least one person who was Muslim) might want a place to worship and gather near the site of their relative's death? I know people will forever associate Islam with 9/11 but there are extremists in all religions but that doesn't mean non-KKK Christians should be denied their right to practice their religion because of what the Klan has done in the past. Let this place remain for those who lost someone in the attacks.
Actually your wrong. There was a church actually at the world trade center site; I think it was a greek orthodox church. It has been denied a permit to rebuild.
That's right. We would not have any objections if a church or a synagoge were to be built instead of an Arab-Muslim-Islamic terrorist sleeper-cell mosque on Park 51 because Jews and Christians did not destroy the WTC in the name of Allah or any other deity. Also, Christians and Jews do not wish to destroy the USA from within like Islamists do.
I should Love GOD because “I am“.
I am living because of GOD
I am learning because of GOD
I am seeing my faults because of GOD
I am repentant because of GOD.
GOD’s Love allows me to be what "I am".
You should Love GOD because “You are”.
You are living because of GOD.
You are learning because of GOD.
You are seeing many faults because of GOD.
You are repentant because of GOD.
GOD’s Love allows you to be what “You are”.
We should Love GOD because “We are”.
We are living because of GOD.
We are learning because of GOD.
We are seeing our faults because of GOD.
We are repentant because of GOD.
GOD’s Love allows us to be as “We are”.
U are stupid because of god
Religion will be the downfall of humanity. Islam is technically a peaceful religion (yes, there are extremeists, but alot of Christians aren't any better based on their thoughts words & actions – see Timothy McVeigh, the KKK, and the jerk that wanted to burn the Quran) whereas Christianity has persecuted and basically murdered people (Crusades, Inquisition, etc...) on the orders of Popes which are supposed to uphold the Ten Commandments – one of which is "Thou shalt not kill". If you didn't believe what they forced you to believe, they would break into your home, throw you in a dungeon and torture you until you admitted whatever they wanted you to, and then they'd put you to death. So very 'Christian' – sounds a terrorist to me. I was raised Catholic, and am appalled now at Christian thought and the hypocrisy of it all. I have been to 36 countries around the world, and the USA and the majority of the Christian contingent aren't 'Christian' at all – they definitely don't act it (or speak well of others). Because of 'Christian' teachings, this world will never get any better because of American arrogance that everything they think is right and pure ignorance of other religions. Grow up people...God said 'Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you'. Close some of the Churches in this country and see how Christians like it. Peace and understanding begins with YOU!!!!
@ isis,,,,,,"Religion will be the downfall of humanity."
Religion is the History of many Ages and Times. Empirical Humanities outside religious indemnifications created many a downfall. Religion still flourished. The Ages of many Older Religious Timeperiods were haunched upon the backsides of Historical Secularisms where many Old Nations fell. Still Religions flourished. To blame Religion as being the "downfall of humanity" is implausible and tantamount to iniquity.
@ isis,,,,,,,, "Close some of the Churches in this country and see how Christians like it."
Might not have to,,,,,,, If I am correct, the "crystal cathedral" has filed chapter11,,,,,,,,,,, Many other "big" churches are having a tuff go due our economic woes,,,, 🙁 & 🙂 = 🙂 🙂 🙂
The horrible persecution on non-muslims in muslim countries is thanks to Mohammed's teachings, we're infidels, sub humans.....convert or die.
The Muslim community asks the people of New York to be sensitive and to consider their position and their center as a gesture of peace and inclusion.
I wonder why they don't see our pain and consider our position.
If any christian or jew tried to build a synagogue there, i'm sure they'd be allowed to. on 9/11, there were people who died of all religions. everyone should have the right to build a house of worship wherever they please.
Religion is dangerous delusion. And Islam in practice is more dangerous than most. Delusional people do all sorts of Bad things.
Another Islamic-terrorist sleeper cell mosque in NY.
You have no basis for saying that at all. I doubt you have been to New York and still with the ill and ignorant opinions? I am from New York, grew up near what is now called Ground Zero and I find your rude comments ill considered. People like you and bigoted Christians are of far greater concern to me than Muslims in the USA. Let's not forget Olympic park bomber Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh or the KKK. Hmmm, what about those terrorirsts? In fact, and according to the FBI, Muslims are not the greater issue, it is right wing bigoted Christians. Please don't visit my city. You are not wanted.
First McVeigh described himself as agnostic. Not sure about Eric Rudolph and as for the KKK, how many terrorist acts have they committed in the last 25 years? Anyone who considers christians a greater threat to the general population than muslims is thinking emotionally versus logically.
I hope the police will grant this center a lot of protection. When it was going to be near Ground Zero, I saw two people talk about burning it down.
The comments here are pretty scary, and sad. I'll tell any of my bigoted countrypeople the same – don't attack this Islamic center. I don't care how full of hate you are at what you have been falsely taught is a "religion of hate". These are not radicals; these are peaceful moderate American Muslims who deserve the chance to live their lives without harassment and fear.
@ DJ Replay,,,, "These are not radicals; these are peaceful moderate American Muslims who deserve the chance to live their lives without harassment and fear."
The "turning point" of "peaceful moderate American Muslims" do not concern me DJ. What concerns me is what our generationed children will dictate and habitually discern within our public schools regarding other children who are either of Christian descent or are atheistically centralized. Will we have young atheist mi.litias going against every religion or will there be religious unifications to avert or maybe declare; war against such mi.litias of atheistic concernments?
Mat 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Jhn 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."
1Cr 3:9 “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.”
1Cr 3:16 "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
Luk 17:21 "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is inside/within you."
1Cr 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
1Cr 3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are
1Cr 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
These "hidden things of darkness" are of INNER SPACE and OUTER SPACE things, They are of one and of the sameness. Fractal Cosmology is yet at its’ infancy of theoretical science but I stand firm in that this theory will find for itself that INNER SPACE things are the 1st order and OUTER SPACE things are secondary. We who are of Celestial based Life gives shelter to that which lives upon the INNER SPACES of things. When we die we are returned to the place(s) we once fled or were transfixed and vexed to be extolled and committed apart from the God and His subjects who rules our embodiment’s cellularized universes. We are the mechanized cosmos' life-beings that are God’s buildings.
They continue to use our freedoms to defeat us- First UK then USA
Oh, really? How are we going to be "defeated"? A center for moderate Muslims opening, in line with First Amendment principles of religious expression and freedom – that to me is nothing but a win for America and the world.
"I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." – Voltaire
That about sums it up.
For posting outside the "center of hate's" door:
Saving 1.5 billion Muslims is quite easy!!!
The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:
( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)
Are you ready?
Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.
The First Five of the 77 Branches:
"1. Belief in Allah"
aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.
"2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."
Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".
"3. To believe in the existence of angels."
A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.
"4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."
Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.
Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.
Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.
"5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.
Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!
Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.
Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..
Mr. Richardson ... I support the Palestinian cause. You should probably visit NYC some time and walk around that area. I grew up 1.5 mile from it. There isn't a reason to oppose that mosque except bigotry. Downtown New York is a very dense area, a block there is a square mile. The Islamic center is not actually visible from Ground Zero nor the reverse. It would take you at least ten minutes to walk from one to the other. The people promoting this hatred have painted a picture of something that is simply false in terms of the intentions of the Islamic Center, it's architecture and its siting. The project has been reviewed and it is very widely supported.
Finally, you don't live in New York City. You don't have a vote. Your opinions do not matter ... your only conceivable reason for your statement is hatred.
Very well put GeoffreyF. Too many people in this country are racially prejudiced and are bigots...we have Christianity to thank for that, and most Americans are very ignorant of anything that they don't care about or know anything about (ie. other religions). This country was founded on 'Freedom of religion' but I guess after 200 years Americans don't care about that anymore – if you're not Christian, you're not right and don't deserve to worship at all. All we can do is pray to God, Allah, Yahweh for people to learn to accept each other and our differences before we all destroy this world and humanity.
To date the Port Authority of NY is refusing to allow the Greek Orthodox Church, destroyed when the towers fell on it, to rebuild. Why was a mosque allowed to be build before restortation of a church on land it has owned for many decade? This is not justice.
This is not true. The Church hasn't the funds to rebuild. It's that simple. They can rebuild if they can pay for it. Whoever told you different is a liar.