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.
If this is not a victory mosque then WHY does thier mosque ABSOLUTELY have to be put exactly in that spot? Good Lord... America isnt dying... She's dead.
...gawd I hate everybody who doesn't salute Jesus
No, just your myopic, bigoted, nasty version of America.
Maybe that is where the community is ? Dunno.
17th Century Baptist (Dang sure no part of the current ones (who are not Baptist).
Jesus loves all the children of the world and so should you.
Yes, Muslims are evil while America rocks! That’s why it took America 10 years to create a 9/11 memorial.
...and I'm a total tea baggin' idiot
I have a new game we should play! Lets play cowboys and muslims! You know how the last went for the cowboys..........................
...you still play cowboys and native Americans, lil boy?
I just wet myself
Religion is the whole problem here. This sick mental disorder disease. "save someones soul, tell them about god, spread the word.." Opiate for the poor uneducated masses... become educated stop believing in something that has been smashed into your brain since you were a child
~my god is bigger than your god~~la, la, la, la, la, la...
Did I say any specific religion? No I Didn't. I meant Every religion. This does not mean we should not treat our fellow man with respect and follow common sense rules like not to steal, hurt, or kill others
"This sick mental disorder disease"
Yeah..like the one where you think you are loved.
Agree with you religion is the real problem here
Hey no tea for me maybe you should get you head out your ass and really look at what all these religions are centered around plain and simple its hate I was raised catholic and christian and personally both of those preach hatred peace is just an illusion surrounded by some form of "holy war" so kiss my ass and grow up buddy and do some studying maybe brush up on your history the muslim world isn't stupid everything they do is with a purpose and history has a away with repeating itself
They are building a major muslim community center in Chapaqua? That's where the Clintons live! I'm already laughing into my pants imaginning how the politically correct Clintons will have to tolerate rapidly changing neighborhood. Nothing compliments better morning coffee than a sound of prayer call from a nearby minarete.
You probably won't hear it from your trailer park. Most American Muslims have college degrees and live in better neighborhoods.
All I have is an outpouring of hatred for you. The mosque does not seem to soothe the rage in me!
How can you laugh into your pants?
@NoTea Certainly you have the references to back up such a sweeping statement, right? We're waiting......
Cute – troll boy
I'm such a good GOP bigot.
It's not so different from waking up to the church bells...
I want to go see.
come worship with us! your welcome!
OK....I've got a million-dollar-idea.
Setup a booth directly across the street from this mosque.
Stock the booth with a huge supply of small, remote-controlled, flying airplanes.
Sell them to passers-by. Allow them to fly these small airplanes into the mosque.
...tea baggers are profoundly dumb
Wow, a whole new level of stupid.
and put some of those little pork sausages in the planes.
good one; make sure mohammad is driving
Besides that will be a virgin stand ready for service.
I know I'm going to hell for this one, but that was a funny idea. A bad one, but still funny and I don't care who you are.
My first instinct was to laugh ( it was a funny statement.) My second instinct was to realize that some Americans want to sink to the terr orists' level. My third instinct was to wonder why so many of my brothers and sisters in arms have died just so America could become what we are fighting.
This is America Pliny, we respect AMERICANS no matter what color or religion they are. Islam is the in thing to hate right now, in 5 years it will be the Jews. We as Americans need to stop worrying so much about other people and look within ourselves at the hate and misunderstanding that exists today. I'm an active duty Marine, I once felt the same rage towards Muslims that many Americans still do. I however had the privilege of meeting and getting to know many Afghani farmers in 2003-2004, many of whom are just hard working people that have a faith. In America you'll find extreme believers in Christ, farmers, Shepards and miners, that would ki ll or bo mb and in the Muslim world you'll find the same. We need to accept that America was attacked by a radical group (timothy mcveigh 9/11 hijackers...names not capitalized on purpose) because we are free, tolerant and successful. If we don't live by, "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-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door," we have failed as Americans.
However, according to many on this blog your thinking is traitorous. Sad when being a real patriot is looked upon as weakness. Some people just cannot look past their own bigotry to recognize the strengths of our country.
Sad for NYC, and sad for America. This is a sacred area and this mosque is the sand in one's eye! The liberalism of NYC will be its detriment. One just has to look to the UK and Europe and see the Islamic mess that was created and they in turn are trying to combat.
I guess we can't build anymore churches because the terrorist Timothy McVeigh was a christian.
Don't kid yourself, this is a victory mosque for the animals.
@No Tea for Me, Please
McVeigh did not bomb in the name of christianity. But all the Islamic terrorists do terrorize in the name of Islam inlcuding the 911 monsters.
what exactly is so sacred about that area? it's crowded and dingy and smells like urine in the morning
Wow.. No tea for me please.. You sound like an 80 year old british tard.
Oh yes! The Islamic masses are going to inflict upon us pictures of children from around the world! The end of Westren Civilization in nigh!
@Meki60- Would you plz connect anyone involved with this project to 9/11.
A truly sad day for America. The Religion of Peace, I mean Terror, is granted the freedoms they want to to eliminate around the world. By the way fool, Timothy McVeigh was an Atheist.
You're wrong about McVeigh and his pals. They cited religious influence in their trials. another TEA FAIL!
@NoTea As long as the Koran directs Muslims to kill the infidel, as far as I'm concerned it is NOT a religion of peace. If and when their book changes, so will my opinion.
It is not on ground zero. Please.
It's not a sacred area – you can't block off all of NYC and call it sacred. From what I can tell you can't even see the area from the Community Center anyway so who cares? It's not like it's an Al-Queda meeting room....
So we can let terriosts build mosques near a site where they killed inncoent americans. But we won't allow marijuanna legalization to help us get out of debt... problem here I think so. We need to stop this americans today are stupid why allow this to happen to the familys its a slap in the face to them. Point is if we get thrown into any more wars because of these people everyone is ging to do a 180 and say we should've handled the situation better if we weren't so two faced as a whole maybe we could move on and rebuild our country.
...stop smoking so much weed. These ARE NOT the terrorists. Is every "Christian" a terrorist because of Timothy McVeigh??
So you automatically think that every single muslim is an extremist. Gee, I wonder if the rest of the world thinks that every single Christian is a member of the KKK.
@no tea for me
Don't waste your time or energy.... it's like trying to communicate with sand. To the small minded all blacks and mexicans are criminals, and all Arabs and muslims are terrorists.
Claiming the victims' families are as clueless as yourself is the only real slap in the face I see here.
Because you are stupid, I guess that means your entire family is as well.
LOL you are all stupid. Mexicans and blacks are all criminals? no.. absolutely not. The mjaority are though and thats what brings the judgment. Blacks bring all their BS on themselves. They play the race card like they were once slaves themselves. And white ppl will forever be judged as the top tier rich. Say what you want, most you are dont know what its like in the streets, and the ones who do dont know what its like to drive a benz.,. So shut up as a whole 🙂
@ no tea for me: Please dont bring weed into this argument. It has nothing to do with stupidity.
What ever happened to freedom religion or property rights ? This is so inconsistent. I guess it is OK to tell you how to use your property, where to build your church (Indian mounds are not OK), or even how to pray if you want.
Faith is now and will always fill a deep need for humans. For the poor it may be the only way to make sense of the world. Atheist, unless you can remove the need or human desire for a supreme being, stop belittling those you feel superior too. A need for justice (it doesn't exist in this life) can get one through a bad life. You are well educated, affluent, and spoiled. Try getting in the mud with the poor and understanding them instead of trying to make people defensive and frightened of you. The atheist I know are moral. Inflicting pain is immoral for all of us.
All Blacks are criminals
All Italians are mobsters
All Irish are drunks
All Catholic priests are child molesters
Gob bless the United States of America!
As long as they have the money and the permit I see no problem they have every right to worship as they see fit and who are we to judge them. Also Christianity is just a guilty as Islam when it comes to violance look at the crusades, the inquasition, the witch hunts, the trement of women,gays, and racial minorities,& the supprestion of science.
This is sad, disrespectful, and flat out wrong.
Yes Tom, creating Jobs and a place for people to go and play basketball and other sports, as well as provide a place of worship for Muslims, Jews and Christians... Thats horrible. Not at all what Jesus would have wanted, not in the least #sarcasm!
No Tom – you're terribly wrong
SgtJ- Its very sad and troubling that you along with many other so called Americans, do not see an issue with this. Shows how pathetic some Americans have become. You shouldnt be allowed to live here. What a disgrace you are to this country. Pathetic....absolutely pathetic.
Tom, it is you that are the disgrace. I fight for freedom for all Americans, not just the white ones. Not just the ones who say they are Christian but yet show no Christian values at all! You are the disgrace sir, with your hate and prejudice. With your unwillingness to make a distinction between regular hard working people and terrorists. You are the disgrace and i'd love to tell you to your face and then escort you out of MY country. The one I have fought 3 wars for while you sit in your arm cheer hating the world and adding nothing of value to it.
Tom, Its very sad and troubling that you along with many other so called Americans have an issue with this. Shows how pathetic some Americans have become. You shouldn't be allowed to live here. What a disgrace you are to this country. Pathetic....absolutely pathetic.
I personally Love our country and all it stands for. Tom, try to imagine why America is important and not just like any other country. We take our freedom seriously. You would cave in to the terrorists.
Judge not lest ye be judged – Tommy boy
Have to agree with Tom on this one ... everything here is nothing short of pathetic.
Tom, were you dropped on your head at birth.
Thank you for being a light of reason in a dark time of American history.
Its a good thing that REAL Americans defend our country. My grandfather didn't fight for a country that would reduce its freedoms when faced with a threat. He believed in fighting for our freedom. He died too young because of his experiences in WWII and he said it was well worth it. He would be ashamed to read the cr@p on here about fellow Americans.
12. Let the entire world know through propaganda, speeches, seminars, local and national media that terrorists have hijacked Islam, when in truth, Islam hijacked the terrorists.
13. Appeal to the historically compassionate and sensitive Americans for sympathy and tolerance towards Muslims in America who are portrayed as mainly immigrants from oppressed countries.
14. Nullify America's sense of security by manipulating the intelligence community with misinformation. Periodically terrorize Americans with reports of impending attacks on bridges, tunnels, water supplies, airports, apartment buildings and malls.
15. Form riots and demonstrations in the prison system demanding Islamic Sharia as the way of life, not America's justice system.
16. Open numerous charities throughout the U.S., but use the funds to support Islamic terrorism with American dollars.
17. Raise interest in Islam on America's campuses by insisting freshman take at least one course on Islam.
18. Unify the numerous Muslim lobbies in Washington, mosques, Islamic student centers, educational organizations, magazines and papers by Internet and an annual convention to coordinate plans, propagate the faith and engender news in the media.
19. Send intimidating messages and messengers to the outspoken individuals who are critical of Islam and seek to eliminate them by hook or crook.
20. Applaud Muslims as loyal citizens of the U.S. by spotlighting their voting record as the highest percentage of all minority and ethic groups in America.
Your points are very true, the sneakiness is subtle but one can see its manifestation quite bold. Case in point this mosque.
You really do have a bug up your a$$ don't you?
I am a dimwit.
If every group that insisted, "Raise interest in ____ on America's campuses by insisting freshman take at least one course on ____", got its way, then it would take at least eight years for anybody to get a bachelor's degree in anything.
I was shocked to read your post. To say scary truth would be a understatement. The Muslims don't hide the fact that they are out to convert all faiths into there's. The radicals say "Convert Or Die By The Sword" They have now a major victory by being allowed to have there Center so close to Ground Zero. They build a mosque on the most holy site in Bethlehem Israel. When the Nazi's took over Germany. They said "We have bread and jobs, Follow Me"
ho was it that said " We will Hang You By Your Own Rope, That You Made "
The danger of Islam is very real. There are many who would live peacably but there are also just as many who ascribe to the more militant and harsher Sharia attributes. Yes, they have Freedom here. Freedom that allowed thousands of them to cheer and dance openly in our streets when the World Trade Center came down. Hitler had the freedom to form the Nazi party and ultimately be elected as the supreme power of Germany. Freedom without guards in place is not freedom, it is insanity.
Not that it makes any matter to you or anyone else, but I disagree with you comment. If one of your family members do something terrible, does that make you and your entire family terrible as well?
Do you have any references to cheering and dancing in the streets here in the U.S. as you try to imply? No? Then STFU.
"There are many who would live peacably but there are also just as many who ascribe to the more militant and harsher Sharia attributes"
Well, I guess this means there are 600 million terrorist running around.
You would think that with SO MANY Muslim terrorists living in our midst that at least ONE could have successfully bombed SOMETHING. So far we've had one crazed military gunman, a nutty sniper and a couple of failures in past decade. Even the most hard.core paranoid list on the net can't come up with more than 118 people killed(not on 9/11) by Muslims since 1972. That includes Muslims killing Muslims and some very questionable cases.
That has to be the lowest murder rate of any religion besides the Hindus.
"Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither" -Benjamin Franklin
They have every right to open the center. If someone tries to challenge them on legal grounds they should be defended arduously. However, they should not have put this mosque there. Perhaps the best analysis was by Dennis Miller. As he put it, "Do they have the right? Of course they have the right but should they, no. Why? Because it's just bad manners."
Were there not Muslim victims as well? I seem to recall a young Muslim NYPD Cadet that died saving lives. I guess he isn't a hero like the other NYPD an NYFD heroes. I guess the Muslim victims names should not be on the memorial and their families not allowed to grieve with the others. Anyone that believes that is the way it should be has just lowered themselves to the level of the terrorists. Dirt.
Out of genuine curiosity, how close is too close?
Is it bad manners to have a muslim establishment within 10 miles? 20? Perhaps it would be rude to open any new mosques anywhere in NYC? Once upon a time I agreed, this project is a little crass, but then I realized that it was all just totally arbitrary emotional designations of "too close" and "too far". If someone has a real, solid line they think we should draw and a rationale to back it up, I'd love to hear it.
Til then, though, I really think the "inappropriateness" of the distance is just hype.
Quran never teaches vandalism to human. Quran states, If you kill an innocent man/women then Allah will drag you to hell. We all know a society emerges from a group of people and in that society all are not of equal views, and some of them may be bad tempered, thieves, criminals, murderer and some may be of most worst ugly nature. This scenario exists in each society of the world. But this world is still alive due to a group of good natures of people. We should be one of them to save the world.
How then do you rationalize jihad?
72 virgins what else rationale do u need?
Slay them wherever ye find them and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. – 2:191
Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme – 8:39
A simple google search will give you more examples.
In the response to Wastrel,
As you have quoted 2 sentences, one of these if "Slay them wherever ye find them and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. – 2:191"
The answer is in the same sentence "whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter".
Look, a small group of wicked people destroys twins tower and killed many innocent people. Then what was the actions taken by US Army and army of other countries? To punish the culprit. The same view has been described in the above quoted sentence.
The problem is that Islam does NOT consider non Muslims to be humans. Therefore; your quotation ONLY applies to Muslims killing Muslims. Try reading us the other verses....The ones about enslaving the non Muslim women & children after killing their menfolk for being sub human animals. Plus the ones with plans for world domination. So kind & gentle of them(sarcasm).
So what do you guys teach about infidels again?
To build mosques in America
build mosques in Saudi Arabia
build mosques in Russia
Just build Mosqes
Some of you are so weak minded. The crazy right wing stirred up all of this fear among you to get votes. That was it. They know this community center is nothing more than that, a community center. They created all of this fear to intimidate and scare you into voting for them, and it worked. I ask you this, since the election in 2010, have you heard one word from Faux News or any politician about this publicly? NO the answer is NO. They used your prejudice and fear to get their votes and that was that. You weak minded people, when will you learn?
The Israeli's chose to occupy a land already occupied by others and to do so by displacing people who had lived there for thousands of years. The violence they face is the direct result of their policy of occupation. They have taken the land by violence and the state of fear they live in is a direct result of this.
Yes, this is fair and just, especially to the 9/11 victims of ten years ago- after all, the Thuglims allow us to build churches, synagogues, and Hindu temples in their countries….HEY what a sec…
actually, dummy, many Muslim countries have a strong Christian population. Learn something!
...tea baggy prose
I guess teemee is just another idiot that wishes our country was run like a religious dictatorship. I'll take America with Consti.tution please.
5. Take control of as much of Hollywood, the press, TV, radio and the Internet as possible by buying the related corporations or a controlling stock.
6. Yield to the fear of the imminent shut-off of the lifeblood of America – black gold. America’s economy depends on oil and 41 percent of it comes from the Middle East.
7. Yell "foul, out-of-context, personal interpretation, hate crime, Zionist, un- American, inaccurate interpretation of the Quran" anytime Islam is criticized or the Quran is analyzed in the public arena.
8. Encourage Muslims to penetrate the White House, specifically with Islamists who can articulate a marvelous and peaceful picture of Islam. Acquire government positions and get membership in local school boards. Train Muslims as medical doctors to dominate the medical field, research and pharmaceutical companies. (Ever notice how numerous Muslim doctors in America are, when their countries need them more desperately than America?) Take over the computer industry. Establish Middle Eastern restaurants throughout the U.S. to connect planners of Islamization in a discreet way.