WTC Muslim Center
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Is It Appropriate to Build a Muslim Community Center (aka the ''Ground Zero Mosque'') near the World Trade Center site?
WTC Muslim Center
ARCHIVED WEBSITE: No new data posted since June 3, 2013 because Park51 has had a prayer center since 2009, and as of Sep. 21, 2011, it also houses a photography exhibit of NYC kids and a capoeira class, and is thus formally a Muslim-run community center.

The debate over whether or not it is appropriate to build a Muslim community center (aka "Ground Zero Mosque," aka Cordoba Initiative, aka Park51 project) near the World Trade Center site has grown from a local discussion to an issue of international prominence, prompting protests in the streets of New York and drawing responses from well-known American political leaders.

Proponents argue that the 16-story Muslim community center will be an asset to the neighborhood and local economy, and that its construction demonstrates America’s religious tolerance. Opponents argue that the ''Ground Zero Mosque'' is an insensitive and disrespectful political ploy by radical Islamists that will inflict emotional distress on families who suffered casualties on Sep. 11, 2001. Read more...


Did You Know?
Pro & Con Arguments
Top Pro & Con Quotes
Background
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Comments

ARCHIVED WEBSITE: No new data posted since June 3, 2013.
On June 3, 2012, we archived this site -- meaning we will likely no longer make any updates to it. The site was archived because Park51 has had a prayer center since 2009 (although technically not a mosque since it does not have an "imam in residence"), and as of Sep. 21, 2011, it also houses a photography exhibit of NYC kids and a capoeira class. It is formally a Muslim-run community center, and our core question is thereby considered resolved. This website will remain accessible so that our readers can continue to benefit from the information it provides. If something materially significant occurs on this subject, we may update or even "unarchive" the site. For a list of all our websites, please visit www.procon.org.


WTC Muslim Center ProCon.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit website that presents research, studies, and pro and con statements on questions related to whether or not its appropriate to build a Muslim community center (aka the ''Ground Zero Mosque'') near the World Trade Center Site.
Did You Know?
  1. There was a Muslim prayer room located on the 17th floor of Two World Trade Center (the South Tower). [1]  

  2. The Muslim community center, as proposed, is a 16-story building that will include a library, a gym, a swimming pool, a basketball court, a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant, a 9/11 memorial, child care facilities, a culinary school, and a two-story prayer space. [2][3] 
     
  3. Landing gear and other debris from one of the 9/11 hijacked planes crashed through the upper two floors of the proposed Muslim community center building back when it was still a Burlington Coat Factory store. [4

  4. The Muslim community center, as proposed, will be located about two blocks from the World Trade Center site.  The New York Dolls strip club, the Pussycat Lounge strip club, the Masjid Manhattan Mosque, and an Off-Track Betting facility are all located within four blocks of the World Trade Center site.

  5. Human remains from the Sep. 11th attacks were found within 350 feet of the planned community center location.
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Teacher Survey
Pro & Con Arguments: "Is it appropriate to build a Muslim community center (aka the 'Ground Zero Mosque') near the World Trade Center site?"
PRO - It is appropriate to build a Muslim community center (aka the 'Ground Zero Mosque') near the World Trade Center site
  1. The "Ground Zero Mosque" will be an asset to the city. According to plans released by the Cordoba Initiative - the group behind the project - what is planned is a community center with a library, a gym, a swimming pool, a basketball court, a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant, a 9/11 memorial, child care facilities, and a culinary school. [2]

  2. The Muslim community center is a major economic investment that will pump over $100 million in infrastructre into lower Manhattan and will create as many as 150 full-time and 500 part-time jobs in an area that desperately needs it. [5]

  3. Contrary to what many believe, the ''Ground Zero Mosque'' is not a mosque. A mosque is a Muslim holy place in which only worship can be conducted. [8] The community center is 16-stories high with a 2-story prayer space that is, according to its builders, "open to everyone." [2]

  4. The United States was built upon tolerance and religious freedom, and a mosque at Ground Zero would represent American values. [15] We should not allow the 9/11 terrorists' message of intolerance to reign in our country.

  5. Muslims have the same right to build a house of worship in Lower Manhattan and to pray for the victims of 9/11 as any other group. [18] Approximately 60 Muslims were murdered in the 9/11 attacks. [17]

  6. The Park51 project allows Muslims to remind Americans that the destruction that struck the Twin Towers does not represent Islam. [20] Al-Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, not Islam. [21] As filmmaker Michael Moore posted on his blog, "Blaming a whole group for the actions of just one of that group is anti-American. Timothy McVeigh was Catholic. Should Oklahoma City prohibit the building of a Catholic Church near the site of the former federal building that McVeigh blew up?" [61]

  7. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a moderate Muslim who has been preaching in New York for 27 years. He intends to use Park51 as a place where moderate Muslim voices "are amplified" to condemn terrorism and work for peaceful and harmonious relationships with New Yorkers. [23][24]Rauf is an American citizen who says he "votes in elections, pays taxes, pledges allegiance to the flag, and is a Giants fan." [28]

  8. It is appropriate for a mosque to be built near Ground Zero because one existed on floor 17 of the South Tower of the World Trade Center and was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. [13]

  9. Several family members of 9/11 victims have publicly supported the Park51 project. Frank Tatum, who lost his mother on 9/11, stated, "We do have religious freedom. I know the [9/11] wounds are still very open, mine included, but you have to look at the big picture. You can't practice these freedoms only when it suits us. You have to practice them all along." [27]

  10. Cancelling the plans to build the "Ground Zero Mosque" will signal to Islamic extremists that America is anti-Muslim, which may endanger Americans and put the country at risk of a future terrorist attack. [28]
    According to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, if Park51 were moved "…the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America, this will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment…" [57]

  11. We are fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect Muslims from tyranny. We should also be protecting them from tyranny at home by standing up for their rights, including freedom of religion. [8]

  12. The name Cordoba House was chosen to represent Cordoba, Spain, a Middle Age city where Muslims, Christians, and Jews co-existed peacefully during a famous period of cultural enrichment. [29] On July 13, 2010, to satisfy critics, the project was renamed Park51 to put emphasis on the community center aspect of the project rather than religion. [30]

  13. A Muslim community center receiving funding from Arab sources overseas is not problematic because Arab investment in the United States is nothing new. Arab countries held approximately $8 billion in foreign direct investment in the United States in 2009. [58] Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been derided for receiving funds from "radical" Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, but bin Talal is not a radical. He has made several large investments in the United States, and is reported to be the second largest shareholder of News Corp, the parent company of Fox News. [59]
CON - It is not appropriate to build a Muslim community center (aka the 'Ground Zero Mosque') near the World Trade Center site
  1. The 9/11 attacks were committed by Muslim terrorists in the name of Islam. Building a Muslim mosque on the hallowed ground near the World Trade Center site is an insult to the memory of those killed on Sep. 11, 2001. [6] The World Trade Center site should remain a sacred burial ground and a war memorial free from the hurtful and antagonistic presence of a nearby mosque.

  2. The "Ground Zero Mosque" would become a permanent lightning rod for anti-Muslim feelings. [19] According to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, "All the proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero will do is create more division, more anger, and more hatred." [12] That divisiveness is not good for anyone, especially Muslims.

  3. There should be no mosques near Ground Zero until there are churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia, or until Christians or Jews are allowed to enter Mecca. Islamists that call for tolerance need to address their own practices before they criticize America's. [7]

  4. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the spiritual leader of the proposed "Ground Zero Mosque," is a radical Islamist who has refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization and has laid blame on the US for the Sep. 11 attacks. [14] In a July 2005 speech, Rauf has even stated that "the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims.” [22] In a Sep. 30, 2001 interview on 60 Minutes about the 9/11 attacks, he said that "the United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime” and that "Osama bin Laden was made in the USA.” [62]

  5. The financers of the "Ground Zero Mosque" have ties to radical Islamic extremists. According to an Aug. 23, 2010 Fox News report, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has received funds from Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who has allegedly funded radical Islamic Madrassas around the world. [9][10] 15 of the 19 jihadis in the Twin Tower attacks were Saudis. [11]

  6. Several prominent Muslims believe the "Ground Zero Mosque" should not be built, including Zuhdi Jasser, President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, and Stephen Schwartz, Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism. There are over 100 mosques in New York where Muslims can worship freely. [7] The Muslim Canadian Congress stated that "We believe the [Park51] proposal has been made in bad faith and, in Islamic parlance, is creating 'fitna,' meaning 'mischief-making,' an act clearly forbidden in the Qur’an." [19]

  7. The idea of a Muslim mosque near Ground Zero where Muslims killed so many Americans is morally repugnant. A Serbian Orthodox church near the killing fields of Srebrenica where 8,000 Muslims were slaughtered would never be tolerated, and neither would a pro-Japanese monument near Pearl Harbor. [65] [66]

  8. CNN, Rasmussen, and Quinnipiac polls show that 68%, 54%, and 71%, respectively, of Americans feel that the "Ground Zero Mosque" should not be built at its proposed location. [25][26][64]

  9. Building the "Ground Zero Mosque" will endanger New Yorkers because anti-Muslim extremists will target it for an attack. [8] On Oct. 3, 2010, the New York City Police Department confirmed it was investigating death threats against Imam Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan. [56] A Florida pastor threatened to burn 100 Korans on 9/11/10 if the Muslim community center were built at its proposed location, a provocative act which many believed would have led to violent retaliation from Muslim extremists. [63]

  10. The name Cordoba House proves that the 'Ground Zero Mosque' is intended to be a victory monument for terrorists. [16] According to former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, "The name 'Cordoba House' is a deliberately insulting term that refers to Cordoba, Spain - the capital of Muslim conquerers who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world's third-largest mosque complex." [7]

  11. 45-51 Park Place, the proposed location of the "Ground Zero Mosque," sits well within the hallowed ground of the World Trade Center site. The current businesses in the neighborhood, even if unsavory, are irrelevant to this fact. Human remains were found within 350 feet of the proposed Muslim community center. Jim Riches, a former New York City Deputy Fire Chief whose son, Jimmy, was killed on 9/11, stated, "I just think it's very insensitive to say it's not hallowed ground because of who's occupying the buildings. The strip club didn't murder my son." [60]
Comment Comment
Background: "Is it appropriate to build a Muslim community center (aka the 'Ground Zero Mosque') near the World Trade Center site?"

Aerial Photograph of Ground Zero
(Click to enlarge image)
Aerial photograph of Ground Zero.
Source: Associated Press, "Attacks Reconstruction, Changing NYC Pictures," www.newshopper.sulekha.com, March 22, 2009
The debate over whether or not it is appropriate to build a Muslim community center (aka "Ground Zero Mosque,” aka Cordoba Initiative, aka Park51 project) near the World Trade Center site has grown from a local discussion to an issue of international prominence, prompting protests in the streets of New York and drawing responses from well-known American political leaders.

Proponents argue that the 16-story Muslim community center will be an asset to the neighborhood and local economy, and that its construction demonstrates America’s religious tolerance. Opponents argue that the ''Ground Zero Mosque'' is an insensitive and disrespectful political ploy by radical Islamists that will inflict emotional distress on families who suffered casualties on Sep. 11, 2001.

The Muslim community center debate traces back to the July 2009 purchase of an empty building (formerly a Burlington Coat Factory) at 45-47 Park Place, New York, NY, for $4.85 million in cash by real estate company Soho Properties. [31]  The purchase was led by developer Sharif El-Gamal and backed by an eight-member investment group, which also took over the lease of neighboring 49-51 Park Place for an additional $700,000. [32][33El-Gamal has refused to identify his fellow investors except for businessman Hisham Elzanaty, who claims to have provided most of the financing. Elzanaty has come under scrutiny for his 1999 donations to the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a popular Muslim charity that had its assets frozen by the US and EU governments for providing material support to Hamas. [34] 

The current building at 45 Park Place, the location of the proposed ''Ground Zero Mosque''
(Click to enlarge image)
The current building at 45 Park Place, the location of the proposed ''Ground Zero Mosque.''
Source: City Realty, "Landmarks Commission Holds Raucous Hearing on Proposed Mosque Near Ground Zero," www.cityrealty.com, July 13, 2010


On Dec. 8, 2009, the New York Times published an article titled "Muslim Prayers and Renewal Near Ground Zero,” which noted that an Islamic center was planned for the 45 Park Place location, where some Muslims had been holding Friday prayers since the building was purchased in July. [35]  On Dec. 21, 2009, Daisy Khan, wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (slated to be the spiritual leader of the Muslim community center), was interviewed by guest host Laura Ingraham on Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor about the project. During the interview, Khan explained that the center will deliver a message of tolerance and love, and Ingraham stated that she "can’t find many people that really have a problem with it." [36]

Formal plans for the project were introduced at a meeting of the Finance Committee of Local Manhattan Community Board No. 1 on May 5, 2010, and approved by a 12-0 vote. [38Officially titled the Cordoba House, the plans called for demolishing the current buildings at 45-51 Park Place and replacing them with a $100 million facility that would include a mosque, a September 11th memorial, a library, a culinary school, a 500-seat auditorium, and recreation facilities such as a swimming pool, a gym, and a basketball court. [2] The location is approximately one-tenth of a mile from the northern side of the World Trade Center site. [37] 

Artist rendering of what the ''Ground Zero Mosque'' will look like
(Click to enlarge image)
Artist rendering of what the ''Ground Zero Mosque'' will look like.
Source: New York Architecture, "Park51- Mistrust and the Mosque," www.nyc-architecture.com, Sep. 2, 2010
On May 7, 2010, Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) Executive Director Pamela Geller began posting anti-mosque blog entries on her website atlasshrugs.com, which caught the attention of New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser. [39][40] On May 13, 2010, Peyser published a full length column titled "Mosque Madness at Ground Zero,” which brought the debate into the mainstream media. [40]

On May 25, 2010, the Cordoba House was approved in a 29-1 vote, with 19 abstentions, by Lower Manhattan Community Board No. 1. [41] There were over 100 in attendance at the board meeting, and dozens spoke out in support of and in opposition to the mosque, including Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, victims' family members, and emergency personnel who were trapped in the rubble after the Twin Towers fell. [42]

The first large protest over the Muslim community center occurred on June 6, 2010. Organized by Geller, the event drew a crowd of over 1,000, according to New York Daily News estimates. [43] Geller stated that she chose June 6 as the rally date "...because it’s D-Day. In 1944, Americans acted against the evil of Nazism. Now it is time for Americans to stand up against the evil of Islamic jihad terrorism.” [44]

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin addressed the controversy via Twitter on July 18, 2010 by stating, "Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in the interests of healing.” [45] Then, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich weighed in on July 21, 2010, by issuing a newsletter attacking the Cordoba House, claiming that it will be a "megamosque” overlooking Ground Zero.
Protesters march in opposition to the proposed ''Ground Zero Mosque''
(Click to enlarge image)
Protesters march in New York on Sep. 11, 2010 in opposition to the proposed ''Ground Zero Mosque.''
Source: Reuters, "Muslim Center Dispute Sparks New York Rallies," www.blogs.reuters.com, Aug. 23, 2010
[7]

Park51 passed a major legal hurdle on Aug. 3, 2010, when the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission denied landmark status to the building at 45 Park Place in a 9-0 vote. Landmark designation would have derailed plans to destroy the current building and replace it with the Park51 complex. [46] New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg followed the ruling with a speech in defense of the project, in which he stated that "The World Trade Center Site will forever hold a special place in our City, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves – and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans – if we said 'no' to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.” [18]

On Aug. 11, 2010, CNN released a poll showing 68% of Americans opposed the plan to build a mosque two blocks from the site where the World Trade Center used to stand, while 29% supported the plan. [64] Two days later, President Barack Obama stated: "As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan… This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable." [47] On Aug. 14, Obama stated that he was not commenting on the wisdom of going forward with the project, only on its legality. [48]

Supporters of the ''Ground Zero Mosque'' rally in New York on Sep. 11, 2010
(Click to enlarge image)
Supporters of the ''Ground Zero Mosque'' rally in New York on Sep. 11, 2010.
Source: Reuters, "Muslim Center Dispute Sparks New York Rallies," www.blogs.reuters.com, Aug. 23, 2010
Following President Obama’s comments, numerous high-profile politicians spoke out on the "Ground Zero Mosque” controversy. US House Minority leader John Boehner called Obama’s support for the mosque "troubling.” [49] On Aug. 16, 2010, US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated that the mosque should be built at another location, and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty stated that the hallowed and sacred ground around the WTC site needs to be respected. [50][51] US Representative Ron Paul responded on Aug. 20, 2010, stating that the controversy is "all about hate and Islamaphobia.” [52]

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf addressed the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy in a Sep. 7, 2010, New York Times article in which he stated that plans for construction of Park51 were going forward despite the controversy surrounding the project because he believes the center will have a positive impact on Muslim-American relations. [29]

On Sep. 11, 2010, thousands of protesters converged on Lower Manhattan for dual rallies over the "Ground Zero Mosque," during which heated confrontations, some warranting police intervention, erupted between the rival demonstrations. [53]

In a Sep. 13, 2010, statement at the Council on Foreign Relations, Rauf stated that "everything is on the table” in the effort to solve the controversy, including delaying construction to allow time for more public dialogue. However, Rauf claimed that he doesn’t control the location of Park51, Sharif El-Gamal does, and El-Gamal has stated that he has no plans to change it. [28][54] The statement by Rauf was contradicted on Sep. 20, 2010, by Hisham Elzanaty, who stated that he "probably” controls the fate of the building. Much like El-Gamal, Elzanaty has vowed to not walk away from the project, indicating the location will not be changed. [55]

On Sep. 21, 2011, Park 51, the Islamic community center near the World Trade Center ground zero, opened to the public and held its first photography exhibit, "NY Children" by Danny Goldfield. The Muslim prayer center at the site opened in 2009 but, as of Sep. 2012, did not have an Imam in residency (a requirement to be a mosque). Fundraising for the 15-story building, planned to include an auditorium, educational programs, a pool, a restaurant, a culinary school, child care services, a sports facility, a wellness center, and artist studios, is still underway. As of Apr. 2013, the space holds the prayer center and a capoeira class, and further building or renovation has not taken place. [67] [68]

Video Gallery (click to watch video)

Pamela Geller and Robert Salaam debate ''Ground Zero Mosque."
Source: "Hot Debate: Is a Mosque Next to Ground Zero Offensive?" www.youtube.com
, June 7, 2010

Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives speaks out against the proposed ''Ground Zero Mosque."
Source: "Newt Gingrich: No Ground Zero Mosque," www.youtube.com
, July 29, 2010

MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann reports about the ''Ground Zero Mosque.''
Source: "Keith Olbermann Special Comment: There Is No Ground Zero Mosque," www.youtube.com
, Aug. 16, 2010


Notices for WTC Muslim Center and Other ProCon.org Information (archived after 30 days)

9/10/2014  NEW ProCon.org Website! – Should students have to wear school uniforms? - Our 51st website explores the pros and cons in the debate over mandatory school uniforms. Almost one in five US public schools required students to wear uniforms during the 2011-2012 school year, up from one in eight in 2003-2004. Proponents say that school uniforms make schools safer for students, create a "level playing field" that reduces socioeconomic disparities, and encourage children to focus on their studies rather than their clothes. Opponents say school uniforms infringe upon students' right to express their individuality, have no positive effect on behavior and academic achievement, and emphasize the socioeconomic disparities they are intended to disguise.

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