New Yorkers Split on Islamic Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan

Friday, August 20, 2010

 Pedestrians stand outside of the proposed site for the Cordoba Initiative Mosque and Cultural Center which would be blocks from Ground Zero on August 18, 2010 in New York City. Pedestrians stand outside of the proposed site for the Cordoba Initiative Mosque and Cultural Center which would be blocks from Ground Zero on August 18, 2010 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

Whether they are families of September 11 victims or just normal New Yorkers, a recent poll showed that the city is split over Park 51, the Islamic cultural center and mosque proposed a few blocks from Ground Zero, in lower Manhattan. Two-thirds of New Yorkers are against it, and less than one-third in favor. Mid-term election candidates have made the center an election issue, with politicians defending it as a First Amendment right or demanding that the city prevent the construction by taking over the site via "eminent domain." With all the controversy, emotions are running high. 

If you could decide whether or not the center were built at that location, how would you make your decision?

The Takeaway speaks with WNYC's Brian Lehrer, host of the award-winning talk show "The Brian Lehrer Show," who has been asking his listeners to weigh in on the issue.


Brian Lehrer

Produced by:

Kateri A. Jochum

Comments [9]


"It represents hope where evil tried to eradicate hope."
I can assure you, Laura, that there is no hope for the nation which replaces knowledge and decency with psychobubbling? Your relatives are not buried there. How dare you to preach to victims' families?

Oct. 18 2011 02:38 AM

"This issue is beyond ridiculous."
No, it isn't. It is only in the eyes of the demagogues. As someone who was not far from the area (but much further than 2 blocks) and felt ashes falling on her, as someone who firmly believes that certain boundaries shouldn't be crossed, as someone who who was taught to respect the dead, I am adamantly against a religious institution (and yes, particularly Muslim religious institution) on this site.
It's funny (sort of), that all these preachers of religious tolerance conveniently forget a religious command "Thou shall not build on fresh bones and ashes." And yes, dear demagogues, most victims were NOT Muslims. If you insist that the rights of several Muslims override the rights of thousands of non-Muslims, there is an additional problem.

Oct. 18 2011 02:31 AM
Robert from New Jersey

We must not forget that Muslims died on 9/11/01. And- I do not mean the perpetrators o of this terrible act. As i understand Islam it is a sin to cause the death of innocent persons. Therefore, Why should an Islamic center be prohibited two blocks away from ground zero.

In the early 40's the Office of War Information issued a series of poster to encourage the purchase of War Bonds. I have one of these posters. The Norman Rockwell Poster reads
"Save Freedom of Worship.- Each according th the dictates of his own conscience"

Sep. 30 2010 11:17 AM

Why did the Cordoba Initiative investment group purchase the Park Row site in the first place? If it was a legitimate real estate investment -- OK. Got it. But if the investment "stakeholders", as Imam Rauf's wife put it, really wanted to create a legitimate non-profit center for Peace, why there? They must have known it would be controversial, not peaceful. Why did the Community Board not have a lot of very transparent hearings so all of this hateful talk could have come out before they voted? What were they thinking as representatives of us New Yorkers? 2/3 of us are incensed at the process and the fact of this decision. If the process had been open and we could have asked questions of the developers and their “stakeholders” to find out their real intentions for the site, and if they could have heard the hurt, we would not have bigots from all over the country in our business, using us for their own hateful agendas. New York is a reasonable place. Now downtown, it’s bedlam. Is that what the Cordoba Initiative wanted. I wonder. Where is Imam Rauf and his talk of peace now – in the Middle East? Why not hear how New Yorkers felt before the Landmark decision in a longer more open process. Look what unpeaceful results we have now Speaker Quinn, Mayor Bloomberg, BP Stringer. There is no good that can come out of this. It’s too soon. The wound in the ground is still open and full of blood and ashes. Extremism in any faith, creates problems for the rest -- but those of us who remember our eyes stinging and our painful breathing and the looks on the workers' faces as they came through our line at St. Paul's for food -- will never forget that day and the days that followed. This center cannot ever be a sign of real peace for anyone who lost a loved one that day, no matter how peaceful the investors say they are. So why there? If the SoHo congregation needs more space, why not one of the other real estate properties of the investment "stakeholders", whoever they are? Anywhere else, but there. We need affordable housing and services for the poor downtown. Why not build that at the Park Row site? Any other use for that site would be better than the one the Community Board voted for practically in secret! What were they thinking? Anyone who is for real PEACE would not continue to cause the pain that we are now experiencing!!!! If this is the beginning, how can peace be ahead? We want mosques in our city, but that location is too raw for us right now! Please, go anywhere else -- and go in Peace.

Aug. 24 2010 08:44 PM
GW Wolf

Mosh pit , mosque its to close,they are not so honest in thier intentions and they are open about it, to see how stupid we are because ignorance doesnt know any better!They can build here in America because it is a free country. They ,give up the Dome on the Rock to its rightfull owners, then I will help them my self for free.

Aug. 23 2010 09:52 AM
athar from NJ

it seems the crusaders are alive and going strong! The best promotional advertisement for Osama and his crowd is the way the war is being waged against Islam by vested interests. It has its parallels with the distribution of 28 million dvds during the presidential election campaign. the dvd is to Islam what the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is to Jews.

Aug. 20 2010 12:13 PM
Brad from Charlotte, NC

I still can't understand why the religion of Islam is being villianized in association with the horrible acts on September 11. Isn't this equivalent to villifying Christianity for the acts of Timothy McVeigh?

Aug. 20 2010 10:34 AM
Laura Lewis from Westchester, NY

I t's distressin to see Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan's names dragged through the mud of partisan politics + racism. The Imam and Ms. Khan (who does not cover her hair) have dedicated themselves to building bridges to all faiths. He remains one of the best Islamic interlocutors + is currently on a US State Dept trip to the Middle East to promote tolerance. His book, "What's Right with Islam IS What's Right with America" teaches that he is against terrorism +mysogenism. Rauf is constantly seeking to grow + learn more about the faith of others + his own. We all need people like him and he is deserves our respect.
Cordoba, a time when Muslims were performing surgery and we were living in the Dark Ages, represents the embrace of intellectual pursuit and modernity in concert with G-d. Rauf is a brave man who has faced threats from extremists on both sides. For him, a man who has agreed with the notion that Islam needs a kind of JTS - a center of learning that is open to Koranic scholarly interpretation - the Cordoba Center takes a leaf from the 92nd St. Y. It represents hope where evil tried to eradicate hope. Rauf has been trying to expand his Center for years to provide an alternative to radical Islam in the West and to show what America can make possible to the East - a place where Muslims can hold onto their identities yet embrace the modern world. Ironically the Center has been in existence in this location for ages without a hint of trouble. He just wants to expand the scope of possibilities. The mistake was to assume that their life risking efforts were known by leaders of other religious communities whom they assumed would embrace their goal as they had embraced his book (NYT Best Seller List. Most mainstream media (except for NPR) managed to avoid giving context in a never ceasing quest to stir up controversy rather than heal wounds. This is America - a land that knows the results of prejudice. Let's remember, slavery, the St. Louis and inflexible quotas during the pogroms. I would like to think we learned to avoid stereotyping and tarring everybody with the same brush. I agree timing is everything and that this announcement could have been handled much more sensitively. However, the Constitution says they have a right to build an Islamic center wherever they like. The law says society has the right to make sure donations do not come from terrorists and that hate speech cannot be spoken. Let's allow the Constitution and the law which have both stood the test of time to do their work. Let's allow America to live up to its ideals and be an example to the rest of the world.

Aug. 20 2010 08:26 AM
Janice from Massachusetts

This issue is beyond ridiculous. Muslims already pray at the proposed location. Muslin lives were also lost on 9/11. The location is more than two blocks away in a neighborhood with pawn shops, porn shops, street vendors selling t-shirts, etc. I do not get it. This country is great because of the freedom of religion. Banning a Muslim community center two blocks from the World Trade Center site simply based on the fact the 9/11 attackers were Muslim is outrageous and illogical.

Aug. 19 2010 11:43 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.