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New Yorkers Plan to Fight Mosque Near Ground Zero

A growing rage is gripping New Yorkers over plans to build a 13-story mosque just two blocks from Ground Zero, site of the 9/11 Al-Qaeda attack.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 5/25/2010, 9:49 AM / Last Update: 5/25/2010, 11:15 AM

Joel Meyerowitz/ US State Dept

A growing rage is gripping New Yorkers over plans to build a 13-story mosque just two blocks away from the site of the worst terror attack ever perpetrated on U.S. soil.

“What could be more insulting and humiliating than a monster mosque in the shadow of the World Trade Center buildings that were brought down by an Islamic jihad attack?” said Pam Geller, who heads a protest group called Stop the Islamicization of America. “Any decent American, Muslim or otherwise wouldn't dream of such an insult. It's a stab in the eye of America,” she told The Times.

The group is calling for a massive protest on June 6.
If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting. I have nothing against Islam. I just think: why there?

The plans by the American Society for Muslim Advancement call for construction of the mosque and community center at the former Burlington Coat factory, badly damaged in the attack by radical Muslim terrorists on September 11, 2001. The building has stood empty since “9/11” – but the group now wants to rebuild it as a major Islamic center instead.

Daisy Khan, director of the Society, explained that the group wants to “create a platform by which the voices of the mainstream and silent majority of Muslims will be amplified. A center of this scale and magnitude will do that.”

The center, to be located at 43-45 Park Place, would include a mosque on the top floor, large enough to accommodate some 2,000 Muslims for Friday prayers, overlooking Ground Zero. It would also would feature a 500-seat theater, a swimming pool and a basketball court.

Project director Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said the mosque and Muslim-led community center would be called Cordoba House. According to Geller, who also writes the blog Atlas Shrugs, the name refers to the historic period in which the Islamic Caliphate in Cordoba, Spain, ruled much of Europe and non-Muslims lived as second-class citizens under Islamic rule. Rauf has reportedly stated he wants to attract converts to the Muslim community with by exploiting the proposed center's proximity to Ground Zero.

Another group, the “9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America” (9/11 FSSA) has also expressed its opposition to the plan. An outraged Debra Burlingame contended that the same imam blamed “9/11” on America's treatment of Muslims immediately after the attack. Burlingame, whose brother was a pilot on the flight that was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon, is the co-founder of 9/11 FSSA.

Regardless, New York City's Community Board 1 gave the $100 million project a thumbs-up at its financial district committee meeting on May 5, albeit not with a unanimous vote.

Board member Paul Sipos told the New York Post he thought the project was “insensitive,” pointing out that “If the Japanese decided to open a cultural center across from Pearl Harbor, that would be insensitive. If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting.

“I have absolutely nothing against Islam,” he added. “I just think: why there?”

Geller's group noted that Islamic clerics often make a point of building mosques upon the ruins of other religious sites in order to proclaim its dominance. The Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was one of several examples she cited.

Geller, as well as columnist Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, suggested that the group instead build a Muslim center devoted to “expunging the Koran and all Islamic teachings of the violent jihad that they prescribe, as well as all hateful texts and incitement to violence.”