Daily Israel Report

New York: Protests For and Against Ground Zero Mosque

Individuals who both oppose and are in favor of the planned mosque near Ground Zero held separate demonstrations in the area on Sunday.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/23/2010, 3:48 AM / Last Update: 8/23/2010, 3:45 AM

Israel news photo

The planned Muslim center and mosque in New York’s Ground Zero continue to generate discussion. Two separate protests took place on the site Sunday, as parties both opposed and in favor of the planned mosque sounded their voices.

According to local police, about 450 of those opposed and 250 supporters of the planned mosque were present.

The New York Times reported that those opposed sang patriotic songs. They mentioned “a hijacked Constitution, a renegade presidency and tolerance toward the sensitivities of New Yorkers whose relatives died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,” said the report.

The opponents of the mosque said that they fully support religious freedoms, but that the location of the planned Islamic center “represented an incursion on the rights of Americans who deemed Ground Zero a hallowed space,” said the Times.

Kali Costas, a Long Island education worker, told the Times that having a mosque on this site is “a smack in the face,” while Dominick DeRubbio, whose uncle was a firefighter who died in the World Trade Center, said: “I’m upset at how this whole thing was handled. The level of defiance is running high. They’re saying, ‘We’re doing this whether you like it or not.’”

Firefighter Tim Brown, who escaped the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, told the New York Daily News: "It's very insensitive to the families. This is not about religious freedom. All we are saying is don't build this mosque here at Ground Zero on our cemetery."

Members of the group of supporters demonstrated two blocks away and said that tolerance should be directed toward members of different religions. They said they believed the protesters were propagating the type of hate speech spread by segregationists in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Times reported that police were able to keep the two groups apart, except for the occasional scuffle.

The proposed mosque has generated much discussion over religious tolerance in the United States versus respect towards the victims of the deadly 9/11 attacks and their families. Last week, President Barack Obama expressed his strong support for the mosque, causing arguments about it to fill the media.

“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country,” said Obama. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”

Also supporting the mosque is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose speech on August 3 spoke of religious liberty. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, on the other hand, has expressed his opposition to the planned mosque on Ground Zero, and said the center and mosque should be moved to state-owned land farther from the Sept. 11 attack site.

During an interview on NBC's "Today" Show last week, Giuliani said: "If you are a healer, you do not go forward with this project. If you are a warrior, you do."

A CNN poll conducted on August 11 found that 68 per cent of Americans oppose the Muslim center project in Ground Zero. Another poll was conducted by the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, California, where visitors were asked last Wednesday: Is it appropriate to erect a Mosque and Islamic Community Center close to the 9/11 site? The results as of Friday, according to a reported by the Associated Press, is that 37 percent answered yes, while 62 percent said no.