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Muslim Prayer Center ‘Near’ Ground Zero

Here’s an item we nearly missed, buried as it was in the ‘New York Region’ section of the New York Times:

Muslim Prayers and Renewal Near Ground Zero


December 8, 2009

On that still-quiet Tuesday morning, the sales staff was in a basement room eating breakfast, waiting to open the doors to the first shoppers at 10 a.m.

There was no immediate sign of the fiery cataclysm that erupted overhead starting at 8:46. But out of a baby-blue sky suddenly stained with smoke, a plane’s landing-gear assembly the size of a World War II torpedo crashed through the roof and down through two empty selling floors of the Burlington Coat Factory.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attack killed 2,752 people downtown and doomed the five-story building at 45 Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center, keeping it abandoned for eight years.

But for months now, out of the public eye, an iron gate rises every Friday afternoon, and with the outside rumblings of construction at ground zero as a backdrop, hundreds of Muslims crowd inside, facing Mecca in prayer and listening to their imam read in Arabic from the Koran.

The building, offering retail space for lease, has no sign that hints at its use as a Muslim prayer space, and the worshipers are out in an hour. But these modest beginnings point to a far grander vision: an Islamic cultural, educational and recreational center near the city’s most hallowed piece of land.

It would stand as one of ground zero’s more unexpected and striking neighbors. But the location was precisely a key selling point for the group of Muslims who bought the building in July.

“New York is the capital of the world, and this location close to 9/11 is iconic,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, 61, the cleric leading the project, a longtime critic of radical Islamists, said in a series of interviews in which he and his partners outlined their plans for the first time.

A presence so close to the World Trade Center, “where a piece of the wreckage fell,” Imam Feisal added, “sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11.”

Although organizers have sought to avoid publicizing their project because they say plans are too preliminary, it has drawn early encouragement from city officials and the surrounding neighborhood.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said through a spokesman that Imam Feisal told him of the project last September at a celebration to observe the end of Ramadan. As for whether Mr. Bloomberg supported it, the spokesman, Andrew Brent, said, “If it’s legal, the building owners have a right to do what they want.”

The mayor’s director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, Fatima Shama, went further. “We as New York Muslims have as much of a commitment to rebuilding New York as anybody,” Ms. Shama said. Imam Feisal’s wife, Daisy Khan, serves on an advisory team for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, and Lynn Rasic, a spokeswoman for the memorial, said, “The idea of a cultural center that strengthens ties between Muslims and people of all faiths and backgrounds is positive.”

Those who have worked with him say if anyone could pull off what many regard to be a delicate project, it would be Imam Feisal, whom they described as having built a career preaching tolerance and interfaith understanding.

“He subscribes to my credo: ‘Live and let live,’ ” said Rabbi Arthur Schneier, spiritual leader of Park East Synagogue on East 67th Street.

As a Sufi, Imam Feisal follows a path of Islam focused more on spiritual wisdom than on strict ritual, and as a bridge builder, he is sometimes focused more on cultivating relations with those outside his faith than within it.

But though the imam is adamant about what his intentions for the site are, there is anxiety among those involved or familiar with the project that it could very well become a target for anti-Muslim attacks.

Oh, yes. That must be a real concern. Given how many thousands of anti-Muslim attacks there have been over the years.

Joan Brown Campbell, director of the department of religion at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York and former general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ U.S.A., who is a supporter of Imam Feisal, acknowledged the possibility of a backlash from those opposed to a Muslim presence at ground zero.

But, she added: “Building so close is owning the tragedy. It’s a way of saying: ‘This is something done by people who call themselves Muslims. We want to be here to repair the breach, as the Bible says.’ ”

The F.B.I. said Imam Feisal had helped agents reach out to the Muslim population after Sept. 11. “We’ve had positive interactions with him in the past,” said an agency spokesman, Richard Kolk. Alice Hoagland of Las Gatos, Calif., whose son, Mark Bingham, was killed in the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, said, “It’s quite a bold step buying a piece of land adjacent to ground zero,” but she said she considered plans for the site “a noble effort.”

On a recent Friday, worshipers in the old Burlington Coat Factory heard Imam Feisal’s call for spiritual purity during the time of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

“We like Imam Feisal, the way he presents the philosophy of the true Islam that I call it,” said one of the congregants, Mohammed Abdullah, an investment banker who traveled from Washington for the service.

The location is not designated a mosque, but rather an overflow prayer space for another mosque, Al Farah at 245 West Broadway in TriBeCa, where Imam Feisal is the spiritual leader…

“It’s really to provide a place of peace, a place of services and solutions for the community which is always looking for interfaith dialogue,” said Sharif El-Gamal, chairman and chief executive of Soho Properties

With 50,000 square feet of air rights, Imam Feisal said, the location, with enough financing, could support an ambitious project of $150 million, akin to the Chautauqua Institution, the 92 Street Y or the Jewish Community Center.

Joy Levitt, executive director of the Jewish Community Center, said the group would be proud to be a model for Imam Feisal at ground zero. “For the J.C.C. to have partners in the Muslim community that share our vision of pluralism and tolerance would be great,” she said.

Mr. El-Gamal agreed. “What happened that day,” he said, “was not Islam.”

Sorry. We are not convinced.

Still, it will give Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his pals a handy place to worship at during his show trial.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, December 8th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

10 Responses to “Muslim Prayer Center ‘Near’ Ground Zero”

  1. BannedbytheTaliban says:

    Maybe they could take that piece of landing gear, enclose it in a big black box, call it the “ka’ba” and develop a religion where they worship around it. Oh wait….

  2. beautyofreason says:

    “an Islamic center near the city’s most hallowed piece of land”

    Great. And how many of these imams will be spouting Wahhabi Islam, as do most in U.S. mosques – the same variety of Islam wholly intolerant of religious plurality and secular governments – that garden variety that created Al Qaeda and 9/11?

    I also wonder if the “Islamic center” will contain brochures stating that 9/11 was caused by Israel, or Bush, or some non-Muslim group.

    Building an Islamic center by Ground Zero is just another slap in the face of the victims. I guess Muslims want a propaganda platform so they choose the most inappropriate site to get their beliefs across. Ask these guys when they go to mosque if they support Shariah law – should give you a clear answer on whether this site is some misguided outreach – or just another example of Islamic imperialism against America.

    Can you imagine the outcry if someone tried to build a Japanese heritage center mere steps (and years) from where Pearl Harbor occurred?

  3. Petronius says:

    Ah yes. Another example of the blessings of open borders and multiculturalism.

    And another glorious triumph for the Liberal Death Wish.

    To paraphrase Prince Charles on the Luftwaffe: “You have to give this much to al Qaeda: when it knocked down our cities and killed our people it did not replace them with something more offensive. We did that.”

  4. Liberals Demise says:

    Will they also wash their feet in the “Reflection Pool?”

    I can only wait and wonder when they will demand a minaret with loud speakers for the call to prayer.

  5. joeblough says:

    Time to break out the ground pork and ham slices … and perhaps for real shock value, used tampons.

    To hell with the shameless bastards.

    Make no mistake about it, this is an in-your-face act of mohammedan triumphalism — as in, “we kicked your butt, so like it or lump it … you can’t touch us!“.

    Do not imagine for a moment that they don’t know exactly what they are doing … or that they don’t mean exactly what it looks like … or that they don’t intend exactly how NY’ers are going to feel about it.

  6. canary says:

    “Building so close is owning the tragedy. It’s a way of saying: ‘This is something done by people who call themselves Muslims.
    We want to be here to repair the breach, as the Bible says.’ ”

    These dumb Christian women think they can repair muslims so cold, bold, showing “on your grave” “we did it, now we own it” muslims?

  7. wardmama4 says:

    As this has been kept on the quiet for so long – I suspect more is going on here than meets the eye.

    Yes there is going to be ‘backlash’ from some simply because radical muslims committed this atrocity and these are muslims (moderate or not) –

    My father was 2nd generation German – so in WWII while my father and his brother were away at war – my grandfather brought both war ‘widows’ and their children to live in the family house on the family farm. While it did have the expediency and logical aspects of having them safe, using less of the rationed items (going through a trunk this weekend, I found some of the ration stamps – neato) and having many hands to help in the house and farm – it also was a protection as they carried a distinctly German name. No it did not get out of hand in this area, possibly because this area was settled by Germans (Old St. Mary’s church still holds German mass to this day) – but still the ‘possibility’ existed. It’s human nature people – get used to it. And as most ‘moderate’ muslims did not speak out and deny these scum – somehow I don’t think that they were in too much disagreement – speak up for your new home – or go home!!!!

    Germans would never (am I wrong) put a Nazi shrine next to a concentration camp – so why is this allowed to happen? Because some idiotic pc politico is doing it behind the scenes – It is time to take back local, state and Federal government from these people who are hell bent on destroying America.

    It use to be the Immigrants struggled and learned to assimilate and adapt to America – not Americans bending over backward to be taxed to death and eventually scr**ed (if we are lucky) or destroyed by these ‘immigrants’ (don’t know which are worse the lay-about welfare sucking latins or the in-your-face accept my ‘religious’ practices muslims ) who have no intention what-so-ever of becoming ‘American’.

    God Help America.

  8. canary says:

    Those poor New York police will have risk guarding a mosque possibly full of hidden ammo and bombs. They won’t be allowed to check bags going with beauty supply products.

  9. wirenut says:

    Canary. my thoughts exactly. A real nice place to store arms and personnel for the upcoming trial of GWB. Oops,

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