Ground Zero Mosque: A Cultural Center or Islamization?

This past week, just a few months prior to the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies, the Planning Commission of lower Manhattan has approved the construction of a $100-million mosque near the site of Ground Zero.

The thirteen-floor building, as reported by The New York Times a few days ago, will reach a height of one hundred feet. The group sponsoring the project has said that the city and its population would benefit from its purpose as a cultural center which will work to bring harmony between Islamic culture and New Yorkers.

The mosque will be constructed in a city still bleeding from one of the worst civilian attacks since WWII, still suffering with the sad memory of the destruction of the World Trade Center and the loss of almost three thousand lives. After almost nine years, New Yorkers and all Americans still wait to see the replacement of the destroyed towers, but instead we find ourselves with a proposed Islamic cultural center, which for some will be nothing more than a landmark and a memorial to the victory of bin Laden and company as a sample of Islamic jihad against Western infidels.

As a professional architect, I wonder why the Planning Commission of lower Manhattan decided to keep its residents uninformed about a project in this sensitive location with such purpose and proportion. A project of this size would normally need in-depth urban study and infrastructure planning. The location for construction of an Islamic cultural center in very close proximity to the disaster area of Ground Zero -- where less than nine years ago two commercial airliners carrying innocent passengers were hijacked by Muslims from Saudi Arabia and Egypt and flown into two office buildings -- is not a mistake or coincidence. At the very least, it is insensitive to Americans.  

Aren't we the least bit suspicious of this desired harmony when public condemnations or demonstrations of remorse made by Muslims and Arab leaders regarding this barbaric act have been few and far between? In fact, the reports we do have are to the contrary, with Arabs and Muslims around the world celebrating the success of this attack on the United States. Furthermore, all Americans have suffered the offensive rumors that claim the origin of the 9/11 attacks to be an inside job by our own FBI or the American Jews -- insulting our intelligence and humiliating the victims and their families with this insidious form of denial.

Let us not forget as well that New York City Mayor Giuliani refused to accept a donation of ten million dollars from a Saudi Prince as a pledge to rebuild whatever was destroyed by Arab terrorists (his own fellow citizens) in lower Manhattan. It is now important that New Yorkers and all Americans remember the reason for the former mayor's rejection of this offer, along with the prince's statement against U.S. policy in favor of Israel.

Giuliani proved to America and the whole world that freedom is priceless and that money means nothing next to the integrity of our free country, where no manipulation of our foreign or our domestic policies will be tolerated. By using his heart in a moment of great courage, Giuliani gave the whole world a lesson in confronting Arab hypocrisy. At a time when Americans were in a state of shock, the insensitivity of such an offer by the Saudi Prince was counteracted by the American spirit embodied in Giuliani's wholesale rejection of money coming from the same source as the attackers in order to dictate their own agenda and buy our sovereignty.   

Recently The New York Times reported a statement made by an imam indicating that the intended cultural center would bring "a new discourse in the relationship between the United States, New York City, and the Muslim world." One only need look at the current situations in Muslim-majority countries today, where non-Muslim minorities suffer human rights violations sanctioned under Shariah law, which dominates the constitutions of those nations. The reality of a supremacist system within Islamic culture should be enough to preclude any dialogue with those who live by the U.S. Constitution and subscribe to the modern culture of New York City.

Which Islamic organization in America, Europe, or Arab-Muslim country condemned the recent attacks in Upper Egypt, where innocent people were killed while leaving their church on the Eastern Christmas Eve? Where are the Islamic voices opposing and protesting the persecution, oppression, and discrimination in their own homelands in countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, and Iraq, to name just a few? Islamic actions, not words, are what Americans need to heed, and we must be cautious toward what we are being told by those whose actions are lethal around the world.

Respect for human rights is a fundamental principle that governs our free democratic society, but not so in Arab-Islamic countries. In the West, religion is a personal issue, and the right of every citizen to practice a private matter between an individual and his God. How is it possible to have discourse between our culture, which is based on such freedoms, and a culture based on the goal to make its own religious precepts the legal and government system even in non-Muslim countries? A few days ago, in an interview published in Kul-al-Arab, a weekly newspaper in Israel, a Knesset Member, Imam Masoud Ganaim, was calling to replace the state of Israel with an Islamic caliphate.

This kind of remark shows the true nature of Islam today, and yet we allow ourselves as Americans to be told that we need to have discourse with those who espouse ideas antithetical and detrimental to the basic precepts of free democratic societies in the world, including the United States of America. What more as Americans are we to understand that we can't already see for ourselves? Leaders of Islam and the Cordoba Institute must first prove to us that they demonstrate the same openness to coexist with those of all other faiths and beliefs in the nations where Islam dominates.

The free world has already allowed the most egregious actions to take place, such as the placement of Iran onto the U.N. Commission for Women's Rights, the FIFA reversal of the banning of the hijab worn in Olympic games, and the Egyptian sponsorship of the U.N. Religious Defamation Act, to name just a few in recent days. Shall we add to this list the building of an Islamic mega-center at the sacred site of Ground Zero, as if the teachings consistent with the forces that caused this tragedy will not be taking place inside?

If New York is in need of a new cultural center in the heart of the Ground Zero community, it should be built and run by those who stand up for freedom, human rights, tolerance, and the love of humanity. New Yorkers have been the ones to open their hearts and receive immigrants, who come from around the world to seek a better life and share in our freedom -- the kind of freedom which those who seek to build this project know nothing about.
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