New York and Its Mosques
July 26th, 2010
This morning, Canada’s premiere English-language newspaper the Globe and Mail weighed in accusing Sarah Palin and others who oppose the project of “flirting” with religious hatred. In a hats off to us, the editorial noted, “New Yorkers … don’t seem to mind” the proposed mosque, it said, noting, “The proposal was convincing enough to lead a community board to vote 29 to 1 in favor of the project, which is also supported by the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg. … The area already includes churches, sex shops and department stores.”
The Chicago Tribune drew a similar distinction. Noting Newt Gingrich’s comment that there should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York “so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia,” the paper commented, “It’s an interesting innovation to suggest that American freedoms should be no greater than those of repressive nations. What’s next? No political protests in Washington until political protests are allowed in Pyongyang?”
But while the project has caused some “Republicans to take leave of their better judgment,” the Tribune said, “The proposal hasn’t aroused much opposition among residents of the neighborhood. The local community board approved the center by a 29-1 vote, partly because it will provide amenities the area sorely lacks.”
Writing in Crain’s Amanda Fung agreed. “Many lower Manhattan residents and elected officials have supported the project from the very start. They note that the planned $100 million complex on Park Place will include much-needed facilities,” she wrote. “Some go so far as to hope Park51 [as it now is called] will someday stand among such beloved New York City institutions as the 92nd Street Y and the West Side YMCA.”
While as New Yorkers, who work fairly close to Ground Zero ourselves, we appreciate the praise, it may not be entirely deserved.
A poll found 52 percent of New Yorkers oppose the Ground Zero mosque and center. Last week, the board of trustees of a Catholic church in Staten Island — which has as a member Archbishop Timothy Dolan — rejected plans to sell some vacant property to a group that planned to use the site for a mosque. Some residents had raised concerns about traffic and congestion but others claimed the mosque –simply by nature of being a mosque apparently — could become a front for terrorism.
According to the Staten Island Advance, though, U.S. Rep. Michael McMahon had asked the FBI about the group seeking the mosque, the Muslim American Society. “The FBI responded to my request for information and they gave me no indication whatsoever that the Muslim American Society is affiliated with any organization that threatens our national security,” McMahon told the paper. But he then said he did not support the mosque anyway saying the location was too small. (P.S. to the Tribune: McMahon is a Democrat.)
The pastor of the church — St. Mary Margaret — had originally called opposition to the mosque “not totally rational” but then stepped down from his post and reversed his stand.
And across the narrows in Brooklyn, controversy continues over a proposed mosque in Sheepshead Bay. Ibrahim Anse, a backer of the project, told the Brooklyn paper those planning the mosque “are not backing off. This is our right and it’s a cause we believe in.”
As in the Staten Island case, some opponents deny any bigotry is involved here. ” “We’re not racist, we’re realists,” Susan Gerber said. “We are entitled to traffic studies and noise studies and safety studies. People will be walking in the gutter to get around [the mosque]. They’ll be all kinds of fatalities.”
However, some opponents are less measured. “If they build a mosque there, I’m going to bomb the mosque,” said one resident who refused to give his names but said he was a former Israeli soldier, reportedly said at a public meeting last month.
Mosque supporters say most services will be small and that many attending with walk to them.
In general the opposition seems to be part of a national trend — one Palin and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio among others seem all too happy to try to grab on to. “Building new mosques has become increasingly difficult since 2001. Over the past three years, at least 18 mosque projects — from Mississippi to Wisconsin — have run into fierce opposition,” USAToday, reported earlier this month.By Gail Robinson on July 26, 2010, 3:09 pm
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