Park51 is a planned $100 million, 13-story, glass and steel Islamic community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan. The problem? It is located two blocks away from the September 11 attacks. When it was reviewed by the local community board in May 2010, it attracted some national media attention. This attracted much criticism and controversy.
Many critics have said building a Mosque there would raise religious tensions again, since a Mosque is a place of Muslim Worship. There were also many Relatives of victims of the September 11 attacks said they found the proposal offensive because the radical Muslim terrorists who committed the attacks did so in the name of Islam. This is because it was believed that the attacks were perpetrated by Osama Bin Laden, who was a Islamist Radical.

"By a margin of 54%–20%, American adults were opposed to a mosque being built near Ground Zero, a national Rasmussen Reports poll found that month. Furthermore, according to an August 10–11 Fox News poll, 64% of Americans (a majority of each of Democrats (56-38%), Republicans (76-17%), and Independents (53-41%)) thought it would be wrong to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center so close to Ground Zero, and 30% felt it would be appropriate. At the same time, 61% felt that the Muslim group had a right to build a mosque there (a majority of Democrats (63-32%), Republicans (57-36%), and Independents (69-29%). A CNN poll conducted August 6–10 found that Americans opposed the Park51 project by a margin of 68%-29%. A majority of each of Democrats (54-34%), Republicans (82-17%), and Independents (70-24%) were opposed." (Wikipedia)

Therefore, many people jumped to conclusions and blamed Muslims directly for the hijackings. It also led to many hate crimes against Muslims.

However, there have also been many parties supporting the mosque. One in particular is the mayor of New York, Mr. Michael Bloomberg. Responding to opposition, he said, “The government should never, never be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray. We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here, and praying the way they want to pray.”

The President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama also expressed support for the development rights of the Muslim group.

This debate has sparked many demonstrations, mainly in New York. The issue is still in the midst of discussion, and the future of the mosque is still unknown as of now.



From AP news

From Russia Today

View in opposition of mosque

Keith Olbermann in support of mosque


external image Mosque-Near-Ground-Zero1.jpg
Shows the mosque's proximity to Ground Zero.

external image story_xlimage_2010_08_R6096_LPC_VOTE_ON_GROUND_ZERO_MOSQUE08032010.jpg
This picture shows public sentiment towards the building of the mosque, that it will signify victory for the Islamic terrorists who carried out the September 11 Attacks.

external image StopTheGroundZeroMosque.jpg
This picture shows how the American public view the construction of the mosque as an insult to the deaths of the 9/11 victims.



The Ground Zero Mosque: Fanning the Flames of Religion

Recent plans by a Muslim group to build a cultural centre and mosque near Ground Zero have been vehemently criticized by opposition groups. However, shots have been fired back by supporters who claim their right to religious freedom.
Media Matters for America, a group which monitors conservative media, counted 1,600 references to "mosque" last week across national US cable news networks, reflecting the growing scale of the controversy.

Supporters of project, also known as the Cordoba House Project, say Americans are unwilling to accept the building of the cultural centre and mosque because of their unwillingness to accept Islam. They call it contradictory to the personal freedoms on which America was founded and the embracing of other cultures which has become the basis for American society’s development.
It is not difficult to see why so many Americans feel threatened by the spread of Islam. Though official figures on the number of Muslims in America are unavailable as religion may not be recorded in censuses, Islam is widely known to be America’s fastest growing religion, both by migration and conversion.
Eric Boehlert, senior fellow at Media Matters for America, says this has resulted “eruption of Muslim bashing and Islamophobia."
Prof Akbar Ahmed, author of Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, believes this is a difficult period for Muslims. "America is going through this extraordinary phase. Everyone feels under siege."
He adds, "We really felt that we were sitting on a tinder box. We needed one catalyst for things to get really bad. The New York mosque could just be that."

However, the choice of the site just two blocks away from ground zero where 2,600 died from Islamic fundamentalists crashing planes into the twin towers has received criticism for being insensitive and disrespectful to the families of 9/11 victims. Many have also dismissed claims by supporters that the choice of site was intended to foster religious understanding.
Opponents of the Cordoba House project, have coined jarring juxtapositions to press their point.
"Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington," former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.
The evidence from polling suggests many Americans agree. A Time Magazine survey found 61% opposed the construction of the mosque. Most respondents were not opposed to Islamic religious buildings, with 55% happy to have a community centre and mosque near to their home.
A Pew Research Center Poll suggested only 51% of Americans opposed the mosque. The same poll found that only 30% of respondents had a favourable opinion of Islam, down from 41% in 2005.

Legal vs Moral Rights
US President Barack Obama added to the controversy by affirming the project’s building rights.
Calling America's commitment to religious freedom "unshakeable", he said that the rights of Muslims “include the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances".
However, just the next day, he clarified his statements, saying that he was not referring to the wisdom of building the centre at the proposed site.
Despite their legal rights, many have questioned the moral rights of the building of the centre with total disregard for the families of 9/11 victims.
This view is shared by certain sections of the Muslim community as well. Akbar Ahmed believes Muslims do have to anticipate sensitivities. "Muslims absolutely have the right to build a mosque like any house of worship but they need also to be much more sensitive to the culture and society in which they are living," he says.

To build or not to?
While the legal rights of the development cannot be questioned, the choice of location seems to be a Muslim retaliation to increasing trends of “Islamophobia”, far from claims of the group to foster religious understanding. Perhaps the choice of location was to hit out the public for the discrimination faced by Muslims. To this, the American public too has to reflect on its role in the controversy, in order to create a truly all-embracing society.



Fictitious interviews with:

American Muslim convert in support of the project

Family of 9/11 victim opposing the project

Presented By The Merlion's Mouth:
Jarel Tang, Tham Kah Loon, Kyle Foo, Eliel Simatupang, Jonathan Ng