Mosque Plans for Ground Zero?

Sydney Soll

America is known for many things, particularly freedom of religion. Recently, there has been controversy surrounding plans to build a mosque only a few blocks away from Ground Zero. What many don’t know is that atop of what was once the North Tower sat a restaurant called Windows on the World. Windows on the World had many Islamic workers who would pray during brief breaks between shifts each day, forced to lead prayers in just a small stairwell. Why is this relevant?  Well, just weeks before the tragic attack on the World Trade Centers, construction of a mosque inside of the World Trade Center had begun. One construction worker, via the New York Times, recalls exiting the building on September 11, 2001 and wondering whether any of the Islamic restaurant workers had escaped or perished with thousands of other people that were inside the building. His answer was later provided: most had perished.

Feisal Abdul Rauf, a prayer leader at a New York City mosque, and his wife Daisy Khan, released plans for a fifteen-story mosque just a week after May’s bomb scare in Times Square. Normally, these plans would be passed without being given a second thought, but this case is different.  The location of the mosque would be just two blocks away from Ground Zero in an abandoned and then renovated Burlington Coat Factory, a building that was severely damaged by a falling piece of equipment on September 11th. Many agree with Rauf in his ideas, see how this could be an opportunity to make peace in a place that matters most, and understand that this could improve relations between the United States and the Middle East. They see the mosque as a way to demonstrate the face of moderate Muslims and spread their vision of peace.

Others believe that the mosque is a little too close for comfort. Many Americans fear that it would be offensive to those whose loved ones were killed in the 9/11 attacks.  Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, stated that building the mosque within such a small vicinity of Ground Zero would provoke unnecessary tension between the Middle East and the United States.

In an August edition of Newsweek, two mothers of firemen that died on 9/11 were interviewed regarding their views of the proposed “Ground Zero Mosque.” One supported it entirely, stating that this would reflect positively on our nation as a whole, help show our acceptance of all religions, and demonstrate our ability to forgive. The other felt that the mosque would be disrespectful to all of the lives that were lost in the attack: expected of one who lost someone on 9/11. She feels that this would be an extreme dishonor not only to her and her family, but also to those who lost their lives during the 9/11 attack of the World Trade Center.

At the White House Ramadan dinner, President Obama voiced his support for the mosque project.  Obama’s opinion, one of the most important in the country by nature, could have an enormous impact on whether or not the mosque is actually built. Rauf, though he denies it, has said that America needs to allow him to build the mosque at risk of future attacks to America regarding the plan.

There are a million different reasons as to whether building a mosque at Ground Zero is even remotely reasonable or just outright offensive. Tensions regarding the Islamic-American relationship have risen extremely high since the release of the plans. Will building a mosque help to heal the wound between the two?