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May 12, 2014

New York Revisits Plan to Build Muslim Center Near Ground Zero

by Bernard Shusman

For many Americans, memories of the September 11 terror attacks in New York are still vivid.  A new World Trade Center is soon to open at the site where the original one was destroyed.  There is also a plan to build a Muslim community center and mosque nearby, though it is a more modest version of a previous one steeped in controversy. 

The new World Trade Center is nearing completion, 13 years after the September 11 attacks.

There is also a plan to build a Muslim Center with a museum and mosque three blocks from Ground Zero.  Even though it's a scaled back version of a previous one, it too is controversial.
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The proposal includes a three-story building with a small mosque, a community center and a museum devoted to Islam.

Imam Talib Abdul Rashid - president of the Islamic Leadership Council - says the project should reflect the full story of Islam.

“...Islam itself as one of the three Abrahamic traditions, and, then, two -- and I kind of lean toward the second -- is a discussion and an accurate depiction of Muslims in America, generally, and New York City in particular,” he said.
 
In 2010, there were loud protests at the site against the previous plan. It called for a 15-story Muslim mosque and community center.  The demonstrators, including relatives of those killed in the September 11 attacks, argued it was insensitive to build an Islamic complex so close to Ground Zero.

The original plan, called Park 51, was dropped.

But the new one is drawing opposition too although its details have yet to be released.

“Honesty, what we need is candor about Jihad and the Jihadic doctrine," said Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative.  "Is this museum going to explore the total 1,400 years of Jihadi wars, land appropriations, cultural annihilations and enslavements?  I think not.  It think it’s going to whitewash, and I think it’s inappropriate at Ground Zero.  We have to see the plans.”

This visiting group of college students and professors from Canada had an exclusive briefing by one of the developers at the site.

 Alexandra Bain, a professor of religious studies, believes a  living history of Islam is important to the community and the world.  

“Muslims have been in America since the slaves came over," she said. "And they were among the first Americans, and they continue to be an important part of the American culture.
 
The developers have not fully disclosed the plans, nor where all the funding is coming from.  But they insist these buildings will soon come down and be replaced with an exciting structure dedicated to exploring the faith of Islam and its arts and culture.