The long-running saga of a Muslim-American group’s effort to build a community center and mosque two and a half blocks from Ground Zero ended another chapter Wednesday night. New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing on whether to declare the group’s 150-year old building to be a historic landmark, and thus require its preservation as is.
The hearing drew a robust crowd, hardly any of whom cared a bit about the building. The real issue was whether to allow a Muslim center near Ground Zero. Most of the arguments made in favor of landmark designation were anti-Muslim rants, like that of an unidentified woman who said “It would be a terrible mistake to destroy a 150-year old building in order to build a monument to terrorism.”
Dania Darwish, a new graduate of New York’s Fort Hamilton High School, argued for the mosque:
“My family died that day…You’re yelling at me and you don’t know. If a mosque was built maybe you would know what Islam is about.”
The community isn’t particularly bigoted—New Yorkers pride themselves on their diversity, and a Manhattan community board recently voted 29-1 with ten abstentions to approve the mosque.. If you expected New York Jews to be opposed, guess again: New York’s Jewish Week reported that Jewish leaders haven’t made a big deal about the center, and the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan even offered some advice. Jewish elected officials such as Manhattan-based Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer have supported the center, dismissing opposition to it as bigotry.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed his support this way:
“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 Commission is expected to announce a decision this summer.
Tags: bigotry, Dania Darwish, diversity, ethics, Fort Hamilton High School, Ground Zero, hate, historic landmark, Jerrold Nadler, Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, Jewish Week, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Manhattan community board, Michael Bloomberg, mosque, Muslim Center, Muslim-American, New York, New York Jews, Scott Stringer, terrorism, tolerance