Outraged family members and community groups are accusing a Muslim group of trying to rewrite history with its plans to build a 13-story mosque and cultural center just two blocks from Ground Zero, where Islamic extremists flew two planes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
“This is a place which is 600 feet from where almost 3,000 people were torn to pieces by Islamic extremists,” said Debra Burlingame, whose brother died in the attack on the Pentagon that day. “I think that it is incredibly insensitive and audacious really for them to build a mosque, not only on that site, but to do it specifically so that they could be in proximity to where that atrocity happened,” said Burlingame, who is co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America.
The 13-story mosque and cultural center will be built on the site of a four-story building that was a Burlington Coat Factory retail store until 9/11, when part of a plane’s landing gear crashed through the roof. The building, which will be razed, currently houses a mosque. The New York City Mayor’s office says “It’s private property, and the area is zoned for uses that include this one.”
Pamela Gellar, executive director of Stop Islamization of America, blasted the organization behind the plans, Cordoba Initiative, and its leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, saying the project is “an insulting flag of conquest of Islamic supremacism.”
“How can you build a shrine to the very ideology that brought down the World Trade Center?” asked Geller, whose group is planning a June 6 rally to protest the project. “We have to do everything we can to stop this … a huge Muslim monument, a stone’s throw from Ground Zero, with a mosque pointing toward Mecca.”
She called it an act of deception that the group has been able to get the green light from the Lower Manhattan Community Board, whose finance committee gave it a thumbs-up last week.
Though the Cordoba Initiative’s website calls part of the $100 million-plus project a mosque, its founder, Imam Rauf, says the project is not a mosque but a community center for all faiths that will include recreational facilities, a prayer space and a 500-seat theater that can be a part of the neighborhood’s trendy Tribeca Film Festival.
Rauf insists the effort is meant to help heal the wounds of 9/11, “We’ve approached the community because we want this to be an example of how we are cooperating with the members of the community, not only to provide services but also to build a new discourse on how Muslims and non-Muslims can cooperate together to push back against the voices of extremism.”