08/03/2010 04:55 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

'Ground Zero Mosque' Debate: HuffPost Bloggers Weigh In

New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission has voted to allow Park51, an Islamic community center often described as the "Ground Zero mosque," to go forward. Conservative presidential wannabes Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich issued fiery statements in the last two weeks against the project. The Anti-Defamation League has also come out against building the Islamic center.

Should plans for the community center proceed? Is building an Islamic community center two blocks from the former site of the twin towers insensitive? Is America "experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization," as Gingrich claims? Or is the right exploiting the issue to demonize Muslims ahead of the midterms? Scroll down to read what HuffPost bloggers have to say, and weigh in below in the comments.


The World Trade Center Site will forever hold a special place in our City, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves -- and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans -- if we said 'no' to a mosque in Lower Manhattan. Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values -- and play into our enemies' hands -- if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists -- and we should not stand for that.

I have a simple, elegant, and deeply moral solution. Let the Islamic Cultural Center be built. Let the mosque be included. But, the Muslim organizations building it should commit right now to making the principal focus of the building a museum depicting the rise of Islamic extremism, its hate-based agenda, and how it is an abomination to Islam.

It is high time to strike bigotry of all forms -- by both sides -- from the debate over the Mideast conflict. It is time, as well, for the Jewish community as a whole to relate differently to those in their midst who have a serious difference of opinion with Israel. In this regard, it is time for the Jewish community to engage those who support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, rather than effectively excommunicating them.

It is not a "provocation" or "security question" for Islamic New Yorkers to build a community center a few blocks from Ground Zero. As Islamic New Yorkers shared in the struggles inflicted on our city by those attacks, so too must they share in our recovery. To that end, building the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan is a vital step in the right direction.

The Republicans have been thinking of New Yorkers. They are campaigning against the plan to build an Islamic Center in lower Manhattan near Ground Zero. Yup, the same folks who refuse to spend money on the heroes who sacrificed their lives and their health at the World Trade Center are worried sick that a nearby mosque will sully the sacred soil.

This whole argument might be construed as a momentary blip in a slow summer news cycle. But the fear and loathing of faiths that supposedly threaten America's existence is nothing new. The grade school notion of America as a "Melting Pot" nation in which all are welcomed to worship is a myth. Since Spanish Catholics slaughtered French Protestants in Florida in 1565, ingrained religious animosity has been an unhappy and uncelebrated American tradition. For centuries, Catholics, Jews, Mormons and other "foreign" religions have encountered disdain, discrimination and worse.

The vast majority of those who oppose the mosque at Ground Zero are neither bigoted nor irrational. Some are. So are some who favor it. That is not the issue. The issue is whether a great human rights organization should oppose the building of a Muslim center near Ground Zero. I have heard no rational reason from the ADL why it should stand in opposition to this project.

[B]eing less tolerant will not help us heal, and it is not wise for America to alienate millions of its own citizens, let alone the hundreds of millions of Muslims in countries that Americans visit around the world. Remember, there were Muslim victims on 9/11, too, Muslims that worked in the World Trade Center, or were part of the rescue crews that bravely entered the buildings that day.

abraham-h-foxmanAbraham H. Foxman: The Mosque at Ground Zero

At its essence, our position is about sensitivity. Everyone -- victims, opponents and proponents alike -- must pay attention to the sensitivities involved without giving in to appeals to, or accusations of, bigotry. Ultimately, this was not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center would unnecessarily cause some victims more pain. And that wasn't right.

I fear the rising prejudice against Muslims in America is an ugly symptom of intolerance and xenophobia that is being spread by those who seek to 'otherize' the latest immigrant group. And Muslims are perceived as the threat of the decade. I reassure my children that this too shall pass, but when will it be safe for them to reclaim their religious and national identity in the same breath?

Presently, there are two legitimate concerns about the proposed center. First, with a $100 million price tag, what are the exact sources of funding? The public has a right to know that the donors all subscribe to an open, inclusive and pluralistic vision of the center. Second, do the center's leaders reject unconditionally terrorism inspired by Islamist ideology? They must say so unequivocally. This is critical for the institution's credibility.

Personally, I think that ultimately it's a reasonable, if not wise, project, although I think the timing and the process stink. This should not be about the assertion of religious right but about the building of consensus. While those who favor construction clearly have rights on their side, they seem to be completely tone-deaf regarding the feelings of those who are opposed.

james-lamondJames Lamond: Hurting Our Security

[T]he frame that Gingrich is promoting is not only un-American and counter to our values, it is also counterproductive to our anti-terrorism efforts. First, at a strategic level, it plays into al Qaeda's framework that the West is at war with Islam.

Shame on ADL and the American Jewish Committee for not understanding the moral imperatives of this moment! They not only betray Jewish values and American values, they unintentionally but nevertheless certainly increase the tensions between Jews and Muslims at a moment when all sane people in both communities recognize the need to build bridges of understanding.

salam-al-marayatiSalam Al Marayati: Anti-Muslim Is Anti-American

Here's the paradox I and many other Muslim Americans are living. We have to demonstrate our efforts against extremism by amplifying our mainstream majority voice, yet when we build institutions to help expand our capacity, we become targets of virulent and bigoted xenophobes who characterize any and all Muslims as extremists and radicals.

The issue seems to be whether America should uphold its values and put its tolerance through the ultimate test, or whether the sensitivities of the survivors and families of 9/11 should supersede the First Amendment freedoms owed to all Americans, which would include, of course, Muslim Americans.

The AJC issues demands that the Cordoba Center, which has never endorsed violence, repudiate terrorism (which it always has). Worst of all, the media is allowing the AJC to appear as if it supports the center when it in fact opposes it for the same reasons ADL does. We all know what those are.

It is not insensitive to put a cultural center of any sort, that has a place of worship, anywhere in our city. This is what makes our country and our city great. As a nation that was founded by men and women who were being persecuted for their particular faith, we should know that the best path to finding freedom is finding freedom for others. We were formed as a pluralistic society and this means we welcome all religions.

[B]y the same logical leap you can call the Cordoba Center a "mosque," you can also call Ground Zero as it already exists a giant, open-air mosque. Muslim prayers are already taking place right on the edge of the construction site, and not for world domination. Families are going there to pray -- for the souls of the dozens of innocent Muslim victims who died on September 11.

As an Evangelical, I hold the Golden Rule high as a core tenet of my faith. Yet Gingrich trashes that, too. In saying that we should not allow a mosque to be built because other nations don't allow churches or synagogues built on their soil, Gingrich is really saying that we should treat others as they treat us. Don't lead; for God's sake, follow. Don't seek the moral and ethical high ground; seek a get-even-often-and-quick strategy that only Machiavelli could love.

Once again, downtown New Yorkers are faced with outsiders telling us our business. [...] Meanwhile, as the citizenry has its attention diverted by xenophobic anti-Muslim harangues, on Thursday night, Republicans in Congress killed the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to help emergency workers and others near Ground Zero.

Gingrich, who has been railing against the so-called secular socialist machine for trying to take religion out of the public square, and who, like most conservatives, decries the influence of foreign law, wants the U.S. to apply the same standards on Muslims that Saudi Arabia applies to those who are not Muslim. That's rich.