The New York community board voted late on Tuesday to support a plan that has been under continuous debate and public comment – the construction of an Islamic mosque and religious center near ground zero, where 9 years ago, the World Trade Center collapsed due hijacked airplanes crashing into it by terrorists. Nearly 3,000 people died due to it.
A debate on the construction over the site was going under for months, but after hours of debate, the plan was voted in favor for.
“It’s a seed of peace,” board member Rob Townley said. “We believe that this is significant step in the Muslim community to counteract the hate and fanaticism in the minority of the community.”
According to reports, the votes draw were 29-to-1 in favor of the plan. Some board members even wanted to postpone the meeting to learn more about the plans of the project and its organizations sponsoring it, but the motioned failed.
Outside the meeting, many people disapproving the plan shouted comments and held signs saying, “You’re building over a Christian cemetery!” or, “Show respect for 3000.”
Some people among this crowd said they were not opposed to a mosque — just not one that’s two blocks from ground zero.
Some said the families of the victims of Sept. 11 “would be wounded by erecting a mega mosque so close to the place where their loved ones were massacred,” said Viviana Hernandez, a chaplain. “Even though they may have altruistic reasons, the real terrorists will see it as a win on their side.”
Others like the tea party activist Mark Williams has called the proposed center a monument to the terror attacks.
But organizations sponsoring the project said they are trying to establish a vibrant and inclusive-world class facility.
The building will be called the “Cordoba House” and will have a performing arts center, swimming pool, culinary school, child care facilities and worship space. It will offer 150 full-time jobs and 500 part-time jobs. An investment of over $100 million in its infrastructure will be generated in the city’s financial district.
Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, an executive director of the Cordoba Initiative and one of the project’s sponsors, said he understood the pain that people have about 9/11. But he said his community and congregation were among those that died in the attacks.
“We have condemned the terror of 9/11,” he said. “We have worked to ensure that our mosques are not recruiting grounds for terrorists.”
A statement released by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said that by supporting the multi-faith community and cultural center, the board “sent a clear message that our city is one that promotes diversity and tolerance.”
He said before the vote that he understood the sensitivities of the families of 9/11 victims.
“I don’t think anybody wants to do anything to disrespect those families. They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “At the same time, we have to balance diversity and look for opportunities to bring different groups together.”
The American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative have said that they bought the building in 2009 and planned to break ground later this year. It could take up to three years to build the Cordoba House. A Friday prayer service has been held at the building since September 2009.
Bruce Wallace, who lost a nephew on 9/11, said the center can change the misperceptions about Islam.
“The moderate Muslim voice has been squashed in America,” he said. “Here is a chance to allow moderate Muslims to teach people that not all Muslims are terrorists.”
The construction of a mosque at a site near ground zero will make a major improvement for the Muslims living in New York and the rest of the U.S.