Islamic center near ground zero opens its doors; developer acknowledges ‘incredible mistakes’

A year after controversy engulfed plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan, the project’s developers are quietly moving ahead: In recent months they have hired a paid staff, started fund-raising drives and continued holding prayers and cultural events in their existing building two blocks from ground zero.

The developer of an Islamic cultural center that opened Wednesday evening near the site of the terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center says the biggest error on the project was not involving the families of 9/11 victims from the start.

El-Gamal said the overall center is modeled after the Jewish Community Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where he lives. The center is open to all faiths and will include a 9/11 memorial, El-Gamal said. He called opposition to the center — which prompted one of the most virulent national discussions about Islam and freedom of speech and religion since Sept. 11 — part of a “campaign against Muslims.”

Last year, street clashes in view of the trade center site pitted supporters against opponents of the center.

El-Gamal told the AP that fundraising is under way to complete a 15-story building that will also include an auditorium, educational programs, a pool, a restaurant and culinary school, child care services, a sports facility, a wellness center and artist studios. The mosque is especially needed in lower Manhattan, he said, because thousands of Muslims either work or live in the neighborhood, “and in our religion, we must pray five times a day.”

At the opening, an ebullient El-Gamal told reporters the project had been framed by others throughout the debate over its existence.

“Today, for the first time, everyone gets a little bit of a glimpse into the future of what Park51 is going to offer New York,” he said.

2nd imam is out at Islamic center near WTC site

Shaykh Abdallah Adhami, a Muslim scholar who on Jan 14 was named as the new senior imam at the Islamic center being built near the World Trade Center site has given up the job. The 44-year-old had been announced as the new imam on Jan. 14, after its co-founder, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, was given a reduced role.

Shaykh Abdallah Adhami said Friday in a joint statement with the center’s developer that he will no longer serve as a religious adviser to the center. “It is important for me now to devote my time to the completion of my book, which assists English readers in understanding and facilitating the language of the Quran. I wish the project leaders well,” said Adhami.

However, shortly after his appointment, news reports questioned his views on homosexuality. In one recorded lecture, he said he believed that homosexuality was linked to childhood abuse.
That prompted El-Gamal to issue a statement last month in which he said that Adhami would not be a leader of the center, called Park51, but just one of a number of religious figures invited to participate in programming.

Justice Stevens voices support for NYC mosque

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said Thursday that Americans should be tolerant of plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the World Trade Center in New York. The 90-year-old Stevens said it is wrong to lump all Muslims with the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks that killed 3,000 people. “Guilt by association is unfair,” he told the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation in Washington.

Stevens, a World War II veteran, compared the criticism of the mosque to the emotion he said he initially felt when he saw Japanese tourists at Pearl Harbor. Among the thoughts that he said flashed through his mind during a 1994 visit to the memorial to the Japanese attack that brought the U.S. into World War II was, “These people don’t really belong here.”

He said many New Yorkers might have had a similar reaction to news about the mosque in lower Manhattan. But Stevens said he realized he was drawing conclusions about a group of people that did not necessarily fit any one of the tourists he saw at Pearl Harbor.

French police arrest man over Qur’an-burning video

News Agencies – October 3, 2010

French police have questioned a man over an online video which features someone burning a page of the Qur’an and urinating on its ashes, a French judicial officer says. The video which has since been removed from YouTube and Dailymotion shows a man tearing off a page of the Qur’an, making a paper plane and throwing it onto two glasses representing the World Trade Center. The man then burns the page and urinates onto its ashes. He shows his face to the camera at the beginning of the video, gives his name and says he lives in Bishheim, on the outskirts of Strasbourg.
The Muslim community in Strasbourg has been deeply angered by the online video. An official at the Strasbourg Mosque Abdeaziz Choukri says he discovered the video and called the authorities after discussing the footage with its alleged author.

Quran Burning Advocate, Geert Wilders, Europe’s Anti-Islamist Heads to Ground Zero

On September 11, Geert Wilders, the contentious Dutch politician who likened the Koran to Mein Kampf, spoke in New York on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. He delivered a message, forewarning about the dangers of Islam and the building of a “ground-zero mega-mosque.”

Under the threat of death from radical Islamists, Geert, stated; “We who have come to speak today, object to this mosque project because its promoter and his wealthy sponsors have never suggested building a center to promote tolerance and interfaith understanding where it is really needed: In Mecca – a town where non-Muslims are not even allowed to enter, let alone build churches, synagogues, temples or community centers. So why should we do that?”

Mistrust and the Mosque

The poll found considerable distrust of Muslim-Americans and robust
disapproval of the mosque proposal. Asked whether they thought
Muslim-Americans were ³more sympathetic to terrorists² than other citizens,
33 percent said yes, a discouraging figure, roughly consistent with polls
taken since Sept. 11, 2001. Thirty-one percent said they didn¹t know any
Muslims; 39 percent said they knew Muslims but not as close friends.
A full 72 percent agreed that people had every right to build a ³house of
worship² near the site. But only 62 percent acknowledged that right when
³house of worship² was changed to ³mosque and Islamic community center.²
Sixty-seven percent thought the mosque planners should find ³a less
controversial location.² While only 21 percent of respondents confessed to
having ³negative feelings² toward Muslims because of the attack on the World
Trade Center, 59 percent said they knew people who did.

Islamic Center Near Ground Zero Sparks Anger

By MARGOT ADLER

A proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from the site of the destroyed World Trade Center has become a flash point of controversy. The Islamic center is supported by most politicians in Manhattan and by religious leaders of many faiths. It is opposed by some Sept. 11 families, by conservative politicians, bloggers and Tea Party activists. In the last weeks, meetings have been raucous, tensions growing and emotions raw.

Muslims to Hold Interfaith 9/11 Vigil Outside White House

On September 11, 2009, the American Muslim Voice Foundation, along with interfaith groups and community organizations, will host a “Light the Night for Peace and Friendship” candle-light vigil and Ramadan fast-breaking meal (iftar) outside the White House in memory of the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.

A press conference announcing the vigil and iftar will be held 11 a.m. September 10 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.

Speakers: Rev. Dr. David Ensign, pastor, Clarendon Presbyterian Church, Arlington, Va., and Christian Peace Witness, Medea Benjamin, Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Co-Founder of Code Pink, Rabbi David Shneyer. Bill Galvin, National Committee of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. (His children lost their uncle on Sept. 11-He worked in the World Trade Center.) Samina Sundas, Founding Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice

More information available here.

UK Muslims come with new terminology

The time has come for Islam in the West to become Islam of the West, and put the last nine years of madness and suffering in the past, according to the president of the İslamic society of Britain (İSB).

Zahoor Qureshi spoke alongside five other British Muslim representatives at Bahçeşehir University last week, saying their visit is important for sharing ideas, seeking advice and engaging in discussions about the radicalization of Muslims in the West. “We want people like ourselves who live in Britain and people like yourselves who are no doubt European, to play a role in what the EU decides about its future and what Britain decides about its future,” said Aftab Ahmad Malik, a visiting fellow at Birmingham University.

Regarding the criticism that the Muslim faith has received since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Malik said at no point did Muslim councils agree with what happened. “The British government and the Muslim community in Britain have decided that it is better if we can engage and it is better if we can talk,” said Malik.

Full-text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)

Video Threat After Austrian Politician’s Anti-Islam Comments

A video containing an unspecified threat to Austria was posted on the video-sharing Web site YouTube on Tuesday following anti-Islamic remarks by a hitherto unknown far-right Austrian politician. Police said they were still evaluating the video, but had offered the Graz- based activist, Susanne Winter, personal protection after she denounced Islam’s prophet and Muslim men in general as “child molesters”. Winter had accepted the added protection following her remarks at the weekend, said a spokesman for the interior ministry, Rudolph Gollia. He said the government’s anti-terrorism office was “still in the process of evaluating” the video. Nevertheless, there appeared no reason to increase security in Austria for the time being, Gollia added. The video, lasting four minutes and 48 seconds, contained coverage of a speech Winter made at the traditional New Year’s congress of the populist far-right FPOe party on Sunday. Winter is the FPOe’s candidate for the upcoming municipal elections in the southern city of Graz. The video then showed pictures of the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, and warned: “Look, Susanne, something like this could happen to your country and you are responsible.” “It was a mistake for you to take on … Allah’s warriors,” the video said in German. “We, the Muslims, are those warriors with whom you now have a problem.”