Volume 20, Number 39 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | September 15 - 21, 2010
Mosque or no mosque, the terrorists are winning
BY Helaina N. Hovitz
For the past nine years, September 11th has been a day to respect and remember those we lost, those who gave their lives to save others, and to celebrate the bravery and courage shown by all who came to the aid of our city. This year, the ceremony was different; somehow tainted by the impending animosity and conflict that would take place several hours later. After the names were read, the day became a media circus of political agendas and confrontation over Park51, a media circus that should have left town for the day out of respect for those who died, those who survived and their families.
People on both sides have strong feelings; this is an emotionally charged debate. The “Mosque” has become a symbol of the attacks that shook the world. Given that this is what it has come to represent, the simplest thing would be to move it; given that you can’t throw a brick in Lower Manhattan without hitting vacant retail space, this shouldn’t be a problem. The location of the proposed Islamic Cultural Center is insensitive to the losses the country suffered on that day. The Imam claims he’s held out an olive branch to mend fences between the Muslim community and Western nations, but given how emotionally charged this issue has become, reconsidering the location could easily accomplish that goal.
There are two other mosques in Lower Manhattan. Can we not consider the fences mended and put this issue to rest? Apparently not; now everyone has an agenda of their own. And because of that, the terrorists are winning.
We no longer stand united; instead, we’re very much divided. The day meant for honoring the fallen was transformed by protests that destroyed the spirit of togetherness and unity. These protests did not only take place at Ground Zero on Saturday, but all over the country.
This Imam has written in his book that the U.S. was complicit in the attack on the twin towers, and just as guilty as those who hijacked the planes. He’s been asked to condemn Hamas and to stand up against terrorists around the world and has failed to do so. A major investor in the project says he’ll sell his part of the project if he is given a decent enough offer. Donald Trump offered him a deal that would have amounted to a profit of 25 percent and he turned it down because he’s holding out for more money. This is not an issue of religious freedom—as others have made it out to be. The claim is that this is about mending fences, but that is clearly no longer the case. This is about money, real estate, and politics. And these are the issues that ultimately cast a dark shadow over a sacred day.
There are Muslims who applauded the attacks, but the majority of the Muslim world in fact condemned them. Even Bush went on the record saying we were not attacked by Islam but by al Qaeda; Islam did not attack the United States. On the contrary fundamentalist extremists did. Most of the city understands this fact. Many opponents of Park51 have spewed bigotries and vulgarities, therefore inciting religious intolerance and thus getting the opposite effect that they wish to create with the protests. So now we are igniting hatred, the same hatred that extremists used to fuel the fires that burned the twin towers.
What have we learned?
At this point, the answer is nothing.
“Never Forget” was our motto. But we have forgotten…and once we forget, we are doomed.