Muslim Community Center gains support

By Jeny Varughese
September 4, 2010

The recent proposal by Sharif el-Gamal, Manhattan real estate developer, to build a 13-story Muslim community center and mosque two blocks from ground zero has brought up controversy nationwide.

The question of whether the community center should be built has people talking.

“I think they should be allowed to build the community center because this country is based on freedom of religion,” Mary-Kate McMongle, freshman criminology major, said. “It is not right to punish the whole Muslim community because of an act done by extremists.”

“Building this community center seems unfair, almost an insult but it would be a sign of tolerance and openness,” Dr. Courtney Smith, history professor, said. “It would be a sign that this is why America is different and greater than other countries in the world.”

The proposed community center and mosque will replace a Burlington Coat Factory that was damaged during the Sep. 11 attack, which Cordoba Initiative purchased in July. The plan for Park51 was unanimously approved by the Community Board of Lower Manhattan.

“Having the community center built at the site where the burling coat factory used to exist is acceptable because what used to be there should not matter and should not be the basis for other projects such as this,” Megan Allen, biology major, said.

Proponents of the community center are stating religious freedom as their reason for supporting the construction of the building. They believe that America was built on religious freedom and that it should not be hindered.

“There are different aspects to every religion and culture. Judging people based solely on that is unjust,” Amanda Coinbert, psychology major, said.

“Once the community center is built it will bring more diversity to the area and show that not all Muslims are terrorists and also that assuming the worst doesn’t necessarily mean that those events will take place,” Allen said.

“There is a vast majority of Muslims in NYC and by building this center it will help clear the image of Muslims in the US,” Bassam Omar, senior business administration major, said. “Islam literally translates to mean peace.”

Recently Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, and President Barack Obama have spoken out in support of the construction of the community center and mosque stating that under the first amendment they have the right. According to the New York Post Bloomberg stated that he believes that this is an important test of the separation between church and state that it is imperative that we, as the American people, “get it right.”

Bassam, who is of the Islamic faith, stated he was ecstatic and really happy to hear of the support from both Mayor Bloomberg as well as President Obama. He feels that this is a good step in trying to bring equality among all races and religion to the city of New York as well as nationwide.

This is not the first mosque to be sitting in the close vicinity of ground zero. Masjid Manhattan is a mosque that sits four blocks away from ground zero and it predates the existence of the world trade center. If it is acceptable for this mosque to exist why is it such a controversy for the proposal for a new mosque/ community center that is going to be only two blocks closer?

“It is harder to take something away that has existed than it is to block something that will be built at a future time,” Smith said.

“I feel people are against this project because it’s a form of ignorance and racism. They feel Islam is a symbol of terrorism,” Bassam said “However, once given a chance they will find that Muslims are just like any others and that we are good hard working people.”

Bassam Omar, who is celebrating the month of Ramadan said, “I want people to be more open minded about Muslims and about each other. This is all we need for world peace and I feel if we strive towards it anything is possible.”

Jeny Varughese

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