Most New Yorkers (including myself) simply DO NOT want a mosque erected near Ground Zero. Even supporters of the project would, according to a recent poll, prefer that the mosque be relocated to a less contentious part of NYC. From the very beginning, support for the 13-story complex, which is being touted as a center for moderate Islam and interfaith dialogue, has basically dangled on tepid support while being faced with vehement opposition; a proposal that has flamed increased controversy and division instead of religious understanding and unity.

Nearly nine years after the Sept. 11 attacks ignited a wave of anxiety about Muslims, many in the country’s biggest and arguably most cosmopolitan city still have an uneasy relationship with Islam. One-fifth of New Yorkers acknowledged animosity toward Muslims. Thirty-three percent said that compared with other American citizens, Muslims were more sympathetic to terrorists. And nearly 60 percent said people they know have negative feelings towards Muslims because of 9/11.

Overall, 50 percent of those surveyed oppose building the project two blocks north of the World trade Center site, even though the majority believe that the developers have the right to do so. Thirty-five percent favor it.

Of course, the dispute has long gone from the cultural to the political. While 74% of Republicans are opposed to the mosque, Democrats are split at 43% for, 44% against, with President Obama handling the issue with his usual backsliding panache. Thirty-two percent approve, 27 percent disapprove, of Obama’s stance. Mayor Bloomberg, the mosque’s most spirited public defender, has failed to unify public opinion around the issue.

However, above and beyond the pros and cons regarding this proposed mosque (whether or not based in religious intolerance, political opportunism or personal conviction), the question still remains: Why propose building a mosque near Ground Zero?—unless there’s a point to be made as a subtle follow-up to a not so subtle point made nine years earlier. After 9/11, most New Yorkers (again, myself included) are extremely wary of these subtle variances in religious expression…if only out of principle, if only out of pride. I’m sorry, but we can’t help it:  Allahu Akbar and related buzzwords echoing in our somber remembrances from the depths of Ground Zero continually embitter us.

NY Times


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