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Answering Critics of the "Ground Zero Mosque"

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Park51 Building

The building which is poised to house the Park51 Islamic community center, also known as the Ground Zero Mosque, in New York.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Criticism of Park 51 aka "Ground Zero Mosque":

Opponents of Park51, also known as the controversial "Ground Zero Mosque" (read more about the controversy), cite a variety of reasons which are unfortunately based largely on ignorance and fear. There are some who honestly feel that the center might cause pain to family members who come to visit the future Ground Zero memorial. However, this concern has been exploited by politicians across the nation, who have added their own baseless accusations.

Is Park51 at Ground Zero?:

Park51 is located at 51 Park Place in Lower Manhattan, west of Church Street. The existing building was a Burlington Coat Factory which was damaged on 9/11. The building is 2-4 city blocks (see map) from where the North Tower of the World Trade Center used to stand. Lower Manhattan is quite small and crowded; there is no view of the WTC site from the building. The proposed center is 13 stories high and will be dwarfed by taller neighboring buildings. In addition, the proposed architecture of Park51 looks nothing like a traditional mosque; there will be no minarets or dome.

Who are the people behind this? Are they coming in to gloat over our loss?:

The Park51 project managers are long-time New Yorkers, who have worked in lower Manhattan for decades. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, one of the key figures, has served as the prayer leader of a nearby Sufi mosque, located 12 blocks from Ground Zero, since 1983. On their commitment to the community, Park51 developers have said: "[we] can’t say this often enough. We work in lower Manhattan, we care about lower Manhattan and we’re here to provide services to lower Manhattan."

Where is the money coming from? Why don't they open their books?:

Park51 is still in the very early stages, so this question is premature. No fundraising campaign has begun and no application for tax-exempt status has been filed yet. Funding for the development is expected to come from a combination of equity, financing, and contributions. Organizers have pledged that when the fundraising campaign begins, all laws will be followed and supervised by auditors and security consultants. The published Park51 policy states: "We will refuse assistance, financial or otherwise, from any persons or institutions who are flagged by our security consultants or any government agencies."

Don't Muslims already have a mosque in the area? They don't need another one!:

Since July 2009, parts of the Park51 building have been used as an overflow Muslim prayer hall. There have been two other mosques in Lower Manhattan for decades. One is a very small building, which can only hold 65 people, affiliated with the mystical branch of Islam called Sufism. The other lost its lease in May 2009 and moved to a nearby basement. They must hold prayer services in shifts, as the space is only big enough to hold a fraction of worshippers at a time.

Don't Muslims build mosques as a "victory sign"?:

First of all, it's not a mosque. It will have neither the architecture nor function of a traditional mosque. It's a community center, with a small portion of the building set aside as a Muslim prayer room.

Second of all, whenever there is a group of believers living and working in a given area, they often build a house of worship so that they can gather in community prayer. This is true of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and virtually all religious communities. To assert otherwise is inflammatory and offensive.

Won't the call to prayer echo in the area and disturb people?:

City noise ordinances govern loudspeaker use, and there is no evidence that developers have any interest in applying for a permit to project the call to prayer. The vast majority of mosques in the U.S. do not amplify the adhan in their local neighborhoods.

Isn't everyone opposed to this project?:

A CNN poll in early August 2010 showed that 68% of Americans are opposed to the Park51 project at its current site. However, of the people who actually live and work in Manhattan, the majority are supportive of the development, according to another poll conducted by Quinnipiac University.
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