The “Coalition to honor Ground Zero” organization is set to hold a rally on Sunday, August 22, in order to prevent construction of the planned mosque situated two blocks away from Ground Zero. The mosque is part of a proposed 13-storey Muslim community centre, which is reported to include a swimming pool, gym, theatre and sports facilities. It is alleged that construction is due to begin on September 11 next year.
One spokesperson, Daisy Khan, who is Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), a non-profit organization dedicated to developing an American Muslim identity and to building bridges between the Muslim community and general public, is reported to have said, “We need to take the 9/11 tragedy and turn it into something very positive. It will also serve as a major platform for amplifying the silent voice of the majority of Muslims who have nothing to do with extremist ideologies.”
I listened to some of the exchanges on television and was somewhat dismayed as to how this planning application has become the focus of anti-Islamic feelings. I still have a few questions. If two blocks away is too close then how far should the Islam exclusion zone be? I daresay that many feel strongly like the Coalition to honor Ground Zero that the whole of the North American continent would be about right. But hold on. Isn’t that exactly the divisive intent of the extremists in the first place?
Ground Zero has become sacred site. It’s not just the memories. Many people feel that the ground is literally imbued with spirit. But like so many sacred sites around the world it will become a focal point to vent anger and frustration. When I stayed in the Hilton next to Ground Zero earlier this year and gave a talk in that big chic skyscraper in the picture, I too was emotionally disturbed. So I don’t what to belittle or underplay the passion that relatives and ordinary citizens feel about this site, but is banning this mosque the best strategy?
This is one planning application that is going to be a nightmare for the US public because I can easily see both sides of the argument. If only we didn’t have this damned sense that locations and objects in the material world can become profound. Then we could make progress.
UPDATE: I am hurriedly adding Daryl Lang’s blog that really challenges the whole premise that this location can be regarded as sacred.
I had to add this piece by Charlie Brooker in today’s (monday 23rd) Guardian. As always, Brooker never pulls his punches.