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A proposed Muslim community center near 9/11's "ground zero"

2010-JUL: Landmarks Preservation Commission
Financial investigation? Gingrich's statement.

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2010-JUL-07 to 13: Involvement of the Landmarks Preservation Commission:

After the Manhattan Community Board approved construction of Cordoba House, opponents switched to their backup plan: to try to convince the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to declare the building an historic landmark. This would prevent the destruction of the 152-year-old warehouse, and its replacement by a Muslim community center. The owners could conceivably preserve and restore the existing building and build the community center within it. However, it would be very difficult to obtain approval for changes to historic buildings such as would be required to make use of the warehouse structure.

Prior to the public hearing:

  • An anonymous leader of the city’s preservation community said the warehouse had been significantly altered in the past, and that this made it less worthy of protection. They also said: "If the building were in better shape, and if it weren’t for the political ramifications, people would say, ‘Sure, we should [landmark] this." 1

  • According to DNAInfo: "Roger Byrom, chairman of the Landmarks Committee, said that while he would have liked to see the building included in a historic district, it does not have enough distinctive historical features to '...rise to the level of an individual New York City landmark'." 2

  • By 2010-JUL-07, Community Board 1 of the Landmarks Committee had concluded their research. Chairperson Bruce Ehrmann said that they had spent more time studying this building that for any previous structure. The committee voted 6 in favor of not landmarking the building with 1 recusal -- a member removed herself/himself from voting presumably because of a potential conflict of interest. 3

According to the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), emotions ran high among the people who attended a public hearing of the Commission on JUL-13:

  • Barbara Paolucci said: "We don't know today if there are parts of human remains in that building or any of the others."

  • Andrea Quinn, a freelance audio technician from Queens, said: "To deprive this building of landmark status is to allow for a citadel of Islamic supremacy to be erected in its place."

  • Jay Sekulow, senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), and spokesperson for their daily radio outreach "Jay Sekulow Live!"said: "This is sacred ground and for many family and friends of the 9/11 victims building an Islamic mosque on this site would be offensive. We've heard from thousands of Americans -- and many New Yorkers -- who understand that such a move would be a tragic mistake."

  • Sam Nunberg, Deputy Political Director of the ACLJ said that replacing the remains of the building with a Muslim community center "... would be like removing the sunken ships from Pearl Harbor in order to erect a memorial for the Japanese Kamikazes killed in the surprise attack of U.S. troops."

    Nunberg appears to be unaware that there were no Japanese Kamikaze pilots at Pearl Harbor at the beginning of World War II in the Pacific. Kamikazes were only organized by the Japanese armed forces as a desperate measure near the end of the war.

It is worth noting that CBN only reported on the speeches of those opposed to the community center. 4

According to WCBS-TV, Site owner Sharif El-Gamal asked the commission to not grant landmark status to the existing building. He asked them to "understand the importance of this project to revitalizing New York." 5

New Yorker Zead Ramadan, a Muslim, said: "The villains who did this to our country do not represent Islam in any way whatsoever."

According to CityRealty.com:

"Shelly Friedman, the attorney for the owner, reminded the commission that it had first been considered for inclusion in an historic district in 1989 and had not been found worthy of individual designation and that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer were in agreement that it was no worthy architecturally nor historically as an individual city landmark. ..."

"Emotions ran pretty high at the meeting and one very tall man wearing an Obama T-shirt was finally asked to leave after two hours of haranguing other witnesses for scape-goating all Muslims in a manner much like the late Senator Joseph McCarthy and an elderly Muslim man was constantly interrupted by a large black woman. Video and still photographers mobbed every speaker as if it were a bloody ringside battle of fisticuffs and elbows." 6

Almost all of the speeches at the public hearing were videotaped by the Vigilant Squirrel Brigade and posted online. 7 Jihad Watch has posted videos of the proceedings on You Tube. 8 Estimates of the number of people attending the hearing ranged from "nearly 100" by NBC New York, 9 to "about 150" by CBN.

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2010-JUL: Financial investigation?

Federal Rep. Peter King, the highest ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said that he would like to see an investigation into the sources of the funds for the proposed community center. He says families of the 9/11 victims have a right to know this information.

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City rejected that suggestion. He said:

"I don't think we're going to go and start investigating funding sources for religious organizations or vetting people who preach or pray in religious organizations. That just is so out of character for what this nation stands for and the way we conduct ourselves." 1

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2010-JUL-21: Newt Gingrich's statement on Cordoba House:

Newt Gingrich posted a statement about Cordoba House on his website at www.newt.org. He made a number of points:

  • "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia."

    Newt concludes that because the Saudi Arabian government is guilty of religious intolerance, it is OK for American governments to:

    • Violate the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by exhibiting similar immoral religious intolerance in the U.S., and

    • Punish a group in the U.S. whose only connection to Saudi Arabia is that they follow a very different tradition within the same religion.

  • Newt did not mention and may not be aware that the Cordoba House personnel are from the Sufi branch of Islam and are horrendously persecuted in Saudi Arabia.

  • He believes that the name "Cordoba House" was a deliberately chosen insult to Christians, because about a millennium ago, Muslims in Spain took over a Christian church in Cordoba and converted it into a large mosque. They also oppressed Christians.

  • He challenges the sponsors of Cordoba House mount a campaign to have Saudi Arabia allow non-Christians to enter Mecca and allow non-Muslim religious centers to be built in the country.

  • He believes that to allow Cordoba House to be built would be to surrender to Islam. He writes:
  • "No mosque. No self deception. No surrender. The time to take a stand is now -- at this site, on this issue."

  • He concludes:
    "America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could." 10  

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "NYC Mosque Opponents Fight for 'Sacred' Ground," Christian Broadcasting Network, 2010-JUL-15, at: http://www.cbn.com/
  2. "Landmarks Preservation Commission to Weigh Future of Ground Zero Mosque," DNAinfo, 2010-JUL-12, at: http://dnainfo.com/
  3. "Ground Zero Mosque Building Not Worth Landmarking, Community Board Says," DNAinfo, 2010-JUL-8, at: http://dnainfo.com/
  4. Julie Clawson, "Forgiveness, fear and the mosque at ground zero," Sojourners magazine, 2010-JUN-08, at: http://blog.sojo.net/
  5. "Landmark Status At Issue In Ground Zero Mosque War," WCBS-TV, 2010-JUL-14, at: http://wcbstv.com/
  6. Charter B. Horsley, "Landmarks commission holds raucous hearing on proposed mosque near Ground Zero," City Realty, 2010-JUL-13, at: http://www.cityrealty.com
  7. Ground Zero Mosque & Landmarks Preservation Commission Hearing, Vigilant Squirrel Brigade, 2010-JUL-17, at: http://vigilantsquirrelbrigade.blogspot.com/
  8. "Ground Zero Mosque & Landmarks Preservation Commission (Part 1)," Jihad Watch, 2010-JUL-13, at: http://www.youtube.com/
  9. Demarco Morgan, "Landmarks Hearing for "Ground Zero Mosque" Building Turns Raucous," NBC New York, 2010-JUL-14, at: http://www.nbcnewyork.com/
  10. Newt Gingrich, "Newt Gingrich Statement on the Proposed “Cordoba House” Mosque near Ground Zero," Newt.org, 2010-JUL-21, at: http://www.newt.org/

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2010-JUL-27
Latest update: 2010-JUN-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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