Another Way to Think About the “Ground Zero” Mosque

According to a Christian fundamentalist group, the mosque will be a mosque, a new building, modeled after the Dome of the Rock, towering (at thirteen whole stories!) above the Manhattan skyline, built by the same people who attacked the World Trade Center in 2001, and an affront to America.

All of this is false. It’s a community center for FiDi’s large, extant Muslim community — one that happens to have a mosque, but is open to all New Yorkers. The building it will occupy is already 13 stories tall. It’s dwarfed by everything around it. The most ambitious conceptual drawings show the outside being repainted (gasp!). And the center’s backers — our YouTube commercial’s ominous “they” — had nothing to do with 9/11. They’re just Americans. Who happen to be Muslim.

It is irrefutably true that the center will be close to Ground Zero. Two blocks, in fact. Of course, New York residents will know two blocks is a long way in the city. Two blocks is the difference between strip clubs and skyscrapers; sex shops and town homes. But let’s engage on their level. It’s close. How close?

Dangerously close. On 9/11 the building, 51 Park Place, was damaged, severely. It’s so close, it was in the debris cloud (which I’ve represented in red, based on the other map):

From these facts, you can build two narratives. One says the mosque co-opts Ground Zero. The other says it joins Ground Zero, such that, if the Financial District is hit again, they will shed blood with us — as some already have. The story of America is one of foreigners joining their fates with ours. Downtown’s Muslim community is pushing us to live up to that history, and to our values, and it’s a challenge we ought to accept.

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