Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Get Ready, Get Set: the Park 51 Issue is Back
Friday, December 10, 2010 - 01:13 PM
Now and then, people ask me, "Whatever happened to that mosque issue?" As if the subject that dominated the airwaves like no other, over the entire summer, had somehow, mysteriously vanished. As we reported a few weeks ago, Park 51 didn't appear to gain any traction as an issue with voters leading up to the November elections. But now, it seems supporters and opponents alike are mobilizing their troops, ready to battle once again over the public perception.
This week, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind Park 51 (or as he tends to call it, Cordoba House), launched the Cordoba Movement, "a multi-national, multi-faith movement dedicated to improving understanding and building trust among people of all cultures and faith traditions." From all appearances, the group is a re-branding of the Cordoba Initiative, his former group, which no longer has a website but also made an issue of working with people of various faiths.
The list of supporters is long and includes Jewish and Christian groups, the ACLU, Muslim and Buddhist groups, and at least one group of 9/11 family members (no Hindu groups, from what I could gather).
A couple days ago, I attended an event, hosted by Rabbis for Human Rights, at which Daisy Khan, wife of Imam Feisal spoke. She gave me some sense of where the Cordoba Movement is headed, as the people behind Park 51 hope to gather more support.
"We're inviting epople who consider themselves to be moderates and progressives," she said. "And they can be people of all beliefs and no beliefs against the extremists who tend to dominate the discourse. Who tend to want to keep fear alive and want to be ignorant of the facts."
She wouldn't say how much money has been raised for Park 51, but suggested it was very early in the process, ie., hardly anything has been raised. The Park 51 site now has a Donate page; the organization has applied for 501(c)(3) status, which would require it to file annual financial reports and maintain a level of transparency.
Daisy Khan also said organizers are courting 9/11 family members.
But opponents like Rosaleen Tallon, whose brother, firefighter Sean Patrick Tallon died on 9/11, say the 9/11 family members who support the project comprise "a token group" and that there has never been a "major outreach" to others.
"But of course you wouldn't reach out to a group that you already knew the feelings of," she said.
After laying low these last few months, opponents are planning another protest on December 14. In a novel twist to earlier protests, the upcoming event ties opposition to Park 51 to the need for a Wal-Mart.
"NYC officials and the Gloomberg's (sic.) administration are working overtime to erect a triumphal mosque at Ground Zero, while Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has been denied entry repeatedly. Wal-Mart was forced to drop its plans for its first New York city store. And New York was the loser for it. The lower middle and middle class was the loser for it." [Pamela Geller/Atlas Shrugs]