New Push to Build a Mosque Near Ground Zero

Monday, August 01, 2011

Despite the worldwide controversy that erupted last year over Sharif El-Gamal’s plan to develop a mosque and Muslim cultural center near the World Trade Center site, El-Gamal is spearheading a new effort to make the proposal a reality.

Mr. El-Gamal, the chairman and CEO of Soho Properties, a real estate development company, has launched a campaign to raise $7 million to support the mosque project. The deadline for raising the money is September 10, just one day before the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  

Referring to 9/11 in a speech at a fundraising dinner Friday night at the site of the proposed mosque in lower Manhattan, Mr. El-Gamal said “Two blocks from where we are today, our identities were stolen from us and our faith was defaced. And through this project we have an opportunity to show the world who we are, and what we believe in, and what our practice is, and what our faith is.” (To see a video filmed at the event, click here).

Mr. El-Gamal denied that the September 10 fundraising deadline had any connection to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. He called it a “motivational deadline” for people who want to support the project. Another project supporter suggested that the date, 9/10/11, may have been chosen for its numerological significance.

Plans for the building at 49-51 Park Place include a space to accommodate 2,000 worshipers and an adjacent community center that Mr. El-Gamal said would be like a YMCA. The building, which is owned by Con Edison, is leased to Mr. El-Gamal’s group and already houses a small mosque.

Less than 75 people attended the kick-off dinner, which had been advertised in ethnic newspapers and on foreign-language TV channels aimed at Muslim immigrants. Among those who showed up were a half dozen imams from around the country and representatives of the Nation of Islam, a mainly African-American sect. Some at the event speculated that many supporters of the project were scared to show up because of the negative publicity it received last year.

Noticeably absent were Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, who were the spokespeople for the project when it was originally introduced last year under the name Park 51 and who became lightening rods for criticism by the project’s opponents.

Mr. El-Gamal said Imam Rauf and Ms. Khan are no longer associated with the project, and its name has been changed to PrayerSpace.

Mr. El-Gamal acknowledged the difficulties in getting the project off the ground. “There is no skirting around the issue, the story of this project and what the media has made of it,” he told supporters. He said the mosque proposal is a response to “a specific need” in lower Manhattan’s Muslim community.  He said it will be “open to all, promote community relations, trust, goodwill and have a sense of neighborhoodliness.”

Another speaker, Imam Abdul Malik of Panama City, Florida was among the few who directly addressed past opponents of the project, including conservative Republicans and some 9/11 family members who say it’s wrong to build a mosque so close to the site destroyed by Muslim terrorists. “Islam is not responsible for what happened on that day,” he said, “we have to stop apologizing.”

According to an unofficial estimate, the fundraiser netted more than $200,000, including a $100,000 loan from a mosque in Midtown Manhattan. That is on top of $1.5 million organizers said they had raised previously.

Mohsin Zaheer of Feet in Two Worlds and Sade-e-Pakistan contributed reporting to this story.

Feet in Two Worlds is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.


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Comments [15]

saddened from australia

it is a total insult to build a mosque here, a total and utter insult

Jun. 25 2012 07:39 AM
Vin Ienco from US

Mr. El-Gamal is a damn liar.
The koran and the hadith confirm islam defaced itself 1432 years ago, and thru its continued blood lust. 500 separate attacks in 120 days, is FACT, no a defaced ''religion''

Aug. 04 2011 06:11 PM
maddymappo from NYC

I cannot find any info on what happened between Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan and Mr. El-Gamal that led to this rift. I would be interested to learn more about this. I have a suspicoin that the elite society that hobnobed with and adored Imam Rauf and Daisy do not want to show now wrong they were about this couple, so wrong the Mr. El-Gamal decided to dump them. What an embarrassment to the owners of the NY Times and WP that their beloved wealthy and socially connected Moslem friends were even despised by fellow Moslems. Perhaps the hoi paloi who couldn't stomach them would be proved correct! Heaven forbid! Why else is there hardly a word even written in this article clarifying why they have been pushed out of the project. How could such a juicy tidbit be overlooked so casually? So goes the "news" of the day - all the news the elites want to print about their friends.

Aug. 02 2011 04:42 PM
Soapy Johnson from USA

Fundraising strategy may change again when it's learned the Ground Zero mosque will move. Cortland Street location a surprise to many >>

Aug. 02 2011 02:34 PM
David G. Herrmann from NYC

By my count, the two-block radius from the World Trade Center site is already home to two Roman Catholic churches and a chapel, a Methodist church, a Greek Orthodox church, a synagogue and a Buddhist temple. Nicely ecumenical, but still lacking any representative of the world's second-largest faith.

Aug. 01 2011 11:45 PM
Peace Lover from NJ

Well, we cannot generalize that moslems are bad. But I am afraid that the mosque may be a magnet to the wrong kind of muslims-"The Terrorists" And in the name of religion these ignorant Islamic Fundamentalists do not 'attract' anybody to the mosque but will 'attack' innocent people. Instead of a mosque, why don't they build a hospital and help patients without health insurance, or something that will attract innocent people and not attack them.

Aug. 01 2011 11:02 PM
jeff from new york

I experience the islamic prayer in a mosque. At first i felt weird because i am christian. Then the priest spoke and i heard him say nothing but good. He mentioned that people must do good in this world so that they will go to paradise once they pass through. They never mentioned that they were better than any other religions. Before you judge them, go to a mosque and see for yourself.

Aug. 01 2011 07:32 PM

Wake Up, America!!!
islam is NOT a "religion of peace", it is not a religion at all, it is an evil, failed ideology. They insist on putting a mosque there as a symbol of conquest or triumph...PLEASE look at a history of islam, and see that this is standard practice for islam...attack &conquere a country or area, and put a mosque where a church orsynagoguee was, or some other location that was significant to the region that has just been concoredbutt islam! It is NOT a religion that has been hijacked by a few radicals, it is a radical, hateful "religion" that has duped the masses into thinking they are peaceful!

Aug. 01 2011 06:37 PM

Oh look, just in time for the end of the debt limit debate. This should ensure nothing of substance ever takes place in the public discourse. How come it never became an issue that one of the developers was a large investor in Foxnews and the other had businesses used by CIA contractors. It really stinks.

Aug. 01 2011 05:28 PM
RBC from NYC

So if these folks weren't building a mosque, but they were building a space for a predatory lending company then you'd all be ok with that?? Its perfectly fine for strip clubs and Wall Street companies -currently financially raping this country at levels never experienced before - to have a presence down there, but a mosque is the line in the sand. Brilliant. America's ignorance never fails.

Aug. 01 2011 05:14 PM
Steve from Queens

How can we assure this never happens? What actions can citizens take to make sure no Mosque is ever built there?

Aug. 01 2011 03:54 PM
sid from NYC

I don't expect Christians to apologize for the actions of the Norwegian terrorist, nor did I expect the same of Muslims for the actions of the 9/11 terrorists.
The terrorists were acting in the name of hate, not the religions they used as an easy scapegoat.

Aug. 01 2011 02:04 PM

If they want to show how wonderful they are move the site far away from the WTC. Insisting on having it so close means they are trying tp show how powerful they are.

Aug. 01 2011 12:50 PM
fred from nyc

perhaps one can learn from the open society in European countries. Moslems for the most part wish to stay separate. they legislate their life styles even if it contradicts Christian life styles. study their religious doctrine. it is not friendly to those that don't except Mohamad. a mosque is a religious statement that is not friendly. take the time & see for your self.

Aug. 01 2011 09:14 AM

"Islam is not responsible for what happend that day, we need to stop apologizing." ???? As far as I know they NEVER apologized! An apology is something you say for steping on someones foot or bumbing into a person! THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN SAY FOR KILLING 3000 INOCENT PEOPLE!

Aug. 01 2011 06:43 AM

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