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Rival protests held over 'Ground Zero mosque'

Opponents and supports of the plans to build an Islamic cultural centre in Manhattan take to the streets.

The 19th century building on Park Place in Manhattan where Muslims plan to build a cultural center

HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE in New York took part in protests both for and against the construction of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” in Manhattan.

A heavy police presence kept the two groups apart, as one side chanted “No mosque, no way” and the other side shouted “Say no to racist fear”, according to BBC reports.

Proposed plans

The proposals to build an Islamic cultural centre two block from the site of the September 11th attacks in 2001 has inspired an emotional debate across the USA.

Critics complain that the plans are insensitive to the families of those killed in the Islamist attack, and the centre should not so close to where thousands of people were murdered. However, supporter point out that many Muslims also died in the terrorist attack and that religious tolerance is vital.

Cordoba House

It is a misnomer to refer to the proposed building as a mosque, it is in fact 13-storey Islamic community centre named Cordoba House that will contain two prayer rooms. Inside there would be a basketball court, restaurant, and swimming pool.

The centre would be open to people of all religions, having the expressed aim of improving interfaith dialogue. The building will not feature a dome or minaret.

Political agendas?

Some have criticised the behaviour of politicians over their behaviour on the issue. With elections coming up in November, some believe the sensitive issue is being exploited to curry favour with voters.

Critics have questioned Republican Sarah Palin’s assertion that the suggested project is to be built on “hallowed ground”, pointing out that other establishments in the area include bars, strip clubs and a McDonald’s.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has entered the fray, stating that he believes the centre should get the go ahead. The move has been widely received in a negative light.

Last week, the Pew Research Centre released statistics that revealed 18% of Americans mistakenly believe that Obama is a Muslim.

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