Americans are deeply divided over the plan to build an Islamic community center, including a place for Muslims to worship, near the former World Trade Center site. Critics say it's disrespectful to the memory of those who died when Muslim extremists destroyed the twin towers in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. What exactly do the developers hope to build at this site? (Watch Keith Olbermann discuss inaccuracies in media reports)
What is the "Ground Zero mosque"?
It's a 13-story Islamic cultural center planned for 45 and 51 Park Place — hence the project's name, 51Park — which is two blocks from the World Trade Center site. Half the site is occupied by a building that was formerly a Burlington Coat Factory outlet, but was wrecked on 9/11 when hunks of the landing gear from one of the hijacked planes smashed through the roof. One of the project's central components is a mosque for up to 2,000 worshipers. According to the developer's website, daily Muslim prayer services are already being held at the property, and have been since late 2009.
What else will be in the community center?
The structure will have various recreational facilities, including a swimming pool, gym, and basketball court. It will also have a 500-seat auditorium, restaurant and culinary school, classrooms, library, art studios, childcare services, and a Sept. 11 memorial. The developers say it will be modeled after Manhattan's well-known 92nd St. Y, which has a community center as well as prayer space.
How much will all this cost?
The organizers figure they'll need $100 million. And even if the protests don't stop the project, the price tag just might, says Politico. The Cordoba Initiative hasn't begun fundraising yet, and in the group's latest fundraising report with the New York attorney general's office, from 2008, it had just $18,255, which isn't enough "even for a down payment," Politico says, on half of the site. But the owner of the property, U.S.-born Muslim real-estate executive Sharif El-Gamal, is one of the principal organizers of the project.
Who's behind the project?
It's the brainchild of the Cordoba Initiative, a think-tank formed in 2004 to improve dialogue between Muslims and the West. The group's leader is Kuwait-born imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a Sufi Muslim scholar who, since the 9/11 attacks, has helped the FBI train its agents in cultural and religious sensitivity. Sufis, because of the tolerant beliefs of their strand of Islam, have been targeted by Muslim extremists. "We condemn terrorists," Rauf said recently. "We recognize it exists in our faith community but we are committed to eradicate it."