NYC Ground Zero and Proposed Mosque Protest - Part 1
by Sonja Harris on August 25, 2010 at 12:33 PM
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. - Abraham Lincoln
For us to win as Americans we must have a stronger resolve and be more determined than our enemy. I travelled to NYC with my husband to visit Ground Zero to see for myself what politicians and greed might allow on this very special ground. If we don’t stand up against this travesty we are a lost America. Emotions are running high in this debate. Proponents speak of rights without any consideration of respect or appropriateness. Do rights take precedence over common sense, over common decency?
Speaking to many construction workers and listening to them give me their account of the mosque situation, I found that they all had strong feelings against the building of the mosque so close to Ground Zero. One construction worker from New Jersey told me, “What does it matter, we have lost, the Landmark Commission has voted to have the mosque built and we can not do anything about it.” He also said this in a low tone sounding even more defeated. A young Czechoslovakian, Milek N., a naturalized American citizen said, “It is a slap in our face. They should move out of the area.” Not all gave permission to be recorded and not all chose to give me their names. These men felt that they did not know how their bosses felt and did not want their comments taken to task.
My first interview was with John M., working on the ‘Freedom Tower’ from Queens, NY. He stated unequivocally that he is a proud American, “I love this country and I don’t want this country to change”. He acknowledged that we are a ‘melting pot’ and that immigrants should respect our laws and our ways as we do when we go to their countries. He also let me know that “No true American construction worker will work on a project like that (mosque).” “I seen the buildings come down I seen the people jumping off the buildings.” “It was plain and simple, it was an act of war and we should treat it as an act of war.” I can’t wait until November! “A new broom sweeps clean”.
I also spoke to Deandre R., a 27 year old who was in high school at the time the towers came down. He is enjoying working on the ‘Freedom Tower’ because he feels it is part of history. “I was in high school my last year of high school. It was a shock. I actually saw it because my school was on the tenth floor right in Brooklyn on the other side of the bridge, and so I could actually see the second plane hit the second tower and I saw it (airplane) loop around and hit and everything, and the gulf of flames. It is something I will never forget.” When I asked him how he felt about the mosque he was a little tentative. His response was, “I have mixed feelings honestly, because of what happened and to put a mosque right here on the corner is kinda weird to me. I don’t knock anybody’s religion. They could go a couple blocks down further away but to have it right around the corner is not a smart idea to me.”
A construction worker at the ‘Freedom Tower’ refused to give me his name but could not stop telling me about Ground Zero. He said he was disappointed that the Twin Towers were not being rebuilt but was OK with what was being built. He did not like the fact that the mosque was being negotiated and the memorial to the victims and heroes of 911 had not yet been built. He told me that the codes for all the new buildings had to conform to a set of ‘terrorist proof’ standards. He had been at the American Stock Exchange the day of the attack and he remembers everything vividly. He also thought it was sad that the mosque site had not been discussed and a compromise had not been worked out. He personally will not work on the mosque if in fact it goes up. I asked him about the unions and he said that the ‘Freedom Tower’ had workers from about 100 different unions. This situation leads to another possible problem.
There has been plenty of discussion on the location of the mosque, so I decided to walk from Ground Zero to the proposed mosque building. It took approximately 448 steps and about 3 minutes to walk. Below you will see the actual route I took so that you can also walk the path.
When I arrived in front of the proposed mosque there were only a few young supporters standing around with homemade signs. I interviewed two and spoke to all of them. It was apparent that they were advocating for the mosque and working in shifts. I found them to be extremely idealistic with no knowledge other than having the ‘utopia syndrome’.
One young lady, Ellie carrying a PEACE sign, in particular I found to be a pathetic example of a Christian. She told a journalist interviewing her that Christians were just as bad as the Radical Islamists because a Christian had killed Dr. Tiller over abortion and that the Crusades had killed many people all in the name of Christianity. She barely stopped to breathe listing the sins of Christians while never mentioning the terrorists’ act of murdering innocents in the 2001 attacks. She felt that the Muslims had a right to worship in this particular place.
I spoke to Julia L., living in East Village, who had moved to New York City from Connecticut three years prior. She had been coming to the mosque four days in a row in support of the Islamic center. And was very emotional and passionate about what she was doing. She tutors math and physics and had students whose parents died in the attack. She told me she wanted “people to stop calling it the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ because it is not Ground Zero and to stop comparing the terrorists with Muslims because it was a fringe terrorist group who flew the planes that attacked Americans which included Muslims.” “People say freedom of religion but not here, that is just an asinine thing to say because this is still America. Can we practice freedom of religion four blocks away, 6 blocks?”
Brent C., a young 25 year old, could not articulate why he was standing in front of the mosque. He made it clear that “He was not there defending the mosque but the Islamic cultural center which will have a mosque.” He told me he was there because “I believe in freedom of religion, our civil liberties and the right of individuals to practice their religion, to buy what they want; basically I do not believe in an oppressive government state and we have to protect our liberties which include freedom of religion.”
I followed a man into the building and he told me straight “I am a Muslim and I want this center to be built. It was Bush’s fault that Osama bin Laden was not apprehended in Afghanistan.” He pivoted and walked further into the building spelling his name. The security guard sitting at the entrance told me he was a Christian and it did not matter to him because he felt that the Muslims have a right to build it.
I did spend about an hour speaking to a Muslim couple from Egypt who told me he was naturalized and that he was more American than I was because he chose to be an American. He also let me know that he did not want to live in Egypt because the president was a dictator. I asked him about the mosque and he told me that the Muslims have as much ‘right’ as anyone else to build a mosque where they want it. That Americans just did not want Muslims to build any mosques anywhere. I asked him about sharia law and he said it depended on what I meant by sharia law. I asked him to define sharia law and he refused leading me to believe he was in favor of sharia law in the United States. Then I asked him what he thought of Imam Rauf’s statement that America was an accessory to 911. He came at me strong and said that Americans are to blame for 911 because of its policies. This Muslim was extremely insensitive to what had happened on September 11. I might add that his beautiful wife by his side never said a word….interesting…..
Bill and I went to NYC for pleasure and to visit Ground Zero. I might add that we funded our trip, just in case Nancy Pelosi asks.
Facing ‘Freedom Tower’ from Vesey Street
Gate just in front of the 'Freedom Tower'
On Vesey Street I turned left - walked on W. Broadway to Barclay St and crossed staying on W. Broadway
Crossed Park Place to be on the same side as the proposed mosque - Mosque is about the middle of the block
Supporters for the mosque - NYP Officer stands by in case of trouble in front of proposed mosque
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David A. Paterson
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