Mosque issue: J Street, Part 2

Mosque issue: J Street, Part 2

The last public approval is now in place for the “Cordoba House” Islamic center (now called the “Park51” project) to proceed to development a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center site. I was happy to be part of the local J Street group which showed up at the Landmarks Preservation Commission deliberations yesterday morning; we submitted a petition with the names of 10,000 J St. supporters showing their backing for the Muslim center. And we heard the commissioners deliberate impressively (on the architecture and not the politics) as they voted unanimously not to accord the site landmark status and thereby derail this project.

The head of the building project, Sharif El-Gamal, physically embraced Isaac Luria, a national VP of J St. in charge of communications, who was one of our organizers. “We love you guys,” he said to Isaac.

We also witnessed and heard vociferous opposition, based on unfortunate (albeit understandable) emotions of hate and fear, inspired by the terrorists who attacked us nine years ago in the name of their warped view of Islam. We made some friends for the Jewish community among the moderate Muslims who are building this center explicitly with Jewish community centers (JCC’s) and the 92nd St. Y in mind as models.

Yet the press coverage gave us an object lesson on its superficiality and sensation-seeking: a single hand-lettered hate-mongering sign got more coverage than we did.

The USA Today article that quoted me, left out what I said about this being a First Amendment issue and that as a minority group, we were showing our support for the religious rights of another minority. An earlier online version had referred to me as being there with J Street, but a later version left this out; I’m now quoted in the final paragraph:

As the physical scars of the attacks disappear beneath new buildings in Manhattan, “Where do you draw the line?” [The context for my comment is wrong here.] Ralph Seliger, a blogger on Middle East issues, asked before the commission vote. “In no way is this intended to desecrate the memory of those who died there.”

And the Jerusalem Post mentions me, but makes no connection with J Street:
“They did the right thing,” Ralph Seliger said afterwards of the commissioners. “They ruled on the merits and not the politics.”

By | 2010-08-04T12:14:00-04:00 August 4th, 2010|Blog|2 Comments


  1. Werner Cohn August 7, 2010 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Here is the subtext of this essay, as I see it:
    Who are the enemies of peace and progress ? The Jews, the Jews, the Jews (except for that intrepid band of leftist Jews). Who is responsible for the sad state of the world ? The Jews, the Jews, the Jews (except, etc.)
    I am personally willing to accept that mosque, or Islamic Center, or whatever, wherever they want to build it. But I really resent the demonization of those who hold opposing views. The issue is more complex than the good-guys vs. bad-guys thing that it is made out to be here.
    It is not clear at all where the money comes from. I understand that the sponsors do not want to say. Nor is it clear just how close to American values these folks are. Nor, in my view, can the feelings of the 9/11 victims just be ignored. Whatever, we owe a respectful hearing to folks on the other side of this.
    The knee-jerk liberals, here or elsewhere, don’t hold a monopoly on virtue.

  2. Ralph Seliger August 8, 2010 at 4:11 am - Reply

    Since no Jews were named here as the “bad guys,” this is a strange reaction from Werner. The point of my post is that the issue should not be “us against them”; but this is precisely the position being taken by the opposition to this project.

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