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The situation around Ground Zero may be changing somewhat since I wrote my mega-post series on Cordoba House a few weeks ago.
There will be, it now seems, no “9/11 mosque,” or even “close to 9/11 mosque.” In fact, it looks like there will be no mosque at all. In spite of what the official websites of the Cordoba Initiative and the Park51 project once said, changes in the websites and a new statement by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf indicate a different trajectory for the project.
Whether this a change in tack or a clarification of intent is not entirely clear. Not long ago, as I documented, the Cordoba Initiative and Park51 websites both indicated that the planned facility would include a mosque; the terms “mosque” and “prayer space” were used interchangeably. The Cordoba Initiative website stated:
It will be a multi-floor community center open to all New Yorkers, much like a YMCA or Jewish Community Center (JCC) with a designated prayer space (mosque) in one area to serve the needs of the large existing community of American Muslims in the neighborhood.
Likewise, the Park51 website confirmed that the facilities would include “a mosque, intended to be run separately from Park51 but open to and accessible to all members, visitors and our New York community.”
However, these statements were contradicted by comments made in the press by Daisy Khan, Rauf’s wife and project co-sponsor. According to Khan:
We insist on calling it a prayer space and not a mosque, because you can use a prayer space for activities apart from prayer. You can’t stop anyone who is a Muslim despite his religious ideology from entering the mosque and staying there … With a prayer space, we can control who gets to use it.
Which characterization was correct? A few weeks ago I said that “it seems reasonable to conclude” that a mosque was planned for the site. However, at least since the beginning of September both websites have been revised to come in line with Khan’s statements—and it looks like the mosque is off the table. The Cordoba Initiative website now reads:
It will be a multi-floor community center open to all New Yorkers, much like a YMCA or Jewish Community Center (JCC) with a designated prayer space in one area to serve the needs of the large existing community of American Muslims in the neighborhood.
Notice what’s missing? The parenthetical word “mosque” has been deleted. The updated page also states explicitly:
Strictly speaking, it will not be a “mosque,” although it would have a prayer space on one of its 15 floors.
The Park51 website, now relaunched as a blog, has also been brought into line, and now says that there will be “a prayer space, intended to be run separately from Park51 but open to and accessible to all members, visitors and our New York community.”
That’s not all. In his first public statement on the subject since the controversy went viral, Imam Rauf writes in Tuesday’s New York Times:
There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The proposal of prayer space not just for Muslims but also for Christians, Jews and others is something I haven’t seen before. The Cordoba House nor Park51 websites only mention Muslim prayer space. That could change, though.
It is also worth noting that Rauf not only says that there will be a multifaith 9/11 memorial, but specifically says that it will be “dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.” Likewise, the Cordoba Initiative website speaks of a “9/11 victims memorial.” That doesn’t sound like anything anyone could reasonably suspect of being part of a “triumphal” project.
Finally, Cordoba House opponents who have raised questions about where the funding is coming from will note that Rauf has also now promised that the sources of all funds will be declared. Apparently no funds have been raised yet, so how this will work remains to be seen, but it’s an encouraging statement on Rauf’s part.
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