A new Siena Research Institute poll was released on Wednesday that displayed that New York voters by nearly a 2 to 1 margin oppose the plans to build an Islamic mosque/community center near Ground Zero. Those same voters did overwhelmingly also say the center’s developers had a constitutional right to build the center.
There has been a growing sentiment that has echoed those poll results.
Pollster Steven Greenberg mentions that the poll results cover every demographic group whether it be age, gender, party, religion, or political philosophy. And across the board there seems to an agreement of the constitutional right to proceed regardless of if they opposed the building of the mosque or not.
Nationwide the opposition is about the same level as what was displayed by the New York voters.
However, in all the discussion, not much focus has been on American Muslims and their feelings and thoughts on the issue. The American Muslims who support this building are not only facing opposition from those outside their faith, but also those who share their faith. There are American Muslims that argue that the building is insensitive to September 11 victims and unnecessarily provocative at a time when Muslims need to be gaining more acceptance and not receiving less.
Akbar Ahmed, a professor of Islamic studies at American University, views the Islamic center as “rubbing salt in open wounds”. Ahmed mentions expanding the project so that there is a synagogue and a church to allow the area and property to be interfaith based.
Abdul Cader Asmal, past president of the Islamic Council of New England, an umbrella group for more than 15 Islamic centers, brought up the importance of “win[ning] the hearts and minds of the ordinary American people.”
The prime targets of the heat for the center are its leaders, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan. The two have insisted that the center will be a voice for moderate Islam and will be open to all religions as part of their outreach of interfaith. Critics of the pair have targeted their potential extremist agenda.
Another voice in the conversation has been Asra Nomani, who backs the mosque in principle, but views the feelings of those affected on 9/11 should trump the plan. Nomani is an advocate for women’s rights and tolerance in the Muslim world.
Even the group of American Muslims who back the idea have questioned the organizers’ missteps along the way. Rauf has been abroad during these heated debates and thus allowed for the conversation to continue to linger and take a small thing like building a mosque and turn it into a national spectacle. It would certainly aide supporters’ voice in the conversation if Rauf were to return and clarify many of the questions and issues a little better.
Additionally, not brought up by many outside of the Muslim community is the future of the site after Rauf and Khan were to pass it onto new owners. American Muslims highlight that the imam in charge of the mosque/cultural center will shape the building’s purpose as they see fit.
Tawfik Hamid, an Egyptian scholar and reformer who was once a member of a terrorist group, has expressed the importance of those associated with the planning calling out extremists and radical Islamic groups. The distance they create will only aide in their mission of practicing a moderate religion and the defeat of the radical ideology. If radicals in Islam see the mosque near Ground Zero as not a sign of victory; then the building will have a different meaning.
The divide amongst American Muslims carries over to those who lost relatives in the terrorist attacks. There is a division between this group of individuals as well with some who support it and some who do not.
Talat Hamdani, on one hand, lost a son, but supports the mosque while Neda Bolourchi, who lost a mother, opposes the plan.
This poll and these feelings by American Muslims are only the latest developments in this ongoing story. There will certainly be continued disagreements on this issue, but what has seemed to arisen among most is agreement on the constitutional right, but not the favorability of the site. It is also good for this discussion to get more feedback from American Muslims. And this argument and discussion has seemed to cross all lines and faiths. The more comments that come out, the more layers this issue will certainly get.