It has been ten months since the New York Times first reported the proposed building of Park 51, a Muslim cultural center (which, among other things, will include a mosque) who's space would be just blocks from ground zero. But it has only been in the last few months (after the city council unanimously approved the bid) that people have become up in arms about it, calling it the "ground zero mosque" and the "9/11 monster mosque".
Much of the uproar is due to right wing pundits and bloggers like Pamela Gellar (author of political blog Atlas Shrugs) spreading misinformation about the project. In a recent poll, 85% of Republicans, as opposed to 22% of Democrats, believed the community center was to be built directly on top of ground zero (seeming to forget that a 9/11 memorial is being built on that site...).
The issue soon became one of Christians versus Muslims, also with much pushing from Ms. Gellar. She asked her supporters to gather at the May 25th hearing of the community board to hear concerns and answer questions on the project, but only proceeded to cause unrest and heckling, including the forever memorable "You're building on a Christian cemetery!" Gellar and her followers seem to have forgotten that Jews, Atheists, and even Muslims died in the attack on the World Trade Center.
With each passing month is seems less and less likely we will ever see a completed Park 51. Contrary to conservative beliefs, the chief purpose of the community center, according to its Imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is to "bring a better understanding between Muslims and non-muslims". The center, along with a mosque (which is to be run independently from Park 51 but in the same space), would be a Muslim community center complete with recreation facilities, a 500 seat auditorium, a restaurant and culinary school, a library, education programs, and a "September 11th memorial and quiet contemplation space, open to all".
It is sad to see that a space to committed to enriching communities and fostering common understanding is being halted due to hatred and ignorance. Maybe if the opposers of the project spent a little time there, they would learn something and change their minds.