A year after Ground Zero Mosque controversy, “community center” that developers insisted was not a mosque is just a…mosque
The New York Post says here that the Park51 “community center” opened “with great fanfare,” and it certainly did. Reporters from all over contacted Pamela Geller and me, asking us for comment on the “fact” that we had “lost,” that the “community center” was opening despite our opposition. But this was a case of a defeated side declaring victory and getting out, a la Vietnam. As we had both made repeatedly clear when we led the national opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque, we were well aware that Muslims were gathering for prayers in the Burlington Coat Factory building that had been extensively damaged in the September 11, 2001 attacks, and had no objection to that.
What we were objecting to was the planned sixteen-story mega-mosque that the grifter Sharif El-Gamal and the unsavory and dishonest Islamic supremacists Faisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan planned to build on that site after they tore down the Burlington Coat Factory building, as that would have been a triumphal mosque built on the site of a jihad victory, like the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. Once Americans voiced their opposition in huge numbers to that planned victory mosque, and we exposed the developers’ Islamic supremacist ties and many shady financial dealings, the project was put on indefinite hold. But El-Gamal and his Leftist sycophants in the mainstream media were not about to admit defeat; instead, they announced — with great fanfare indeed — the opening of the Park51 Cultural Center, in the same severely damaged Burlington Coat Factory building. They held a few sad and tatty “events” there, again to great fanfare, and then, when the media frenzy died down, went back to doing the only thing they had been doing in that building all along: holding Islamic prayer.
So it is a mosque, just as we always said it would be in the teeth of their disingenuous denials (which were uncritically and insistently repeated in the mainstream media), but it is not the 16-story mega-mosque of triumph they had wanted to build, and which had been the focus of our objections. So the real victory was ours. And if El-Gamal or anyone else ever tries again to build the triumphal mosque, we’ll be back.
This article from the New York Post, even though it again exposes El-Gamal’s dishonesty, glosses over that central fact. Take a look at how many people in the comments section there are saying that this mosque “should never have been built.” But that’s the thing: it wasn’t built. This non-center is still in the damaged Burlington Coat Factory building. The Post was severely remiss not to point that out.
“No community programs at “˜Ground Zero” mosque a year after the controversy,” by Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein in the New York Post, December 9:
It”s all pray and no play.
The Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero that opened with great fanfare a year ago is now an empty space with no community programs.
And while the developers behind Park51 insisted for two years that the project was more than a mosque, it now appears to be just that. Dozens of worshipers gather at the site on Park Place Friday for prayer services “” but that”s the only activity in the building.
Gone are the Arabic classes, workshops in calligraphy, talks on the genealogy of Muslims in America, film screenings and art exhibits. The sole community event is a class in capoeira “” an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines dance and music. The teacher of the twice-weekly class said she has five students.
“We are the only cultural program that is still there,” said Luz Emma Canas Jesus, of Capoeira Mucurumim.
The Park51 Twitter feed was last updated in June, and its Web site lists no events. The Web site for the mosque, formally called Prayer Space, lists four services a day, and a handwritten note on the building”s window also advertises a 4 a.m. service.
Park51 organizers repeatedly refused to answer questions about what happened to the programs offered last fall and spring. Sharif El-Gamal, the lead developer behind the project, ducked out the women”s entrance for the prayer space and would not speak to a reporter.
Just two years ago, El-Gamal”s grand plans for the site “” a $100 million, 15-story community center and prayer space “” generated worldwide controversy because of its proximity to the Ground Zero site.
At the photography exhibit that kicked off the opening of a scaled-down center in September 2011, El-Gamal admitted he erred in not including families who lost loved ones on Sept. 11 in the planning process.
Development plans are now in limbo over fund-raising for the project and a dispute with Con Ed, which owns half the site. In 2009, El-Gamal”s company bought half the property, which once housed a Burlington Coat Factory store, for $4.8 million, and leased the other half from the utility. It is seeking to buy that part of the property.
Con Ed threatened to evict Park51 a year ago over $1.7 million in unpaid back rent.
El-Gamal”s company then sued Con Ed, claiming its appraisal for the property was wrong and the formula to figure the rent was inaccurate. A judge ruled in Con Ed”s favor on the appraisal, and the rent lawsuit is continuing with the next court date set for Tuesday.
In an interview last year, El-Gamal said he was exploring other uses of the property, including an office tower or condominiums. He said a prayer space would remain part of the project.