By Andrea Peyser, www.NYPost.com
A mosque rises over Ground Zero. And fed-up New Yorkers are crying, “No!”
A chorus of critics — from neighbors to those who lost loved ones on 9/11 to me — feel as if they’ve received a swift kick in the teeth.
Plans are under way for a Muslim house of worship, topped by a 13-story cultural center with a swimming pool, in a building damaged by the fuselage of a jet flown by extremists into the World Trade Center.
The opening date shall live in infamy: Sept. 11, 2011. The 10th anniversary of the day a hole was punched in the city’s heart.
How the devil did this happen?
Plans to bring what one critic calls a “monster mosque” to the site of the old Burlington Coat Factory building, at a cost expected to top $100 million, moved along for months without a peep. All of a sudden, even members of the community board that stupidly green-lighted the mosque this month are tearing their hair out.
Paul Sipos, member of Community Board 1, said a mosque is a fine idea — someplace else.
“If the Japanese decided to open a cultural center across from Pearl Harbor, that would be insensitive,” Sipos told me. “If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting. I have absolutely nothing against Islam. I just think: Why there?”
A rally against the mosque is planned for June 6, D-Day, by the human-rights group Stop Islamicization of America. Executive director Pamela Geller said, “What could be more insulting and humiliating than a monster mosque in the shadow of the World Trade Center buildings that were brought down by an Islamic jihad attack? Any decent American, Muslim or otherwise, wouldn’t dream of such an insult. It’s a stab in the eye of America.”
Called Cordoba House, the mosque and center is the brainchild of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. Executive director Daisy Khan insists it’s staying put.
“For us, it’s a symbol, a platform that will give voice to the silent majority of Muslims who suffer at the hands of extremists. A center will show that Muslims will be part of rebuilding lower Manhattan,” said Khan, adding that Cordoba will be open to everyone.
“We were pleased to see that the community welcomed us as an asset to lower Manhattan,” she added. “The community board approved it.”
Not so fast.
The Financial District Committee of Community Board 1 seems to have gotten ensnared in a public-relations ploy by mosque-makers. At a May 5 meeting, the committee gave the project an enthusiastic thumbs-up. But boards have zero say over religious institutions.
Board chair Julie Menin, blind-sided by the move, predicts “this will be overturned by the full board” later this month.
But the damage is done.
Wounds that have yet to heal are now opening, as mosque opponents are branded as bigots.
“The worst tendency is the knee-jerk, emotional, angry, hateful response to acts of violence and war,” said Donna Marsh O’Connor, who lost daughter Vanessa on 9/11 and supports the mosque. “I think it’s racist tendencies.”
Many more feel like Bill Doyle — doubly maimed as he’s forced to defend himself against charges of prejudice.
“I’m not a bigot. What I’m frightful about is, it’s almost going to be another protest zone. A meeting place for radicals,” said Doyle, whose son, Joseph, was murdered on 9/11.
“It’s a slap in our face!” said Nelly Braginsky, who lost son Alexander.
Unclear is how the mosque will raise the $100 million-plus it needs.
“We would be seeking funding from anyone who would help,” Khan told me. “Seeking maybe some bonds or something like that.” At the May 5 community board meeting, she displayed a sign with names like “Rockefeller Brothers Fund” and “Ford Foundation,” which observers believed meant money is coming from those organizations. But Khan says those groups merely gave money in the past, and no funding is yet in place.
There are many questions about the Ground Zero mosque. But just one answer.
Move it away.