Found at Ground Zero
Recovered artifacts bear witness to lives and buildings lost on September 11, 2001.
Photos: Ira Block; Source: National September 11 Memorial & Museum
If every object tells a story, the ones displayed here speak of thousands with a common ending: a Georgia man whose wife slipped him a love note 1 for his trip to New York City; a woman with prayer beads 2 at work on the 98th fl oor of the World Trade Center; a husband who always carried a two-dollar bill 3 to remind him how lucky he was to have met his second wife. Collected for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the objects tell of love, faith (Bible pages fused to metal 4), lifestyles (a Mercedes key 5 and a golf ball 6), and a workday (computer keyboard 7) that came to a tragic end in 2001. The museum, set to open in September 2012, has some 3,000 artifacts so far, hundreds of them bestowed by relatives of those who perished. A ladies’ shoe 8 is one of several objects here that belong to survivors. The four-inch heels carried their owner down 62 fl oors, away from the crumbling south tower, and across the Manhattan Bridge to safety.
How can any educated individual call Islam, after thousands of years of existence, a “false faith”.
I think a lot of people choose to stay ignorant on many issues.
Does America Have a Muslim Problem?
Prayer during Ramadan in the controversial mosque near Ground Zero
To experience what it feels like to be a Muslim in America today, walk in the shoes of Dr. Mansoor Mirza of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. It’s a February evening, and you’re at a meeting of the planning commission of Wilson (pop. 3,200), which is considering your application to open a mosque in the nearby village of Oostburg. You’re not expecting much opposition: you already own the property, and having worked in the nearby Manitowoc hospital for the past five years, you’re hardly a stranger to the town. Indeed, some of the people at the meetings are like most of your patients — white Americans who don’t seem to care about their doctors’ race or creed when they talk to them about their illnesses.
But when the floor is opened to discussion, you hear things they would never say to you even in the privacy of an examination room. One after another, they pour scorn and hostility on your proposal, and most of the objections have nothing to do with zoning regulations. It’s about your faith. Islam is a religion of hate, they say. Muslims are out to wipe out Christianity. There are 20 jihadi training camps hidden across rural America, busy even now producing the next wave of terrorists. Muslims murder their children. Christian kids have enough problems with drugs, alcohol and pornography and should not have to worry about Islam too. “I don’t want it in my backyard,” says one. Another says, “I just think it’s not America.” (See TIME’s photo-essay “Muslim in America.”)
Looking back, Mirza recalls that a couple of speakers tried to steer the conversation into calmer territory. “I don’t think that we should be making broad, sweeping generalizations,” said one, according to minutes of the meeting obtained by TIME. But such words barely gave pause to the blunt expressions of suspicion and hostility toward Islam and Muslims. When it came Mirza’s turn to speak, his shock and hurt were palpable. “If we are praying there, we don’t stink. We don’t make noise. We just come, pray and leave,” he said. He kept calm when a commissioner asked if there would be any weapons or military training at the mosque. But afterward, Pakistani-born Mirza, 38, was shaken. “I never expected that the same people who came to me at the hospital and treated me with respect would talk to me like this.” His lawyer had to take him to a nearby café to help him calm down.
Some of Mirza’s roughly 100 fellow Muslims in Sheboygan County would say he was naive. The majority are Bosnians and Albanians who fled to the U.S. to escape persecution by Serbs after the collapse of Yugoslavia. Scarred by their experiences back home, some chose to keep their faith under wraps. They feared that plans to build a mosque would draw too much attention to their community. They were not entirely wrong. After the meeting, pastors in Oostburg began a campaign against the project. “The political objective of Islam is to dominate the world with its teachings … and to have domination of all other religions militarily,” said the Rev. Wayne DeVrou, a pastor at the First Reformed Church in Oostburg.
The battle in Wilson received little national attention until this month, when a much larger and noisier uproar erupted in New York City over plans to build a Muslim cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. Park51, as the project is called, is the brainchild of Imam Feisal Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, American Muslims well known for promoting interfaith dialogue. Their plan has been approved by city authorities and has the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but it has ignited a nationwide firestorm of protest.
Some opponents are genuinely concerned that an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero would offend the families of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. Paul Walier, a Buffalo, N.Y., lawyer whose sister Margaret died in the towers, acknowledges that Rauf and Khan are within their constitutional rights but adds, “I just don’t think it’s the appropriate thing to do.” You don’t have to be prejudiced against Islam to believe, as many Americans do, that the area around Ground Zero is sacred. But sadly, in an election season, such sentiments have been stoked into a volatile political issue by Republican leaders like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. As the debate has grown more heated, the project has become a litmus test for everything from private-property rights to religious tolerance. But as in Wisconsin, some of Park51’s opponents are motivated by a troubling Islamophobia.
Islam Meets America
The proposed site of Park51 is close not just to Ground Zero; it’s also a stone’s throw from strip clubs, liquor stores and other establishments typical of lower Manhattan. Local Muslims have been praying in the building for nearly a year, a fact that has been lost in the noise of the anti-mosque protests. But since early August, the site has been the scene of frequent demonstrations in which protesters carry signs saying such things as “All I Need to Know About Islam, I Learned on 9/11.” Like Mirza, Rauf and Khan seem stunned into paralysis. While opponents have cast them as extremists sympathetic to al-Qaeda, they themselves have given very few interviews. Rauf has been abroad for much of the time, but pressure is mounting on the couple to move their center to a less polarizing location.
The cabbie has been here 25 years.
George Washington sums it up.
President George Washington’s
President Obama was right to express his views on constructing a mosque near Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 catastrophe:
As a citizen and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances.
The president is also right to oppose as he does the efforts by some to amend the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution to bar babies born to illegal immigrants from becoming citizens.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was first to take up the fight to protect the legitimate rights of American Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero, was right and courageous to lead the way and point Americans in the right direction.
President Obama, according to the New York Times of Aug. 15, is now “faced with withering Republican criticism of his defense of the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near Ground Zero.” Those leading the charge against the president, according to the Times, “including Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, Representative John A. Boehner, the House minority leader and Representative Peter King of New York, forcefully rejected the president’s stance.”
The president’s position will be remembered by later generations of Americans with the same high regard as President George Washington’s letter in 1790 to the Jews of Rhode Island who built the Touro Synagogue in that state. Moses Seixas of the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, wrote to George Washington:
Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People — a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance — but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: — deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental Machine: — This so ample and extensive Federal Union whose basis is Philanthropy, Mutual confidence and Public Virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the Great God, who ruleth in the Armies of Heaven, and among the Inhabitants of the Earth, doing whatever seemeth him good.
President Washington responded as follows:
… The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy. G. Washington
Let us not do again, albeit in different form and to a different group, what we did to Japanese-Americans during World War II when we rounded them up without cause. No Japanese-American was ever charged with treason, notwithstanding that they were placed in internment camps for the balance of the war.
I am a proud Jew. Proud of my religion and my culture. Columnist David Brooks, also Jewish and similarly proud, in a New York Times article of January 12, 2010, wrote of our people’s accomplishments:
Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates. Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.
We Jews also have our share of thieves, predators, child molesters, Ponzi-schemers, traitors and profiteers. Muslims have their share of great world accomplishments — the concept of zero, advancements in mathematics, medicine, chemistry, botany and astronomy. They also have their share of crazies, tyrants, homophobes, those holding hostile and irrational attitudes towards women, vilification of Jews, Christians, Hindus and other so-called infidels.
Let’s be calm now and not need the passage of time to bring us to our senses and years later apologize. Of course, those who suffered the loss of loved ones, and those exposed to the catastrophe of 9/11 have every right to hold opinions opposing the building of the mosque. They are grieving and rightfully enraged at anyone associated in any way with the 19 Muslim terrorists who were responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11, and all of us must sympathize with them and their feelings.
But Americans must never forget who we are and why our Founding Fathers and those who built the original 13 colonies came here. It was primarily to find and create a new country in which they could practice religious freedom, denied them in England. Jews found that freedom of religion in New Amsterdam, where the East India Company of Holland directed the first public anti-Semite in that city — its Governor, Peter Stuyvesant — to let them in, he first refusing to do so.
I believe we are locked in battle with fanatical Islam and will be for the foreseeable future. I do not believe the vast majority of Muslims, and American Muslims in particular, are fanatics or enemies of the American people.
Government should neither favor nor hinder the efforts of religious institutions, other than to protect their rights to engage in carrying them out as permitted under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
A final word on those seeking to end the concept of American citizenship by virtue of birth, led by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC): Don’t they understand that the concept of citizenship by birth is one of the great American ideas of which we have been justly proud and which distinguishes us from many other countries and has served us well? They should not fear the Know Nothings, whose voices are loud, but whose numbers are small. They should not shame themselves by joining these violators of American values and traditions.