Ground Zero Mosque: Digging a Hole in the Soul of America:Russel Simmons

It was a day we will never forget. It was a day that changed the course of this nation forever. It was a day that permanently bruised our hearts, with the potential of healing almost seeming impossible. Yet, with love, faith and compassion, we showed the world and showed ourselves through the promotion of one of our nation’s greatest values — tolerance — we can overcome fear and hate.

Today, ten years later, I peer through the front windows of my apartment and still see a large gaping hole that once was the home to the World Trade Center. I pass by the firehouse on my block and say hello to the firemen who lost almost all of their guys on that day. This is my neighborhood, my backyard. And in my backyard, I have no tolerance for a new fear-mongering, hateful rhetoric that has sprung up over the proposed $100 million Islamic cultural center that they plan on building blocks away from Ground Zero.

It is not insensitive to put a cultural center of any sort, that has a place of worship, anywhere in our city. This is what makes our country and our city great. As a nation that was founded by men and women who were being persecuted for their particular faith, we should know that the best path to finding freedom is finding freedom for others. We were formed as a pluralistic society and this means we welcome all religions. Islam did not attack the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, sick and twisted men did, who not only hijacked four airplanes but also hijacked a religion. Let us not stereotype the over one billion Muslims around the world because of the evil acts of a few. A decision like this one, to support or not support the construction of this center, defines who we are as a nation. It’s at the essence of our values, our freedom of expression, freedom of religion and religious tolerance.

As the Chairman of The Foundation Of Ethnic Understanding, my partner Rabbi Marc Schneier (also the Vice President, World Jewish Congress; Chairman, World Jewish Congress United States) and I have worked tirelessly to promote dialogue among different ethnic groups all over the world, particularly Jews and Muslims. We have witnessed the power of the fostering of this dialogue. We know that we must fight Antisemitism and Islamaphobia together and at the same time. We welcome and support this cultural center, as it will continue constructive conversations around a moderate approach to co-existence between all people, regardless of religious preference. In fact, we strongly feel that this center will bridge the divide that many of our nation’s citizens have with the Islamic faith.

There are moments that define our nation. There are moments that test the strength of our character. There are moments that test the essence of our freedoms. Let this be that moment and let us pass this test with grace and dignity. As I will not stand for any sort of Islamaphobia in my backyard.

NOTE:This is a cross post from Huffington Post.

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  • Faisal Malik  On August 5, 2010 at 6:46 am

    i agree. tolerance should be there. if there is zero tolerance, then we go nowhere as humans.

    let this be a sign of things to come. i hope the generals and bureaucracy around the world (especially warmongers) take this as a nail in the coffin for them. (first, last , take your pick)

  • Akhtar Khan  On August 5, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Very well written article.

    I do not agree that the people involved in the heinous act “also hijacked a religion”. The incident had absolutely nothing to do with religion.

  • Khawar  On August 5, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Talking of tolerance – does anyone have info/data on total number of churches and temples in Pakistan and the growth since 1947 versus mosques data/growth in USA ? or for that matter in non-muslim world.

    Remember the attack on US Embassy in Zia’s time after the rumor that Holy Kaba was under attack/siege by Americans – in reality was attacked by Murtadeen (as labelled by Saudi Govt) and in all honesty were muslims and the early roots of
    Al-Qaeda. Now coming back to my query – does anyone know ?

    I bet our record on new churches is no better than China’s on new mosques and churches since 1947.

    Whatever happened to Jinnah’s model of Pakistan ?


  • Rida Fazal  On August 5, 2010 at 8:15 am

    I somehow feel that the emotions of the local people should be understood. We would never allow any such thing to be built in Pakistan if the scenario was opposite. Build the cultural center and the mosque somewhere else. Its no big deal but why put it at a venue that has been a victim to Muslim extremism.

  • Khawar  On August 5, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Just FYI-
    NEW YORK (AP) — After hours of contentious public comment, a New York City community board voted late Tuesday to support a plan to build a mosque and cultural center near ground zero.

    “It’s a seed of peace,” board member Rob Townley said. “We believe that this is significant step in the Muslim community to counteract the hate and fanaticism in the minority of the community.”

    The vote was 29-to-1 in favor of the plan, with 10 abstentions.


  • Laila  On August 5, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Excellent article. Enjoyed reading.

  • naveed tajammal  On August 5, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Good initiative Yasmeen, good start & well done.

  • Faisal Malik  On August 5, 2010 at 12:51 pm


    the venue was NOT a victim to Muslim extremism. it was an act of terrorism. plain and simple. terrorists are just that………..terrorists, with their own agendas. it would have been an act of Muslim terrorism if the guys had actually “conquered” the place in the name of the true faith ISLAM, as the sign in the image shows. which obviously they didn’t.


    no, the tolerance wouldn’t have been there. but you have to understand, Muslims especially belonging to this part of the world are more passionate about their religion in contrast to Muslims in other places.

    and yes, it wasn’t necessary to build the mosque at that very place. but the Muslims there, and the state, want to take it as an act of good faith. that might help bring the two people together. and let’s hope that it does.

  • H. A. Jafrey  On August 5, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Very well written article. I always believed that Americans as individuals are great people, but they have been duped by Israeli controlled media and business lobby.

    I hope and pray that we, also, can show such tolerance not only towards minorities but also different sects of Islam.

  • owaise saadat  On August 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    The approval of the Cordoba Centre, right next to Ground Zero reconfirms America’s ” Exceptionalism”. There has been a fiery debate in the USA on permitting this construction. One shudders when listening to the inflammatory remarks against Muslims, from seemingly well educated American Citizens. But in the final analysis, American values of ” freedom of religious practice and tolerance” carried the decision. In my humble view, this sent across the world a stronger message than a rejection of Cordoba Centre would have.

    For Muslims 2010 has been an ” Annus Horibilis”…first Major Nadal, then the ” crotch bomber” and then the idiot Faisal Shahzad. Hopefully, the magnanimous action on the Cordoba Project( Learning Centre and Mosque) will help the moderate and peace loving Muslims around the world, to speak out loud for harmony and interfaith collaboration, while providing an excellent platform for American Muslims to show their peace loving intentions through actions !!!!

  • Dr. Imtiaz Hussain  On August 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I heard that former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, pledged the Muslims of Newyork not to force through to build a masjid near ground zero. I pledged her not to be immature and let this wave of mutual harmony and inter faith tolerance prevail. I am so happy to know that saneness pravailed. The city council of NewYork did what exactly has to be done.
    The Americans as a society must be proud of this very action and I can only wish that either they become Muslims all, by embracing Islam one day and would know that how close their society is close to an Islamic society..
    May we Muslims be able to build a society somewhere in this world before the demise of present civilization revealing to west in particular not USA but Norway and other scandanavian countries, that less for RIBA and disfigurement of women, how close that society would be in terms of tolerence and worthiness of human value, to their present societies.
    These countries of west including USA if, stop malhandling women in the name of freedom of expression and will to choose profession and enforcement of RIBA, it will be revealed that how close they are to an Islamic society.
    The author is correct when he refers to those who caused 9/11, as twisted men hijacking not only Islam but the peace of entire world. To me these are the same men who are responsible for rolling on the assembly line of the military hardware factories and ordance factories, and these are from every faith, nation and country and actually these do not belong to any faith, nation or a country. They are just handful but very powerful and we are in billions but yet weak. I invite all of you to ponder on this regardless of faith, nation or country because we all suffer equally in the hands of these twisted jokers.
    Congradulations Newyork for letting humanity to prevail and I only pray that alongside that masjid, we have prayer place for all other faiths one day.

  • Zafar Iqbal  On August 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Dear Mr Simmons
    Please tell me a place in US where there you do not have a “soul”. We will build our house of worship there. You seem to say that the American God exists only at Ground Zero!!! Shame on your warped thinking. So much for tolerance!!

  • Inam Khan  On August 5, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Attack on World trade center is debatable.What Council of New York has done is an admirable act. Muslims all over the world wd hail it.Conratulations,New York.

  • Atique  On August 6, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Dear Friends:

    I live five miles from the proposed site so please allow me to remove some misconceptions:

    First of all, it is not a Mosque – It is a Community Centre complete with a Library, a Gymnasium, a Swimming Pool, a Conference centre and a 500 seat auditorium. The 13 Storey proposed building will also have a prayer area on the 13th Floor. I am not aware of any “MOSQUES” that have swimming pools and these kind of facilities. So why does the Media keep presenting this project as a Mosque. Simple – By calling this Community Centre a Mosque they can sensationalize and get more traction for the opposition.

    Secondly, If no Laws are broken why should they not have their Community Centre. We in America are a “Nation of laws” and as long as it is legal to build this Community Centre, the project should go on. The Community center will be open to all residents, whether Muslim or Non-Muslim. The building of the Community Center is continuing inspite of the small opposition to it.

    Thirdly, this project is supported by the Jewish Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg and 65% of the Population of Manhattan. Just yesterday, nearly 25 Rabbis are demonstrated in favor of the the project. The Jewsih Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg is solidly behind the project because the edifice will increase the Conference holding capacity of Southern tip of Manhattan.

  • Gh. Haidre  On August 8, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    We are all so full of praise for this just and fair step of the NY City Community Board.


    I am just wondering , is it possible for Christians or Jews to build a community center of that kind in any big city of Pakistan……….EVEN IF the builders fulfil all the legal formalities for the construction……????????????????????????????????

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