Initiator of World Trade Center national memorial backs ‘Ground Zero mosque’

As the person who initiated designation of the World Trade Center site as a US national memorial under the US National Park Service, and who has long fought for the respectful treatment of the September 11 victims and the site, I support the “Ground Zero mosque”. As e-mail petitions against the proposed Islamic centre flooded my inbox, out of respect to the victims’ families I did not state my opinion until the recent surge of politicisation against Park 51….

For 30 years, the Tribeca mosque has been a good citizen in the World Trade Center neighbourhood, and has the support of the local community board. In envisioning the mosque’s new metamorphosis as a house of prayer and cultural centre, American-born developer Sharif El-Gamal and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a naturalised American, have a grand vision for intercultural and interfaith relations. Their vision has also sparked a fire storm of Islamophobia, fuelled by unending grief and outrage on the one hand, and political grandstanding that smacks of racism and discrimination on the other….

The World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993 and again in 2001 by fundamentalist minority fanatics who murdered more than 3,000 victims of many faiths and nationalities. Among them was Muslim first responder paramedic and New York Police Department cadet Salman Hamdani, who voluntarily entered the smoking towers to save lives. He was posthumously honoured as a hero….

Recently, I shared a glass of wine with two World Trade Center construction workers, who also participated in the Ground Zero clean-up. They were confident that the Cordoba Initiative would be unable to find construction workers to build the Park 51 centre. Au contraire, I believe that in these troubled times, scores of card-carrying union workers of all races, colours and creeds will welcome the opportunity to work together to build a centre of prayer and cultural understanding in the wake of September 11. That’s New York – and that’s America.

Louise Lo Presti,
New York, NY, US
WTC Section 106 – Consulting Party, US National Historic Preservation Act

Letter in Financial Times, 18 August 2010