Thursday, September 9, 2010

Residents and Officials Rally to Move the Mosque

By Eric Yun

Bob Turner, the Republican challenger to Anthony Weiner in the 9th Congressional District, held a “Move the Mosque” Rally Tuesday night at the Forest Park Band Shell. The event drew over a hundred people who were opposed to the location of the planned Park 51 Muslim Community Center and Mosque, two blocks from the World Trade Center and a block from WTC Building 7, which also collapsed during the attacks.

Through sporadic chants of “move the mosque,” several speakers spoke about their opposition to the mosque site. They stressed this was not a freedom of religion issue. “Muslims are free to worship as they please,” said lifelong local resident Jay Burke, who lost his son Matthew in the 9/11 attacks. However, he felt the location of the mosque was “a symbolic insult to the victims and families.”

Turner, who organized the event, wanted citizens a chance to “demand a solution to the dilemma.” He felt the mosque debate was a “no-win situation.” If we accept the mosque site, he said, “radicals can boast of a victory tower,” but if we reject the mosque, “radicals can say we are against the Muslim faith.”

Those who oppose the mosque are sometimes described as Islamophobic and against Muslims in general. Turner and other speakers disagreed. “Americans are a tolerant people, not defined by race, religion or ethnicity,” Turner said. He urged everyone to join together, respect the victims of 9/11 and move the mosque.

Also speaking at the event were City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), and Anthony Como, who is challenging State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) for the Senate’s 15th District.

Halloran noted that unequivocally the developers have a right to build the mosque. He didn’t see the project as an olive branch, but rather, it “will be hailed on the streets as a conquest for Islam.”

Both Halloran and Como questioned why it has been so hard to get St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was destroyed during the September 11 attacks, rebuilt. “We need to get our sights in focus. Make sure the mosque is not built and churches are rebuilt,” Como said.

Joe Appelbaum who attended the event from Brooklyn, liked the idea of the rally, but he felt they were fighting a losing battle. “It seems like the will of a majority of people are being ignored,” he said.

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