Barack Obama - The Ground Zero Mosque

Last Updated : Sep 20, 2010


Throughout the summer of 2010, a controversy was unfolding concerning a mosque and community center that was to be built on grounds damaged during the 9/11 attacks. Critics of the project cited it's name, location, leader and source of funding as indications that the mosque was intended to be a "victory mosque" which would commemorate the victory of 9/11 for islamic extremists. Supporters note the legal right of the owners to build on the property and state that the project is meant to build bridges between communities rather than foster mistrust.

President Obama entered the controversy when he commented on it during a dinner to commemorate Ramadan at the White House. The controversy grew when the President seemed to backtrack from those remarks the following day, only to have the White House state that the President was standing by his initial statements. The White House has stated that it would make no further comments on the issue. 


Project History

The property in question was purchased in July of 2009 by the real estate company Soho Properties, whose Chairman and CEO is Sharif El-Gamal. Although El-Gamal planned to build condominiums on the property, he eventually changed his plans and decided to build a mosque and community center on the site. El-Gamal is a member of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's congregation in New York, who originally came up with the idea for the mosque and community center at this location. Imam Rauf is the founder, CEO, and Director of several Muslim outreach groups, including the Cordoba Initiative and American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) which are run out of the same offices. Sources differ as to whether Imam Rauf approached El-Gamal about the site, or El-Gamal proposed the site to Imam Rauf.

The project is a $100 Million, 15 floor building which includes a cultural centre, a 500-seat performing arts centre, culinary school, exhibition space, swimming pool, gym, basketball court, restaurant, library and art studios. The top two floors would house a domed space for prayers . The Wikipedia page on the project contains a more detailed history and an artists rendering of the proposed structure, which is seen to the right.


The Cordoba Initiative

The Cordoba Initiative describes itself as a group dedicated to improving Muslim-West Relations, and it's  website addresses a number of questions that have been brought up about the project.




Project Location

One of the chief controversies surrounding the project is it's location. At two blocks from the previous site of the twin towers, the building was struck by landing gear from one of the planes that flew into the towers. This proximity has led to the labeling of the mosque as "at ground zero," since the building in question was damaged during the attacks. The images below were taken from the wikipedia site on the subject

In addressing the location of the building, the Cordoba Initiative has stated that their current location is also near ground zero and that they are seeking to remain in the same neighborhood.



Imam Feisal Abdoul Rauf

Imam Feisal Abdoul Rauf has himself become a source of controversy. He has made statements that can be viewed as derogatory towards the United States and has refused to denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization.

On September 19, 2001, just days after the 9/11 attacks, Imam Rauf was one of four men interviewed on 60 minutes about Osama Bin Laden and the attacks. He stated that the attacks of 9/11 could in some manners be attributed to the United States because of it's prior policies.

In August of 2010, Imam Rauf stated in a press conference that America was a "sharia compliant state," and explained that statement by describing 5 principles that islam and America share.

In relating to Imam Rauf's comments, the Cordoba Initiative makes the following statements on their website:




Project Name

Another source of controversy around the project concerns it's name. The building to be constructed has been referred to as "Park 51" - a result of the building's address - and "The Cordoba House". Cordoba was the site of the "Great Mosque of Cordoba." Critics of the Mosque and the Initiative have claimed that the name was meant to represent the conquest of Christian land in Spain by the islamic religion and the conversion of a large church into the Cordoba Mosque. The Cordoba Initiative claims that the use of the name for the movement and the house as follows:


Funding Questions

Speculation that the intent of the mosque could be to stand as a symbol of victory grew when opposition groups claimed funding would come from Iran, and other unnamed sources in the middle east. Project organizers refused to state that they would deny funding from openly anti-US groups.

It was discovered that by mid-September, the group had raised only $9,000 for the building of the site.


Not a Mosque

In May of 2010, Imam Rauf held a press conference outside the future site and stated that the Cordoba House was not a Mosque, but rather a "community Center".


Approval of Mosque

President Obama first spoke about the controversy surrounding the mosque on August 13, 2010. While speaking at the White House in a gathering to observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, President Obama said the following:


Clarification of Statements

The next day, President Obama was on a trip to Florida and was asked to clarify those statements. He stated that he was not commenting on the wisdom of building a mosque, but rather on the right of those building the mosque to do so.


White House Clarification

Later that day, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton issued the following statement noting that the President was not backing off from his initial assertion that the owners of the property had the right to build the mosque.



[1] Website: Yahoo News Article: Obama supports 'the right' for ground zero mosque Author: PAULINE JELINEK Accessed on: 09/09/2010

[2] Website: The Politico Article: Mosque flap swirls around Obama Author: JAMES HOHMANN & MAGGIE HABERMAN & MIKE ALLEN Accessed on: 09/09/2010

[3] Website: Cordoba Initiative Article: Frequently Asked Questions | Cordoba Inititive Author: NA Accessed on: 09/11/2010

[4] Website: Financial Times Article: Zero tolerance and Cordoba House Author: Basharat Peer Accessed on: 09/11/2010

[5] Website: Wikipedia Article: Great Mosque at Cordoba Author: NA Accessed on: 09/11/2010

[6] Website: Wikipedia Article: Park 51 Author: NA Accessed on: 09/11/2010

[7] Website: New York Post Article: Iran cash might fund Ground Zero mosque Author: GEOFF EARLE & TOM TOPOUSIS Accessed on: 09/20/2010

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