Students say debate distorts Islamic center

The Interfaith Council addressed the debate on the Park51 center in NYC. (Photo Courtesy of Karen Young)

By Daniel Weinshenker
Correspondent

The Islamic community center to be built near Ground Zero has been a polarizing issue throughout the United States for months. On Oct. 13, the issue came to the College.

The Interfaith Council, whose main goal is to achieve “religious pluralism and overall respect,” hosted an open discussion to inform students on the facts of the issue.

“We want to create an open forum and act for the common good. We felt that this controversy needed to be covered and discussed as part of our mission,” said club president Amtul Mussawir Mansoor, junior biology major.

The presentation began with a PowerPoint that gave an overview of the Park51 Community Center and dispelled some of the false information that circulated throughout the media. It also showed the main arguments against the community center, as well as those views in favor of it.

“Even the name dubbed to the issue by the media, 9/11 Mosque, is a trick of rhetoric. It’s not on Ground Zero or even a mosque. This is a thirteen story community center,” said junior history major Nicole Valdez, the club’s vice president.

The PowerPoint showed the top three arguments against the center: the area is hallowed ground, it is deliberately insulting and it is detrimental to Western- Islamic relations.

Valdez said proponents of the community center use the ideas of freedom of religion, that there is publicized “Islamophobia,” that this is a political ploy rather than an issue and that the center has a peaceful purpose as support for their argument.

Megan Gerity, junior urban education major, publicity director and webmaster, presented two clips to show how the media is distorting the issue.

The first clip, from Fox News, was of Tim Brown, a 9/11 firefighter who showed anger toward Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, president of the Cordoba House, the company behind the project.

“As you can notice, Rauf was cut off by the host and in a hostile setting,” Mansoor said.

The next clip was from Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” It was a humorous clip that parodied the entire controversy.

After the clips, the council facilitated a discussion within the audience to speak about their opinions on the matter.

Many in the audience agreed that Cordoba House had every right to be there but some people felt it might not be the best placement for the community center.

Although not everyone completely agreed, they all listened to one another respectfully.

The Interfaith Council has weekly meetings every Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Bliss Hall room 152 where their goal is to foster religious tolerance and understanding.