Ground Zero Mosque Developer: Mosque Could Accommodate 1,000 Worshippers
by Stephen Schwartz
Supporters of the "Ground Zero mosque" have been oddly obsessed with the idea that the proposed Islamic center shouldn't be called a "mosque." As Frank Rich wrote last Sunday in the New York Times: "It's not a mosque but an Islamic cultural center containing a prayer room."
But the website for the project, once called the "Cordoba House" and now known as "Park51," explicitly refers to "the mosque," although it tries to minimize the mosque's importance for some reason:
"While a mosque will be located in the planned final structure of Park51, it will be a distinct non-profit. Neither Park51 nor the mosque, which hasn't been named yet, will tolerate any kind of illegal or un-American activity or rhetoric. The final size and location of the mosque have yet to be determined, but it will only represent a small portion of the final structure."
While Park51's website claims the "final size and location of the mosque have yet to be determined," Sharif El-Gamal, head of Soho Properties, Inc., and developer, of the "Ground Zero mosque," advertises the project on a Muslim website updated as recently as June 5, 2010, in expansive terms different from those the GZM team has lately addressed to the broader public. Al-Gamal's group declares, "We are trying to establish a full fledged Islamic Center in the lower Manhattan, only 2 blocks from World Trade Center, New York City, NY. It is a neat and clean facility and can accomodate [sic] 1,000 people to pray in Jamat [i.e. collectively] at one time." Soho Properties notes on the Muslim site www.islamicfinder.org, which inventories mosques open around the country, that a mosque known as "The House" (Musallah – without Rauf's "Cordoba" identification) already provides morning and evening prayer services, as well as Friday collective prayer and a weekly "networking event," at 51 Park Place.
Thus Al-Gamal disclosed that, contrary to what Frank Rich and friends say, the real intent of the project was that for which it was questioned: an ambitious mosque, capable of drawing a large crowd of believers, close to the former World Trade Center.