‘Sacred’ ground': The World Trade Centre attacks claimed 3,000 lives. Plans to build a mosque at Ground Zero site have been described as a ‘slap in the face’
Plans to build a giant mosque close to Ground Zero have caused a storm of protest from families who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks.
Angry relatives claim the move is an ‘insult’ to the victims of the World Trade Centre atrocity.
The mosque is part of a proposed 13-storey Muslim community centre, which will include a swimming pool, gym, theatre and sports facilities.
The building, which was damaged by the fuselage of one of the hijacked planes, is just two blocks from Ground Zero.
Construction is due to begin on September 11 next year – the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack.
A massive rally protesting the plans has been scheduled for June 6 as anger grows.
Rosemary Cain, whose fireman son was killed, said: ‘I think it’s despicable. That’s sacred ground. It’s a slap in the face.
‘How could anybody give them permission to build a mosque there?’
Bill Doyle, whose son was also among the 3,000 victims, said: ‘What I’m frightened about is that it’s almost going to be another protest zone – a meeting place for radicals.’
Paul Sipos, a member of the New York community board, said the £68million community project should be located somewhere else.
‘If the Japanese decided to open a cultural centre across from Pearl Harbour, that would be insensitive. If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting,’ he told the New York Post.
‘I have absolutely nothing against Islam. I just think, why here?’
Since the attacks, Ground Zero has become a shrine to the victims, with millions of visitors paying their respects every year.
Pamela Geller, executive director of the Stop Islamisation of America activist group, is organising a rally next month in protest against the development, which will be called Cordoba House.
She said: ‘What could be more insulting and humiliating than a monster mosque in the shadow of the World Trade Centre buildings that were brought down by an Islamic jihad attack?
‘Any decent American, Muslim or otherwise, wouldn’t dream of such an insult.’
But Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, said: ‘The time for a centre like this has come because Islam is an American religion.
‘We need to take the 9/11 tragedy and turn it into something very positive. It will also serve as a major platform for amplifying the silent voice of the majority of Muslims who have nothing to do with extremist ideologies.’
She added that up to 2,000 Muslims would be expected to pray at the mosque every Friday.
Herbert Ouida, whose son died in the attacks, said: ‘I understand the anger, the bitterness and hatred, but it only generates more hatred.’
A community board backed the project last week, but organisers are still seeking funding.