The New York Times reports that the fierce opposition to Park51, the Islamic center to be built two blocks from Ground Zero, can be pinned on a “combination of arguable naïveté, public-relations missteps and a national political climate in which perhaps no preparation could have headed off controversy.” The organizers, it adds, “did little to engage with likely opponents. More strikingly, they did not seek the advice of established Muslim organizations experienced in volatile post-9/11 passions and politics.”
Given the context, the pitch of opposition is a bit bizarre. The imam behind the Initiative first tried to buy a space for his mosque on 23rd Street in 1999; he had been preaching sermons of “sweet spirituality” at a Sufi mosque 12 blocks north of Ground Zero until last year; he graduated from Columbia (go Lions!); he broached his plans at a Ramadan break-fast at Gracie Mansion last year.
Yet the controversy does not just come from political movements who find their strongest bases outside the five boroughs. A new Marist poll of registered New York City voters found that 34 percent approve of the building while the majority—53 percent—oppose it (the remainder are “unsure”). In fact, only 38 percent of Democrats support it, and only 49 percent of liberals do: Love them, love them, love them, they are liberals.
The other numbers you want? Out of the pool of registered New York City voters, only 20 percent of Jews approve of the center, while 71 percent oppose it.
Still, check the scoreboard. Park51 has the support of the city’s mayor, the borough’s president, and the local community board. Assuming it raises the funds it needs (which is something of an if), the center will be built.
For Mosque Sponsors, Early Missteps Fueled Storm [NYT]
Earlier: How To Build a $100 Million Islamic Center
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.