It’s finally here, but who really cares?
Soiled by years of bad blood, the controversial mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan opened its doors to the public last month with a measly, maudlin olive branch: an art exhibit of children from around the world.
Co-founder and developer Sharif El-Gamal could have done much — much — better for Park51’s contentious debut in 9-11-weary Gotham, than to use innocent children as human shields to tug on our frayed heartstrings and bolster an adversarial agenda. Where have we heard that sinister scenario played out before?
Moreover, New York — the beacon of diversity and tolerance — does not need a lesson in multiculturalism.
That the space exists at all is due to that magnanimous American hallmark known as fair play. Yet, that was among the Democratic ideals so destructively mocked by the 9-11 terrorists, and one which should now be shouted from the rooftop of every mosque and every Islamic organization in America. Then, there would be no question about their solidarity.
As it stands today, Park51 — located just two blocks from Ground Zero — cannot hope to move forward without an objective look back.
El-Gamal admitted as much when he stated that Park’s “biggest mistake” was not to include 9-11 families in its planning — a baffling policy which he failed to correct in the days, weeks and months leading up to the 10th anniversary. The gross oversight was compounded when he and supporters failed to “really connect” with community leaders and activists. Did they even try? Apparently not, by their own admission.
“We didn’t understand that we had a responsibility to discuss our private project with family members that lost loved ones,” stated El-Gamal in a disturbing glimpse of Park’s cavalier mind-set and lack of basic human compassion that exists even in a grade-schooler.
Today, Park51’s supporters have had an epiphany, and are “very committed to having them [the 9-11 families] involved in our project … We’re really listening.”
Here’s some nourishing food for thought for those newly-perked-up ears.
One way to recovery is for El-Gamal and company to shed the false pride and humbly acknowledge that Muslims extremists — and them alone — were responsible for the worst terror attacks on U.S. soil. Then, mean it by making 9-11 — and the resurgence of America from the flames of hatred — the cornerstone of its programming. That would go a long way in sweetening the sour record, and dignifying the lot of mainstream Muslims.
Another would-be proof of Park’s sincerity — a point well made by Michael Burke, who lost his fire captain brother when the North Tower fell:
“If they wanted to promote reconciliation, they could have raised money to replace fire trucks.”
Are you listening, El-Gamal and company?