But then again I would suspect that those so keen to stir up anxiety and anger over this issue are not the least bit concerned by the feelings of others, and in particular the 9/11 families. They are merely using it as political capital for their own ends.
Haaretz has an interesting piece:
“Donna Marsh O’Connor, the national spokesperson for the September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, lost her pregnant daughter in the terror attack on September 11, 2001 in one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.
The September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows is a nationwide group founded by family members of the victims of the 2001 attacks. The group advocates non-violent options and actions in pursuit of justice, hoping to break the cycle of violence.
O’Connor spoke to Haaretz on the recent controversy surrounding a plan to build an Islamic center close to the site of the World Trade Center attack. The specific location has offended many Americans, and many around the world, who contend the proximity to the site of the attack, perpetrated by Islamist terrorists, disrespects the victims. The imam behind the initiative, however, insists that the Islamic center’s goals are to inspire peace.
This remembrance day seems like no other, with the controversy surrounding the Islamic center meant to be built in Lower Manhattan. Why do you support this project?
“I am an American citizen, and I know that my family and many American families have the same story – families that came here to escape religious persecution. It doesn’t make sense in America that we say no to the Muslim people – to the very people who denounced this horrible tragedy. This is, in our opinion, an act of peace and understanding and reconciliation. That’s what 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows stands for.”
“I have been teaching writing and rhetoric for 26 years, and I have been teaching students what rhetoric and racism are and what mechanisms are at work here – how no one thinks they are racist or bigoted, and still we are a nation that has a very bad history regarding racist tendencies and religious intolerance. These Muslim people didn’t perpetrate the crime on 9/11. 19 hijackers backed by the horrible criminal group al-Qaida did it, and also the Taliban supported that work, but not Muslim American people.”
Did the Islamic center backers contact you asking to intervene on their behalf?
“No. We reached out to Daisy Khan (Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement , wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who stands behind the Park 51 initiative), though not right away. But when it was clear that they were being ripped on by a lot of people who we thought were using 9/11 families as a monolithic voice against Daisy Khan – we as an organization reached out to her to say: ‘Look, we don’t think you are these horrible conquerors, we don’t think that this Islamic cultural center is more than just an attempt to build the facility, to support residents of Lower Manhattan with a swimming pool, with a gym, with a prayer center, with a memorial to 9/11, with all the other things this center was going to be for the use of people in Lower Manhattan.'”
“So we reached out to her to say: ‘We are sorry you are going through this.’ When it got huge and reached a crescendo, Daisy actually tried to call me one day, and I couldn’t talk to her – I was inundated with people from the press calling and asking why we were 9/11 family members and we didn’t agree with other 9/11 family members who basically took the position that if we are going to do this, Allah is going to kill all the Americans.”
“It was so hyper inflated on the part of other people that should know better that to use the inflated inflammatory diction. I am happy they have the right to do it, just as I am happy that Imam Rauf and Daisy Kahn have the right to build this Islamic cultural center. So frankly, I never had an opportunity to have a conversation with Daisy after things got to a crescendo. But I look forward to having this conversation at some point. I don’t know what necessarily we would say, except for how stunned we are at all of this.”
“But as for the question – are we collaborators and in coalition with the imam and Daisy Khan – no, we are not. We don’t have to be. But we support the Muslim American efforts to build this facility. And we think it will be really shameful if they’ll be forced to move it elsewhere. I think it says to Muslim American people, who are peace-loving people and raising children in this nation, that they are another group in this nation that is not valued. I know what pain can be inflicted on groups of people when they have rhetoric shout at them in negative way.”
Update 1: 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows are here.