Last year, opponents became enraged over the proposed "Ground Zero Mosque," claiming that a Muslim group's intent to build a house of worship just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood is insensitive. Those in support of the project, though -- now being referred to as a "community center" -- believe that it will provide healing for Muslims and non-Muslims, alike.
Timothy Brown, an ex-New York City fireman, has worked fervently to try and prevent the center's construction. His lawsuit, which appears to be the last legal challenge targeting the mosque and community center's construction, has come to a close, as a Manhattan judge has ruled that he cannot move forward. According to The New York Times, Brown:
...sought to overturn a decision by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to deny landmark status for a 150-year-old building on Park Place that would be demolished to make way for the center.
The building, which once housed a Burlington Coat Factory store, was damaged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack that destroyed the World Trade Center two blocks away.
Watch Brown explain his reasoning for opposing the mosque and community center back in 2010:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/yf10Qxk5W_g?version=3&hl=en_US expand=1]
Justice Paul G. Feinman of State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled that, though Brown has strong personal interest in the project, he does not have any legal standing to weigh so heavily on its fate. In court papers, Brown has contended that NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg -- an outspoken supporter of the community center -- influenced the landmarks commission's decision. Officials deny this allegation. Watch Brown further discuss his activism:
While this chapter has now come to a close, opponents are sure to push on with protests and the like (in fact, one is already scheduled for this year's 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks). Last month, The Daily Beast featured an interview with Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who originally proposed the project. In it, Rauf discussed some things he could have done differently and lamented the way in which he and other Muslims were portrayed by "right-wing Republicans." He said:
“Personally, it was extremely painful to be portrayed as the opposite of what you are, when you’re branded as an extremist, as a terrorist, especially when you try to stand up for the principles of high-mindedness and harmony between the faith traditions,” he says. “It was a travesty. This was also a deliberate attempt to use our project as a wedge issue for the midterm elections. Very clearly, right-wing Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin and Peter King [the Long Island congressman who has repeatedly questioned the patriotism of Muslim Americans] and the Tea Party, and that man who was fighting against Andrew Cuomo [GOP gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino] were trying to exploit it.”
The organization behind the project has yet to raise the bulk of the funds needed to complete it. Without monies, the reality of a finished product will be shattered. While the legal battles have likely subsided, there are other challenges. Among them, a major public relations war that Muslim groups will need to engage in for this project to progress successfully and without further outcry.