Statement by Martin Raffel, senior vice-president of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs:
As many of you know, a controversy has been swirling around a Muslim community center (Cordoba Center) -- which will contain recreational, cultural and religious facilities -- that is intended to be built a number of blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. The leader behind this initiative is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, author of What's Right with Islam, who has spoken at JCPA programs in the past, and, along with his wife Daisy Kahn, has developed close relationships with members of the New York Jewish community.
Statement of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York on the Muslim Community Center (8/3/10)
The religious freedoms embodied in the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution, assuring the rights of all faith groups to worship as they deem appropriate, is an essential component in the bedrock of our democracy. Indeed, those protections have bestowed extraordinary benefits on our country, our city, and the American Jewish community.
In recognition of those religious freedoms, Jewish communal organizations, including JCRC-NY, were the catalysts in the drafting and passage of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLIUPA) which provides stronger protection for religious freedom in the land-use process. The legislation was necessary because municipalities abused the land-use processes in order to bar religious institutions, including synagogues, from their borders. The first Jews to arrive in New Amsterdam were barred from building a synagogue for decades by Governor Peter Stuyvesant and his successors.
Our history teaches us that the support for the principle that religious institutions should not face such abuse applies to all houses of worship, including mosques.
In that spirit and our embrace of the pluralism which characterizes our society, we stand with Mayor Bloomberg and the other public officials and faith leaders today in support of the right of a Muslim Community Center to be built. New York City has been a welcome and inviting home for a rich diversity of religious and ethnic groups who live and work together, and on multiple fronts coalesce to strengthen our city.
As we approach the 9th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, we empathize with the continuing grief and mourning of family members, friends and neighbors who lost love ones on that tragic day. Many of those victims were members of our community. To them, to all New Yorkers and to all Americans, the World Trade Center site is hallowed ground.
To help heal the pain exacerbated by the fact that the hijackers and their sponsors were acting in the name of a perverted, evil mutation of Islam, and in sensitivity to the families of the victims, we call on the sponsors of the Muslim Community Center to memorialize the victims by squarely repudiating the twisted ideology of the terrorists.
Further, just as settlement houses acculturated new Jewish immigrants a century ago, the Center should dedicate itself to teaching new Muslim immigrants about our abiding principles of religious pluralism and tolerance.
In that same spirit, we will maintain a watchful eye on the funding for this new institution to ensure that those who offer their philanthropic support uphold our cherished values of democracy and freedom.
Statement from Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on the LPC Vote to Forego Designation of 45 Park Place as NYC Landmark (8/3/10)
I am pleased to learn that the Landmarks Commission has concluded that 45 Park Place will not be designated a landmarked site. I am very grateful to Chairman Robert Tierney and his colleagues for their careful and thoughtful consideration.
I am also deeply grateful to our local elected officials, Scott Stringer, Margaret Chin, Daniel Squadron, Andrew Cuomo, David Paterson, and Michael Bloomberg. Our faith community is indebted to them, and to our local community board, for their commitment to the democratic and constitutional ideals we all hold dear and which the community center we hope to create on the site will honor. We believe that Park 51 will become a landmark in New York City's cultural, social and educational life, a community center to promote the American values we all aspire towards and to realize a better city for all.
My testimony, submitted to the Commission earlier this month, sets forth my hopes and vision for the community center we would like to see built at 45 Park Place. In just over a week, Muslim New Yorkers will join friends of other faiths in welcoming the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims around the world dedicate this month to charity, service and community, ideals which I personally hold dear and which Park 51 will move forward to realize.
Park 51 will be a home for all people who are yearning for understanding and healing, peace, collaboration, and interdependence. We are more determined than ever to take this opportunity, which we also see as a responsibility to our community and to our neighbors in Lower Manhattan. We are creating a new space where fresh stories of cooperation and service will reflect the living vibrancy of inter-connected communities.
It is our hope that, during this holy month, New Yorkers and Americans from all walks of life will join us in realizing our hopes and dreams for peace and happiness. The support of our partners, elected officials and friends has made this moment possible. Let us help build something that all New Yorkers -- and all Americans -- will be proud of.