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Park 51 Islamic Community Center Maligned As ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Opens Without Controversy

By Zaid Jilani  

"Park 51 Islamic Community Center Maligned As ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Opens Without Controversy"

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Park 51's first public event involved an anti-hate children's photo exhibit.

Last year, Islamophobic activists, allied with a number of right-wing politicians, attacked the construction of the Park 51 Islamic community center, maligning the project as a “Ground Zero Mosque” being built blocks away from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

Yet despite all the heated rhetoric from opponents of Park 51 in the recent past, the cultural and community center opened its doors in lower Manhattan yesterday with an official ribbon cutting ceremony that faced no protests or public controversy:

There was no sign of protest at the Park51 community center last night. It opened its doors to the public in lower Manhattan Wednesday, without the opposition that had surrounded the project for a year.

The center was crowded for most of the evening — with visitors who said they came to see the new photography exhibition and others who were interested in the place itself. Brooklyn’s Jean Stevens said she’s not surprised the event went off without a hitch. “It seems like there’s not much of huge response to this reception or to the mosque anymore, and so I wonder whether if people have forgotten it now that its not such a hot topic.”

Joyce Oliver, who works at a bank nearby, dismissed any thoughts of protesting the location of Park 51, noting that its attendees are no more controversial than anyone else in the area: “They come, they pray, nothing has happened, so I don’t see what the issue should be. It’s historical building so let it be use.”

The opening event for the center was a photo “exhibit of Danny Goldfield’s NYChildren project, which aims to photograph a child from every country in the world living in New York City.” Goldfield “started his photography project in 2003 after meeting Rana Sodhi, a Sikh whose brother was murdered in a hate crime four days after 9/11. During their chance meeting at an Arizona gas station, Goldfield was inspired by Sodhi’s description of his efforts to reach out to his neighbors, taking proactive steps toward eliminating people’s prejudices and fears.”

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