Opening of Islamic Cultural Center Sparks Controversy

2010

United States

Discrimination & Inequity Media & Culture Religion

In May 2010, plans to establish an Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan ignited national controversy about the place of Islam in post-9/11 U.S. society.

The Islamic center filled headlines only months before mid-term elections and a broad spectrum of lawmakers—from Sarah Palin (R, Alaska) to Harry Reid (D, Nevada)—decried the project as insensitive to the memory of those who perished in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Often misrepresented in the news media, the physical site for the new Islamic cultural center was already a place of worship for American Muslims, led by progressive Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

Though the project sparked virulent anti-Islamic sentiment and failed to garner broad public support, prominent officials such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and an interfaith coalition of religious leaders helped to bring the center to fruition. Park51 opened its doors in September 2011.