Artist's Rendition, completed Park51
This post is one of 4 on "Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims From Coast to Coast". I thought in light of the misinformation/ disinformation in the media about Cordoba House, these friends' visit to Park51 mosque on Day 1 of their journey deserved a post of its own. The other 3 follow.
51 Park Place, NYC
I have copied, accredited, and linked from the original post by reporter and standup comedian, Aman Ali (text), and advertising copywriter and filmmaker, Bassam Tariq (photos), on their blog, 30 Mosques 30 States, documenting their trip across the USA, over the 30 days of Ramadan. The 2 friends illustrate and write about the diversity of American Muslims, who are ~7 million in total. These millions share a faith, whether born Muslims, converts, immigrants, refugees, or multi-generational citizens. They also share American values, not the least of which is their belief in the American dream--that if they work hard enough, and do what it takes, their children will have a better life.
Day 1 – New York, Ground Zero Mosque (Pt. 2) [Aug 12]
Dude, it’s just a mosque.
Bassam and I walked into Park 51, the site of the so called “Ground Zero Mosque,” expecting to feel transformed, knowing the fact that I was praying inside the place that’s practically been mentioned in the news every 20 minutes.
But all it felt like – was praying inside a mosque.
The imam takes a gander at some notes before getting ready for the next round of prayers
Bassam and I spent days debating whether or not we should visit Park 51, because we didn’t want to get sucked into the bickering over the building that’s dominated the news cycle for weeks.
But at about 8 p.m. tonight, we said to each other “Whatever, let’s go for it.” Since we broke our fast at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, we decided to pray Taraweeh, the Ramadan night prayer, at Park 51.
We hopped in our car and drove about 100 blocks to the place and found a security guard standing outside the building. In light of all the protests and animosity towards the mosque, I guess you can never be too careful.
Excuse me sir, can I see some ID?
I asked the guard if this was the right building for the prayer, and he asked me to wait by the steps while he went inside to check if I could come in.
I said to myself “Wow, security is this tight in here?”
Turns out I was a moron trying to go through the women’s entrance and he went inside to see if there was a path where I could walk around to not disturb any of the women.
I walk inside and see a group of about 30 men and women, mostly college students, already in prayer so I jump in and join the congregation. Most of them were familiar faces that I have seen at the Friday prayers on New York University’s campus.
I’m standing in prayer expecting to feel something considering I’m inside the Ground Zero mosque. I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel, but for some reason I’m confused why I’m not feeling some mythical sensation.
An announcement is made that the toilets are broken and people should go across the street. You can't have a community prayer without the standard hilarious housekeeping announcements
Then I realized, it’s just a mosque, just like any other place of worship in the country. So the only thing I was feeling was an earache from all the screeching on the microphone from the sound system — just like every mosque in America.
After the prayer, I walked outside and said goodbye to the security guard. His name was Rohan and he spends his days working security outside the building on a regular basis. I asked him if there’s been any kind of problems outside the building, considering all the protests. He said there hasn’t been any incidents at all, except for a random homeless guy that walks by asking people for marijuana. He joked “Yeah but it’s New York City, if I didn’t see a homeless guy walking by asking for weed, I’d be surprised.”
Rohan said the only thing he really sees outside the building are random people that walk by taking pictures. He said several people come by every day snapping photos. He said they have every right to, but he’s just got to take precuations [sic] and keep a careful eye on them.
After we finish chatting, I begin walking to the car. Then Bassam comes running out of the building snapping photos in a frenzy. I made eye contact with Rohan from across the street and laugh. I pretend like I don’t know Bassam and head inside the vehicle.
Please read the original blog post, and the comments there. Here is a reply from Park 51 to a concern about the inequality of having separate entrances by gender:
August 13th, 2010 | Park51 says:
Thank you for visiting our space!
We are still in the early phases of building this project, but wanted to speak to the concerns above. At Park51, men and women pray in the same room, without partition (some women have asked for partial partition, for their own privacy, and this is as of now under consideration).
The separate entrance was introduced because of the high numbers of attendees during Friday Prayers, the limited space, the restricted architecture we are working with and the needs of people to return to work as soon as possible.
Because the building is only partly open (most of it is closed due to damage), and the doorway is very small, a number of women specifically complained about the difficulty of entering and exiting in times of high traffic. Also, because the women’s area is at the farther side of the room from the doorway (and the quieter side, we might add, because it is farther away from the doorway), exiting women would have to walk past men in prayer. (Many more men attend than women.)
Our priority is to allow men and women who are working to complete their Jumu’ah and return to work as soon as possible, and a second exit simply made the process more comfortable and more efficient. We did so based on feedback and suggestions from those women who do regularly pray at Park51 and share in our growing community.
Our space, as the great pictures above explain, is limited by structural concerns that will be addressed in the next phases of the project. Thank you for your concern, and we invite you to visit our space in the near future! We want to build an open, welcoming Muslim community, and we need your feedback to help us move forward. It is deeply appreciated.
May you have a blessed Ramadan!
Your comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?
Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims From Coast to Coast Part I
Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims From Coast to Coast Part II
Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims From Coast to Coast Part III