Two members of Idaho's congressional delegation feel that a Muslim mosque and cultural center being constructed near Ground Zero in New York City is disrespectful to the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and their families. Even though they feel that way, Congressman Mike Simpson and Sen. Jim Risch say that it's not the federal government's place to impose its will on New York City and the they hope local officials will listen to opposition from families of the victims.
The 15-story mosque and cultural center isn't being built right next to Ground Zero, but it is close. A map from The Huffington Post shows that the building will be about two blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood (Point A is where the center will be built and Point B shows Ground Zero). Still, the idea of having a mosque even relatively close to what many consider a sacred site has drawn the ire of families of the victims.
On May 24, 2010, a group of families, known as 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, released a statement condemning the mosque's building site. The statement says the group views the mosque and cultural center "as shockingly insensitive to the history of the site where their loved ones were slaughtered in the worst terrorist attack by extremist Muslims in America’s history; following the attack, 20,000 body parts were recovered in a nine-month operation to remove 1.8 million tons of rubble from Lower Manhattan."
Sen. Jim Risch said that though the new building may be distasteful, the federal government shouldn't step in to stop its opening. "Considering what occurred at Ground Zero in New York City I completely sympathize with those who object to a mosque being built in that area," said Risch. "But I do not believe the federal government has a role in determining what will be built. It is a local decision and I hope they listen closely to the families of the victims who died in the terrorist attack."
Congressman Mike Simpson echoed the sentiments of Risch. "I think building a mosque at Ground Zero is inappropriate and insensitive,” said Simpson. “I hope the local authorities in New York City, who will ultimately make this decision, will listen to the concerns of millions of Americans and find an alternative site for the construction of this mosque.”
The mosque and its backers cleared its final hurdle this week when a Victorian building that currently resides where the mosque and cultural center will be built was denied landmark status, a designation that could have prevented the construction of the cultural center. Proponents of the center, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, contend that it would be a breach of America’s traditions of religious tolerance to deny Muslims their center, while others, including Sarah Palin, say that the building is an "unnecessary provocation."
Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Walt Minnick have yet to comment on the issue.