'They're on a mission from Allah and they mean to accomplish it...it will be Mecca on the Hudson. But I can tell you right now, it will be a battle, it will be a fight." Pamela Geller
Award-winning director Dan Reed premieres his film "Mosque at Ground Zero" on channel 4 in the UK. His Ground Zero Mosque documentary goes out on Monday at 8 on Channel 4 in UK ("The Ground Zero Mosque") and on Sept 13th on PBS Frontline.
His film explores how this proposed mosque and Islamic community centre at the site of the 9/11 attacks in lower Manhattan:
"has thrown into sharp focus the tensions at the core of American democracy regarding the country's Muslim population. With unique access to the major players in the project and the unfolding events, The Ground Zero Mosque examines the press frenzy surrounding the plans, the vitriolic attacks on its high-profile spiritual leader, Imam Feisal, and the heartrending stories of some of the 9/11 families who oppose the building, as well as revealing the driving force behind the mosque"
'They're on a mission from Allah and they mean to accomplish it...it will be Mecca on the Hudson. But I can tell you right now it will be a battle, it will be a fight.' Pamela Geller
Bafta award-winning director Dan Reed (Dispatches: Terror in Mumbai) untangles the hysteria, fury and politics surrounding the ‘Mosque at Ground Zero'. His film explores how this proposed mosque and Islamic community centre, two blocks away from the site of the 9/11 attacks in lower Manhattan, has thrown into sharp focus the tensions at the core of American democracy regarding the country's Muslim population.
With unique access to the major players in the project and the unfolding events, Ground Zero Mosque recounts the press frenzy surrounding the plans, the vitriolic attacks on its high-profile spiritual leader, Imam Feisal, the heartrending stories of some of the 9/11 families who oppose the building and reveals the driving force behind the mosque.
The film follows charismatic property developer Sharif El-Gamal (38) as he gives his account for the first time. Brought up as a church-going Christian named Alexander, El Gamal is the son of a Polish Catholic and an Egyptian Muslim who describes himself as a New Yorker from Brooklyn: "I'm not a community activist, I'm not a community leader...I'm not an Islamic academic. I'm a New Yorker who is a real-estate junkie. That's who I am."
After rediscovering Islam in his 30s, he purchased the Burlington Coat Factory in 2009, a disused building that was struck by the undercarriage of the second plane that hit Tower Two. His plan was twofold - to make money from building condominiums on the site but also to provide a place of worship for the local Muslim population.
But later that year, he invited Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (63) an established moderate pro-American cleric to lead the mosque. Imam Feisal proposed the entire site be transformed into a community centre that would act to counter extremism and give a platform to moderate Islam. When El-Gamal agreed, little did he know of the outrage he would ignite.
The groundswell against the project has been led by Pamela Geller (53) and Robert Spencer (49), co-founders of the pressure-group ‘Stop the Islamization of America,' who were both cited as inspiration for the Oslo bomber Anders Breivik in his manifesto. They rallied opposition to the mosque, incorporating the voices of some of those who lost loved ones on 9/11 and coined the concept that would become a decisive weapon in the controversy, ‘the victory mosque.'
The opposition to the so-called ‘mega mosque' caught the attention of Fox News which was at the vanguard of the US media storm. The controversy gathered political momentum and even President Obama felt compelled to take sides and endorse the mosque.
With El-Gamal and Imam Feisal caught off guard and vilified in the media, a rift began to emerge between them and El Gamal took on sole responsibility for the plan.
The outcry rippled across into the far corners of America and a pastor of a small church in Florida made headlines around the world when he announced he would incinerate the Koran on 9/11 unless the mosque was moved. With such controversy seen to be damaging Islam in the US, El-Gamal had to contend with a backlash from the American Muslim community.
Reed follows El-Gamal as he battles to garner support and funds for the project he has dubbed ‘Park 51.' Run from a back room in his property, the two staff members are students who feel underprepared to deliver El-Gamal's vision.
Of all his challenges, the most sensitive is the hostility towards the project from some of the 9/11 families. Reed films the highly-fraught and emotional meeting between El-Gamal and Lee Hanson who lost his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter on the second plane.
But not all the families oppose the mosque; Charlie Wolf lost his wife on the plane that hit the first tower. He says: "You can't say that we can't have anybody, any Muslims near Ground Zero - that is a bunch of bull. Because as soon as you say they can't be two blocks, then where can they be? Three blocks, five blocks, ten blocks, half a mile, a mile, sixteen miles?"
Ten years on from the events that shaped a nation; this is the story of a derelict building that has become a lightning rod for America's struggle to reconcile its own psyche.
Ground Zero Mosque - Channel 4 - Info – 5/9/11:Bafta award-winning director Dan Reed (Dispatches ...
Ground Zero Mosque, Channel 4 | In-depth | Broadcast www.broadcastnow.co.uk/.../ground-zero-mosque-channel-4/50313... – CTVC tracks the battle to build the controversial mosque.