The Associated Press sent an advisory out on Thursday telling its staff to stop referencing the controversial Cordoba House as the "Ground Zero Mosque." Instead, the AP wants their reporters to call it the "NYC Mosque." In an advisory the AP wrote:
Here is some guidance on covering the NYC mosque story, with assists from Chad Roedemeier in the NYC bureau and Terry Hunt in Washington:
1. We should continue to avoid the phrase "ground zero mosque" or "mosque at ground zero" on all platforms. (We’ve very rarely used this wording, except in slugs, though we sometimes see other news sources using the term.) The site of the proposed Islamic center and mosque is not at ground zero, but two blocks away in a busy commercial area. We should continue to say it’s “near” ground zero, or two blocks away.
WE WILL CHANGE OUR SLUG ON THIS STORY LATER TODAY from “BC-Ground Zero Mosque” to “BC-NYC Mosque.”
In short headlines, some ways to refer to the project include:
_ mosque 2 blocks from WTC site
_ Muslim (or Islamic) center near WTC site
_ mosque near ground zero
_ mosque near WTC site
We can refer to the project as a mosque, or as a proposed Islamic center that includes a mosque.
It may be useful in some stories to note that Muslim prayer services have been held since 2009 in the building that the new project will replace. The proposal is to create a new, larger Islamic community center that would include a mosque, a swimming pool, gym, auditorium and other facilities.
There are around 100 mosques already in New York City. So it begs the question, which one? The advisory also remarks further down what it considers to be "facts." These include:
No mosque is going up at ground zero. The center would be established at 45-51 Park Place, just over two blocks from the northern edge of the sprawling, 16-acre World Trade Center site. Its location is roughly half a dozen normal lower Manhattan blocks from the site of the North Tower, the nearer of the two destroyed in the attacks.
The center's location, in a former Burlington Coat Factory store, is already used by the cleric for worship, drawing a spillover from the imam's former main place for prayers, the al-Farah mosque. That mosque, at 245 West Broadway, is about a dozen blocks north of the World Trade Center grounds.
Another, the Manhattan Mosque, stands five blocks from the northeast corner of the World Trade Center site.
To be sure, the center's association with 9/11 is intentional and its location is no geographic coincidence. The building was damaged in the Sept. 11 attacks and the center's planners say they want the center to stand as a statement against terrorism.
It is interesting that the AP believes that the proposed site for the mosque is not part of Ground Zero territory. It is not the first news outlet to change their terminology either. According to reports, The New York Times standards editor said:
"Given how politically volatile this discussion has been, we think it's important to be accurate and precise," in explaining the paper's consistent references to the planned structure being two blocks from the Ground Zero site.
Apparently, according to the New York Times and the AP, it does not seem to matter that one of the 9/11 planes that smashed into the World Trade Center dropped its landing gear on the old Burligton Coat Factory building. It is likely those who were around the area included themselves in Ground Zero territory. Furthermore, those who bolted from the collapsing World Trade Center Towers ran much farther than the poo-poo'ed two to three blocks when the attacks happened. The Financial Times writes: (all emphasis is mine)
The building had housed a Burlington Coat Factory warehouse until it was abandoned after the landing gear of one of the hijacked aircraft tore through its roof. Initially, Gamal had planned to build a condominium complex at the site, but was convinced by Rauf’s idea for a cultural centre with a prayer space, especially as the Muslim community in New York had been growing for some time.
The idea that the site is not associated with Ground Zero is laughable, because in the same breath, those who are proponents of the mosque's construction will emphasize the location of the Mosque and reference the 9/11 attacks. The controversial imam behind the mosque, Abdul Faisal Rauf, was very much aware of the significance of the location. According to FT.com:
He [Rauf] was conscious, of course, of the significance of the centre’s location: a building damaged in the attacks, three blocks from the trade tower’s site. “I have been part of this community for 30 years. Members of my congregation died on 9/11. That attack was carried out by extremist terrorists in the name of my faith,” Rauf said. “There is a war going on within Islam between a violent, extremist minority and a moderate majority that condemns terrorism. The centre for me is a way to amplify our condemnation of that atrocity and to amplify the moderate voices that reject terrorism and seek mutual understanding and respect with all faiths.”
Yet Sharif El-Gamal, C.E.O. and chairman of SoHo Properties (the owner of the former Burlington Coat Factory building), who was convinced by Rauf to convert the building into a mosque insists (h/t downtown express):
“Park51 is a community center. It is two blocks north of the World Trade Center site,” said El-Gamal. “In New York City, two blocks is a great distance.”
In this case, both Rauf and El-Gamal want to have it both ways, and have yet to decide if the site for the mosque is significant to the vents surrounding 9/11 or not. . Either the site is significant to them, because they want the center to "amplify our condemnation of that atrocity and to amplify the moderate voices that reject terrorism and seek mutual understanding and respect with all faiths,” or its simply just some random building in New York's financial district that happens to be separated by a "great distance" of "two blocks from where the towers once stood. Apparently, the AP has made it's choice.