The Islamic community center in lower Manhattan known as the “Ground Zero Mosque” will officially open on Wednesday with a photography exhibition, the representatives of Park51, the group behind the project, have stated.
The organizers behind Park51 claim that the sanctuary is to celebrate “the best qualities of our faith and our city – a place where everyone is welcome to learn, experience arts and culture, explore spirituality and strengthen their bodies.”
Wednesday, the institution is going to open its doors to New Yorkers of all backgrounds for interfaith workshops, films and lectures.
In the future, Park51 will offer social and recreational services and health, wellness and educational facilities, according to Park51's website.
“Park51 was conceived as a way to give back to New York City,” the group wrote in a statement. "To help rebuild and reinvigorate lower Manhattan while developing a new perspective on Muslims in America.”
The official opening will be accompanied by a photography exhibition. The date coincides with the United Nation’s International Day of Peace and the meeting of the UN General Assembly and Clinton Global Initiative.
The exhibit, NYChildren, will present photos by Danny Goldfield featuring children from 160 countries.
The ambassadors and other leaders from these countries were invited to the event, according to Park51's press release.
When plans to establish the institution in downtown Manhattan were unveiled last year, many protested against it, saying that opening a mosque near Ground Zero would be insensitive, since the 9/11 attacks were conducted by Islamic extremists.
Park51 Chief of Staff Katerina Lucas told CNN that the exhibit, which conveys the message of intra-cultural reconciliation, will hopefully show those opposed to the idea what kind of space the center is meant to be.
“It is a huge step forward,” she said. “I hope it shows we are about inclusion, not exclusion.”
“I was surprised to read that a sizeable majority of New Yorkers are opposed to the Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero,” Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch wrote in a short essay published on Park51's website.
“What is at stake in the debate surrounding the Islamic Center is more than the principle of religious freedom, although it is surely that too,” he wrote. “What is at stake is something even more fundamental: The dispute has exposed our weakened immune system; microbes of fear have invaded the lining of the American heart and are threatening to infect the body politic.”
The Islamic center was funded with $70,000 raised on KickStarter.com, according to the website.
Correction: Monday, September 22, 2011:
An article on September 19, 2011, about the upcoming opening of the "Ground Zero Mosque" incorrectly reported that Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch is a member of the Coexist Foundation. The Christian Post confirmed with the Director of the Coexist Foundation USA Tarek Elgawhary that he is in fact not a member of the foundation.