Islamic Center Would Not Be at Ground Zero
By CLYDE HABERMAN
Published: July 26, 2010
Rick A. Lazio, a former Republican congressman trying to become New York’s next governor, wants the state’s attorney general to investigate the finances of a planned Islamic community center on Park Place, two blocks from the World Trade Center site.
It is probably no coincidence that the attorney general is Andrew M. Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for governor and the overwhelming favorite to win in November. In the polls, Mr. Lazio barely registers a pulse. His fund-raising makes anemia look robust. He may not even end up as his party’s nominee, given the strong challenge he faces from Carl Paladino, a Buffalo developer with a mouth to match his big bank account.
Mr. Lazio needed a voter-rousing issue that conceivably might put Mr. Cuomo on the spot. He found it in the controversial Islamic center. Purely from a political vantage, it was not a bad choice. Fear, even if subtly hinted, almost never strikes out — not in American politics, anyway.
The center, which could rise as many as 15 stories and has the blessing of local officials from the mayor on down, makes some people uneasy. The reasons are understandable, if not entirely admirable. Some opponents, mostly political conservatives, have exploited the discomfort with statements that are inflammatory or misleading, or both.
For now, there is no reason to assume that the imam behind the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, has enough finances worth investigating. Mr. Cuomo has shown no interest. Still, it probably wouldn’t be the worst idea ever if the imam were to open his books so everyone could see how the money will be raised for a building with a $100 million price tag.
Such an inquiry aside, we have already learned things in recent weeks.