***This post first appeared on www.thedailybeast.com***
In the midst of the drama around the mosque that’s being erected two blocks from Ground Zero, a few details have been left out that provide some clarity as to the purpose of this project. Specifically, the project will be the country’s first certified “green mosque,” in full compliance with stringent LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, which is why organizers have named the project Park51, rather than the oft-cited “Cordoba House.”
The mosque (which is more accurately a community center with a prayer space) is located on Park Place in Downtown Manhattan, but the new name also reflects a desire to emphasize the intricate (though widely unknown) connections between Islamic teachings and environmentalism. For example, Islam calls upon people to be "stewards of the Earth" and to treat all things in nature as sacred. The new name, Park51, invokes images of trees, creeks, and children playing. Parks are for the public. Parks are fun. Parks are green. And parks are not controversial.
Proponents say this project is a victory for religious tolerance and a symbol of this country's unwavering dedication to freedom of religion. Opponents cite the 9/11 tragedy and its connection to Islamic fundamentalism, and say the mosque is salt in America's open wound. But the organizers of state-of-the-art Park51 believe they are building bridges, with the hope that the center can be a place for Muslims and non-Muslims to interact culturally and socially, and to provide an opportunity for all people to gain a more complete and accurate picture of how Islam sees the world.
Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet and a media personality on public radio's newest morning news show, The Takeaway.