The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Forgotten: the Muslim prayer room in the Twin Towers

While controversy continues to swirl over the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero, here’s a fact many may not be aware of:

Sometime in 1999, a construction electrician received a new work assignment from his union. Sinclair Hejazi Abdus-Salaam was told to report to 2 World Trade Center, the southern of the Twin Towers.

In the union locker room on the 51st floor, Mr. Abdus-Salaam went through a construction worker’s version of due diligence. In the case of an emergency in the building, he asked his foreman and crew, where was he supposed to reassemble? The answer was the corner of Broadway and Vesey.

Over the next few days, noticing some fellow Muslims on the job, Mr. Abdus-Salaam voiced an equally essential question: “So where do you pray at?” And so he learned about the Muslim prayer room on the 17th floor of the south tower.

He went there regularly in the months to come, first doing the ablution known as wudu in a washroom fitted for cleansing hands, face and feet, and then facing toward Mecca to intone the salat prayer.

On any given day, Mr. Abdus-Salaam’s companions in the prayer room might include financial analysts, carpenters, receptionists, secretaries and ironworkers. There were American natives, immigrants who had earned citizenship, visitors conducting international business — the whole Muslim spectrum of nationality and race.

Leaping down the stairs on Sept. 11, 2001, when he had been installing ceiling speakers for a reinsurance company on the 49th floor, Mr. Abdus-Salaam had a brief, panicked thought. He didn’t see any of the Muslims he recognized from the prayer room. Where were they? Had they managed to evacuate?

He staggered out to the gathering place at Broadway and Vesey. From that corner, he watched the North Tower collapse, to be followed soon by the South. Somewhere in the smoking, burning mountain of rubble lay whatever remained of the prayer room, and also of some of the Muslims who had used it.

Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.

There’s much more at the link.

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Deacon Dean

posted September 10, 2010 at 4:03 pm

However, from the NY Times comes another view… The proposed structure is neither a mosque, or a “community center” but, rather, a rabat, the construction of which would be very symbolic to the nation of Islam.

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posted September 10, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I see it as simply “under the radar screen.” Until 911, American didn’t really wake up to the perils of terrorism, even though this was not the first attempt on American soil.
Was there also a special place for the other people of faith to pray? I doubt it, as it wouldn’t have been “politically correct”, even then.

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posted September 10, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Klaire, you’re really displaying your ignorance here…
This one’s kind of a no-brainer, unless you’ve been living under a rock for, like, oh, 234 years…

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posted September 10, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Deacon Greg:
I have never seen this information before. WHY?
You are a professional media person; how long have the professionals in you career field known that on 9/11/01 militant Muslims inadvertantly killed innocent Muslims?
Even more importantly, how come no one has released it until now!

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posted September 10, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Nonsense — that Muslims were among those who died during the attacks on 9/11 is common knowledge. So common it’s not news.

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Civitas Occiduus

posted September 10, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I think Fiergenholt’s comment — and the events in the news of recent weeks — should tell you it’s not common knowledge for most people.
To dust off an old cliche, the most uncommon thing of all is common sense — and common knowledge, too, it seems. In your defense, though, I knew it, too.

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posted September 10, 2010 at 8:29 pm

It should not be a question on anything else but simple sensitivity to the tragedy and religious tone of hate created by the fundamentalists on the US.
If I were a muslim, knowing the clear objection and animosity created by this proposed structure, I would be the first one to say, “let’s not build it”. The wounds are still deep. And people will be people wherever they come from; east, west, south north or somewhere in the middle.
It is my suggestion that Muslims in America should look at Peace taught in Islam first, rather than the laws of man…that is trying to speak in the realm of religion.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted September 10, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Folks …
Most of us knew that Muslims died in the towers on 9/11.
What was news to me — and to most people I’ve mentioned this to — is that they actually had a prayer room in the towers where they met regularly for worship.
Dcn. G.

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posted September 11, 2010 at 12:10 am

and was there a place in one of the towers for Christians to pray? a place for Buddhists? for that matter, a place for people of any other religious persuasion?

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Andre John

posted September 11, 2010 at 1:34 am

just heard on the news that there was one tiny christian Greek Orthodox church beside the buildings, which was destroyed along with the WTC 9/11/2001.

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posted September 11, 2010 at 1:51 am

I think it’s a little silly everyone asking “was there a place for people from other religions to pray”. Obviously the prayer room was offered because Muslim prayers are physical, not just mental, and for the devout they’re required daily. If it were part of Christianity or Buddhism to conduct physical prayers during the day I’m sure they would have had equal access to the prayer room, or a room of their own, but the truth is we don’t require it. This is all missing the point which is , if there was a Muslim prayer room inside the twin towers, practicing Muslims working there, practicing Muslims killed there along with all the others, then how can people be making such a stink about Muslims having a place of worship 3 blocks from ground zero. How far away from ground zero is far enough?

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posted September 11, 2010 at 4:40 am

Dear Donna,
Did you intend to write, “religious tone of hate created by the [9/11 terrorists],” instead of what you wrote?
Jesus teaches Christians to Love God and neighbor. Therefore Christians advance a tone of love, which sometimes means sharing the Truth with your neighbor.

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posted September 11, 2010 at 8:05 am

Mellissa let me explain. I would argue that you and AquaMarine are mising the point. What you write about Muslims needing their own place to pray is certainly true, however, it’s still “politicially incorrect” for the Christian to pray even WITHOUT a room.
The bigger point, I think is this. Of course the terroritst knew they would most likely kills Muslims along with Americans. The point is, the terrorists are NOT REAL MUSLIMS, at least in the religious sense. The fact that they were willing to kill “their own” so easily and brutally should be all one needs to know that their war is about hatred not love. For heaven’s sake these are the same people who cut off limbs and stone people to death.
I knew there were a few Muslems killed in the towers, as well as quite a few non-Americans. The fact still remains it as an attack on America, and is sacred ground which should remain so, not a place for a “victory mosque.” To think otherwise is to foster the same kind of submission that got us to this tippy toe state in the first place, expcept this time, it comes at a bigger price.
Don’t you think Missy and AquaMarine that the Muslims killed ALSO deserve the same respect as the Americans at their gravesite?
How could it be anything but offensive to the loved ones of the Muslims? These people were their enemies!

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posted September 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

Two quick points. First, I am a Christian. Second, the attack on 9/11 was a coordinated effort conducted with people identifying themselves as Muslim, and acting in the name of Allah. This cannot be disputed.
All religions require pursuit to follow their tenets, or work toward fully adhering to the doctrine of the church. This is true of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and the Jewish faith. The question then becomes “Where does pursuing the religion take it at its most radical point?”
Christianity’s ultimate goal is to show God’s love by living for Jesus and others. We are aware of eternal consequences for those who choose to follow Jesus’ path, and for those who don’t. The closer we get to God, the more we sacrifice ourselves to show others to Him. In Christianity, there are doctrines and “ministers” who grossly misrepresent the lifestyle of Jesus. In so doing, they drive many from our faith, and have altered the influence faithful followers of Jesus have on society. When Christians do not expose false teachings, they allow those teachings to become part of “the church.”
Most other religions promote self-exaltation (if I do this, I will be more like “God”). Islam at its most radical seeks world acceptance of the faith, with little or no regard to the methods used to achieve that purpose. In that regard, the terrorists actually fulfilled Allah’s wishes. In essence, then, the radicals have kidnapped the faith of the majority of the Islam believers. For this to change, the majority of Muslims need to take the religion back and redefine it according to their beliefs. To stay silent is to give credence to the terrorists actions.

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posted September 11, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Klaire — you CLEARLY know nothing about NYC, about Wall Street, about the history of NYC, about the history of the building of the Twin Towers…
Trinity Church/St. Paul’s Chapel has stood in that area of the city for 234 years. When the towers were built, St. Paul’s became the official chapel for the WTC community.
Also, New York City has never, ever been hostile towards any form of worship. Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims have worshipped peacably throughout the five boroughs of NY from the earliest days of our history.
Until now. Until people who aren’t from NY, who have no personal attachment to 9/11, have decided to use other people’s tragedy to promote their hateful message. The majority of those people aren’t even from New York, don’t even know anyone in New York, and are probably the types who pantingly went down to the smoking hole that used to be the WTC in the days afterward to snap their photos and then move on to do some discount shopping at Century 21.
We lost family members and friends. My husband’s brother and several of his cousins worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. We attended 16 funerals/services after the attacks on 9/11. None of us are bothered in the least by this proposed mosque/center/whatever. Frankly, we all think the childish shrieking and screaming and hysterical, over-the-top reaction on the part of a bunch of yahoos who crawled out of the backcountry to make a stink about it make America look stupid and weak a thousand times more than permitting, according to the laws of this land, the mosque to be built there.
My entire family, including my children, all still work and live in NYC and not once, ever, since my great grandparents arrived from Ireland back in the mid 19th century, has anyone ever been prevented from practicing their faith. Even when my ancestors were met with a NINA sign every time they turned around, this country — the freedoms afforded them by THIS country — allowed them to scrimp and save their pennies and build some of the most beautiful Churches in the world.
So can we please, at least today, please stop stirring this pot of stupid, small-minded, hate and bigotry?

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posted September 12, 2010 at 6:13 am

For starters Aquamarine, NYC 911 was my tragedy too, but I don’t feel that gives me a right to “own it.” I’m sorry for your loses. If it’s any consolation to you, I went to the memorial service yesterday and made a trip to the Blessed Sacrament to pray a rosary for the victims.
This isn’t about “New York.” It’s about a lot of things, but not “New York.” The Anchoress (a New Yorker) wrote a perferct piece on it a while back. I also quoted Dr. Peter Kreeft’s book the other day, Allah and Jesus, which nails the major problem, we, as Christians, unlike the Muslims, are “uprooted.” And because we are uprooted, the “big hole” is a “big problem”, with the one and only solution to be “Real Christians” again.
It’s because we have lost “our way” that we buy into the political correctness trap. Initially I had no problem with the mosque, didn’t even care to comment on it. As more became known about (and ‘not about’), the people behind it, in addition to a better understanding of victory mosques, I started to have 2nd thoughts. As well, the fact that it’s so painful to so many who have lost loved ones there (at least half or more), isn’t that enough to be “politically sensetive?”
Like you AM, my family were also immigrants, with so much bigotry my grandfather refused to speak anything but English in the house and changed the family name.
I have to wonder how well you know your own city to make a claim that NYC has never denied worship to anyone. Seen a creche lately in the city square during the “holiday” season, read the NY Times, or know of any retailer with the guts to advertise, “Merry Christmas?” And let’s not forget “Naked Chocolate Jesus” or the rest of the “Blaspheme Mary and Jesus” art collection. Do you get as passionate about THOSE things Aquamarine as you do about defending the rights of the Muslims? Just askin’.
To call the concerned “yahoos” is to be on par with Obama who called the remnant “bible and gun clingers.” After all, to be grounded in faith, at least Christain faith, is no longer “politically correct”, and the root of our “uprooted” problem.

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Jan Oz

posted September 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

wondering why my comment has not been added to this post ?
There were 9 chapels for various religions to pray int the towers

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posted September 12, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Everyone’s religion gets slammed by someone sooner or later, and you can stoop to their level, or you can rise above and ignore it. I can personally think someone’s use of religious imagery is rude or ugly or confrontational or even wrong, but I will defend their freedom to make ugly and offensive art the longest day I live. I’ve also been around long enough to know they HOPE people like you will make a stink because you can’t buy publicity like that. All that free air prime time air coverage? Are you kidding me? They live for that, and folks like you play into their hands all the time.
I don’t think public grounds should be used by any religious organization to promote their holidays or religion or whathaveyou. I’m fine with that. I’m totally in mommy mode on that one — once everyone starts bickering and fighting over it, no one gets it — problem solved.
Besides, I personally think religious celebrations are private, personal, family matters, not public matters.
As a NYer, I have no problem with retail outlets using any holiday greeting they wish. Christmas isn’t about buying stuff. So what if someone says Happy Holidays to me instead of Merry Christmas? So what? When someone wishes me well, or exchanges a pleasant greeting, my immediate reaction isn’t to politicize the moment — because all this crap about who said what around holiday time has exactly ZERO to do with God and exactly EVERYTHING to do with politics.
Do you seriously think God is up in heaven crying because some little part time sales girl said Happy Holidays to someone during the month of December? Seriously? This is the crux (no pun intended…or, well, maybe…) of your faith? Christmas isn’t even a real historical date, and it’s not, theologically speaking, all that big a deal.
The NY Times is a NATIONAL newspaper, btw, and, yeah, they lean left, and everyone knows it and you either read it or you don’t. That the NY Times is a left-leaning newspaper does not in any, way, shape or form deny anyone the right to worship. You don’t like the NY Times, don’t read it. It really is that simple. OTOH, if you want to live in a country that affords you the right to think what you want to think, then you have to live with the fact that other people get the same right to think what they want even if they don’t agree with you.
Was 9/11 an American tragedy? Yes. But it was a deeply personal tragedy for some people, and that strangers who have no personal connections to the people who were killed on that day have chosen to use the anniversary to whip up a hateful frenzy in order to serve their political ends is obscene and appalling and everything evil under the sun.
Being grounded in the Christian faith has nothing to do with politicizing your religion and trying to force it on everyone else. That’s anti-Christian and anti-American.
You’re not “concerned”, Klaire, you’re looking for a reason to justify your bigotry and hate. The mosque near the WTC is of no concern to anyone. Everyone knows it’s there, any number of law enforcement agencies will no doubt be monitoring the activities of those going in and out of the mosque. We know who they are and where they are, and every move they make to build this thing is going to leave a paper trail a mile wide.
It’s not the guys you know who are the concern. It’s the guys you don’t know yet — it’s the guys who are flying under the radar planning the next attack while the world focuses on the tantrum-throwing and hysteria going on over this thing who are the concern.

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Dale Netherton

posted September 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm

As long as people accept faith as a means of acquiring knowledge and abandon reason in favor of unquestioning belief there will be religions and conflicts in who believes theirs to be the true belief. The charlatans who have foisted this faith adherence on the world are the perpetrators of a fraud so widespread and pervasive it defies comprehension as to how gullible can modern man be. People who believe they are thinking when they are merely rationalizing what they want to believe are deluding themselves and others in fantasizing about what can never be.

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gordan schumway

posted September 12, 2010 at 4:58 pm

before posting this blog you should get your facts straight, because now i don’t believe you mr. deacon. you can remind your muslim friend that was their on 911 that the south tower collasped first. he must be very confused.
[Gordon…After I posted the story, the Times posted a correction to the original piece, noting that fact. You’ll find it at the link. Dcn. G.]

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posted September 13, 2010 at 10:55 am

Aquamarine if you truly believe I come from a place of bigotry and hate, I’m afraid that your problem is bigger than our disagreement.
I’m a Catholic Aquamarine, which has no “individualism” about it. Our mission is to “go forth” and be one with the world, living the Gospel of Christ, as best we can, in the world.
Let’s just agree to disagree on this one AM; God Bless.

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posted September 13, 2010 at 11:09 am

Klaire, if you can’t see that your words are filled with bigotry and hate, then your problems are more organic than psychological.
Your previous words on this thread and elsewhere don’t match this latest disclaimer of yours. Sorry, not buyin’.

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