Dude, it’s just a mosque.
Bassam and I walked into Park 51, the site of the so called “Ground Zero Mosque,” expecting to feel transformed, knowing the fact that I was praying inside the place that’s practically been mentioned in the news every 20 minutes.
But all it felt like – was praying inside a mosque.
Bassam and I spent days debating whether or not we should visit Park 51, because we didn’t want to get sucked into the bickering over the building that’s dominated the news cycle for weeks.
But at about 8 p.m. tonight, we said to each other “Whatever, let’s go for it.” Since we broke our fast at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, we decided to pray Taraweeh, the Ramadan night prayer, at Park 51.
We hopped in our car and drove about 100 blocks to the place and found a security guard standing outside the building. In light of all the protests and animosity towards the mosque, I guess you can never be too careful.
I asked the guard if this was the right building for the prayer, and he asked me to wait by the steps while he went inside to check if I could come in.
I said to myself “Wow, security is this tight in here?”
Turns out I was a moron trying to go through the women’s entrance and he went inside to see if there was a path where I could walk around to not disturb any of the women.
I walk inside and see a group of about 30 men and women, mostly college students, already in prayer so I jump in and join the congregation. Most of them were familiar faces that I have seen at the Friday prayers on New York University’s campus.
I’m standing in prayer expecting to feel something considering I’m inside the Ground Zero mosque. I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel, but for some reason I’m confused why I’m not feeling some mythical sensation.
Then I realized, it’s just a mosque, just like any other place of worship in the country. So the only thing I was feeling was an earache from all the screeching on the microphone from the sound system — just like every mosque in America.
After the prayer, I walked outside and said goodbye to the security guard. His name was Rohan and he spends his days working security outside the building on a regular basis. I asked him if there’s been any kind of problems outside the building, considering all the protests. He said there hasn’t been any incidents at all, except for a random homeless guy that walks by asking people for marijuana. He joked “Yeah but it’s New York City, if I didn’t see a homeless guy walking by asking for weed, I’d be surprised.”
Rohan said the only thing he really sees outside the building are random people that walk by taking pictures. He said several people come by every day snapping photos. He said they have every right to, but he’s just got to take precuations and keep a careful eye on them.
After we finish chatting, I begin walking to the car. Then Bassam comes running out of the building snapping photos in a frenzy. I made eye contact with Rohan from across the street and laugh. I pretend like I don’t know Bassam and head inside the vehicle.