New York City is the most linguistically and religiously diverse city in the world. The 8.4 million inhabitants communicate in some 800 different languages across the five boroughs – the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. New York is also a religious city: 83% of New Yorkers are affiliated to some organized religion. This is a rate of adherents larger than that of the state, New York State (75%), and one of the highest in the entire United States.
Christians comprise about 70% of the population; 40% of whom are Catholic and 30% Protestant. They attend approximately 2000 churches and 4000 informal places of worship such as community halls and homes, thus a total of some 6000 churches. New York City also boasts the world’s largest cathedral, the Episcopal Church of St John the Divine.
12% of New Yorker claim Jewish decent. There are more Jews in New York City than there are in the Jerusalem city limits. They have more than 1000 synagogues – 70% permanent and 30% temporary places – at their service.
There are almost a million Muslims in New York City. (Some sources claim 1.4 million; the New York City Community Affairs Bureau states the figure as 800 000.) There are more than 100 mosques in the city, plus an unknown number of small mosques that worshipers set up in their apartments or places that are not visible from the street.
Ground Zero mosque:
The area of devastation that the 9/11 terrorist attack left on the World Trade Center is referred to as Ground Zero, a military phrase for a point directly above or below the detonation of a nuclear bomb or, in short, “at the center of calamity.” The phrase does have older roots, though. But the area has a new meaning. It has become sacred ground for American Christians. Therefor, when the chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, proposed the building of a Muslim religious center near Ground Zero it created an outcry. Particularly when President Barack Obama voiced support for the mosque.
Supporters of the proposed center were quick to point out that it would not be built on Ground Zero but two blocks away, at 45-51 Park Place, general known as Park 51. They also point out that there are many Christian churches much closer to Ground Zero (as can be seen on the map), including the closest religious building, the St Paul’s Chapel just across the road.
It has, furthermore, been emphasized that the proposed construction is not a mosque (although it will include one) but a community center. But the wounds left by 9/11 have not healed. Those opposing the center fear that it might be considered a sign of victory for terrorism, a type of international symbol of heroism much like the raising of the flag on Iwa Jima was to the West. Simply too close for comfort, they say, too close to holy ground.