So how many “steps away,” exactly, would a mosque need to be to avoid controversy?
It’s just not that simple, said Robert Spencer, author and editor of the website Jihad Watch, adding that it would be impossible to pin down an exact appropriate location for an Islamic center in the neighborhood.
The proximity to Ground Zero is just one component of a wide range of factors that ought to be considered, he said. These include “the historical connections of the new site to 9/11 and the buildings in the surrounding area.” Also, the site would need to be “as far away as would be necessary to take away the symbolic value that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Kahn have alluded to in saying that this mosque is intended to make a statement about 9/11.” With that in mind, he said, any answer with just a specific distance that did not provide for the other elements would be incomplete.
“I’m not going to give you an address. There is no way I could possibly do that or anybody could do that,” he replied when asked during a phone interview. “…You’re trying to trap me and I know it. You want to play the game? I know how to play this game. I’ve been doing this for many years, alright? I’ve talked to lots of reporters, I know the games you play. I ain’t playing. You’re trying to get me to give you an address and say ‘oh, if it’s one block over or one building over then it’s okay with Spencer, but one building over here, no then it’s a triumphal mosque.’ Well I’m not playing.”