A Novel of Grief, Memorials and a Muslim Architect in Post-9/11 America

From The New York Times:

Muslim When, in December 2009, The New York Times first reported plans for a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, there was little controversy. Only subsequently, as a result of protests organized by groups like the Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America, did the project become the subject of passionate debate. It was they who named the community center the “ground zero mosque.” In the months that followed, other vociferous opponents of the project emerged, among them not only conservative politicians like Newt Gingrich and some of the families of victims of 9/11, but also a number of Muslim leaders, who felt that the choice of site was insensitive and would complicate Muslim relations with the broader community. The controversy gave rise to a media frenzy that reached its height in the late summer of 2010. One imagines that the former New York Times journalist Amy Waldman heard these arguments with a combination of recognition and, perhaps, faint dismay: the general topic of her as yet unpublished first novel, “The Submission,” was proving disturbingly prescient. Her carefully imagined fiction was in the process of becoming fact.

“The Submission” is set not in 2010 but in 2003, and concerns not a mosque but a 9/11 memorial. A jury, assembled by the state’s governor, has spent months reviewing architects’ anonymous submissions for a monument to be built on the site of the tragedy. Finally, a winner is selected: the design is called “The Garden” (in contrast with the other finalist, “The Void”), and its detractors can fault it only for being “too beautiful.” But once the choice is settled and a name attached to the blueprints, the jury discovers, to its alarm, that the architect is a Muslim named Mohammad Khan.

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