Turning Park51 Into a Teachable Moment: Curriculum Guide and Fact Sheets

The controversy surrounding the Park51 Cultural Center in lower Manhattan has been at the forefront of the media and the nation’s consciousness recently. Chances are, your students have encountered this issue and are thinking about it. And chances are this issue is going to reach your classroom this fall – especially around 9/11.

Tanenbaum’s Religion and Diversity Education program specializes in multi-cultural/coexistence education that includes religion as a component of identity to be recognized and respected. We therefore tackled this divisive debate by creating resources for educators to help turn the Park51 controversy into a lesson in coexistence. Included with this Curriculum Guide are balanced materials and resources to address this contentious conflict.

The materials are designed to help educators encourage students to think critically about Park51 specifically and conflict in general, to ask hard questions, to learn about conflicts in life and to identify and use civil ways to resolve them.

Tanenbaum believes that a major purpose of education is to prepare our students to become thoughtful global citizens who recognize that they have a civic responsibility to engage others with respect, especially when disagreements arise.

In the case of Park51, while the issue itself is of great import, the ways in which conflict has been manifested through language and behavior point to a greater need for education and critical thinking skills for working through contentious issues. Amid the wisdom and thoughtfulness on all sides of the argument, we also find ignorance, a lack of understanding and curiosity and hatefulness, which can, has and will lead to violence and phobic behavior.

We offer these materials to educators to be considered as the beginning of an ongoing process. They are intended to provide guidance rather than directives. Educators know their environments and students best, and are in the unique position of working toward the imperative of coexistence and cultivating global citizenship among their students.

Other Resources & Links

Abraham’s Children – A feature documentary about Islam’s positive influence on shaping the character of young Muslim Americans and their families (Clock Wise Productions).

America, Muslims and the Ground Zero Controversy – Unity Productions Foundation elevates the conversation around Park51, promoting civil, informed discourse around some of the broader questions — What did the 9/11 tragedy feel like to American Muslims? What is the story behind the interfaith group in New Jersey that helped build a mosque? What do Muslims worldwide really believe about terrorism? What are the aspirations of American Muslims? This resource is no longer available. (PBS).

Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath – A 20-year-old college student travels across America in the aftermath of 9/11, camera in hand, documenting hate violence against the Sikh community (New Moon Productions).


Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition | The New York Times

American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong? | The New York Times

Bloomberg Remarks at Iftar Dinner | YouTube (Official Bloomberg Video)

Confronting Islamophobia in Education | Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding

Controversies Over Mosques and Islamic Centers Across the U.S. | PEW Forum

The Debate Over the Proposed Community Center in Downtown Manhattan (Audio) | Council on Foreign Relations

Howard Dean: NYC Mosque a “Real Affront” | CBS News

Imam behind controversial New York Islamic center speaks | CNN

Imam Talks Compromise on Islamic Center | The New York Times

Intolerance | New Yorker

Islam has long history downtown: Why the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ belongs in lower Manhattan | Daily News

Islamic Center Exposes Mixed Feelings Locally | The New York Times

Looking at Islamic Center Debate, World Sees U.S. | The New York Times

Mosque debate: New Yorkers take dim view of rabble-rousing outsiders | Washington Post

Mosque developer claims a classic NYC background | AP

The Mosque Rage Boils Over: Anti-Muslim Attacks Increasing Across US | TIME

Muslim Leaders Unite Behind Center | The New York Times

NY Governor Paterson to discuss relocating Muslim center | Reuters

Obama says ground zero mosque upholds principle of equal treatment | The New York Times

Parsing the Record of Feisal Abdul Rauf | The New York Times

Public Remains Conflicted Over Islam | PEW Forum

Reaction to Quran burning plan pours in from around the world | CNN

Religious Freedom, Free Speech Face Off Nationwide | NPR

Rural Controversy: A Mosque in Sheboygan | Time

Some Muslims question mosque near ground zero | AP

Teenagers Charged in Harassment at Mosque |The New York Times

TIME Poll: Majority Oppose Mosque, Many Distrust Muslims | TIME

Hate crime at mosque angers residents of California town | L.A. Times


America’s “Good Muslims” Are Being Left Out to Dry | Huffington Post

Charles Krauthammer’s transparent dodge | Washington Post

Daisy Khan: “When will Muslims be accepted?” | Washington Post

Ground Zero Mosque: Why Some Muslims Don’t Want It, Either | News America Media

A loyal Muslim American laments the mosque mess | Salon

The Mosque at Ground Zero | Anti-Defamation League (from National Director of ADL)

The “mosque” debate is not a “distraction” | Salon

The Muslims in the Middle | The New York Times

Obama muddles his mosque message | Washington Post

Why America Needs More Muslims | Alternet

Would Park51, the “ground zero mosque” be a symbol of religious tolerance, and should that be an American goal? | Southern California Public Radio


Abrahamic Family Reunion (AFR) – Emphasizes shared values of compassion and justice, explores positive historical precedents, and acknowledges collective traumas.

Facing History and Ourselves – Delivers classroom strategies, resources, and lessons that inspire young people to take responsibility for their world.

First Amendment Center – A nonpartisan source of information on the values of free expression and religious liberty protected by the First Amendment.

Intersections International – A New York-based global initiative dedicated to promoting justice, reconciliation, and peace across lines of faith, culture, ideology, race, class, national borders, and other boundaries that divide humanity.

Islamic Networks Group (ING) – A non-profit, educational organization that promotes religious literacy and mutual respect through on-site presentations, cultural competency seminars, and interfaith dialogues. Founded in 1993, ING and its affiliates serve communities of all faiths or none throughout the United States.

Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility – Educates young people for hopeful and intelligent engagement with their world. TeachableMoment.Org provides educators with timely teaching ideas to encourage critical thinking on issues of the day and foster a positive classroom environment. It is a project of the Morningside Center.

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University – Helps Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity through research, outreach, and the active dissemination of resources.

Project Explorer – Fosters the next generation of global citizens by encouraging awareness of the world beyond a student’s own community through the creation, production, and distribution of engaging and free multi-media educational materials (Press Release: ProjectExplorer.org Combats Growing Nationwide Anti-Muslim Sentiment: Kids educational program promotes a positive image of Middle East)

Curriculum: Controversy over the NYC Muslim Community Center & the 9/11 experience  – Teachable Moment