The World Trade Center Memorial, the Islam Cultural Center and Carnegie Corporation of New York

Grantees in this story

In a memorandum to the Board of Trustees, Vartan Gregorian outlines the Corporation’s commitment to integrating immigrants into American society, an ideal and priority of the foundation since Andrew Carnegie founded it nearly one hundred years ago. In his memorandum, Gregorian sheds light on misconceptions and misstatements made in recent weeks in the whirlwind of debate about the proposed Islamic center—also known as Park 51—in downtown New York.

“At present, we all recognize that this is a difficult period for our nation when it appears, that once again, America is becoming a house divided,” wrote Gregorian to the Board.  “Or perhaps one would say fractured, since there are so many opinions ranging across so many different and divisive issues such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. economy, the recession, the mounting national debt, the emergence of China as a superpower, globalization, economic outsourcing, and immigration, not to mention a host of social and culture areas. But in the middle of all these heated and sometimes shrill debates, it behooves us to remember that America has always been the one true beacon of religious freedom.”

Gregorian made clear the foundation’s policies do not include supporting endowments or buildings and is not involved in the Park 51 Islam Cultural Center project being planned for downtown New York, which has been the object of great debate, and about which he said “others have already spoken with great passion and eloquence both for and against the project.”

The Corporation, as part of its national program focused on integrating new immigrants into the American fabric of social and political life, has supported the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) along with other major foundations. He describes ASMA as “an organization dedicated to interfaith dialogue and to cultivating the next generation of talented artists, writers and intellectuals whose thinking will enliven Muslim life and communities.” 

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Gregorian also reviewed the Corporation’s response to the terrorist attacks by assisting the relief efforts through grants that underlined “Carnegie Corporation’s commitment to the strength and resilience of our city, our society and our democracy.”

To read the entire Memorandum to the Board click here.