24 Aug 2010 8:23 am   //   Filed under: In the news, New York is different

Me and the BBC

(Updated 8:19 p.m. ET) A producer from the BBC interviewed me Friday for a segment on the Islamic Center near Ground Zero. You can watch the video above or see it on the BBC News web site.

This was the latest response to my surprisingly popular “Hallowed Ground” photo essay. The BBC producer who filmed and edited this segment, Ramón J. Goni, wrote to me last week and asked if I would participate in an interview. I was impressed by his clips and his professionalism. I took Friday morning off from work to do the interview. The segment is what’s called, in BBC jargon, a “self authored” piece, in which the subject (me) talks for a few minutes without interruption. This was the best of all possible scenarios for me. I also means that where I sound unsure of myself or trip over a word, that’s exactly how it went down—it’s a very accurate edit of the interview. Ramón asked incisive questions but didn’t pressure me to say anything I didn’t mean. He asked me to walk past some of the places I photographed on the blog and say my thoughts about each one. I only declined one of his suggestions, which was to walk past an existing mosque in the neighborhood on Warren Street, which I didn’t photograph for my original post. I told him I didn’t have anything to say about it. (It’s not really my business.)

If you’re following the news, you know the New York City Muslim community center is still the story of the moment and shows no signs of simmering down. For much of today my interview has been the most-watched video on the BBC News web site. My original post has been viewed about 380,000 times. I’ve received about 250 e-mails in response to it. The overwhelming majority have been in support of my position that to disallow this Muslim center would be an unfair act of religious discrimination. I’m pretty sure my photos inspired a political cartoon. The Newsbusters blog ran one of my photos and essentially accused me of starting a talking point. Wow.

Plenty of other commentators have done a fine job of articulating a defense for religious freedom in New York City. I’m proud of everything I’ve written on this subject, and I’m ready to move on to other topics.

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