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A Mosque Near Ground Zero
Mon, 07/26/2010 - 20:00

 The increasingly heated debate over the propriety of permitting an Islamic center to be built a few blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks in Lower Manhattan, ostensibly not a Jewish issue, should sound familiar to the Jewish community. It seems to parallel the debate about a Catholic convent that was opened near Auschwitz nearly three decades ago.

Both cases pit people who put forth the claim that their religion’s edifice will be a tangible statement against the hatred that had taken lives nearby, versus those who find the building’s very presence in that place to be an affront.

Both sides can make strong cases. But the opponents of the planned Cordoba House Islamic Center, like the opponents of the Carmelite convent, deprive well-meaning representatives of other faiths — Islam in the United States, Catholicism in Poland — the opportunity to do public penance.

It is understandable that the relatives and friends of the nearly 3,000 victims — among them, Christians and Jews and Muslims — of the 2001 terrorism committed in the name of Islam should find a major Islamic presence near Ground Zero to be upsetting. Just as it makes sense that the families of Holocaust victims should object to a Catholic edifice near what became Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery during World War II.

But such opposition is shortsighted, turning away members of faiths who may be genuinely embarrassed about evil committed by people of their religion. To tell a group of nuns that their prayers are offensive is itself offensive (Poland is a majority-Catholic country, and attacks on its religion are considered attacks on the country itself), just as it is simplistic to consign any institution that bears the name Islam to the same category as the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

In recent weeks, the 13-story Cordoba House, which is to include a mosque as well as a gym and performing arts center, has attracted national attention. While leading politicians support the project, a number of journalists, Internet bloggers and civic activists are opposed. “It would be a terrible mistake to destroy a 154-year-old building in order to build a monument to terrorism,” one woman at a recent New York Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing said recently. A ruling is expected in several weeks.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Sufi leader behind the Cordoba Center, is being portrayed by some critics as suspect. They charge that he has not spoken out forcefully against terror groups like Hamas and has associated with some more radical elements of the Muslim community in the U.S. In addition, he has not disclosed the funding sources for the $100 million planned center.

But we should be particularly sensitive about charges of guilt by association. Imam Feisal has long been a bridge builder in our community, involved in interfaith dialogue for years and an outspoken advocate of integrating Islam with modern Western society to create what he calls American Islam.

While we may be uncomfortable with some of his views, we are mindful that we cannot complain about the dearth of Muslim moderates if we don’t support efforts like his to incorporate democratic values and human rights into the faith.

Cordoba, the Spanish city whose name Imam Feisal has chosen for his center, symbolizes both interfaith tolerance and intolerance. It was the home of Maimonides, the medieval Jewish philosopher, but it’s also the place he had to flee because of Muslim persecution. It’s where Jews, Christians and Muslims coexisted, but also where they turned against each other in the Inquisition and the Expulsion from Spain, and in Ferdinand and Isabella’s war against Muslims.

Americans’ reaction to the planned Cordoba House will show which vision we embrace.

Cordoba House, Ground Zero, mosque

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This is an excellent editorial, but I would like to correct something for the record. Many family members of victims of the attacks have been speaking out in favor of the Islamic Cultural Center and the proposed location. I am one of them and a member of an organization created in February 2002 by a couple of dozen victims' families called September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. We now have hundreds of members and supporters, many of whom have supported our public statements and media appearances these past few weeks. There are shades of opinion in the NY metro area about the building of Cordoba House, just as there are shades of opinion among victims' families. Many of those opposed to the project claim to do so out of respect for us, but most haven't asked a wide sample of the thousands of family members. Peaceful Tomorrows has tried for eight years to be a voice for peace, non-violence and inclusiveness. Thank you, Phyllis Schafer Rodriguez
I see even in this community a hatred for other religions. I was raised a Protestant and rejected all religion when I saw the use of religion to hate and kill. AS a US Army veteran medic, I respect any religion as long as you leave me alone, Read Keith Olbermann's Comments on this Site. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/8/19/172258/300 "They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up." Pastor Martin Niemoller
There are as many different strains of Islam as there are varieties of Jewish or Christian belief. The blanket statements about Islam and the ignorant, blind hate toward Muslims reflected in so many comments here are pushing me to get involved in the issue. So, in a way I have to thank you. New York has always welcomed people from every country, and every religion, from around the world. That's one of the reasons I'm proud to be a New Yorker. If you don't like living in a city that accepts Muslims as equals, you can always move to Wasilla, Alaska.
There are many Catholics who are recognized as among the "Righteous among the nations". A future Pope was one of these. 9/11 was done in the name of Islam, the Holocaust was done in the name of race, and actually had active support from Muslims. Fatah was founded by a man wanted by Yugoslavia to stand trial for war crimes, and he is still praised by that organization. If this is an integral part of the 9/11 site the government should purchase it. If it is not, than they can build a mosque there. The claim that a mosque makes somewhere permanently an Islamic domain is false. One of the earliest mosques in America, in Highland Park, Michigan, was later sold and became a Christian Church.
Sometimes the "other" IS indeed Evil. How soon we forget, as we cloak ourselves with high minded "ideals" that only serve to make us feel good about ourselves - not really stand for anything real. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWappeasement.htm Only 72 years ago...Evil was lurking, and few were willing to look it in the eye, call it what it was, and do what it takes to defeat it. I would wager that most Jews would not agree to call the German "other" Evil in 1938. As Islam threatens the world in so many ways - whether Iran wishing to destroy Israel, Al Qaeda the West, Hamas Israel - here we are, supporting the very core of inspiration for this ideology - the mosque. Dear G-d - please help up...
This supposedly peaceful Imam has publicly said the United States is partially responsible for the 9-11 attacks and he refuses to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization. This week he dodged questions from Forbes but did not succeed in entirely avoiding them. http://www.onejerusalem.org/2010/07/liberal-opposition-to-the-9-11.php This project is wrong and should be stopped.
Islam has a very long history, from arrogating the Kaaba, sacred to Pagans for centuries, to changing the name of the Sancta Sophia in Constantinople, whose name was changed to Istanbul, to the Hajia Sophia, to the current effort to place an Islamic center/mosque as close as possible to Ground Zero. If the true intent is to "bring people together, rather than demonstrate Islam superseding (conquering) yet another culture - ours! - to the Islamic world, that could be accomplished by constructing a "civic center" containing a Synagogue, a Church AND a mosque, along with any other cultural/religious grouping - like the Sikhs, Hindus, etc., instead of insisting on a mosque and Islamic center so close to the sacred ground that is Ground Zero. Unless and until; 1) the funding source is revealed; and 2) an ecumenical all-religion inclusive, not just a mosque, is contemplated, this effort will remain considered, rightly, an insult, not a compliment, to the people of New York in particular and America , and western culture, generally. It is one thing to bend over backwards to "be nice" it is another to be seduced into foolishness amounting to possible societal suicide in the course of trying "be nice"
Latest news: The Anti-Defamation League has come out strongly against the construction of this mosque near Ground Zero. It took them a while but politically correct nonsense seems to have been overcome. At least in this case. A mosque at or even near Ground Zero is a spit in the eye of not only the families involved, but also anyone and everyone in New York City who was either in New York at the time, all those who have visited the site almost as pilgrims, all Americans who were and are affected to this day by what happened and upon the graves of those American soldiers, both male and female, who have served in the military for the past nine years. Islam is not co-existant with any other faith. It is a part of Islamic theology that Islam must dominate all the world and all those who refuse to accept that theology must either convert (either by force or "persuasion"), leave (and if the entire world is supposedly Islamic, the question is where would they go?) or die. There is no other option. So to try to picture a theology of this nature as "peaceful", when the best way for the jihadist to get into their coveted paradise is to kill as many infidels as possible, is a very sad joke. And to construct a totem to Islam smack dab across the street from the site where Islamic nutjobs murdered innocents with happy, and in their minds, sacred abandon so they could get into their nonexistant paradise and get their alloted 72 virgins (which in itself tells one about Islamic attitudes toward women if all these excuses for "men" were and are concerned with is a particular body part without any regard for women as entire humans being with mind, feelings, rights and privileges of their own?) is almost criminally suicidal.
"we may be uncomfortable with some of his views" BUT -- why is there always a "but"? Why is there never a "therefore"? Why not say "he is a supporter of Hamas, THEREFORE we oppose him"? What's the problem dear Jewish Week editor? Or is the absence of logic, is the need to smooth the edges no matter what, to turn away from unpleasant facts that stare us in the face, the "[American] Jewish problem?" Are we going to read, two years from now, "Obama is no good BUT vote for Obama"? Can you write an editorial titled "Goody-Goodiness: our Jewish problem" to clarify the subject? What's the problem???? (for the record, here is yours truly's take on the subject, from American Thinker: "Aesop (and some others) on Ground Zero Mosque" http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/06/aesop_and_some_others_on_groun.html)
Regarding a Mosque Near Ground Zero: A comment is made that the Iman is a Sufi Moslem. If only that were true. He is a representative of the most virulent and racist form of Islam, Wahabi Islam. He has written extensively supporting Wahabi Islam. And from where, pray tell, is the money coming from for a 10 story Islamic Center in the middle of Wall Street, the most valuable property on Earth? Your analogy is a poor one. The correct analogy would be for the US in 1955 to erect a replica of the Statue of Liberty in the heart of Hiroshima or Dresden. Legal, yes but, pash-nicht!
You can march to the ovens if you wish, but I'm damned if you will take my grandsons with you. This Imam is a proponent of jihad. The editor is a fool and/or a kapo.
Are you insane? When they take hold, and since the Jewish community seems to be willing to throw themselves to the wolves they will, you will just be another casualty in the coming intifada. Convert or put your head on the chopping block. Sharia rules. Moderate Islam does not exist.
Thanks for your thoughtful discussion of what some will find a painful issue. I'm not necessarily convinced by the comparison with Auschwitz: my own belief is that the perpetrators of 9/11 were a fringe minority (although not alone) within Islam, particularly American Islam, while involvement of Catholics, or indifference by, Catholics and other Christians in the destruction wrought by the Holocaust was considerably more pervasive--although Polish Catholics were also among Nazism's victims, in a big way. However one comes out on that comparison, I agree that persons of good will, whatever their religion, should encourage the development of an American Islam committed to virtues of peace, tolerance and religious pluralism. I very much hope Cordoba House will be a constructive part of that effort, and not an occasion for unnecessary inter-religious animosity.
Not often that you read such inspired groveling.