The idea of a mosque being built at Ground Zero has the right foaming at the mouth. The very idea! How could Muslims be so insensitive as to try to put their 7th Century religion in view of the greatest American tragedy? Everyone from Newt Gingrich to Sarah Palin to Republican hopefuls are clamoring to denounce the Cordoba House. And late last week, the Anti-Defamation League added their voice too:
We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.
We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.
The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.
There are many emotions and few facts swirling around this argument.
First and foremost, the Cordoba House is not a mosque as Muslims generally use the term. There will be no minarets, no calls to prayer. It is a cultural center, which will include a prayer room. From their website:
This proposed project is about promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture. Cordoba House will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by Islamic values in their truest form - compassion, generosity, and respect for all.
The site will contain tremendous amounts of resources that otherwise would not exist in Lower Manhattan; a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, art exhibition spaces, bookstores, restaurants - all these services would form a cultural nexus for a region of New York City that, as it continues to grow, requires the sort of hub that Cordoba House will provide.
That sounds really insensitive, doesn't it? The Cordoba House is planned along the same lines as the nearby 92nd St Y, which offers Jewish cultural events through out the year.
Secondly, it's not at Ground Zero. It's two blocks away and the thirteen story building will be dwarfed by the 105 story Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorial and Museum that are actually being built at Ground Zero.
Thirdly, and it's embarrassing to see Americans once again championing ignorance, but Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the chairman of the Cordoba House, is a Sufi. Al Qaeda is Sunni (actually, more accurately Wahabi) and consider Sufis apostates. Al Qaeda has less tolerance for Imam Rauf than Sarah Palin, as frightening as that is to consider.
And finally, as much as it pains me to have to point out something so obvious, it was not just Christians and Jews who died on 9/11, any more than it was not just Americans. And the Muslims who live and wish to gather in New York at the Cordoba House are more than likely Americans. You know, with their Constitutionally-protected right to practice the faith of their choice. Do they not deserve a chance to heal from this tragedy as well? They must face the irrational bigotry of people like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich appealing to the lizard brains of their neighbors. The scars they have carried and the burden and suspicion they must face daily because of some fringe extremists in a faith 1.5 billion strong is a little like holding every American Christian as suspect because of the acts of Fred Phelps.
Would that these Republicans remember that.