We are now in the summer of Cordoba House, the mosque near Ground Zero. It is a subject that keeps giving with every news cycle.
Cordoba House is a 15-story, $100-million development to be built just 600 feet from Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center stood. The plans include a mosque, a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, restaurant, and bookstore.
The selection of the name is significant. Raymond Ibrahim, writing at Pajamas Media, points out “Cordoba” has different meanings to Westerners and to Muslims.
In the West, the Andalusian city of Cordoba is regularly touted as the model of medieval Muslim progressiveness and tolerance for Christians and Jews. But that era ended around 1200, when the fanatical Almohids — ideological predecessors of Al Qaida — conquered the city and gave Christians and Jews “the choice of conversion, exile, or death.”
“More pointedly,” writes Ibrahim, “throughout Islam’s history, whenever a region was conquered, one of the first signs of consolidation was/is the erection of a mosque atop the sacred sites of the vanquished.” Some examples are Al Aqsa Mosque built on the Temple Mount and the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque upon the conquest of Constantinople.
Who would deny that Ground Zero is American sacred ground? Indeed, this is root cause of the controversy over the mosque.
Ibrahim’s cautions are echoed by Muslims such as Zuhdi Jasser, a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, and Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, a devout Muslim and director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington.
The proponent of Cordoba House is the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. To gain support for the project, Rauf states that it is meant to be for reconciliation and healing.
However, Rauf has made many controversial statements. Less than three weeks after 9/11 on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Rauf stated that “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened” on 9/11. On the same program he said, “Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.”
In her blog, Syrian-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan reports that in Sydney, Australia, Rauf said, “The U.S. and the West must acknowledge the harm they have done to Muslims before terrorism can end.”
Furthermore, Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombing, notes that Rauf’s book, published in America under the name What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America, was published in Malaysia as A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11.
The key word is dawa, which is the missionary work by which Islam is spread. This means not only the religion, but also the political, social, and economic system known as Sharia.
We are instructed by the usual cast of characters, headed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, joined recently by President Obama, to be tolerant of the Cordoba House mosque. Obama particularly stepped into a political hornets’ nest, waiting until an Iftar dinner at the White House marking the start of Ramadan to voice his support of the mosque. This caused such a stir that the White House subsequently had to elaborate on the president’s remarks, and then had to clarify the elaboration.
But, as Michael Goodwin points out in the New York Post, this is not about tolerance; there are mosques all over the United States and New York. It is about land use.
In the land use area, there has been discrimination — in favor of Cordoba House. Reporting for Human Events, Mark Impomeni has written about St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which once sat right across the street from the World Trade Center. The church has had trouble getting the requisite approvals because authorities did not like its 24,000-square-feet size or the height of its traditional dome.
This is an issue of not whether you can build a mosque, but whether you can build one at Ground Zero. Imagine a Japanese cultural center at Pearl Harbor or a World War II aviation museum in Dresden.
New York Gov. David Patterson has tried to broker a land swap. Goodwin notes “without even a serious conversation, [the mosque developers] rejected the offer, reinforcing suspicion that provocation to the memory of 9/11 is part of the developers’ plan.”
For me, one of the best observations was that of The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger. “[H]ere’s what’s galling about the Cordoba House affair,” he writes. “There is a sense in which these unpopular causes and people always free-ride on the rest of us who defend freedom. It would be good to see them in return doing their part to keep these principles alive, and that includes Imam Rauf’s unambiguous public support for the embattled Christian minorities in the Middle East.”
Henninger goes on to say, “[E]ven in tolerant America, political life isn’t a one-way street. Islam is in political tension with the world over Islamic terror. The next time one of them tries to blow up New York, let’s hope the TV cameras’ first stop for a denunciation won’t be the mayor, but the front steps of Cordoba House.”