A Mosque at Ground Zero? Bring It On!
Score another round for the children of Allah. In New York last week, the Manhattan Community Board voted 29-1 (with 10 abstentions) in favor of a plan to build a 13-story Islamic center, complete with mosque, two blocks from Ground Zero.
The two Muslim organizations sponsoring the project have said they want to establish a world-class facility that promotes tolerance, interfaith cooperation and a moderate vision of Islam that combats the widespread notion that Muslims simply want to kill infidels and eradicate Western Civilization. (Well, those weren’t their exact words.)
The American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative bought an existing building on the site last year, and they plan to break ground for the new center later this year — assuming the project receives a final go-ahead from the city. (Some opponents of the project want to grant landmark status to the current building, which dates from before the Civil War.) A Friday prayer service has been held at the site since last September.
The proposed Cordoba House would include a performing arts space, a swimming pool, a culinary school, child care facilities and a built-in mosque. Its sponsors see the complex as the Muslim equivalent of New York’s famous 92nd Street Y, which hosts prominent speakers and welcomes visitors of all faiths. Of course, numerous other New Yorkers (not to mention Tea Party activists from around the country) see it as a willful desecration of hallowed ground — an insult to the memories of the nearly three thousand souls who perished in the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is spearheading the drive to build Cordoba House, begs to differ.
“We have condemned the terror of 9/11,” he said. “We have worked to ensure that our mosques are not recruiting grounds for terrorists.” He added that the 9/11 attacks also killed members of his own congregation and community.
“We condemn terrorists,” the Imam reiterated. “We recognize it exists in our faith, but we are committed to eradicate it,” he said. “We want to rebuild this community. This is about moderate Muslims who intend to be and want to be part of the solution.”
I’m willing to take the Imam at his word if he’s willing to deliver. As long as the proposed Cordoba House emerges as a prominent bastion of tolerance and goodwill, its presence in Lower Manhattan should go a long way toward healing the wounds of 9/11 and establishing a much-needed public platform for Islamic moderates.
I can understand the outrage of those who wish the Muslims would just go away. But I’m more than willing to support an outspoken moderate movement in the Muslim community, and the Cordoba House seems like as good a place as any to start.
What kind of message will the new center send to the outside world (and especially the Islamic world)? I suspect it depends on who’s doing the interpreting. Reasonable Muslims would view it as a symbol of our cultural tolerance and our commitment to freedom of religion. Radical Muslims would probably see it as confirmation that a degenerate America has lost its will to fight. (There’s no impressing the radicals.)
At least the perception of American goodwill might prevent thousands of Muslim youths from sliding down the well-greased chute that leads to radicalism and terrorism. Let’s hope the Imam and his partners have the courage and character to build a monument to moderation. Let’s also hope the radicals (both Muslim and anti-Muslim) don’t screw it up.