The New York City community board endorsed the Cordoba House, a community center and mosque planned for construction near Ground Zero.
Significant opposition has emerged against the project. Sarah Palin even weighed in this weekend, tweeting, “Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.”
Building a mosque near the hallowed land of Ground Zero is not illegal. There are no zoning ordinances to preclude construction of any house of worship in that area. The New York City community board endorsed the project and the Cordoba House, that once claimed only a few thousand dollars in assets, may soon proceed with a $100 million structure. Controversy in this case turns on one central point: does legality trump prudence; does ability trump suitability?
The terrorists that left a Ground Zero in their wake perpetrated a single day of murder against this country in the name of any religion unmatched in modern history. Rage against America was their motivation; a perverse read of Islam, we are told, was their inspiration. Religion was defamed at Ground Zero, and asking religion to heal itself and others together at this site seems more reasonable than asking for another mosque, temple or church in a city that has thousands. An interfaith center collaboratively built by Americans, rather than a mosque possibly funded by overseas capital, is among many suggested alternatives.
We must ask also of the interpretations of Islam that move the leaders of the Cordoba House. For any structure that would echo with the words that fed hijacker hate should never be ascribed pride of place where innocents met their gruesome fate.
Building a mosque at Ground Zero is symbolic at many levels. It is a declaration of sorts and, as we have seen, if nothing else, suggesting a mosque there will garner loads of attention. Now Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has captured the attention of our nation as the leader of the initiative. No man or mosque represents American Islam, but Imam Rauf does represent the Cordoba House–and he can do much to ease deep mistrust by speaking openly as to the Cordoba ideology.
Would the Imam repudiate an oft-quoted gaffe on Sixty Minutes where he argued that American policies were an accessory to the killing of thousands at Ground Zero? Does the Cordoba Initiative still advocate the selective introduction of Sharia laws within Muslim communities in the United States? Does Cordoba–with its strong ties and branches in Malaysia–reject that country’s history of Muslim chauvinism as a Sharia practicing country that systematically discriminates against the Hindu and Christian populations marginalizing them to second class status?
The Cordoba House may propagate its ideology–within legal bounds–from any location in New York City. In mooting a move to Ground Zero, however, the Cordoba House is courting attention–nay, even confrontation in the current context. With the focus of the country squarely upon them, whether to proffer inane platitudes of interfaith niceties or answer real questions being raised is a choice wholly belonging to that House.