For those who have not had access to news sources for the past few months there has been a great deal of controversy of the proposed building of a mosque next to Ground Zero in New York. The exact location is a block away from where the World Trade Center stood and houses at the moment an abandoned coat factory. One of the planes’ engines fell through the roof of this building and is apparently still lying down there in the basement.
Enter a guy called Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan who just happen to have a lot of money that they would like to build a mosque with. He will call it the Cordoba Mosque.
The project is supported by guys such as this one who refuses to see a pattern in the incessant religious justifications for acts of terrorism and, furthermore, denies the role of emotions in politics. He even claims that it is the moral duty of every man who is right in his head to support the creation of this Islamic center. I’m guessing he is either ignorant of Islamic teachings or just not a strong feminist.
Cordoba refers of course to the Spanish city where the conquering Muslims built a famous mosque on a site where there had been a Christian Visigothic church. Critics of the Ground Zero Mosque point out the tendency in Islamic history for the building of mosques on sites where they signify a conquest. The Al-Aqsa Mosque built on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, in Jerusalem is often pulled forward as a prominent example.
Another cause of concern is that Feisal Rauf denies giving any details on where his funding comes from. Since he is apparently, personally and through his family, connected to Muslim Brotherhood schools in Malaysia, that may be a possible source.
The imam claims that the purpose of building a mosque on this particular location is an attempt to foster dialogue between faiths. Comparing translations of what he says in English and what he says in Arabic, however, there has been raised some doubts about the sincerity of that assertion.
Personally I think it is extremely distasteful to build it there. As Jon Stewart of the Daily Show put it: there is a difference between ‘can’ and ‘should’. Rauf is perfectly in his right to build it. But should he?
Lots of Japanese go to Hawaii on holiday and, particularly, they go there to get married. Furthermore, plenty of Japanese servicemen died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. I can imagine several reasons for putting up a Shinto Shrine overlooking that site. However, I personally think that no Japanese would be so stupid and stubborn as to actually do it. And rightly so.
A Palestinian researcher at Cambridge University, Dr. Khaled Al-Haroub, recently wrote a comment on this issue in the PA daily Al-Ayyam. Please a read a longer excerpt at MEMRI.org. (Bonus info: he has the details of the Danish bus driver incident slightly wrong. See the video here.)
Taking legal action in pursuit of interests is a natural and usual option in the West, where the judiciary system is usually fair and is not controlled by the government. Nevertheless, it is not wise to take every issue, large or small, to the courts, and it is certainly [unwise] in the case of a marginal issue. A short-term victory in the legal arena will lead in the long run to a defeat in the cultural and political arenas. Provoking the other side will eventually create public opinion that will undermine the very laws that the Muslims evoke today. How do the Muslims benefit… from the legal victory of a nurse who does not wish work with her arms exposed, and therefore forces the health ministry to pass a new regulation [permitting her to wear disposable sleeves], when a Christian nurse loses the legal battle over the right to wear a crucifix to work…? The battle over [our] image, [namely] the cultural and political battle, is much more important [than the legal battle], for it concerns worrying phenomena like the increasing provocations, the widening circle of [our] rivals, and the growing hatred. Sometimes, the racism and xenophobia experienced by Muslims increases in exact proportion to the legal victories they achieve over marginal issues…”
The controversy over the Ground Zero Mosque has gotten both sides up in arms. Evan Kohlmann, an independent terror expert at globalterroralarm.com, which monitors Islamic web-sites says “We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup”.
If Feisal Abdul Rauf was really all about dialogue and understanding he would start by showing moderation and move his mosque. By rejecting even to discuss moving the location somewhere else he is stirring up more controversy and indeed giving al-Qaeda something to feed into their propaganda machine.
Now I ask: what way to start a dialogue is that?