Cordoba House:  Hope From the Ashes of Tragedy - updated 9/12/10

Cordoba House:  Hope From the Ashes of Tragedy

by Sheila Musaji

Note:  First published May 31, 2010 - updated and reorganized 9/4/2010

- Some articles by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
- Some articles about Imam Feisal and Daisy Khan
- Insensitivity and sacred ground
- Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry
- Civil rights, Constitution, religious freedom
- Claims about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (refusal to sign apostasy pledge, Muslim Brotherhood, U.S. foreign policy statement, stealth jihadist, secret extremist, position on Sharia, taqiyya, won’t condemn terrorism, won’t condemn Hamas, Perdana
- No mosques until churches & synagogues in Saudi Arabia
- Obama a Muslim
- Funding & finances
- Security, America’s image, war on Islam


The terrorist act that brought down the World Trade Center in NYC on 9/11/2001 was a terrible tragedy for all Americans of whatever religion.  There were 2,749 victims, including 320 foreign nationals from more than 90 countries who died on 9/11.

The victims were not identified by religion (although there are 250 whose religion is named), but no ethnicity, race, or religion was spared.  You can click here for a list of all of these innocent victims.  There have been some who have tried to estimate how many from a particular community died that day.  For example, after insane claims were made that Jews were forwarned and so did not die in the attack, some attempted to estimate the number of Jewish victims.  One site estimated that Jews accounted for 10 to 18% of victims (based on number of Jews among those victims of the 250 whose religion is named), and they come up with an estimated number of 324 Jews.

One article written soon after 9/11 noted:  “The communications director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee [ADC], Hussein Ibish, said more than 200 Arab Americans worked in the World Trade Center and many of them were killed ...  Several hundred people from predominantly Muslim countries could have perished in the attacks, according to a report by the French news agency, Agence France-Presse [AFP].  Bangladesh told AFP that at least 50 of its citizens are missing and presumed dead.  Egypt said four of its citizens are missing and feared dead.  Lebanon said two of its citizens are confirmed dead and two others are missing.  Pakistan said one of its nationals is confirmed dead but the figure is certain to rise because around 650 Pakistanis worked in the World Trade Center.  Turkey told AFP that 131 Turks are missing.”

A partial list of Muslim 9/11 victims was published by one site.  This list included Salman Hamdani, about whom the article says “the 23-year-old New York City police cadet who was a part-time ambulance driver, incoming medical student, and devout Muslim.  When he disappeared on September 11, law enforcement officials came to his family, seeking him for questioning in relation to the terrorist attacks.  They allegedly believed he was somehow involved.  His whereabouts were undetermined for over six months, until his remains were finally identified.  He was found near the North Tower, with his EMT medical bag beside him, presumably doing everything he could to help those in need.  His family could finally rest, knowing that he died the hero they always knew him to be.”

There were certainly Muslim victims.  The exact number is unknown, but many have estimated about 300 Muslims who died on 9/11.  In this tragedy as well as in many past historical events, Muslims are a part of America.  Muslims were also first responders, and Muslims were just as terrorized by this attack as any other Americans. 

Muslims have clearly and regularly denounced terrorism generally, and denounced specific instances of terrorism, including 9/11.  Their voices are simply drowned out by those who see Islam as a monolith and Muslims as something like the Borg, not individual human beings.

It is a shame that I need to open this article with yet more “proof” that Americans who happen to be Muslims are a part of America, and that building a cultural center and a mosque near the former WTC is not some nefarious scheme to take over America.  This is exactly the scenario that is now playing itself out in NYC.


Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan want to build an Islamic Cultural Center with many facilities including a mosque, two blocks away from the location of the 9/11 tragedy, on a site which was vacant and shuttered for 9 years until they purchased it, and where 500 worshippers already hold Friday prayers.  There are still many shuttered and vacant buildings in this Tribeca area.  The Center would be called Cordoba House, and the facilities would be a gathering place for the entire downtown community - local residents, tourists, people who work nearby -  open to all, Muslims and non-Muslims and providing important services to the entire community.  The project will be a collaboration between the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative.  Visit their websites and see for yourself what these organizations stand for.

The Cordoba Initiative site states the reasons for wanting to accomplish this task as

Cordoba House is a Muslim-led project which will build a world-class facility that promotes tolerance, reflecting the rich diversity of New York City.  The center will be community-driven, serving as a platform for inter-community gatherings and cooperation at all levels, providing a space for all New Yorkers to enjoy.  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, , library, a fitness center, public conference rooms, a basketball court, 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.

The director of the mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Fatima Shama told the New York Times: ‘We as New York Muslims have as much of a commitment to rebuilding New York as anybody.’ 


The Cordoba Initiative is a multi-faith organization whose objective is to heal the relationship between the Islamic World and America. Working through civil dialogue, policy initiatives, education, and cultural programs, the Initiative focuses on Thought, Action and Outcomes.  The story behind Cordoba ... For hundreds of years during the Middle Ages, Cordoba was the capital of Muslim Spain. During its “golden age” from the 8th to 12th centuries, the Cordoba Caliphate witnessed a great flowering of culture, art, and philosophical inquiry amid a remarkable climate of religious tolerance. Religious freedom, although not perfect, was sufficient that many Jewish and Christian intellectuals were attracted to Cordoba, where they lived, wrote and flourished side by side with their Muslim counterparts in a strikingly pluralistic society. The largest of Cordoba’s 70 libraries was believed to contain 400,000 volumes, making it vastly larger than anything else in Europe at the time. 

Update 7/18/10:  It has been announced that the project has changed its’ name from Cordoba House to Park 51.  It is a shame that the organizers of this project feel the need to buckle to pressure in this way.

See also:  Charlton Heston’s ‘El Cid’: A Hero for Our Time , David Shasha - Mosque’s Name (Cordoba) Isn’t Code for Islamic Conquest, Christa Brown  - When the Moors ruled Spain VIDEO - ANDALUSIA: Finally remembering centuries of Muslims, Jews, Christians thriving together, Len Traubman  - The Gifts of Al-Andaluz VIDEO  - Restoring the Andalusian-Arabic Tradition in Western Civilization: An Homage to Maria Rosa Menocal, David Shasha  - The Muslim Expulsion from Spain:  An Early Example of Religious and Ethnic Cleansing, Roger Boase  - The Expulsion of Muslims from Spain, Prof. T.B. Irving  - Convivencia or Anti-Semitism?  The Iberian Paradigm of Tolerance and the Slippery Slope of Jewish Revisionary Self-Hatred, David Shasha

The organizers of this project (and the entire Muslim community in North America) are being maligned.  It would be understandable if people were asking to know something about Imam Feisal and Daisy Khan and whether or not they were traditional, mainstream Muslims or were extremists.  These are individuals who are part of organizations actively working to counter extremism, and Imam Feisal is the Imam of a local mosque, Masjid al Farah (which is nearby in Tribeca and known to many Muslims as the “happy mosque”).  Masjid al Farah lost many of its members on 9/11.  They have been active community members in NYC for many years, so checking out their bona fides is a very simple matter. 

What we are seeing is very little of this sort of reasonable concern to know who the neighbors might be, but a blizzard of bigotry that paints all Muslims and the entire religion of Islam as being evil.  Here are the sort of statements being made:

an outrage, “Spitting in the Face of Everyone Murdered on 9/11”, the “Cordoba Initiative,” name itself is called “a full affront to Americans”,  “a 13 story monument to the 9/11 Muslims who hijacked those 4 airliners”, “it mocks the dead”, “soft jihad”,  “a real finger-in-the-eye to the families of those who died that awful day – and to the nation”,  “a slap in the face”, “despicable and atrocious”, “I presume that these people aren’t going to be gathering there to plan another attack”,  “offensive”, a “great insult”, “insensitivity to the families of the victims”, “grotesque and repulsive”, “ominous”, “a mosque, the place where jihadis go for spiritual sustenance”, “a decisive victory over the infidels in Islam’s march to establish its ultimate goal: the submission of all others to Islam and to Sharia Law”, a “shrine to the moongod cult”, like “building a German cultural centre at Auschwitz”, “the next phase of the invasion. First you bomb and then you occupy”, “adding insult to agony”, “Any decent American, Muslim or otherwise, wouldn’t dream of such an insult. It’s a stab in the eye of America.”, “Muslims “a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god”, a “sick joke”, “is this the equivelant (sic) to a dog marking it’s territory?”, a vile abomination, an occasion “to celebrate the murder of 3,000 Americans by Muslims on 9/11/01 by installing a mosque near Ground Zero as Islam’s way of claiming victory over America”,  an incubator of the ideology that drove people to suicide-attack the towers in the first place”,  “Why not just put up a flashing neon sign saying, ‘Terrorists Welcome!’” “hypocritical, sacrilegious, and dangerous”,  a “handy meeting place for future terrorists”,  a “constant reminder of the evil Islam is capable of”, “another 9/11 horror, an “obscene gesture to appeasement”, “outrageous, a better place would be Guantanamo”“Why Not Build a Memorial to Hitler in New York City’s Crown Heights?”, a “Confrontational Islamist Plan”, an Islamic mosque “waving a red flag of hate to all Americans”,  “an insulting flag of conquest of Islamic supremacism”, something that “can only be viewed as a symbol of Islamic conquest on American shores”, a Trojan horse, “a wonderful idea along the same lines as that mosque at Ground Zero thing… a nice, shiny new U.S. Military Base on the smoldering ruins of Mecca”, “triumphalist” .

These statements do not show a reasonable concern about who these particular Muslims are, but a display of hatred towards all Muslims and the entire religion of Islam.  This is an outcome of the vicious what everyone “knows” demonization of Islam industry. 

Where might such attitudes lead, particularly when they go unchallenged?  One member of the community board that approved the initial proposal has reported that “Following the meeting, I was disappointed but not surprised to find that thousands of people took to the internet to leave comments of resentment and in some cases threats of violence against the Cordoba House and the members of the community board.  It’s clear that adverse sentiment exists regarding the project, but not a single dissenter bothered to show up to the public meeting to let their opinions be known. These “emphatic” dissenters prefer, instead, to lurk anonymously and cowardly within the confines of the internet. Or can not be bothered to form an opposing view point until a reporter contacts them for comment.”

As Kamran Pasha noted “So when a progressive Muslim group like the Cordoba Initiative arises, its existence is problematic for the black-and-white worldview of the Islamophobes. When a Muslim group stands tall and says it rejects terrorism and wants to create an Islamic Center dedicated to building bridges of love and community between people of faiths, its existence provokes outrage. For the very presence of a progressive, peaceful mosque near Ground Zero invalidates the claim by both the Muslim fanatics and their mirror images among the anti-Muslim bigots that America and Islam are enemies.”

Bigotry is expected from known Islamophobes like Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Debbie Schlussel, etc.  Geller and Spencer are in fact organizing protests against the building of the community center.

But, when Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (a well known Rabbi who regularly appears on Oprah) posts an article in the Jerusalem Post which makes the same assumptions - that hurts, and it also raises serious concerns about the depth of this anti-Muslim sentiment.  It may be naive of me to expect that clergypeople would not engage in this sort of anti-Muslim rhetoric, as we have seen a great many examples of such rhetoric in the past few years.


Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is the Imam of a NYC mosque that is closest to this site.  He, along with his wife, Daisy Khan are directors of the Cordoba Initiative and the ASMA Society.  Imam Feisal is also an Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at St. Joseph’s College’s Brooklyn Campus in Brooklyn, and has featured columns on the Huffington Post and On Faith.  He has published books and written hundreds of articles which clearly explain his views.  As a respected Imam and religious scholar in the Muslim community, Imam Feisal has been at the forefront of efforts to counter radicalization, to promote interfaith dialogue, and to counter extremist interpretations of Islam.  He has been crystal clear in his condemnation of all terrorism.  I find it more than puzzling that because he has also attempted to understand “why” some Muslims are prone to radicalization, “why” America’s image abroad has been tarnished, and because he has noted that American foreign policy may have also contributed to a climate in which anger towards particular policies may be exploited he has been attacked as an extremist.

The Women"s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) is one of the programs of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and the Cordoba Initiative (CI). ASMA aims to elevate the discourse on Islam and foster environments in which Muslims thrive through interfaith collaboration, youth and women"s empowerment, and arts and cultural exchange. The Cordoba Initiative works to improve relations between the Muslim World and the West by offering innovative, viable, and sustainable solutions with concrete outcomes. The mission of WISE is to build a cohesive, global movement of Muslim women that will reclaim women"s rights in Islam, enabling them to make dignified choices and fully participate in creating just and flourishing societies.  One of WISE’s ongoing efforts is the Jihad Against Violence Campaign.


Imam Feisal and Daisy Khan have both been interviewed by many news sources about this plan.  Here are a few quotes “from the horses mouth” about their view of why they want to undertake this project, and why they believe it is important:

Imam Feisal:  “There’s nothing like this that we know of in the United States.  This will be a community center for everyone, not just for Muslims, but non-Muslims.  ...  It’s about building an American Islamic identity, because we have second-, third-generation Muslims who don’t feel they are part of (the country).  The complaint throughout the years has been: ‘Where’s the voice of the moderate Muslims?’” Rauf said. “Well, here we are.”

Daisy Khan  “The center will “serve as a major platform for amplifying the silent voice of the majority of Muslims who have nothing to do with extremist ideologies.  It will counter the extremist momentum.  ...  three hundred of the victims were Muslim, that’s 10 percent of the victims.” “We are Americans too. The 9/11 tragedy hurt everybody including the Muslim community.”

Imam Feisal “This space [Ground Zero] has very powerful symbolism in the perception of the world.  It is important for us to be stakeholders in what this symbolism means.  What better place to show that we, as Muslims, condemn the acts of 9/11 than making this stand and making this statement here. When we say it here, we will be heard.”

Daisy Khan “It will have a real community feel, to celebrate the pluralism in the United States, as well as in the Islamic religion.  It will also serve as a major platform for amplifying the silent voice of the majority of Muslims who have nothing to do with extremist ideologies. It will counter the extremist momentum.” 

Daisy Khan  “We have a vision that is opposite the vision of the extremists.  We want to be a driving force for the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.”

Daisy Khan  “The whole purpose of the project is to create peace and harmony between our faith and tradition and also to provide a much-needed community space for Lower Manhattan.  It’s a center that will become a platform for the silent majority of Muslims whose voices do not get heard. It will show the true face of who Muslims are.  Ultimately a center like this will become a counter against Muslim extremism. We’re taking the tragedy of 9/11 and from the ashes of that, building a better place from that, a place that will celebrate co-existence, a place that will be open to everyone.”

See also articles by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf:

a whole collection of Imam Feisal’s articles on the Washington Post’s On Faith Blog can be found at 
A Call to Bridge the Abrahamic Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, a sermon at al-Farah Mosque, on September 6, 2002 .  This sermon was delivered just a few blocks away from Ground Zero in the presence of more than a dozen Christian and Jewish religious leaders who also offered brief remarks about the need to create bridges of understanding.  I believe that this expresses the Imam’s views very clearly.
A Call to Conscience and a Reminder to the Muslims, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Censoring Moderates Fuels Radicals
Center an attempt to prevent the next 9/11, Feisal Abdul Rauf
Conflicting cultural norms require respect, restraint
Religion Must Be Part of Afghan Solution
Religious communities must be engaged in foreign policy
Religions power to shape policy
Response to the Foiled New York Terror Plot
Rethinking Sudan: Problems Remain but There are Opportunities for the US-Sudan Relationship 
Senseless shootings violate Islamic faith
Sharing the core of our beliefs, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Six Lashes for Drinking Beer?
What is the Contribution of Religions Toward Peace?, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf 

See also articles about Imam Feisal and Daisy Khan:

‘Ground Zero’ Imam: ‘I Am a Jew, I Have Always Been One’, Jeffrey Goldberg 
Ground Zero Mosque: Extremist ‘Pilgrimage’ Destination? An Interview With Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf , Joseph Ward III 
Imam At Center Of ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Controversy Assisted Bush-Era State Department With Outreach To Muslims , Jason Linkins
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf Speaks out against terrorist attacks in London
Imam Feisal Rauf, the Washington Times, and the Global Peace Festival, Richard Bartholomew
Imam Feisal and former Archbishop Lord Carey Call for Calm after Offensive Danish Cartoons 
ImamFeisal Rauf: Ground Zero’s lightning rod, Paul Harris
In some ways Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is Arabic for Shirley Sherrod, Jay Bookman In some ways, ‘Feisal Abdul Rauf’ is Arabic for ‘Shirley Sherrod’
Interview with Sharif El Gamal - the developer, Aziz Poonawalla
Interview with Daisy Khan, Sally Quinn
Interview with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf by Naseeb Vibes - Toleration as a Hallmark
Daisy Khan and Joy Levitt interviewed by Christiane Amanpour  and
Daisy Khan epitomizes Islam’s modernizing voice
Parsing the Record of Feisal Abdul Rauf, Anne Barnard
Who is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf?


Karen Armstrong on the mosque controversy (VIDEO) 

Mayor Bloomberg has consistently been the strongest voice among America’s political leadership speaking out bravely and standing for the Constitution and religious freedom.  He said “Anybody who wants to build a house of worship in this city, we’d love to do it,” he said. “They have to comply with the zoning laws. In this case, I think the community board’s already been consulted and they overwhelmingly like the idea.” 6/10   Mayor Bloomberg has just reminded us all of what is special about our country, the United States.  His speech is a must read for anyone who loves America and honors its’ founding principles.  8/3/10 Full text of Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks at Iftar dinner here 8/24/10

Rev.  Dr. Joan Brown Campbell former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ said: “Building so close is owning the tragedy. It’s a way of saying: ‘This is something done by people who call themselves Muslims. We want to be here to repair the breach, as the Bible says.’”

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist supports the center.

Democrats who have spoken out in support are listed here.  It is heartening to know that some politicians remember that they represent all of the people, unlike those who are using this controversy for political gain.

Dick Durbin supports the center.

Sen. Orrin Hatch stands up for center  

Interfaith statement A Jew, Catholic and Muslim say we must support the center.  Father Brian Jordan, Richard Shierer and Muhammed Luquman said ... We are deeply concerned that the Islamic religion is being repudiated not only in New York City but also throughout our great nation. Our Founding Fathers, who secured the Bill of Rights, included the freedom of religion among the panoply of American basic freedoms. Freedom of religion is for all faith traditions - including Islam, which more than a billion peace-loving people around the world and millions of Americans practice.    Recall our nation’s checkered history with religious bigotry. In the mid-19th century, the Know Nothing Party condemned Catholicism and its clergy as papists and a threat to American nativism. During the early-to-mid 20th century, the Ku Klux Klan excoriated and ostracized Jews and Blacks as both undermining the foundation of a White Protestant America. We are tremendously saddened to hear from many American Catholics, Christians and Jews who leap with ignorance to condemn Islam in 21st century America.  ...  After a careful period of inquiry, we have discovered that the particular proposed development in question is based on the spirit of peaceful co-existence with other faith traditions. (And: It happens not to be a “mosque,” as many are calling it, but a multi-purpose cultural center; even if it were a mosque, however, it would be an institution to welcome, not fear.)  We know for a fact that it will not advocate nor will tolerate any hate-filled language against the United States nor any particular religion such as Judaism or Christianity. 5/23/10

Interfaith group formed - Religious Freedom Over Fear, a new interfaith group seeks to protect all Americans’ right to religious freedom, and is focusing its efforts specifically on Park51.  8/4/10

Interfaith  Los Angeles faith leaders announce support.  8/20/10

An interfaith coalition has announced a Freedom of Religion Rally for September 11, 2010 - Washington DC - Freedom Plaza -  2 to 3 p.m..  Full information about the rally here

Interfaith Rally for Religious Freedom on September 12, 2010 called Liberty Walk in NYC.  More information here  9/6/10

An interfaith effort in support of the center has been established Stop The War on Prayer.  Many of the nations most prominent faith leaders are part of []this campaign[/url].  Go to the site to sign their statement.  8/23/10

Interfaith Petition - “To Bigotry No Sanction, to Persecution No Assistance” by MA interfaith leaders.  9/2/10

Jewish vigil held in NYC supporting the center.  8/5/10
Joe Klein in Time said “It seems to me that Rod Dreher is quite wrong in opposing the plans to build a mosque on the site of the World Trade Center in New York. It is precisely the right thing to do. It signals American strength and freedom, our national celebration of ethnic and religious diversity. It is an instant, international symbol that mocks the closed, vicious religious insanity of the terrorists who took the buildings down. Dreher worries about the families of those who lost their lives that day; I would expect that they will accept this, among the many other memorials on the site, as part of their loved ones’ legacy—a renewed national sense of what this country stands for, and what it stands against.” 5/28/10

Jewish Seminarians Praying With Their Feet at Park51. over forty students, staff, and faculty from Hebrew Union College – New York walked with signs of support, yarmakules, prayer shawls, and ceremonial rams horns from our campus on West Fourth Street to the Park51 community center.  8/31/10
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer said “In fact, these opponents do have a problem, which is why their tactics smack of the red baiting of the McCarthy-era paranoia.. There is simply no support for their claims in Imam Rauf’s own words or work. An Egyptian American , Feisal Abdul Rauf has been Imam of Masjid al-Farah in New York City’s Tribeca district since 1983. In 1997 he founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a civil society organization aimed at promoting positive engagement between American society and American Muslims. In many books, articles, and public initiatives, he and his wife Daisy Khan have been tireless in their efforts to help create and represent an Islam that understands and incorporates what is best about America.  To my sensibility, the image of a Muslim community center going up in lower Manhattan is a sign of hope, a very real manifestation of faith in the future of America and of Islam. If you disagree, let’s talk about what it means to build positive messages on complicated sacred ground. As a rabbi, I look forward to finding ways for American Jews to partner with American Muslims in building the kind of pluralistic society in which we all can flourish. But let’s keep the character assassination out of it.”

Rabbi Michael Lerner spoke out against ADL for opposing Mosque  

Bruce Maiman was one of the first to speak up.

NYC politicians gathered to denounce Tea Party leader Mark Williams and support a mosque and community center planned near ground zero. “ The politicians were responding to Williams’ blog rant against the mosque Wednesday, in which he said Muslims worshipped a “monkey god.”    “His spewing of racial hatred reminds me…of Adolph Hitler,” Borough President Scott Stringer said at Thursday’s press conference. “We reject him. We reject his bigotry.”    Stringer and other politicians stood together outside the former Burlington Coat Factory building on Park Place, where the Cordoba Initiative hopes to build a $100 million, 13-story community center with Islamic, interfaith and secular programming, similar to the 92nd Street Y.    ...  “This is precisely where this kind of center for peace and place of worship should rise up,” City Comptroller John Liu said.    In addition to Liu and Stringer, State Sen. Daniel Squadron, City Councilwoman Margaret Chin and Councilman Robert Jackson, the Council’s sole Muslim, all spoke in favor of the plans.” 5/21/10

NYC Community Board overwhelmingly approved the proposal and called it “A Seed Of Peace’ (VIDEO) 5/26/10

The NYC Landmarks Board voted unanimously to reject landmark status for a building near the World Trade Center site.  8/3/10

The NYC Bar Association has come out in support of the Cordoba House project.  8/20/10

Pres. Obama suggests approval of Cordoba House project in a speech at White House Iftar dinner and sets off another firestorm of Islamophobic ranting. 8/15/10

The Port Authority Police Benevolent Association has issued a statement about the politicizing of 9/11:  “The Port Authority Police Benevolent Association has heard from some of its 9/11 families who are opposed to using the events of September 11, 2001 for political gain. Rick Lazio should stop exploiting the worst day in New York history for the sake of his campaign. For any candidate for public office to politicize Ground Zero shows a lack of respect to the families, who will forever live with the terrible memory of that dark day. It seems to me, that for the sake of politics, Rick Lazio is willing to use scare tactics. This conduct forsakes the memory of all those who lost their lives on September 11th,” said PAPBA President Paul Nunziato, who noted 37 members of the Port Authority PBA were killed in the line of duty on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center.” 7/22/10

New York Neighbors for American Values, a new coalition of more than 40 interfaith and community groups has been formed, and they will hold a press conference on 8/25 to announce their support of the Cordoba House/Park 51 project.  8/24

Ted Olson, Former Bush Solicitor General And Husband Of 9/11 Victim, Backs Obama On ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ 

Ron Paul supports the center.

Joshua Stanton In Tikkun said

”... Muslims want to stand with the city and the United States against the thugs. Just imagine! This center will be a historical step forward for indigenous American Islam. This is America, and American Muslims will make their own way! ... 
Core advisers to the Muslim Cultural Center come from different Jewish Community Centers; the American Society for Muslim Advancement and Cordoba Initiative – the organizations co-sponsoring the center – are leaders in interfaith engagement; and within the very blueprints for the Cordoba House exist plans for a conference center intended to welcome non-profits from all religious traditions.    In my view, the Muslim Cultural Center will be the greatest threat to the religious extremists who conducted the attacks on the World Trade Center. The center will be a base from which to combat destructive ideologies wherever they originate – not with bombs, but with better ideas and more successful programs. It is shaping up to be a place where the voice of mainstream American Islam will be articulated and heard around the globe.    In his book, What’s Right With Islam is What’s Right With America, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, one of the central leaders involved in envisioning the Muslim Community Center, explains that “Religion is about connecting humanity with God.” The genius of the American religious scene – at its best – is that believers may practice without maligning those who observe other traditions or choose not to partake in religion at all. The Cordoba Initiative and American Society for Muslim Advancement may well be setting the new benchmark for religion in America.”

The Villager editorial said

“We’re having trouble understanding the hyperbolic outrage over the plan to open a community center and mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center. There has been a mosque in Tribeca four blocks away since before 9/11 and we’ve heard no objections to it, nor have we noticed any problems there.  So two blocks is an outrage, but four blocks is appropriate. Is three in the permissible zone for this misguided group of protesters in the media and on Facebook, or should the Islamic-free area they apparently desire extend another block?  ...  One of the reasons Cordoba House’s privately owned building, to be built on the site of the old Burlington Coat Factory at 45 Park Place, supposedly should not house a mosque is that 9/11 debris hit the existing building. Well, W.T.C. dust also blew across the East River, so will the next move of the opponents be a call to padlock all of the mosques in northwest Brooklyn?”

Rabbi Bruce Warshal [url=]spoke in support.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow [url=] spoke in support.

God bless those who have come forward to stand for justice.  I can only pray that many more will come forward, particularly in the interfaith community.


Note:  so many POLITICIANS have jumped on the Islamophobia bandwagon that their remarks can be found in a separate section HERE.  So many Christian clergy and organizations have made anti-Muslim statements that their remarks can be found HERE

The ADL’s Abe Foxman has weighed in against the Cordoba House.  Please see our article on this development which will be regularly updated.  The ADL redefines its mission statement 8/1/10 Abe Foxman has now denounced the SIOA plans for an anti-mosque rally on 9/11 as “un-American” but Alex Kane notes ADL condemns the very ‘anti-Muslim sentiment’ it contributes to.  Daniel Schultz call’s Foxman’s statements “Irrational Or Bigoted”

Gary Bauer Officially Declares “Mosque Exclusion Zone” to Be 1.7 Miles

Anne Bayefsky of the Hudson Institute claims that the Cordoba Initiative is Part of an Iranian Plot, Eli Clifton  

Glenn Beck Beck has referred to the planned community center as the “9-11 mosque,” called it an “actual danger,” and suggested that it is an “Allah tells me to blow up America mosque.”  Beck called for a litmus text to prove the organizers moderation.  Philip Smucker noted that this sounds like the Spanish Inquisition, American-style.  Ben Stein notes that Glenn Beck, Imam Rauf Both Denounced Radical Islam In 2006 (VIDEO) when Beck appeared to call Rauf a “good Muslim”.  Beck asked, “[A]fter you’ve killed 3,000 people, you’re going to now build your mosque?”  Beck smears Rauf with falsehoods, innuendo and hypocrisy.  Beck falsely claims that Imam Rauf’s wife said “all Americans hate Muslims”  Attacking Muslims in vogue again among conservatives

Neil Boortz said that Park51 was “being built to commemorate a great victory over the United States on 9-11” 

called the plan to build the center “inflammatory”, “provocative”, “the height of insensitivity”, “outright provocation”, “a giant Islamic shrine”, and he called ground zero “the resting place of 3000 innocent Americans who were murdered by Islamic terrorists.”  How could the good Rabbi participate in this exercise in generalization and stereotyping of all Muslims?  Is he joining the baying chorus of wolves who insist - that Islam itself is the problem, that all Muslims are somehow implicated and tarnished by the actions of any Muslim, that every mosque is teaching extremism and terrorism, that no Muslim can be trusted, that the 300 Muslims who were also victims of the attack don’t count?  Does “never again” apply to Muslims also? 

Steven Emerson is supposed to be releasing audio tapes of Imam Feisal that will be “explosive”.  This was announced by Pamela Geller.  8/20/10   Richard Bartholomew asks the question  what ever happened to those tapes?  Bartholomew debunks Emerson’s claims 9/5/10
Joseph Farah of WND describes construction of cultural center as an act of terrorism  

Frank Gaffney has published an over the top Islamophobic rant calling the proposed center “a durable, symbolic taunt by our enemies about their bloody victory”, which is “designed to be a permanent, in-our-face beachhead for Shariah, a platform for inspiring the triumphalist ambitions of the faithful and eroding resistence to their demands for separate and (for the moment, at least) equal treatment in America.”  He also uses all the tired cliches - taqiyya, stealth jihad, etc.  7/22/10 Frank Gaffney who stated that the left and Islamists are both “advancing the takedown of America”  is deeply involved in stirring up passions.  His Center for Security Policy is the owner of the Stop the 911 mosque website of the Coalition to Honor Ground Zero.  8/24/10 - Anti-Mosque Coalition’s Website Owned By Neo-Conservative Islamophobe Frank Gaffney 

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer engage in some serious fear and loathing in their continuing attacks on Cordoba House.  Geller also appeared on an RT News program to debate Robert Salaam on the Cordoba House.  The video of the confrontation and Robert Salaam’s excellent commentary can be viewed here.  6/9/10 Geller falsely claims Imam Rauf made comment blaming “the Jews” for 9-11.  Daniel Burke calls Geller Queen of Muslim Bashers.  Shahed Amanullah vs Pamela Geller on BBC radio  - Suhail Khan exposes Pam Geller and other insane Muslim haters on the Rachel Maddow program! 

Beth Gilinsky, a pro-settler organizer was the organizer of this most recent protest.  M.J. Rosenberg has an interesting expose Why The Lobby Needs To Pull Plug On Anti-Muslim Hatefest.  This protest was so hateful that Even Pamela Geller denied any involvement or even knowledge that the event would happen.  8/23/10

Sean Hannity falsely claims Imam Rauf wants to “shred our Constitution”.  Hannity distorts Rauf’s words to fearmonger about Sharia law  

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Opponent Of Cordoba House Is Building A Museum On Top Of A Muslim Cemetery In Jerusalem.  TAM has discussed this here 

Jet Angel Ad Agency’s owner, Arye Sachs has donated two missiles to use in protests against the Cordoba House.  You can see photo’s here

Bill Keller a televangelist, announced plans[/url] to build a Christian Center in the same area.  According to Keller “Rather than a [protest] event we’re going to have an ongoing work of God right there because the Bible says you combat the darkness with the light.”  Richard Bartholomew has more on Keller here.  7/18/10 He has begun preaching at this center 9/5/10

Brian Kilmeade blames anti-Muslim rage in Tennessee on Muslims in New York.  Kilmeade asks if “Islamic community” is “gloating” by building Islamic community center near Ground Zero  

Charles Krauthammer is opposed to the project  

The Landmarks Hearing became an ugly Muslim baiting session.  7/13/10

Rush Limbaugh calls Islamic cultural center “a victory monument at Ground Zero” 

Bill O’Reilly launches whinefest when NYC mosque bashers get called out for their bigotry. Then Rove compares Muslims to neo-Nazis, David Neiwert -  O’Reilly pushes fake controversy over Imam Rauf’s 9-11 comments, says “he is no friend to America”  - O’Reilly claims “there isn’t any anti-Muslim sentiment, if you look at the stats”

Marty Peretz of The New Republic wonders whether or not Muslims are unworthy of “The Privileges Of The First Amendment”

San Diego radio station KFMB is currently hosting a poll on its homepage asking its listeners whether the U.S. should “register” Muslims in a “national database” during “a time of war”

Michael Savage said  “They’re building a mosque at the site of one of their military victories”

Walid Shoebat, a professional Islamophobe and liar has insinuated himself into the Cordoba House/Park 51 controversy.  He falsely claims that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wrote of a “Judenrein” Israel.  He also made false claims about Imam Abdul Rauf saying one thing in English and another in Arabic.

SIOA Protest About 1,000 people turned out for a protest against the Cordoba House organized by SIOA (Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer) on June 6th.  All sorts of inflated numbers have been thrown around for the total number of protestors - hundreds of thousands, two million, etc.  Ben Dimiero dissected these claims very well.  As he notes about Pamela Geller’s “count” - “It isn’t a good sign for the reliability of your numbers when you throw out three conflicting estimates in the same post. In the headline, Geller cites the crowd as “Upwards of Eight Thousand.” In the post itself, she says that she and Robert Spencer “were expecting 500,” but they were pleased when “close to 5,000 showed up.” She also says “some estimates ranged as high as 10,000.” Which estimates? Well, she doesn’t tell us, probably because had she linked to an actual news outlet’s estimate, it would have ruined her fantasy.”  The police needed to rescue two Christian Arabs who had come to join the protest, when the protestors heard them speaking Arabic and thought they were Muslims.  Richard Barthomemew did an excellent review of statements made by Pamela Geller at the rally.  6/6/10 See also:  Would Stop the Judaization of America (SJOA) Be Appropriate?, Loonwatch.   

The SIOA Stop the Islamization of America rally planned by Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller for 9/11/10 has announced that Geert Wilders will attend and speak.  8/6/10 -  9/11 Families Ask Mosque Protesters Not to Rally on Anniversary.  Pamela Geller however refuses to be sensitive to their feelings which is odd for someone who has spoken so loudly about the need for Muslims to be sensitive.  Even Abe Foxman of the ADL has denounced this planned rally as “un-American”.

Tea Party - There have been a number of chronologies or timelines about this controversy, but Ahmed Rehab has just published an interesting chronology of the development of the various arguments that have been made against Cordoba House/Park 51.  He includes an email published on the Tea Party site that seems to reveal the real reason behind this anti-Muslim hysteria.  8/28/10

Cal Thomas has come out in opposition with some attacks on Imam Feisal

Some Unions have said they will refuse to work on building the center 

US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).  Mother Jones ran a very interesting article “Ground Zero Mosque” Foes Bankrolled By Feds by Rick Baumann and David Corn discussing USCRIF’s role in this controversy.  8/23/10 In yesterday’s update we noted that there were problems with the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).  Now, there is more.  David Corn notes that Leonard Leo, the Chairman of the USCRIF “when not overseeing this religious freedom commission, is a director of Liberty Central, a Tea Party-related group that is energetically opposing the Cordoba House project.”  “This week, the Liberty Central home page is promoting as its top “take action” priority opposing the “Ground Zero Mosque.” The group is mounting an electronic petition drive against the Islamic cultural center, decrying the project as “a strategic move to slap the face of Americans.”  Steve Clemons has an article which suggests that it is time to pull the plug on the USCIRF due to the problems with its members  8/24 See also:  Pull the Plug on US Commission on International Religious Freedom USCRIF?, Steve Clemons   ‘Ground Zero Mosque’: A Conservative Undermines His Own Crusade, David Corn


In an article The case for a mosque near Ground Zero, two mothers of 9/11 heroes (Talat Hamdani and Adele Welty) argue for a Muslim center there.  Hamdani is mother of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, an NYPD cadet killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Welty is mother of Timothy Welty, a firefighter killed on Sept. 11.

Lynn Rasic, a spokeswoman for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum said, “The idea of a cultural centre that strengthens ties between Muslims and people of all faiths and backgrounds is positive.” She describes Imam Feisal as having built a career preaching tolerance and interfaith understanding. 

Peaceful tomorrows 9/11 Families Group Announces Support for Islamic Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan

See also: - 9/11 Families Group Announces Support for Islamic Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan - 30 mosques in 30 states for Ramadan 2010 - 9/11 Families Speak Out on Ground Zero Muslim Center  and - Judith Keane who lost her husband,0,7313519.story  - For families of Muslim 9/11 victims, a new pain  - Not all 9/11 families oppose the mosque  - 9/11 victims’ families group opposes anniversary mosque rallies


Cordoba Initiative and the Muslim Community are INSENSITIVE TO AMERICA’S FEELINGS ABOUT THIS “SACRED GRUND”  This has been dealt with by many who see through the hypocrisy of this - See:  Hurt Feelings and the Ground Zero Mosque: Chronology of a Bizarre Controversy, Gary Leupp -
Sensitive Conservatism: Is a mosque near Ground Zero “insensitive”?, William Saletan -  Of Mosques and Cartoons, Richard Bulliet - Ground Zero’s Slave Graves, Jen Phillips (sacred ground)  -  Build the ‘Mosque’ or Burn the Qu’ran? It Hurts Some, But It Is Constitutional, Zareena Grewal - Mosques and Mount Rushmore: The debate over what’s sacred, Simon Moya-Smith -  The Islamic Center and the “Pearl Harbor” Analogy, Scott Kurashige l - Lie About Auschwitz Fuels Park51 Hysteria, Jeffrey Feldman

ISLAMOPHOBIA see:  -   A rising global tide of xenophobia - After Cordoba Controversy, It’s Time To Look In The Mirror, Michael O. Powell - America has disgraced itself, Peter Beinart - American anti-Muslim prejudice goes mainstream, Haroon Siddiqui -    America’s Taliban And the Ground Zero Mosque -   America’s trouble with Islam - Americans Hold Significant Anti-Muslim Prejudice, Marc Ambinder -  Anti-Mosque Protester To TPM: Muslims Hate Dogs And America Too - Anti-Mosque Sentiment in America: Lessons from Europe?, Todd Green -  Burn, Witch, Burn!: America Rages Against Islam, Keith Johnson - The Center Cannot Hold: Why the Mainstream Media Can’t Stop the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Hysteria - Using a mosque to prey on U.S. fears, Paul Wells - Video from the hate-fest in Manhattan - Video animation from Taiwan about this controversy - What Fox has wrought: Anti-Park51 protests full of right-wing hate - Wingnuts Stir the Crazy with Fake Outrage Over “Ground Zero” Greek Orthodox Church - Yes this is a litmus test, Thomas Knapp -  Zero tolerance at Ground Zero, Mohamed Elibiary and Amad Shaikh

See also:  Islamophobia and the Muslim center at Ground Zero, John L. Esposito  - Islamophobia in America: Where do we go from here?, John L. Esposito  - Islamophobia in New York, Redux: We should have seen the ‘ground zero’ furor coming, Alex Kane - Islamophobia no longer questioned - even by our elected representatives, Sheila Musaji (collection of anti-Muslim statements by politicians, regularly updated)  - Making Islamophobia Mainstream: How Muslim-bashers broadcast their bigotry, Steve Rendall and Isabel Macdonald - Meme of which we shall not speak  - Nothing to see here: Right-wing media dismiss notion of nationwide “Islamophobia” - Paranoid politics: the denial of Islamophobia, Jillian York  - Park 51 and the roots of Islamophobia, Sarah Posner
9/11 and Rosh Hashanah: Reconciling Abraham’s Families, Celebrating American Diversity, Rabbi Arthur Waskow  
Anti-Islam rhetoric today bears a disturbing resemblance to past anti-Jewish rhetoric, Aisha Musa - Beware anti-Muslim hysteria, Matthew Rothschild - Beware the anti-anti-Muslim backlash Bigotry rears its ugly head, Eric Margolis - George Washington’s letter to Jewish synagogue in RI  - The New anti-Semitism, Daniel Luban - The New anti-Semitism, Adam Horowitz 
ISLAMOPHOBIA & ANTI-CATHOLIC SENTIMENT - see:  Wrong Then, Wrong Now: What Yesterday’s Anti-Catholicism Has in Common with Today’s Islamophobia, Paul Moses   - History repeats in anti-Islamic mood, Jonathan Zimmerman
ISLAMOPHOBIA & RACISM see: What would Martin Luther King Say? Mosques and the New Jim Crow in America, Juan Cole - Islamic center’s struggle echoes that of African-Americans, Imam Johari Abdul-Malik  - Fear of the “Other”:  America’s History of Fear, Nicholas Kristof

This is/is not a CIVIL RIGHTS/CONSTITUTIONAL/RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ISSUE  Some have even gone so far as to claim that Islam is not a religion and therefore not protected under the Constitution.

See: - Do Muslims have equal rights?, John Esposito  - First Amendment Rights Are For Christians Only!,  - Fox’s Peter Johnson: New York Muslims should “give up their rights” in order to be “good neighbors” - Freedom of Religion Means Freedom for All , Laurie Lebo  - Ground Zero Religious Freedom: Those ‘Unalienable Rights’ include the First Amendment, Michael Carmichael  - How can we view Muslims as Americans?, Asma T. Uddin  - No compromise on religious freedom, Richard Cohen  - Mosque controversy will define us, Sen. Orrin Hatch - ‘But’ nothing: Why the right to build the mosque trumps the heckler’s veto, Mark Green  - Opposition to Mosque near World Trade Center site denies First Amendment rights to Muslims

Claim that Mosques are built as a SYMBOL OF ISLAMIC SUPREMACISM & TRIUMPHALISM.  They are a SIGN OF CONQUEST including the Cordoba Mosque in Spain and the Dome of the Rock.  This would be a VICTORY MOSQUE - Actually, the Cordoba mosque in Spain was originally built as a mosque on a site which had been a Visigothic church and which was purchased by the Muslim ruler in order to build the mosque.  After the Reconquista, the mosque was turned into a church and since that time Muslims are forbidden to pray there.

See also: Protecting Houses of Worship a Duty for Muslims, Sheila Musaji (St. Catherine’s Monastery)  - Victory mosque removal, David Schraub

The NAME CORDOBA EVOKES ISLAMIC CONQUEST - Actually, the Cordoba mosque in Spain was originally built as a mosque on a site which had been a Visigothic church and which was purchased by the Muslim ruler in order to build the mosque.  After the Reconquista, the mosque was turned into a church and since that time Muslims are forbidden to pray there.

Roger Boase notes in the article The Muslim Expulsion from Spain:  An Early Example of Religious and Ethnic Cleansing “According to the terms of the treaty drawn up by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492 when the Christian troops entered Granada, the new subjects of the Crown were promised that they would be allowed to preserve their mosques and religious institutions, to retain the use of their language and to continue to abide by their own laws and customs. [4]  But within the space of seven years these generous terms had been broken. When the moderate missionary approach of Hernando de Talavera (1428-1507), Archbishop of Granada, was replaced by the fanaticism of Cardinal Cisneros (1436-1518), who organised mass conversions and the burning of all religious texts in Arabic, these events resulted in the First Rebellion of the Alpujarras (1499-1500) and the assassination of one of the Cardinal’s agents. This in turn gave the Catholic Monarchs an excuse to revoke their promises. In 1499, according to Cisneros’ biographer, the Muslim religious leaders were persuaded to hand over more than 5000 priceless books with ornamental bindings, which were then consigned to the flames; only some books on medicine were spared. [5] In Andalusia after 1502, and in Valencia, Catalonia and Aragon after 1526, the Moors were given a choice between baptism and exile. For the majority, baptism was the easier and only practical option. Henceforward the Spanish Moors became theoretically New Christians and, as such, subject to the jurisdiction of the Inquisition, which had been authorised by Pope Sixtus IV in 1478.”

David Shasha notes in an article Jews and Arabs Representing One Another in Muslim Spain “As I have continually remarked in my writings, the history of Sephardic Jews remains a contested battleground of historical interpretations.  Aside from the voluminous and extensive literary, philosophical and scientific writings of Sephardic Jewry, a Jewry that in the early Middle Ages encompassed the communities of the Islamic world both East and West, there is a commonplace, everyday history of the community under Muslim rule that has been debated, in a sometimes heated manner, between its positive and negative polarities; there are scholars who have sought to link Sephardic Jewish history to the tortuous history of Gentile anti-Semitism, while others seek to isolate Sephardic Jewish history as a rare bright spot within a much larger context of (mostly) Christian Jew-hatred.”

See also:  The Expulsion of Muslims from Spain, Professor T.B. Irving; VIDEO:  When Muslims Ruled Spain; Restoring the Andalusian-Arabic Tradition in Western Civilization: An Homage to Maria Rosa Menocal, David Shasha;  Andalusia: Finally remembering centuries of Muslims, Jews, Christians thriving together, Len Traubman]

PLEDGE AGAINST APOSTASY from Former Muslims United Freedom Pledge (against apostasy) that the right wing blogsphere is positively screaming to have Imam Feisal sign.  We have discussed this pledge on TAM previously in the article Former Muslims United Freedom Pledge Against Punishment for Apostasy a “Red Herring”.  Joe Conason calls this “blithering bigotry”.  Nonie Darwish has also renewed her requests that Cordoba House principals sign this pledge.

Imam Rauf’s supposed MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD CONNECTION is made through a tenuous “guilt by association” argument.  This argument is brilliantly refuted by Robert Wright who notes “Got that?  Rauf’s wife has an uncle who used to be “a leader” of a mosque that now has a Web site that links to the Web site of an allegedly radical organization. (I’ll get back to the claim that the Westbury Mosque is itself a “center for Islamic radicals.”)    The odd thing is that the author of this piece, Stephen Schwartz, is a self-described neoconservative whose parents were, by his own account, communists. You’d think he might harbor doubts about how confidently we can infer people’s ideologies from the ideologies of their older relatives. You’d also think he might disdain McCarthyite guilt-by-association tactics.    You’d be wrong. Schwartz’s piece goes on and on, weaving webs of association so engrossing that you have to keep reminding yourself that they have nothing to do with Rauf. At one point Schwartz spends several paragraphs damning someone whose connection to Park51 seems to consist of having spoken favorably about it.” 7/22/10

Imam Rauf made a statement that U.S. FOREIGN POLICY had had something to do with the events of 9/11 means that he is a SECRET EXTREMIST, a STEALTH JIHADIST or somehow DEFENDING THE TERRORISTS.  Again, this attitude that attempting to understand “why” is a defense of criminal actions has been discussed on TAM many times.  It would seem that Pat Buchanan, Ray McGovern, Graham Fuller, Doug Bandow, Glenn Greenwald, Jim Lobe, Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Pilger, and many other individuals who have attempted to understand the why behind the radicals actions, or who have suggested that there may have been some mistakes in America’s foreign policy decisions over the years, are justifying the criminal actions of the extremists and encouraging them.  TAM has a collection of articles by many individuals who have raised the same issues as Imam Abdul Rauf at Why do they hate us?.

See alsoWhy they hate us (II): How many Muslims has the U.S. killed in the past 30 years?,  Stephen M. Walt - Why they want to do us harm, Imam Zaid Shakir -  Why they are at war with us, Pat Buchanan - Answering Helen Thomas on Why, Ray McGovern -  ‘Why Do They Hate Us?’, Mohsin Hamid -  America’s Policy Has Consequences, Right or Wrong, Kristina M. Gronquist -  A truce with Muslims, Mark LeVine -  series of articles on the role of U.S. Foreign Policy and the Middle East, PBS Global Connections - Amen to the Imam, Jack Hunter - Conservative media invent controversy over Rauf’s 9-11 comments  - Conservatives continue to accuse NYC Islamic center imam of being a “secret radical”  - ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Imam Helped FBI With Counterterrorism Efforts, Sam Stein  - What “stealth jihad” doesn’t mean, Lisa Miller  - If He Could, Bin Laden Would Bomb the Cordoba Initiative, Jeffrey Goldberg  -  Wash. Times’ Kuhner baselessly smears NYC imam as an “unrepentant militant Muslim”  - Surprise! Rauf’s comments about U.N. sanctions in Iraq aren’t so controversial after all

The fact that Imam Rauf isn’t condemning SHARIA outright is also seen as “proof” of some sort of extremism, and this misrepresentation of the concept of Sharia has been dealt with previously on TAM.  Imam Feisal is denounced by Islamophobes as “blaming America” or “justifying” terrorism, or even calling for “the subjugation of non-Muslims” under Sharia law.  What is not only puzzling, but perverse is the twisted “logic” behind objecting to his teaching and giving Islamic justification for the fact that terrorism (hirabah) is NOT jihad and that any interpretation of Islamic texts or Sharia (Islamic law) that says otherwise is a misinterpretation.  He, and many other Islamic scholars are actively working to counteract the false teachings that have allowed extremism and terrorism to be seen as “legitimate”, and the Islamophobes, rather than lauding them, are joining with the bin Laden’s in attacking them.  The Cordoba Initiative site responds to this Actually, quite the contrary. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf believes that all Muslims must adhere to the laws of the land in which they reside, including in America. This is a basic tenet of Islam. He has repeatedly stated that America is already one of the most “Shariah compliant” countries in the world because of America’s adherence to our Bill of Rights and because we allow members of all religions, including Muslims and Jews, to practice their faith freely. In other words, Imam Feisal believes that Muslims practice Shariah when they fast, pray, give to charity and uphold the commandments to protect life, liberty, dignity, the pursuit of happiness and the right to freedom of worship.

See also: For critics of Islam,“sharia” becomes shorthand for extremism, Michelle Boorstein  - Is Sharia law reconcilable with modernity?, Sh. Ali Gomaa  - Who’s Afraid of Shariah? , Sumbul ali-Karamali

The TAQIYYA libel against Muslims raised every time Imam Rauf, or any other Muslim answers a question or makes a statement that seems to be reasonable has been dealt with previously on TAM.

Ibrahim Hooper got right to the heart of the fuzzy thinking of the NO MOSQUE UNTIL CHURCHES OR SYNAGOGUES IN SAUDI ARABIA  when he commented “as if the constitutionally-protected religious rights of Americans depend on the actions of a foreign government.”    As Steve Benen points out ” So, by Newt Gingrich’s estimation, Saudi Arabian officials are wrong to squelch religious liberty in their country—so we should be equally wrong in ours. Gingrich sees Saudi Arabia discriminating and showing a lack of tolerance for spiritual diversity and, in effect, concludes, “Let’s follow their lead.”    This conservative worldview comes up from time to time, and it always amazes me. You’ll recall, for example, that during the debate over whether the U.S. should utilize torture—that there was even a debate continues to be remarkable—it was not uncommon for the right to demand a single standard. If terrorists and America’s enemies used torture, the argument went, then we should, too.    Since the problem with this line of thinking is apparently not as obvious as it should be, let’s make this clear: the United States is supposed to be held to the highest standards. Our country should strive to be a beacon of hope and liberty, a shining light for others to aspire to. We’re not supposed to lower ourselves to the levels of those we find offensive.”  See also Yes, I Know That Churches Cannot Be Built in Saudi Arabia, Dilara Hafiz  

OBAMA IS A MUSLIM and/or IS OR ISN’T SUPPORTING AMERICAN MUSLIMS.  Keith Olbermann had a brilliant satirical piece tearing apart the whole Obama is a Muslim conspiracy theory.  TAM has also dealt with this previously.  8/24/10 - Pres. Obama’s remarks for White House Iftar Dinner - Mr. Obama… Are You Out There?, Jessica Corry - Obama under pressure in test of principle that could define his presidency, Rupert Cornwell - Obamaphobia and Islamophobia Revisited, Sheila Musaji - The “Obamosque” Smears and the Money Fueling Them, Sarah Posner

More is coming out on the “shocking” non-story of the Cordoba Initiative having received FUNDING FROM PRINCE AL-WALEED BIN TALAL who it turns out is a major shareholder of Fox News.  Jon Stewart has more on this Saudi that Fox News has accused of “terror funding”.  Oh what a tangled web they weave ...  8/24/10 See also:  Will Laura Ingraham Speak Out Against Fox News’ “Muslim Extremist” Shareholder?FOX Failed To Mention Co-Owner Is One They Accuse Of ‘Terror Funding’ (VIDEO)  -  Fox News shareholder funded ‘Ground Zero mosque’ imam 

FINANCES AND FUND RAISING questions answered on Cordoba Initiative site here. As to allegations that one individual who gave money to purchase the Park 51 site had also donated to a charity that “supported Hamas” see Let the Mosque-Funding Witch Hunt Commence! which notes What the Post editorial never mentions, and what the Post news story briefly touches upon in the seventh paragraph, is that in 1999, the “Hamas front group” that Elzanaty donated $6,000 to was a legal Islamic humanitarian charity, the Holy Land Foundation — the largest Islamic charity in the United States, in fact. It wasn’t until December of 2001 that the Treasury Department froze the charity’s assets after discovering that it had been using a substantial amount of its money to fund Hamas. President Bush’s first attorney general, John Ashcroft, later said that an indictment against the charity’s officers was not “a reflection on the well-meaning people who may have donated funds to the foundation.” (It’s a statement that also applies to NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, by the way. And his “Dream Shake” precludes him from being a terrorist sympathizer.)  Sharif El-Gamal, the project developer made a statement that they would accept no money from Iran or Hamas.  He also said that a new nonprofit group had been formed to guide and control the project, and he began collecting funds at one mosque on Friday.  8/28/10

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State says that the suggestion of the use of government property to RELOCATE THE CENTER would raise serious legal questions.  8/20/10

It has been falsely claimed that Michael Enright the ACCUSED ATTACKER OF THE NY CABDRIVER WORKED FOR CORDOBA HOUSE/PARK 51.  Actually, he was a volunteer for Intersections International which is a group that is devoted to cross-cultural understanding, and had recently released a statement supporting the building of the Cordoba House/Park 51 Islamic Center.  It would seem that this young man was very conflicted, and that he did not share the views of his employer regarding Muslims, or the Islamic Center.  Pamela Geller showed the limitless depths of her hatred towards Muslims, and her inability to tell the truth by running an article about this incident titled Set Up to Lynch Ground Zero Opposition: Muslim Cab Slasher Worked for Cordoba/Park 51.  Geller’s title infers that this attack on an innocent man was a “set up” aimed at lynching the opposition, and tells the outright lie that the accused attacker worked for Cordoba/Park 51.  Two vicious lies before even getting into her distortion of the facts.  A few snippets from her “article”:  How deranged is the left? The slasher of Muslims works for the Cordoba/Park 51. This is what is building an Islamic supremacist mosque on Ground Zero.  ...  It’s no wonder the leftwing mainstream media is shushing up this story. And the Islamic supremacist, Hamas funder CAIR blasted it in their alert. Their whitewash will be interesting tomorrow. I wouldn’t be surprised if CAIR had a hand in it ............. the CAIR offices are right next door to Imam Rauf’s and Daisy the Con’s offices in Riverside. How convenient.  ...  Clearly this leftwing loon hoped to slash this poor man in pieces, get away, and have the opposition blamed for this heinous and vile crime. This is how low the mentally ill left will go.  Robert Spencer seemed offended that anyone might blame hate-mongers for this attack, but he at least got his facts straight about who Enright worked for.  Spencer seems to have also become an expert on psychology in addition to Islam as he says in his “article” that So whatever may have been his motivation in attacking this cab driver, one thing that almost certainly wasn’t motivating him was rage over the Islamic supremacist mega-mosque at Ground Zero.  Spencer closes his argument with Was this attack on a Muslim cab driver in New York yet another faked hate crime designed to tar opponents of Islamic supremacism as bigoted people who are fomenting hate? It cannot be ruled out. I hope that New York investigators are honest enough and brave enough to say so if that turns out to be the case.  This is some very sick and hate filled propoganda.  Loonwatch has more here

IMAM FEISAL WON’T CONDEMN TERRORISM  Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has always condemned terrorism.  Here are his words from his 2004 book, What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right with America:  “The truth is that killing innocent people is always wrong – and no argument or excuse, no matter how deeply believed, can ever make it right.  No religion on earth condones the killing of innocent people; no faith tradition tolerates the random killing of our brothers and sisters on this earth.  God does not want us to kill each other.”  He has repeated the same thing in hundreds of speeches around the world.  Cordoba Initiative.

IMAM FEISAL WON’T CONDEMN HAMAS Hamas is both a political movement and a terrorist organization. When Hamas commits atrocious acts of terror, those actions should be condemned. Imam Feisal has forcefully and consistently condemned all forms of terrorism, including those committed by Hamas, as un-Islamic. In his 2004 book, he even went so far as to include a copy of the Fatwa issued after 9/11 by the most respected clerics of Egypt defining the 9/11 attack as an un-Islamic act of terror and giving permission to Muslims in the U.S. armed forces to fight against those Muslims who committed this act of terror. Imam Feisal included this in his book to prove that terrorism must be fought even if Muslims have to fight fellow Muslims to stop it.  Cordoba Initiative.  See also:  Wash. Times baselessly smears Rauf as having “supported” Hamas’ “cause” 

IMAM FEISAL IS A MEMBER OF PERDANA which is a funder of the flotilla that attempted to deliver aid to residents of Gaza.  Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has never been a member of this group.  Several years ago, Imam Feisal was invited to Malaysia, the most moderate Islamic country in the world, to participate in a Peace Conference sponsored by the Perdana Peace Group. He was one of the hundreds of speakers present. He has no political, advisory or business affiliation of any nature with the Perdana group.  A photo of Imam Feisal was taken at the conference, and this has been used to “prove” his membership in the Perdana Global Peace Organization, but the allegation is false. Because of the controversy surrounding Perdana, we have requested the Perdana Group to remove the photo of him from their publicity. Cordoba Initiative.  TAM has discussed varying interpretations of the Gaza flotilla in depth here and it is obvious that calling this a “jihad flotilla” is false.

This controversy has become a SECURITY ISSUE adding to the perception that the war on terror has become a WAR ON ISLAM thus AIDING THE TERRORISTS.

See: Anti-Muslim ranting puts our security at risk  - Are we at war with Islam, William Saletan - Are we trying to stop terrorism or appease bigots?, Robert Salaam - Build the Mosque; Help Defeat al Qaeda, Matthew Alexander - The Terrorists Have Won, Missy Comlie Beattie - When Republicans and Jihadis Agree…, Nicholas Kristof - War over the war on terror, Adam Serwer  - Christian Nationalism’s War with Islam, Rev. Howard Bess  - The enemy within, Ellis Weiner  - Equating Islam with terror won’t win hearts, minds, Bob Seltzer - How Arabs view the anti-mosque movement, Marc Lynch  - Is Islam a primary driver or cause of terrorism?, John Esposito - Islamism is not Islam, Maajid Nawaz -Mosque fight helps al-Qaeda, Ali Soufan  - Keith Olbermann: Wave of religious intolerance sweeps the U.S.

TAM has a WHAT EVERYONE KNOWS ABOUT ISLAM article collection.  This Cordoba House/Park 51 dispute has brought up every one of these issues.  We’ll reprint it here once again to make it easy to find information.  Just click on any “issue” and it will take you to an article responding to that claim.  The most commonly repeated claims about Muslims and Islam are that

“everyone knows” that most or all terrorists are Muslims, and there are no Christian and no Jewish terrorists (or terrorists of any other religious stripe), and that Muslims are inherently violent.  Everyone also knows that Muslims are not equivalent to real Americans, that they are the enemy within, and a fifth column,  that good Muslims can’t be good Americans, that they are not a part of our American heritage, that they are all militant,  that Islam makes Muslims “backward”, that Muslims have made no contribution to the West,  that Islam is “of the devil”, a Crescent menace, and an “evil encroaching on the United States”, and not a religion.  Everyone knows that this is a Christian nation, which everyone knows the Muslims are trying to take over, starting with getting an Eid stamp which is the first step towards shariah law, and by purposefully having more children than others to increase their numbers.  Everyone knows that Muslims have no respect for the Constitution.  Everyone knows that Muslims are given a pass by the elite media.  It’s “us versus them”.  Their goal is world domination under a Caliphate.  They don’t speak out against extremism or terrorism, and even those Muslims who do speak up or seem moderate are simply lying or practicing taqiyyah.  Everyone knows the Qur’an is uniquely violent, that the Islamic concept of God doesn’t include God’s love, that Allah is a moon god.  The problem is that what “everyone knows” is wrong.  These self-righteous and incorrect statements are usually followed by a demand that the Muslim community do something about whatever is the false flag of the day or face the inevitable consequences.

TAM also has a lengthy collection of responses to all sorts of claims which is available here

See my article Jon Stewart is a “mensch”, (with links to Daily Show videos on Cordoba House)  for links to all of the excellent programs that Stewart’s Daily Show has done debunking many of the myths surrounding Cordoba House/Park 51.  8/22/10


On 8/6 we reported that there were some concerns about the project and the effect of the controversy on the American Muslim Community being raised by Muslims.  Akbar Ahmed is concerned that Muslims may be underestimating the “9/11 effect”  as is Dr.Abdul Cader Asmal
Muqtedar Khan is concerned that Imam Feisal’s absence from the current debate may be misunderstood and do damage to the project.
Hasan Zillur Rahim thinks that the project organizers should consider moving to another location, as does Aishah Schwartz and an Oklahoma City Muslim Association who even took out an ad in a local paper.  Hussein Ibish is concerned that Muslim and Arab organizations are becoming less effective in countering the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab narrative.  Abed Bhuyan notes that it might have been beneficial to confer with Muslim community leaders ahead of announcing the project.  A seeming lack of leadership is a concern for many.  I have discussed this concern, as have Hussein Rashid, Jihad Hashim-Brown, Farhana Qazi, and many others.

Some members of the American Muslim community are concerned enough about all the furore surrounding this effort that they are discussing backup plans for having a safe place to go if things become violent.  8/25

Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer have launched a website where you can watch Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet and Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslim Really Think online.  You can also see an excerpt of Kevin James, a Muslim American fireman at the World Trade Center on September 11th, telling his story.  8/25

MY FAITH MY VOICE American Muslim voices PSA’s released as a grassroots effort.  You can view these here as a grassroots effort.

CAIR PSA campaign announced  9/1/10.  You can view these at -  ‘9/11 Happened to Us All’ PSA, Firefighter (30-Second)  -  ‘9/11 Happened to Us All’ PSA, Firefighter (60-Second)
-  ‘9/11 Happened to Us All’ PSA, Medical Responder (30-Second)  -  ‘We Have More in Common than We Think’ PSA, Interfaith (30-Second)

Aishah Schwartz of the Muslimah Writers Alliance has requested Federal Action against Islamophobia and in defense of religious freedom.  9/1/10  

The Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan New York a coalition of 55 New York City American Muslim organization leaders was formed.  This is wonderful.  There are a few such coalitions across the country, Chicago, New England, Southern California - but we need these for every major city and geographic region as well as a national coalition.  The reason our voice isn’t heard is because we are so disorganized and there are too many voices giving disparate messages.  9/1/10   Statement by Majlis Ash-Shura On Combating Ethnic and Religious Intolerance, and Defending The Continued Building Of Mosques In America.  9/2/10 See also Muslim Leaders Make Their Stand - New York Muslim leaders defend Islam

Coalition of African American Muslims CAAM formed and first press conference held in D.C.  9/3/10

ISNA Calls Emergency Meeting of Top Faith Leaders to Address Anti-Muslim Fear, Intolerance.  View full video of this interfaith press conference  - CNN covered this press conference, most news outlets did not  9/7/10 See also Silence is not an option

the Council of Muslim Organizations in greater Washington has called on its 147 member groups to avoid holding Eid celebrations on Sept. 11, and Muslim leaders are encouraging congregants to explain to non-Muslim friends and neighbors that the convergence this year is mere coincidence. A few groups are also beefing up security for this year’s events.  9/7/10

See also a collection of articles on this controversy by American Muslims and Arabs here

There have been protests at mosques across the country.  Two already at the Cordoba House/Park51 site in NYC; in Murfreesboro, TN; Florence, KY;  Temecula, CA; Santa Clara, CA; Sheboygan, WI; Bridgeport, CT; Staten Island, NY; Charlotte, SC;  Wilson, WI.  At some of these protests non-Muslims who simply “looked like” Muslims were harrassed.

There have been acts of vandalism aimed at mosques in Temecula, CA; Madera, CA; Costa Mesa, CA; Brownstone, MI; Cedar Rapids, IA; Queens, NY; Arlington, TX; Bellevue, WA; Wilson, WI.

There have been violent acts that go well beyond vandalism.  A Jacksonville, FL mosque was attacked with an incendiary device.  At the construction site of the Murfreesboro, Tennessee mosque someone poured gasoline on construction equipment and set it on fire. 

On July 3rd about 50 members of the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco in California marched in the annual Hometown USA parade and waved red, white and blue flags.  “We’re part and parcel of the fabric of America,” said Umar Mustafa, leader of the Corona mosque.  On the 4th of July, this mosque has traditionally passed out bottled water for people attending the 4th of July celebrations at a local park.  This year was no different.  They set up a booth in front of the mosque which is near the park, and members of the community passed out bottled water.  They also set up an information booth with a sign saying “Ask a Muslim”.  A Muslim Navy Reservist who was staffing the information booth was assaulted by two fellow citizens for the crime of being a Muslim.  According to the Muslim victim, one of two men who were walking toward the park saw the booth and yelled, “This is bulls**t.” The Muslim volunteer replied, “I’ll answer any questions that you have.” That reply was allegedly met with, “I’m going to knock you out.” According to eyewitness accounts, both men charged at the mosque volunteer and punched him in the face.  When one of the assailants was arrested, he reportedly suggested that the arresting officer “kick out” all the “ragheads.”  7/4/10

Another protest and counter-protest at the Park 51 site.  At the protest an African-American man who was mistakenly thought to be Muslim was harassed.  A crowd shouting “no mosque here” confronted the man and called him a “coward.” The man was led away by rally organizers while one man shouts “Muhammad is a p*g.” One person shouted “he must have voted for Obama.” When some rally participants seek to defuse the confrontation, one man says, “we’re against the Muslims, not each other.”  Video herehere.  Glenn Greenwald discusses the toxicity of the protest here.  8/22/10

In West Philadelphia, worshippers at the Jamia Mosque at 43rd and Walnut have been greeted by protestors on at least three separate occasions in the past month. 9/7/10

Akbar Ahmed notes that the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Church who is planning a “Burn the Qur’an Day” on September 11th has agreed when asked to do so in an internet podcast interview, to burn “a couple of copies of the Talmud” too.  Perhaps, if the Talmud is also burned, the ADL will reconsider its unconscionable position on the Cordoba House.  We already know that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are closely linked.  Will Qur’an and Talmud burnings be enough, or will these same folks move on to the Book of Mormon, the Bhagavad Gita, or other books they don’t approve of?  See also:  Build the ‘Mosque’ or Burn the Qu’ran? It Hurts Some, But It Is Constitutional, Zareena Grewal - What Books Shall We Burn Now?, Rabbi Arthur Waskow      

The White House says that Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Spurred By Mosque Debate Not Yet ‘Dangerous’ according to an article by Sam Stein  For those concerned American Muslims like myself, I hope that they will let us know when they consider things becoming dangerous.  8/22/10

Yesterday, a NYC cab driver was stabbed by a passenger after the passenger asked “are you a Muslim” and the man answered in the affirmative.  8/24

In addition to the stabbing of the NYC cab driver, a California mosque was vandalized with signs referring to the “ground zero mosque”, and a man walked into a Queens mosque, shouted “terrorists” and urinated on the carpet.  8/26/10

In the past few days there have been a number of incidents - the stabbing of the NYC cab driver, a California mosque was vandalized with signs referring to the “ground zero mosque”, and a man walked into a Queens mosque, shouted “terrorists” and urinated on the carpet.  Last night at the construction site of the Murfreesboro, Tennessee mosque someone poured gasoline on construction equipment and set it on fire.  8/29/10

A Sikh man in Seattle was beaten because an ignorant bigot thought he was a Muslim.  Worshippers at the Waterport, NY mosque were harrassed by teens who fired a gun, honked horns, yelled obscenities, and struck one worshipper with one of their cars.  8/31

A really stupid bigot wanted to carry out a hate crime but chose as his target a hookah bar in Connecticut and began shouting obscenities and slurs at the patrons.  The non-Muslim, non-Arab patrons then beat the crap out of him.  9/1/10

“A delegation of Pakistani military officers was on a flight from Washington D.C. to Tampa, FL for a meeting with US Central Command when the officers were pulled off the flight for talking – because apparently when foreign people talk to one another on a plane, it’s best to jump to the conclusion that they are terrorists and then treat them as such.”  9/2/10

A San Antonio, TX mosque has been vandalized 9/6/10

US Justice Dept investigating at least 5 anti-Muslim acts in 4 states  9/7/10


The stated goals for this project are honorable.  The two individuals primarily responsible for the project are well known and respected both within the Muslim and the interfaith communities.  Their views are a matter of record.  This is an ongoing story, and will be updated as events unfold.  The whole world will be watching how this story unfolds, and the final outcome will say something about who we are as a people, and as a nation.

There wasn’t much concern about the project until this summer, when the steady and monotonous claims and attacks by a few Islamophobes reached some sort of critical mass and burst into the mainstream media.  This anti-Muslim sentiment has become a torrent of vicious rhetoric aimed at everything Islamic and everyone Muslim.  It is not only this mosque, but mosques across the U.S. that are now being protested and worse

At this point, the groundwork had been laid for making anti-Muslim sentiment “respectable”.  It is now perfectly acceptable for anyone at all to make public statements that would be considered shocking and shameful if used about any other minority group, other than Muslims.

The hate campaign that has been waged against Islam and Muslims by a certain extremist segment of the American population has seen no parallel since the anti-Semitic hate campaign against Jews in Europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  This hate campaign is evil, but it has been extremely successful.  American Muslims have become “the other”, not to be trusted, not good Americans.

At this point, there is no win-win scenario possible, only a lose-lose.  Whether the Cordoba House project continues as planned at this location, or whether Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan agree to some compromise by changing the location - either way, the firestorm of anti-Muslim hatred has already done its damage.  The animosity towards Islam and Muslims that was simmering under the surface of American society has now been openly and even enthusiastically accepted as a reasonable and acceptable part of the American worldview.  The plan for the Cordoba House did not cause this anti-Muslim firestorm, it simply brought the smoldering embers out into the open, and allowed a few individuals to fan the flames.  Although the extent of this anti-Muslim sentiment is alarming, it is perhaps a good thing that it has been brought out into the open where it can be exposed. 

Whether or not any American Muslim is for or against, or simply confused about this project - the fact is that we are affected by the controversy that is swirling around it, and the claims and counter claims being made.  At this point we are required to deal with the reality of the situation as it has developed.

If the Cordoba House project goes ahead as planned, those who have been influenced by the propoganda are likely to see it as an act of “hostility” or “supremacism” or any of the other derogatory terms that have been used. 

If the Cordoba House/ Park 51 project is moved to some other location in order to appease the voices of bigotry, that would only prove to a majority of Muslims, both in the U.S. and around the world — that any Muslim effort towards peace and understanding will be rejected, — that Muslims themselves are not considered to be American citizens who are equal to other citizens, — that the war on terror is not a war on al-Qaeda, but a war on Islam (this by the way is al-Qaeda’s “narrative”), — that the definition of what constitutes a “moderate Muslim” is unachievable even by someone like Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf or any Muslim who is not willing to burn the Qur’an and become a “former Muslim”.

If even Imam Feisal can be hung out to dry after 30 years devotion to interfaith effort and civic participation, then what does that say to other American Muslims?  Here is one quote from this accused “radical” given at a synagogue at a service in remembrance of Daniel Pearl:

We are here to assert the Islamic conviction of the moral equivalency of our Abrahamic faiths. If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind and soul Shma` Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ahad; hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one, Mr. Pearl.

If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of my heart, mind and soul, and to love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then not only am I a Christian, but I have always been one Mr. Pearl.

And I am here to inform you, with the full authority of the Quranic texts and the practice of the Prophet Muhammad, that to say La ilaha illallah Muhammadun rasulullah is no different.

It expresses the same theological and ethical principles and values.

If the Muslim community compromises or shows “sensitivity” to the prejudice and bigotry of others that could be seen as “proof” that somehow we have been made to see “the error of our ways” and to have accepted that we are all collectively responsible for the terrible tragedy of 9/11 in which all Americans were attacked by al-Qaeda (including American Muslims).

If the Muslim community compromises or capitulates, then we are showing the same disregard for the principles of freedom of religion (which is a “hallowed” principle) enshrined in our Constitution as these anti-Muslim extremists.  We would also be giving in to the al-Qaeda distortion of Islam which would deny religious freedom to others.  As M. Junaid Levesque-Alam in the brilliant article Bin Laden’s Rising Influence In America

The aversion to a proposed Muslim center near Ground Zero shows that it is Americans, not Muslims, whose thinking the terrorist leader has most successfully recast to his advantage.

The detractors strengthen and draw strength from bin Laden; their hot prejudice bolsters his assertion that America despises Islam and betrays an acceptance of his claim that he embodies the faith.

...The craving to affirm bin Laden’s view that America hates Muslims constitutes a foolish blunder, but what underlies it is worse: acceptance of bin Laden’s assertion that his perversion of Islamic teachings is the widely accepted, genuine article.

For while Osama and his acolytes have had some success (and a lot of help) in convincing Muslims that the United States despises Islam, his group has spectacularly failed to persuade Muslims that they should obliterate their diverse Islamic traditions and replace them with the dogma of the rigid Wahhabist sect.

... The danger behind this madness is clear: as the saying goes, perception is reality. The more the country comes to believe in paranoid lies about Muslims, the more easily it will slip into the kind of brutal religious war bin Laden desires. An anti-mosque fever is already sweeping the country as some take the anti-Cordoba logic to its natural conclusion: “If Muslims are too dangerous to be praying at Ground Zero, why should they be allowed to pray in my neighborhood, either?”

Do we simply cut and run in the face of bigotry?  Do we simply accept second class status?  Do we simply abandon the Constitution of the United States?

Where does it end when we as a society accept that bigotry and prejudice towards some of our citizens is acceptable?  I believe that this is a dangerous thought process and that it will lead us down a very slippery slope that will ultimately include other citizens as equally “acceptable” targets. 

Where does it end if we accept that this particular Islamic Center should be moved elsewhere?  Will the circle of “hallowed ground” in which Muslims are not to be tolerated extend blocks or miles outward from this site?  Will the mosque free zone become all of NYC, all of the State of New York, all of the East Coast, or all of the United States?

Where might it end if we accept the suggestion which has been made some of our elected representatives that Islam may not be a religion in the sense of other religions and therefore not protected by the Constitution.  Could this become a rallying cry for denying civil rights and citizenship to American Muslims?  If that is so, who is next? 

Where might it end if we accept that a “majority opinion” or bias in the society trumps the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and even common decency.  If the Civil Rights Movement had accepted this faulty premise, African-Americans would still be sitting at the back of the bus, and women would probably not be voting.

I believe that Benjamin Franklin’s statement applies to how the American Muslim community must face this situation They that give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.

At this point in history, I believe that whether we like it or not, we have as a community been placed in a position that requires us to stand and defend our rights as Americans and as human beings.  We need to do this for our sake, and for the sake of future generations of Americans - no matter what their religion.  Compromise in this instance would actually be appeasement, and it would really only provide temporary safety.  Ultimately, if American Muslims, or American Jews, or American Christians, or American atheists, or any Americans are not willing to stand for the ideals and principles of our country, then we are all in trouble.

This may be one of those moments in history when we need to decide if our ideals and principles are worth defending.  How we answer the question of what it means to be an American will certainly affect not only this generation but future generations.  We have to decide if the Constitution has any real meaning.

UPDATE 9/8/2010

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has just published a statement in the NYT  One point he makes struck me as particularly important: “At Cordoba House, we envision shared space for community activities, like a swimming pool, classrooms and a play space for children. There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. “  Other than that new information, his statement that has been so needed during all this turmoil did not really deal substantively with the issues that have come up.

Imam Feisal’s interview on CNN

UPDATE 9/9/2010 and 9/10/2010

Imam Feisal’s interview with Christiane Amanpour

Three new developments all dovetail, and it will be interesting to watch developments.  1) Hisham Elzanaty, one of the project developers and a major funder of the site purchase says he is willing to sell the property for the right price.  His quote from the AP “I’m a businessman. This was a mere business transaction for me.  Develop it, raze it, sell it,” he said. “If someone wants to give me 18 or 20 million dollars today, it’s all theirs.”  — 2) Donald Trump has made a bid to purchase the property.  The offer also contains one key condition—that any mosque built by the backers elsewhere “would be located at least five blocks further from the World Trade Center site”.  — 3)  Rev. Terry Jones who is planning the Qur’an burning in Florida told Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida “He told me that if it’s put on hold or relocated, he’s willing to back down.” Musri is waiting to meet with Jones at the outreach center in Gainesville. Musri said he will offer Jones an opportunity to meet with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. 

Within an hour of putting the news online, I was notified that USA Today was reporting that Rev. Jones has agreed to cancel the Qur’an burning and is flying to New York to meet with Imam Abdul Rauf on Saturday.  According to the report “He said he decided to cancel his protest because the leader of a planned Islamic Center near ground zero has agreed to move its controversial location. The agreement couldn’t be immediately confirmed.” 

And for the rest of the night, conflicting reports just kept coming in.

An Australian site reported that “But the AFP and Reuters news agencies both reported that the deal had been denied by sources close to the imam of the so-called ‘Ground Zero Mosque’, who said there was no agreement to move the development away from Ground Zero.”  The NY Times quotes CNN as reporting that Imam Rauf said in a statement that he had not spoken to Mr. Jones or Mr. Musri. “I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans,” Mr. Rauf said. “However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other, nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands and build peace and harmony.” 

AJC reports that “Musri told The Associated Press there was an agreement for him and Jones to travel to New York and meet Saturday — on the actual anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — with the imam overseeing plans to build a mosque near ground zero.  “I told the pastor that I personally believe the mosque should not be there, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it is moved,” Musri said. “But there is not any offer from there (New York) that it will be moved. All we have agreed to is a meeting, and I think we would all like to see a peaceful resolution.”  Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said he was surprised by the announcement and that he would not barter.  Speaking to reporters later, Jones was adamant that he was promised that the Islamic center would be moved, and said he would be “very, very disappointed” if it were not.” 

Donald Trump’s offer has been turned down as too small an offer.  And CNBC clarified that what Trump was offering was not the purchase of the entire property, but an offer to buy an investor’s stake in the property.  The NY Daily News reports thatPark51 officials said yesterday Elzanaty doesn’t even have the authority to sell the building.  “Soho Properties controls the real estate which encompasses the Park51 project in lower Manhattan,” said spokesman Larry Kopp. “Hisham Elzanaty is one of eight investors in the project.

A spokesman for the developer leading the investment team declined to confirm Elzanaty’s claim that he has a majority stake in the partnership, or comment on whether he needs approval from the rest of the group to decide the fate of the two buildings. 

Jones is now saying that the Qur’an burning is only suspended and may still happen.  He says the local Imam lied to him, and that he only agreed to cancel the event because he thought there had been an agreement that the NYC center would be moved.  After making the previous statement, he said on “Good Morning America” that he definitely would not follow through. 

As if all of this confusion is not enough, the notorious Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church says that if Jones doesn’t burn the Qur’an then his church will burn the Qur’an and an American Flag on 9/11.  ***  

It was reported that the Park51 group and the Cordoba Initiative released two separate statements about the Terry Jones Qur’an burning situation.  “The Cordoba Initiative, which originally spearheaded the effort for an Islamic center near Ground Zero, also backed the message by Park51 and directed its supporters to a report highlighting that the Imam behind the Islamic center “hasn’t” agreed to move the facility.” 

UPDATE 9/13/2010

Please see TAM article Cordoba House - Yes!:  Park51 - No Way?]]  for much more information about the leadership of this project, and for future updates on this controversy.  There is new information coming out that raises serious concerns for the Muslim community about the leadership of this project.