In recent months, it’s been difficult to turn on a television or read the newspaper without hearing from different interest groups weighing in on the controversy surrounding the Cordoba House, a Muslim community center being built near Ground Zero in New York City. Misinformation has run amok, from rumors that the community center is being built on Ground Zero (it isn’t) to news reports stating it will open on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks (it won’t).
The Cordoba House is scheduled to be built a full two blocks away from Ground Zero; it won’t even be within sight of where the World Trade Center once stood. Yet many Americans, Republican and Democrat, are furious.
The mass opposition to the Cordoba House brings to light a growing anti-Muslim sentiment that has spread in America since 9/11. Many Americans still feel that the entire Muslim religion is to blame. People need to recognize the attack on the World Trade Center was the work of Muslim extremists, and in no way represents the feelings and beliefs of the majority of those who follow Islam.
Ironically, the entire point of the Cordoba House is to increase American understanding of the Muslim faith, and to promote general religious acceptance between different faiths. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leader of the proposed community center, has said that the Cordoba House will help show the world that Muslim extremists represent a minority of Muslims. Rauf heads an organization called the Cordoba Initiative, the goal of which is to improve relations between the Muslim Community and the West. According to Rauf, most Muslims are moderate practitioners of the faith and condemn the terrorist actions of Islam’s few extremist followers.
Despite this, many Americans see the “Ground Zero Mosque” as an insult to the victims of 9/11. Some of the strongest opposition to the Cordoba House has been from the Christian Evangelical voter base. Christian leader Pat Robertson has filed a lawsuit against the New York City planning committee for allowing the mosque to be built. Robertson has said in the past that Islam is not a religion but a political machine bent on world domination, and to allow Muslims to practice freely in America could have dangerous consequences. This is an interesting stance to take, considering the fact that our founding fathers seemed to have only praise for Islam. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both strong advocates for religious freedom that included Christians, Jews, Pagans, and Muslims. Benjamin Rush, a co-signer of the Constitution, even suggested that the morals of Islam were superior to those of Christianity.
Former President George W. Bush gave his views on Islam immediately prior to the 9/11 attacks at a Islamic Center in Washington D.C.
“The face of terror is not the true face of Islam … That’s not what Islam is about. Islam is peace.”
It really isn’t hard to understand where the opponents of the Cordoba House are coming from. On Sept. 11, 2001, two planes being piloted by Muslim extremists showed America that we are indeed vulnerable. We needed someone to blame, and Islam seemed to be the obvious scapegoat.
The Cordoba House is an attempt by Muslim leaders to heal the damage done to the reputation of Islam in America. It will help foster understanding between all categories of belief and will do honor to the memory of those who perished on 9/11.
What America needs to do now is forgive. Several extremists operating on the radical fringe of a peaceful religion have made us forsake the values that we hold so dear.
A gem of advice was offered once by a well known (but sometimes overlooked) prophet from Nazareth.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”