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>Getting Beyond Gingrich: Other Voices Questioning the Mosque

>Knee-jerk “progressive” apologists for Islam would have us believe that only ignorant reactionary bigots would dare to question the worthiness of the plan to build a lavish “Cordoba House” at Ground Zero. But an ever growing list of people who do not fit that description are asking questions and raising doubts about the Ground Zero Mosque. The views expressed by those named below range from unambiguous opposition to nuanced positions that raise serious questions about the mosque and it’s proponents without necessarily opposing the idea outright. (Also see this follow-up post which has yet another American Muslim opposed to the mosque and also Sam Harris’ two cents.)

Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader (Democrat from Nevada)
“The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.” Jim Manley, spokesperson for Senator Reid.

David Paterson
Governor of New York (Democrat)
“I’m very sensitive to the desire of those who are adamant against it to see something else worked out. Frankly, if the sponsors were looking for property anywhere at a distance that would be such that it would accommodate a better feeling among the people who are frustrated, I would look into trying to provide them with the state property they would need.”

Raheel Raza
Canadian Muslim interfaith advocate, diversity consultant, author of Their Jihad … Not My Jihad
“When we try to understand the reasoning behind building a mosque at the epicentre of the worst-ever attack on the U.S., we wonder why its proponents don’t build a monument to those who died in the attack?”
[From: Mischief in Manhattan]

Tarek Fatah
founder of Muslim Canadian Congress, author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State
“New York currently boasts at least 30 mosques so it’s not as if there is pressing need to find space for worshippers. The fact we Muslims know the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the infidel. The proposal has been made in bad faith.”
[From: Mischief in Manhattan]

Aseem Shukla
Co-founder and board member, Hindu American Foundation
“Would the Imam repudiate an oft-quoted gaffe on Sixty Minutes where he argued that American policies were an accessory to the killing of thousands at Ground Zero? Does the Cordoba Initiative still advocate the selective introduction of Sharia laws within Muslim communities in the United States? Does Cordoba–with its strong ties and branches in Malaysia–reject that country’s history of Muslim chauvinism as a Sharia practicing country that systematically discriminates against the Hindu and Christian populations marginalizing them to second class status?”
[From: Religion Was Defamed At Ground Zero]

Abraham Foxman
National Director, Anti-Defamation League
“The lessons of an earlier and different controversy echo in this one. In 1993, Pope John Paul II asked 14 Carmelite Nuns to move their convent from just outside the Auschwitz death camp. The establishment of the convent near Auschwitz had stirred dismay among Jewish groups and survivors who felt that the location was an affront and a terrible disservice to the memory of millions of Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust.

“Just as we thought then that well-meaning efforts by Carmelite nuns to build a Catholic structure were insensitive and counterproductive to reconciliation, so too we believe it will be with building a mosque so close to Ground Zero.

“The better way for Muslims seeking reconciliation and moderation would have been for them to reach out to the families of the victims, who we are sure could have recommended any number of actions to achieve those goals other than the present plan.”
[From: The Mosque At Ground Zero]

Rabbi Meyer May
Executive Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center
“Religious freedom does not mean being insensitive…or an idiot …. Religion is supposed to be beautiful. Why create pain in the name of religion?”
[From: Museum of Tolerance Backer: No To WTC Mosque]

Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Associate Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center
“The decision should be based on a consensus of the families of victims of what was obviously the site of the worst killing field in America. Their feelings should be paramount in everybody’s mind The families should be the ones who inform us, not the other way around.”
[From: Fallout Continues Over Ground Zero Mosque]

David Harris
Executive Director, American Jewish Committee
“Yes, America, above all, stands for freedom of worship — for all, not for some. Religious bigotry has no place here. And, we desperately need greater dialogue and understanding, especially with Islam.

“But in this vast country, why, of all places, does the center need to be there? Will it really serve as a place for healing, repentance, and interfaith cooperation? Or will that prove a facade, designed to get the project approved and divert attention from the fact that the 9/11 plotters all prayed in mosques and believed they were acting in the divine name?

“To be sure, it is a difficult call, but that can’t be an excuse for indecision. This is an important national issue. For the American Jewish Committee (AJC), with a long involvement in this country’s social history, it is, above all, about the kind of society — and world — we aspire to build …. In this ecumenical spirit, AJC believes the Cordoba Center has a right to be built in the proposed location . . . .

“Once up and running, it won’t be long before we know if the founders have delivered on their promise. If so, New York and America will be enriched. If not, the center should be shunned.

“Presently, there are two legitimate concerns about the proposed center.

“First, with a $100 million price tag, what are the exact sources of funding? The public has a right to know that the donors all subscribe to an open, inclusive and pluralistic vision of the center.

‘Second, do the center’s leaders reject unconditionally terrorism inspired by Islamist ideology? They must say so unequivocally. This is critical for the institution’s credibility. There is no room here for verbal acrobatics. Otherwise, the pall of suspicion around the leaders’ true attitudes toward groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah will grow — spelling the center’s doom.

“If these concerns can be addressed, we will join in welcoming the Cordoba Center to New York. In doing so, we would wish to reaffirm the noble values for which our country stands — the very values so detested by the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks.”
[From: Build the Cordoba Center?]

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield
President, National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, author of You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right
“Personally, I think that ultimately it’s a reasonable, if not wise project. Though I think the timing and the process stink. This should not be about the assertion of religious rights but about the building of consensus. While those who favor construction clearly have rights on their side, they seem to be completely tone deaf regarding the feelings of those who are opposed.

“It ‘s simply not true that all who oppose this building hate Muslims, any more than it is true that all those who oppose Israeli policy are anti-Semites. Sadly, those who support the building seem to appreciate the second claim, but not the first. But this is not about my response to the proposed mosque/cultural center, it’s about Newt’s. And it’s about why he’s wrong – not entirely, but largely . . . .

“As to the history of Cordoba, Mr. Gingrich is partially correct. Life under medieval Muslim rulers was no picnic for Jews and Christians, and would certainly not pass any test of American constitutionality – not even close. But it’s also true that life under Medieval Islam was far better for Jews and Christians than life had been for Jews and Muslims living under Christian rule. So if Gingrich wants to remind us of the past sins of one religious community, he ought to remind us of them all. Failing that, his selective reading of history does sound suspicious, even to those of us who are tired of all questions about Islam being met with the cry of “Islamophobe”.

“Newt Gingrich may be right that building any Islamic structure that close to Ground Zero is bad idea, at least for now. But his arguments for that position are at least as bad as the worst ones which favor its construction. We need to think this one out together, not compare the best of whatever tradition we hold dear to the worst of whichever one we oppose.”
[From: Gingrich Wrong on “Ground Zero Mosque”, Mostly]

Neda Bolourchi
An American Muslim
“I have no grave site to visit, no place to bring my mother her favorite yellow flowers, no spot where I can hold my weary heart close to her. All I have is Ground Zero.

“On the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, I watched as terrorists slammed United Flight 175 into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, 18 minutes after their accomplices on another hijacked plane hit the North Tower. My mother was on the flight. I witnessed her murder on live television. I still cannot fully comprehend those images. In that moment, I died as well. I carry a hole in my heart that will never be filled.

“From the first memorial ceremonies I attended at Ground Zero, I have always been moved by the site; it means something to be close to where my mother may be buried, it brings some peace. That is why the prospect of a mosque near Ground Zero — or a church or a synagogue or any religious or nationalistic monument or symbol — troubles me.

“I was born in pre-revolutionary Iran. My family led a largely secular existence — I did not attend a religious school, I never wore a headscarf — but for us, as for anyone there, Islam was part of our heritage, our culture, our entire lives. Though I have nothing but contempt for the fanaticism that propelled the terrorists to carry out their murderous attacks on Sept. 11, I still have great respect for the faith. Yet, I worry that the construction of the Cordoba House Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site would not promote tolerance or understanding; I fear it would become a symbol of victory for militant Muslims around the world . . . .

“But a mosque near Ground Zero will not move this conversation forward. There were many mosques in the United States before Sept. 11; their mere existence did not bring cross-cultural understanding. The proposed center in New York may be heralded as a peace offering — may genuinely seek to focus on “promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture,” as its Web site declares — but I fear that over time, it will cultivate a fundamentalist version of the Muslim faith, embracing those who share such beliefs and hating those who do not . . . .

“The Iranian revolution compelled my family to flee to America when I was 12 years old. Yet, just over two decades later, the militant version of our faith caught up with us on a September morning. I still identify as a Muslim. When you are born into a Muslim family, there is no way around it, no choices available: You are Muslim. I am not ashamed of my faith, but I am ashamed of what is done in its name.

“On the day I left Ground Zero shortly after the tragedy, I felt that I was abandoning my mother. It was like being forced to leave the bedside of a loved one who is dying, knowing you will never see her again. But I felt the love and respect of all those around me there, and it reassured me that she was being left in good hands. Since I cannot visit New York as often as I would like, I at least want to know that my mother can rest in peace.

“I do not like harboring resentment or anger, but I do not want the death of my mother — my best friend, my hero, my strength, my love — to become even more politicized than it already is. To the supporters of this new Islamic cultural center, I must ask: Build your ideological monument somewhere else, far from my mother’s grave, and let her rest.
[From: A Muslim victim of 9/11: ‘Build your mosque somewhere else’]

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