Mosque near Ground Zero?
Locals call Cordoba House ‘the wrong place’
All of Islam bears some responsibilty for 9-11 and the epidemic of terror carried out in its name and by its adherents,” wrote Rabbi Benjamin Shull of Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake in an e-mail to The Jewish Standard.
Asked to elaborate, he added, “I realize that there are many Muslims who practice a moderate form of their religion and who do not condone terror or violent jihad, but it is obvious to anyone who has studied the history of Islam that the violence we see today is not a mere aberration. There is endemic to Islam an aggressive and imperialistic strain that, many times in the past, has reared its head and brought much religiously fueled violence to the world. Many truly moderate Muslim leaders have acknowledged this and called for a reform of Islam. The leader of the World Trade Center mosque has not — though he will condemn terror in one breath he will excuse it in another. He actually once claimed that Osama bin Laden was created in the United States (by U.S. foreign policy).
“I don’t think that the government should stop the mosque, but I do believe that we, the Americans, can demand accountability. This is not Islamophobia, it’s common sense.”
Alex Grobman, a historian who lives in Englewood and is the author, most recently, of the ironically titled “The Palestinian Right to Israel” (Balfour Books), was similarly negative about the mosque site.
He wrote in an e-mail to the Standard that “If those building the imposing 13-story $100 million mosque were truly interested in portraying Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance, this is clearly the wrong place to do so. Allowing a mosque to be built so close to the destruction of the Twin Towers will be seen as an act of triumphalism. What else are we to assume when the projected name is Cordoba House, a term obviously identified with conquest? As one analyst noted, the first Cordoba mosque was erected in Cordoba, Spain, following the Muslim conquest of Christian Spain in the eighth century.
|Rabbi Benjamin Shull, left, Alex Grobman, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach File Photos|
“A very transparent and unmistakable message will be conveyed to the faithful,” Grobma added, “that they have been given a premier platform from which to preach their form of Islam under Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. He is a prominent member of Perdana, which is ‘the single biggest donor’ to the Free Gaza Movement, according to David Horowitz, and refuses to say if Hamas is a terrorist organization.”
Grobman wrote that in “Abdul Rauf’s book, published in Malaysia, ‘A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11,’ the word ‘dawa’ refers to spreading sharia [Islamic law] by any way except through violence, according to Islam expert Robert Spencer.
“Is this mosque not then a Trojan horse?”
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an Englewood resident and a columnist for this newspaper, has written frequently of his qualified opposition to the mosque. The author, most recently, of “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life,” he wrote on the Huffington Post website on Tuesday that he is, in fact, “a supporter of the mosque being built, but only under two conditions. First, that its builders consult the families of the Ground Zero dead, who are the people whose opinion matters most. Second, that the 13-story complex include a museum detailing the events of 9/11 with exhibits explaining the modern abuse of Islamic teachings by extremists and their repudiation by Islam itself.”
Responding to accusations of bigotry against opponents of the mosque, Boteach wrote, “There are bigots in America but Americans are not bigots. There are a hundred mosques in New York alone and nobody objects. But the average American is souring on Islam not based on any intrinsic prejudice but based on the violence they constantly read in the newspapers….
“[T]his is where the builders of the Ground Zero mosque squandered a unique opportunity to portray Islam in a favorable light,” he continued. “They could have said that while they are firm about their intentions of creating an Islamic presence at this hallowed site, their intention in so doing is not to offend the families’ sensibilities but to repudiate the fanatics who have tarnished the name of Islam and hence, the builders wish to proceed with the greatest sensitivity and understanding.
“Sadly, … none of this happened. Rather, it was announced that a mosque is being built adjacent to a giant American cemetery irrespective of the families wishes, that it’s a First Amendment right, and that all those who oppose it are bigots.”
More on: Mosque near Ground Zero?
I (We) are Muslims who want contemporary understandings of Islam to replace currently predominant harsh and radical (Salafi/Wahabbi) interpretations of our religion. We therefore declare that:
1- Redda Law, the Sharia Law that allows the killing of Muslims who convert to other faiths, must be banned in Islamic teachings and in Sharia legal doctrine. Islamic countries that practice Sharia must stop the practice of this law and must admit that Freedom of belief and the right to convert to other faith or believe is a basic right that must be given to all Muslims.
Rabbi Jordan Millstein of Temple Sinai in Tenafly sent his congregants a pre-Shabbat e-mail message in which he discussed the mosque. Excerpts follow.
1. This is an issue on which good people can disagree…. The key to maintaining a civil society and healthy, dynamic Jewish community is not that we should all hug each other and sing “Kumbaya” (though if that’s your thing I am totally fine with it). Rather, it is the recognition that there is a human being inside that opinion he/she is wearing and that this human being was created in the image of God just as we were.
Former Islamic terrorist urges moderation
If the Cordoba House is built in the shadow of the Sept. 11 site, radical Muslims will increase their efforts to attack America because of a perceived victory in their war to transform the United States into a Muslim nation.
So says Dr. Tawfik Hamid, senior fellow and chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Hamid is a former member of the terrorist Islamic organization Jamaa Islamiya with Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who later became the second in command of Al-Qaeda. For more than 25 years Hamid has spoken out in favor of reformation in the Muslim world based on peaceful interpretations of Islamic texts.
Organization had opposed Cordoba House
The Anti-Defamation League, which has come under fire for its opposition to the planned mosque near the site of the World Trade Center, is launching an interfaith taskforce to help Muslim communities denied permission to build mosques in their neighborhoods.
The taskforce would “receive complaints, requests, [and] pleas from Muslim communities that run into … prejudice,” Abraham Foxman, the organization’s national director, said.
The initiative, Foxman said in a telephone discussion with The Jewish Standard last Friday, “needs a national specific focus and response. It will take a while because we need to find the partners.”
Tenafly man recalls long relationship with Rauf
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the head of the Cordoba Initiative, should be praised for creating bridges between moderate Muslims and people of good will, according to Tenafly resident Alan Silberstein.
The pair’s relationship goes back decades to their days as engineering students at Columbia University in 1967. Rauf’s father was an Egyptian diplomat and the family had recently relocated from Kuwait. When the Six Day War broke out, the two students were working side by side at summer jobs in the religion department. They often ate lunch together and, rather than drive them apart, the war sparked discussion and mutual respect.
The New York Islamic center is a distraction from the real issues facing America, said Teaneck’s Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin.
“Regardless of whether this goes up, it’s not going to create jobs, it’s not going to get us out of the recession, it’s not going to make America safer,” the mayor told The Jewish Standard earlier this week.
Hameeduddin is the only Muslim mayor in New Jersey. The Teaneck Township Council appointed him and Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen, an Orthodox Jew, in July, but the two have known each other since their days at Teaneck High School. They have not seen the mosque issue drive a wedge between them or Teaneck’s fragile unity.
“We don’t agree on everything,” Gussen said. “The goodwill we’ve put in the bank over a decades-long friendship carries us through any differences we may have.”
On behalf of this newspaper, Rabbi Steven Sirbu asked members of the Temple Emeth-Dar-Ul-Islah Mosque dialogue team how they felt about the Cordoba House controversy and what effect, if any, the controversy might have on relations within the two communities. Below are some of the replies.
Stephen Friedman, a board member of Temple Emeth, said that while initially (before joining the dialogue team), “I had to overcome some trepidation and irrational fear, due to the frequent media association of Islam with terrorism that had filtered into my consciousness … after a year of dialogue I count my Muslim colleagues as my friends.” This does not mean, he said, that there are not differences needing to be addressed, “but the fact that as a group we were able engage in meaningful dialogue on challenging issues like the Middle East conflict was very encouraging.”
Cordoba House supporters cite religious freedom as crux of debate
Some local groups strongly support the mosque.
While their reasons range from First Amendment freedoms to trust that rank-and-file Muslims are well-intentioned, they speak with passion about the right of their fellow citizens to build houses of worship.
Rabbi Steven Sirbu, whose Teaneck synagogue has partnered with the town’s mosque, Dar-Ul-Islah, to create an ongoing Jewish-Muslim dialogue group, wrote to his congregants, “I have long believed that Muslims occupy a similar place in American society today that Jews occupied about a century ago.”