Yesterday, the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf called on “moderate” Muslims (and others of the moderate persuasion) to take control of the debate swirling around the controversial proposed Ground Zero mosque, known as Cordoba House. 1
Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations 2 —a self-described research center that dedicates itself to understanding the world “by better comprehending global trends,” Imam Rauf said that America has let “extremists hijack the agenda.” 3
The Iman (who for some reason reminds me of a Bond villain) had some other things to say. First, that he is a devout Muslim and that he prays at least five times a day as required by Muslim law. But that he’s also just a regular American, that he pays his taxes, pledges allegiance to the flag, and that he’s even a Giants fan don’t-cha know! (Personally, I would rather he’d said he was a Jets fan, but that’s just me.)
In light of all the controversy surrounding the Cordoba project, when asked about whether it was necessary to build a mosque at Ground Zero, this regular, reasonable American said that his answer is still “a categorical yes.”
Now, I actually agree with the silver-tongued Imam that the voices of reason should attempt to regain control of the discourse regarding the mosque, but for those of you who are just joining the story now, let’s examine some items of recent history:
When asked last month by the Governor of New York, David Paterson, to meet in order to discuss the possibility of moving the mosque to another location, the Imam and the developer behind the project categorically refused to meet and rejected any offer on the part of the Governor to help them find a different site.
When Donald Trump, in an attempt to end the controversy, made an offer to purchase the proposed mosque site for 25 percent over and above the value of the property, the lawyer representing the Imam and the project developer rejected the offer calling it a cheap publicity stunt.
Last week, the Imam appeared on CNN and said that if the mosque is moved at this stage it would mean violent attacks against the United States and that “if we don’t handle this crisis correctly it could become something which could really become very, very, very dangerous indeed.” 4 (Now, I’m no expert on criminal law, but that sounds a lot like extortion to me.)
During the same CNN interview, wherein he fielded a battery of tough, investigative questions by fourteen-year-old Soledad Obrien, he said that he would provide complete information that would make transparent all the murky details behind the syndicate of backers on the mosque project, including whether any of them are affiliated with terrorist organizations. (We are still waiting on that, by the way.)
The Imam has made statements in the past about: America being an accessory to 9-11, about America having more blood on its hands than Al Qaeda, about having America become compliant to Islamic Sharia law, and about how Hamas is not really what he would call a terrorist organization. But let’s not dwell on the past.
So where was I? Ah, yes – moderate Muslims. Well, as I said, I agree with the smooth-talking Imam that moderate Muslims should control the discourse. But what I am wondering about now is whether the Imam actually knows of any.
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Fn. 1: The proposed name for the planned Ground Zero mosque—Cordoba House—refers to Cordoba, Spain where Muslims built a great mosque as a symbol of their conquest of Spain during the Islamic invasion of the 8th century. The building of mosques on conquered ground is standard practice in the Muslim world: a kind of triumphalism or a planting of a flag of victory.
Fn. 2: This august body is apparently populated by great world thinkers such as movie actress Angelina Jolie and T.V. anchorman Brian Williams. See: http://www.cfr.org/about/