Muslims across the U.S. and around the world are speaking out against building an Islamic center and mosque near the mass murder site at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
Many Muslim voices are echoing conservative critics of the Cordoba Initiative’s attempt to build the 13-story facility just 600 feet from where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood.
Their statements show the emptiness of a handful of Arab and Muslim Republican activists who, in a well-publicized letter defending the Ground Zero mosque, purported to speak for the interests of “the Arab and Muslim community in America.” They also eviscerate claims that critics of the project are motivated by prejudice and hatred toward Muslims.
Even before the six GOP Muslim and Arab-American activists signed the August 17 letter, Muslims in the U.S. and abroad were criticizing Imam Feisal Rauf and his $100 million Cordoba Initiative project. Some Muslims called the mosque plan a deliberate provocation, a political gesture to thumb one’s nose at the “infidel,” and equivalent to building a Christian church where Serbian troops slaughtered 6,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, Kosovo.
“American Muslims who support the proposed mosque and Islamic center near ground zero are facing skeptics within their own faith – those who argue that the project is insensitive to Sept. 11 victims and needlessly provocative at a time when Muslims are pressing for wider acceptance in the U.S.,” the Associated Press reported.
This report and others like it dealt a body blow to the argument of GOP activists David Ramadan, Sherine El-Abd, Randa Fahmy Hudome, George Salem, Suhail Khan, Samah A. Norquist, who signed the letter, and her husband Grover, whose Americans for Tax Reform organization distributed it.
For example, Akbar Ahmed, Professor of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, says he sympathizes with those who object to the mosque’s planned proximity to Ground Zero. “For most Americans, 9/11 remains as an open wound, and anything associated with Islam, even for Americans who want to understand Islam – to have an Islamic center with so much publicity is like rubbing salt in open wounds,” Ahmed told AP.
The current Miss USA, Rami Fakih, who is the first Arab-American to wear the crown and is a practicing Muslim, agrees with the critics. She told CBS Inside Edition, “It shouldn’t be so close to the World Trade Center. We should be more concerned with the tragedy than religion.”
Zuhdi Jasser, President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told The Daily Caller that the Ground Zero mosque “is not a humble Islamic statement. A mosque such as this is actually a political structure that casts a shadow over a cemetery, over hallowed ground. 9/11 was the beginning of a kinetic war, it is not an opportunity for cultural exchange. It was the beginning of a conflict with those who want to destroy our way of life.” Jasser added, “I am in no way looking to infringe on First Amendment issues. I approach this as a Muslim that is dedicated to reform.”
Shi’ite Muslim Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, wrote an article called “A Muslim Case Against the Mosque” on his blog. In it, he argued that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s plan to build the Ground Zero center was not to promote reconciliation and understanding. Instead, says Schwartz, “the plan is obviously provocative and confrontational – and it’s hard to imagine that Rauf didn’t know that long before it became public.”
“That’s one big reason why American Muslims, like other Americans, should reject the project – particularly if they really want to adhere to traditional Islamic principles. I say that as a Muslim convert since 1997,” Schwartz wrote on August 3. “Traditional, moderate Islam teaches Muslims living in non-Muslim-majority societies to obey the laws and customs of the countries in which they reside. They must avoid conflict with their non-Muslim neighbors whenever possible.”
Schwartz isn’t for pushing the First Amendment to the point of antagonizing people – to him, the issue should be courtesy toward one’s neighbor. In this case, he seems to agree with non-Muslim conservative critics that the mosque near Ground Zero is insensitive to others.
Muslims from other countries are chiming in their support for the critics. “Building a mosque there will increase hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims in the West,” Gamal Awad, a professor at Cairo’s Al Azhar University, told the Los Angeles Times. “It will further connect Islam with a horrible event.”
On August 9, more than a week before the controversial GOP letter defending the plan to build the mosque as planned, the Muslim Canadian Congress posted an article that questioned Rauf’s motives and demanded that he not proceed with the project.
In an official letter to Rauf, the Muslim Canadian Congress stated, “Many Muslims suspect that the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation, to thumb our noses at the ‘infidel.’ We believe the proposal has been made in bad faith and, in Islamic parlance, is creating ‘fitna,’ meaning ‘mischief-making,’ an act clearly forbidden in the Qur’an.”
“The Qur’an commands us Muslims to ‘Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book’ – i.e., Jews and Christians,” the Muslim Canadian Congress told Rauf, citing chapter 29, verse 46 of Islam’s holiest book. “Building an exclusive place of worship for Muslims at the place where Muslims killed thousands of New Yorkers is not being considerate or sensitive, it is undoubtedly an act of ‘fitna.'”
Rauf is no moderate. He says the United States is worse than al Qaeda.
The Canadian Muslim group rejected Rauf’s claim that the mosque will increase tolerance for Muslims, asking him, “Do you not understand that building a mosque at Ground Zero is equivalent to permitting a Serbian Orthodox Church near the killing fields of Srebrenica [Kosovo] where 6,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered?”