After the events of 9/11 an Islamic center in Madison opened their doors to the larger community so to better understand what is at the heart of the Koran. It was a practice that many mosques and educational centers around the nation undertook in an effort to underscore what Islam was really about, and equally important to state what it was not. After all, those that were at the center of the events on 9/11 were not those who followed the Koran, but instead were those who had bastardized the faith. When tormented men who dishonored Islam flew planes into the Twin Towers they also brought a dark cloud on all those who follow Islam. Everyone suffered as a result of 9/11.
Those dialogues shortly after 9/11 are still important to think about. It is one of the reasons that I strongly support the building of a mosque and Islamic center two blocks north of ground zero in Lower Manhattan. The fact that this proposal has become a political football for the conservatives, when in fact it is a zoning issue for New York City, means that liberals also need to be heard on the matter. It is for that reason that I add my voice to the debate.
The need for tolerance and bridge-building between those who practice Islam, and those who do not should be apparent to all. There is not a week that goes by that some incendiary remark or offensive reminder of the bigotry that too many have for Islam is not heard. How often do we hear some ‘expert’ on Islam throw out a blatantly incorrect ‘fact’ as a way to continually undermine the religion, and create fear among those who have little to guide them in their thinking about the faith?
When I first heard about the idea for a mosque to be built on the site close to where the Twin Towers stood I honestly did not think twice about it. It was just another news story among many. It was only when the outlandish attacks started by those opposing it that I started to consider the merits if built at this location.
The new project will will be called Cordoba House, named after the medieval city in Spain where Muslims, Christians, and Jews peacefully lived side by side some 800 years ago. In light of that fact, and after reading more about it over the past weeks, I concluded in my mind this project was a correct one for this site, and at this time. I have had time to reflect on the dialogues that were held after 9/11, and as I thought then, and still do today, anything that bridges the divide between people is the route to take. How could one think otherwise?
I applaud the construction of this mosque and educational center with the hope that advancing Islam in its true form will help alleviate the misunderstandings and bigotry. The over-whelming majority of those who practice Islam are as decent as those who are blessed by a priest, or offered a handshake at the end of a holy roller service. What divides those of different faiths is the lack of communication that too often takes place. Cordoba House will be a step in one city to help resolve those issues.
This project has the backing of many, including the powers that shape policy in New York City. On June 6, 2010, New York’s Community Board voted overwhelming in support of the building of the proposed mosque and community center. The vote was 29-1. There is a growing consensus to do the right thing, the American thing, and allow for this mosque and center to be built. There is not one justifiable reason not to allow it to be constructed.
I stand with those who know what divides us is much smaller than what unites us.