New York City is all a buzz lately about a newly proposed 13-story mosque and cultural center to be built just a few blocks from where the Twin Towers once stood in Lower Manhattan. The center, to be named the Cordoba House, is the $100 million brainchild of Feisal Abdul Rauf, a Kuwati-born imam. The American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), which is headed by Rauf’s wife Daisy Khan, and the Cordoba Initiative have partnered to open the center. If approved today by Manhattan’s Community Board, the Cordoba House is scheduled to open on September 11, 2011.
According to the Cordoba Initiative’s website, the mission of the Cordoba House is “to establish a vibrant and world-class facility in New York City that promotes tolerance and pluralism that will strengthen relationships and attract those of other faiths to integrate and learn about Islam.” The center would include a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, art exhibition spaces, bookstores and restaurants. Most importantly, the center would provide a much needed place for the religiously diverse population of New York City to learn about Islam, celebrate diversity, promote interfaith dialogue and uphold the universal values of compassion, generosity, and respect for all.
However, not everyone has shared my enthusiasm for the proposed Cordoba House. Understandably so, some of the families who lost loved ones in the tragic events of 9/11 feel that building a mosque so close to Ground Zero is insensitive and disrespectful. Most notably was a hate-filled blog post by national Tea Party leader Mark Williams in which he called the center’s mosque a place “for the worship of the terrorists' monkey-god”. Williams later apologized to members of the Hindu faith who worship Lord Hanuman, an actual monkey God, for saying that Muslims worship “monkey-god”. Williams failed to apologize to the Muslim community. Instead, he reiterated that the Cordoba House is a “monument to the 911 hijackers”.
In response to Williams bigoted rhetoric, various New York City elected officials, community and religious leaders, and countless ordinary people from across the United States have stood up for the Cordoba House and denounced William’s comments.
“When a hate-filled individual like Mark Williams spreads lies intended to injure millions of Americans, incite bigotry, and undermine our democracy, we must stand up and respond with the truth,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.
Congressman Jerry Nadler added, “Tea Party leader Mark Williams’ ignorant and morally repugnant comments are nothing more than base prejudice and hate speech aimed at an overwhelmingly law-abiding and patriotic religious minority. New York City in particular is the culmination of centuries of hard-work and sacrifice by every religious and ethnic group under the sun, and we must express zero tolerance when any of our neighbors are singled out for hate or persecution. We must continue to remind the Mark Williamses of the world that the vast majority of Muslims have no connection to terrorism, to Al Qaeda, or to the evils that engineered 9/11.”
“This community center will be an invaluable resource for Lower Manhattan as well as the Muslim community. By bringing New Yorkers of all faiths together, the center will help us put an end to the false and hurtful idea that all Muslims are terrorists. The sooner we put an end to this myth, the sooner we continue to rebuild Lower Manhattan as a strong, diverse community,” said Council member Margaret Chin.
Even Marvin Bethea, a paramedic who survived the collapse of the Twin Towers and now suffers from post-traumatic stress and asthma, was quoted by the Huffington Post in support of the Cordoba Center. "Not all Muslims are terrorists," Bethea said. "Muslims died on 9/11, as well. This is a tremendous gesture to show that we're not all full of hatred and bigotry."