September 11, 2001United States

Behind the Cordoba Mosque Controversy

While liberal elites focus on the soon-to-rise Cordoba mosque near the site of the destroyed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and see it as a symbol of religious tolerance, liberty and interfaith understanding, other issues have been pushed to the sidelines – issues that may appear trivial, perhaps even foolish to us, but which resonate throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

The New York authorities could have declared the location a nationally-protected historic site but chose not to do so; and there is no question that Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf (the son of a founding member of the Muslim Brotherhood under Hasan al Banna in Egypt in 1928) and his supporters have both the legal and constitutional right to build the mosque wherever they wish; but there are other questions that merit serious attention – one of which is why Rauf (despite declaring his intention to foster greater religious tolerance, pluralism, inter-religious dialogue and understanding) would demonstrate such insensitivity and lack of reverence by choosing to build this mosque near a site where, on 9/11/2001, 2,700 New Yorkers were incinerated by radical Islamic terrorists.

One is also entitled to be suspicious about his motives, given his refusal to recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization, his claim that U.S. foreign policy was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and his support for “progressive” Muslim intellectuals like Qatar-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide and a favorite of the Saudi royal family. Qaradawi’s fatwas, for example, call for the execution of Muslim reformers as apostates, the killing of American troops in Iraq, suicide bombings in Israel, and the rejection of secularism in Islamic societies.

Moreover, even the liberal website Elaph has raised this issue. Lebanese journalist Joseph Bishara wrote recently that Rauf does not really believe in tolerance and is deceiving the public based on the Islamic principle of taqiyya (concealing one’s true beliefs) – that is, he is hiding his real intentions, which are to spread Islam in the U.S. while exploiting the liberties granted him by the U.S. Constitution. Noteworthy is Rauf’s intention to raise funds for the $100M 13-story Islamic Center from the most authoritarian, least religiously tolerant Arab regimes in the Middle East. Does anyone actually believe that fostering “religious tolerance and pluralism” is a major selling-point in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar and especially with the Saudis who have spent an estimated $100 billion in petro-dollars over the past thirty-five years to spread radical Islamic dawa (proselytizing) through mosques and madrasses worldwide? The more probable answer is the aim of institutionalizing Sharia in America.

If the Saudis and the other Gulf Emirates are really prepared to put millions towards this project in the interests of promoting religious tolerance, wouldn’t a better way be to allow a church, synagogue or multicultural center to be built in Mecca? But don’t wait for that to happen any time soon: there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia, nor are visits by non-believers to the sacred sites of Mecca and Medina allowed; so the argument that the Saudis and the others might consider funding the Center as symbolic support for religious tolerance and pluralism in Islam defies credibility. It is more likely that any financial support emanating from these countries will be geared to promoting jihadi Salafist Islam and the acceptance of Sharia Law in America. Consequently any financial support from these regimes for this project should be suspect. It would be tragic if the same channels that seek to build the Cordoba Mosque also underwrote the attacks that made it necessary to build a memorial.

Consider as well the historical and religious symbolism this mosque projects throughout the Islamic world. For centuries, the rallying cry of Islamists has been to reclaim their lost medieval Islamic Empire in Southern Spain, known in Islamic history as Andalusia (Al-Andalus). Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and virtually all proponents of jihadi Salafist Islam speak incessantly of restoring Al-Andalus. So to radical Islamists, a mosque rising near Ground Zero, well before a new World Trade Center has even begun being constructed, symbolizes Islamic triumphalism and supremacy — part of a long tradition of minarets built over the conquered religious sites of enemies.

In 630 AD, Muslims captured Islam’s holiest city, Mecca, and erected a mosque at the Ka’aba – the site of a building reputedly built by the Patriarch Abraham.

The great mosque at Cordoba was built over the Christian Church of St. Vincent.

The eighth century Al-Aqsa Mosque rests on the site of the destroyed Jewish Second Temple in Jerusalem.

The Ayasofya Mosque was built over the Byzantine Christian Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul.

And the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus was constructed over the remains of what was once the Church of St. John the Baptist.

As these mosques were built to symbolize Islamic conquest over the religion of conquered peoples throughout the ages, the Cordoba mosque near the 9/11 site will be seen in the Arab and Muslim world as symbolic of Islamic supremacy in the face of American weakness and appeasement.

So while we are waiting for Imam Rauf’s great Islamic Renaissance to unfold, perhaps it might be better to prepare for the videos that might soon begin appearing throughout the Arab world, portraying images of the Cordoba Mosque transposed over the ruins of the World Trade Center. We can expect it to be another hit, as was the anti-Semitic thirty-part TV series “Horseman Without a Horse,” based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery, and shown throughout the Arab world during Ramadan in the months following 9/11.

Building this mosque in that place may be legal, but this does not make it right; we too easily dismiss its symbolic value to our enemies. Contrary to popular belief, the proposed mosque does not represent “the audacity of hope” or symbolize religious tolerance; nor will it assist us in avoiding another “misunderstanding” similar to that which “caused” two passenger planes to crash into the World Trade Center on 9/11. Rather, it represents a cold disregard for the worst disaster in American history; an insult to the United States and to the memory of those who died that day, and a symbolic victory for those who continue to justify murder in the name of religion.

There are thousands of sites in New York City where another mosque could be built without the Ground Zero resonance, but that, it seems, would defeat the purpose of building it near that location.

As an ironic side-effect, the Cordoba mosque will actually reinforce the connection between the events of 9/11 and Islam. Additionally, the fact that Muslims will be celebrating the joyous holiday of Eid al-Fatr, marking the end of Ramadan, on or near September 11th this year, will make this connection even more apparent. As Raymond Ibrahim notes: “The greater lesson of the 9/11 mosque is that, so long as Islamists rock the boat and bring attention to themselves – even through non-violent means – (the more) they risk exposing themselves.”

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