Constitutional Freedoms and the “Ground Zero Mosque”



The only reason I support the building of Park51, which will be home to the Cordoba House, is because of the Constitution. Building it may not be popular, but we cannot pick and choose when we follow the Constitution. I recognize that they have the right to build it, but is it right to build it two blocks from Ground Zero?

Raheel Raza, a Muslim Canadian Congress Board Member, said, “I can’t begin to imagine how they would even conceive an idea that building a mosque there, which is an exclusive place of prayer for Muslims, would in any way build tolerance and respect.”

Building the mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is a slap across the face to thousands of family members of 9/11 victims, the city of New York and America. And what was the original dedication date? 9/11. It is hard to believe someone unintentionally picked a date that has been ingrained in the memory of all Americans. Raza later said, “And as a Muslim, I read in my holy book, the Quran, that we should be very sensitive towards people of other faiths, especially when we are living in lands that are not Muslim lands…We don’t show our caring for them by being intolerant.”

Is it right to build it two blocks from Ground Zero? Raza would say that it is not and many Americans would agree.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed article, “Our name, Cordoba, was inspired by the city in Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle Ages during a period of great cultural enrichment created by Muslims. Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures.”

The first Cordoba mosque was built in the Spanish city of Cordoba after the Muslim conquest of Christian Spain. The Iberian Peninsula and North Africa were ruled from Cordoba, which acted as the region’s cultural and financial center. The truth behind the city of Cordoba is that when it was conquered many of the men were murdered and many of the women were sent back to the Arab lands as slaves. Non-Muslims were automatically deemed as second-class and had many civil rights restricted, including building temples and churches. The Cordoba mosque was built as a sign of victory and power, and mosques have been routinely built as signs of victory by Muslims.

It is interesting that Rauf chose to name the mosque the Cordoba House and chose to build it not only in the city which many might consider the cultural and financial center of the U.S., but right near the sight of the 9/11 attack. Nine days after the 9/11 attacks, Rauf said in a 60 Minutes interview, “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened. But the United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” In an interview with New York’s WABC radio in June of 2010, Rauf was asked if he considered Hamas a terrorist organization. He said, “The issue of terrorism is a very complex question…The U.S. and the West must acknowledge the harm they have done to Muslims before terrorism can end.” Do these comments matter?

There are those that suspect Rauf has connections to extremists and terrorism. Groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, International Institute of Islamic Thought and the Islamic Society of North America, and their ties to Rauf, are worth further investigation. A Washington Post article dated September 14, 2007, says that Stephen Coughlin, a lawyer and military intelligence specialist on the Joint Staff, stated in a September 7 memorandum that many U.S. Muslim groups, viewed as moderate by the Justice Department, are linked secretly to the pro-terrorist group Muslim Brotherhood. He also said these groups are engaged in influential and deceptive operations designed to mask their true aims. If Imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf is connected to organizations that have ties to terrorist groups, does it matter?

The answers to these questions will not impact whether the mosque will be built. I believe that they do, however, matter. The questions indicate that there is more to this story. From what Coughlin says, should there be more important questions being asked right now about who these people are and what they really believe? If the connections to terrorists are real, are we prepared to deal with them? In the same 2007 Washington Post article, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that nothing is being done domestically to battle Islamist extremist ideas.

It is clear that Rauf has a right to build Park51 wherever he wants. I believe, as do many others, it is insensitive and counterproductive. It appears, however, that there is more to this than just whether or not it is good for the Muslim-American relationship. Although it does not apply to the majority of Muslim Americans, it raises awareness of the potentially dangerous minority.