I’ve watched the ongoing debate of the Islamic cultural center and mosque to be built near the World Trade Center site for several weeks now and avoided the rancorous debate so far. While I am confident that this project is legal, it is simply a dumb idea. If anyone ever needed a public relations plan, that person is Feisal Abdul Rauf, the New York Muslim leader who is supposed to be running this project. Regardless of the purity of his motives, Rauf has really made a mess of this.
You can watch most television news shows or pick up any media print publication and find something about this facility. I’ve read arguments that it is a mosque and others that it isn’t. The arguments about legality seem to have disappeared, but that does not mean it is morally right. I believe that this planned center is one of the most morally insensitive or just plain stupid ideas I have heard of lately.
The Islamic center, with some sort of mosque inside, will be a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center site, also called Ground Zero by some people. The proposed 13-story building, also called the Cordoba House, will not sit on Ground Zero but is close enough so that the current building received damage from debris on September 11th when the twin towers fell. That’s pretty close. Regardless of that, it is clear that a number of people who lost family members that day are not happy with the proposed center. Other people with similarly strong feelings support it. Polls I’ve seen reported indicate overwhelming opposition from people around the country.
The center is supposed to provide an opportunity to show a positive side of Muslims, yet the project has generated opposition and support from the name, Cordoba House, as well the location. Cordoba was the capital of a Muslim caliphate when Moors ruled in Spain. How could anyone see that name as one bridging the gap between Muslims and Christians or anyone aware of the strife that resulted from the Muslim occupation of Spanish territory? A Muslim group of any kind using a name like Cordoba was certain to raise a question of purpose. The person who had that brainstorm was not thinking straight if the idea really was to reconcile Muslims and non-Muslims.
I also remain puzzled at the difficulty of reconstructing St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, crushed when the World Trade Center towers fell. The political leadership in New York seems more concerned about allowing this Islamic center to be built than about helping the Greek Orthodox congregation re-establish their demolished building. This adds to the emotional maelstrom associated with the entire mess.
There is no way for me to see inside the heads of the people trying to build this center. I don’t know if they have some sort of nefarious plan to use this building for a center of Islamic unrest or if they are trying to show a positive side of Islam to people in this country. If the idea was to infiltrate New York, from the name to the location of the building, the people trying to make this happen blew it. If the idea was to build a majestic edifice near Ground Zero in order to heal raw wounds, that didn’t work either. The name, size, and location have raised questions. Building this center is just not a smart move, at least not anytime soon. I don’t see this project succeeding in bringing Muslims and non-Muslims together.