A symbol of progress in Lower Manhattan

By Joshua M. Z. Stanton and Zeeshan Suhail Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue Muslim Consultative Network In the rabbinic tradition, it … Continued

By Joshua M. Z. Stanton and Zeeshan Suhail
Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue
Muslim Consultative Network

In the rabbinic tradition, it is said that if you bring color to a person’s face by upsetting them, it is as though you have physically struck him. If so, the Cordoba House and its leaders have endured a true assault.

This past month has seen a flurry of protests from extreme opponents of the Cordoba House, a proposed community center in Lower Manhattan that would be founded by Muslims but serve all New Yorkers. While dissenters comprise only a small minority of voices, they have drowned out the large and growing number of the center’s supporters, as well as those who simply want to learn more about its overarching aims.

Individuals, like tea party leader Mark Williams, have mislabeled the Cordoba House a potential breeding ground for fundamentalism and tried to smear its sponsoring organizations, the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, both of which have a strong record of promoting interfaith dialogue and improving Muslim-Western relations.

Sadly, these protesters have failed to distinguish between the mainstream Muslim majority and the tiny minority of militant Muslims.

Opponents say that building a Muslim-led community center near Ground Zero, a site of profound American loss and pain, would be a “victory” for militant Muslims and a loss for Americans. In fact, it is the undermining of Cordoba House that would be a true loss for Americans. One need only look as far as its name – inspired by the medieval city in Spain, Cordoba, where Christians, Jews and Muslims co-existed and thrived for 800 years – to realize that these critics are misguided.

In fact, Cordoba House is poised to become a gathering place for the enemies of militant Muslims: mainstream Muslims. It will be a sign of internal resistance to the tyranny that a small group of terrorists has tried to impose on the broader community of Muslim believers, whose ultimate goal is peace.

We, a lay Muslim American and former New Yorker, and a future rabbi and current New Yorker, are proud to stand behind this initiative. It sends a clear and profound global message that Muslims will not tolerate extremism and instead seek to collaborate with followers of other faiths and work for the common good.

Global significance aside, just imagine the local impact of Cordoba House: the community center would provide, in its creators’ words, a “cultural nexus” for New Yorkers to come together for education, performances, sports and person-to-person interaction.

New York is one of the most religiously diverse cities in the world. Where better to create a space where Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Hindu New Yorkers, among others, can learn from each other through art classes, poetry readings, film screenings and interfaith dialogue? By investing in the larger New York community, Cordoba House is poised to become an incubator of social progress and haven of tolerance.

In many respects, fringe opponents of the Cordoba House have already failed – even before they rallied in protest against it on June 6. New York’s Community Board recently endorsed the community center with a vote of 29 to 1, with 10 abstentions, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed his support for its construction.

Yet for Cordoba House to achieve its true potential, particularly in the face of such radical critics, people of all backgrounds must support this initiative and others like it – politically, socially, financially and, most importantly, personally. For it to truly bring together people of all religions and even those of no particular faith, New Yorkers – and indeed all Americans – should voice their support for Cordoba House and speak up about what they would truly like to see within its walls.

By participating in this effort together, New Yorkers can reclaim Cordoba House from its detractors and help it come to fruition as a symbol of progress.

Zeeshan Suhail is a Board Member with the New York City-based Muslim Consultative Network. Joshua M. Z. Stanton is co-editor of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College in New York City. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service.

  • Thorum13

    I am neither extreme nor fringe. Just average. The Islamization of the West is best illustrated by the meaning of Cordoba as I know it and have learned it. The conquest of Cordoba, the dhimmitude status of the Jews and Christians who were there centuries before Muslims and Spain’s subsequent use by Muslims to attack further north into Europe were a few details you overlooked. This “Cordoba” in New York City is appropriately named as another Muslim conquest. Good try but I am afraid it is you who are extreme…

  • me125681

    I have traveled to many countries around the world and have met many people of many faiths and let me say there is not much difference between mainstream Muslims and radical Muslims. When pressed they all believe that there is nothing wrong with a religion that is forced upon you by law as opposed to free will and there is nothing wrong with having different laws for Muslims than for non-Muslims. How convenient for the founders of Cordoba house to use the protections of the Constitution in order to further their agenda of destroying it!

  • breadcity

    Knocking down a beautiful old building and erecting an ugly behemoth is a symbol of progress? All that this teaches me about Islam is that it can be guilty of the worst sins of Capitalism. It’s obvious that the Muslim organization building this place have no respect for the city of New York. Why New Yorkers should give any respect back, I honestly don’t see any reason. I hope that the author of this editorial will respond.

  • aaalisadiq

    Kudos to the author for writing this great article! The establishment of Cordoba House is a victory for all peace loving and positive thinking individuals not only in NY but the entire US. It serves as a frustration only to those with a “clash of civilizations’ apocalyptic view of the world. This great country is one of the few places in the world where such things are possible!

  • httkar

    Obviously this post is very biased – written by a board member of the Muslim Consultative Network. There are many buildings in the world, and even within NYC that serve New Yorkers, yet are not branded with any religious denomination.New York is broke. As long as tax dollars would not be used to build this gigantic building (this includes federal and state grants), I would be accepting. There should remain a seperation of church and state. I would not want my tax dollars to go towards building any church, or building erected under the name of religion.

  • RedHogg

    Muslims marginalize those who are not like-minded commonly and that same marginalization is displayed by the tone in this article. Terms used such as “fringe opponents”, “extreme opponents” and “dissenters” are examples of this marginalization.The concerns voiced are legitimate and appropriate in light of the global history of Islam. Particularly troubling is the way in which Muslim dominated countries treat those who are not Muslim.How can we as Americans grant freedoms to a religion that unabashedly and violently restrict the freedom of those who are not Muslim in Muslim countries? We must not just sit back and pretend as if this religion will learn from our freedoms, or the freedoms we grant them, just look to Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Australia for final results of such freedoms.The only lesson learned is how foolish they were for granting those freedoms to those who have no intention of assimilating whatsoever but instead to dominate by any means necessary (such as an increase birth rate for example also).Freedoms must be cautiously grated to those who adhere to this religion

  • springstreet01

    Let’s place a few pork heads onto the property, like they do in Malaysia mosques!