National security does not “hinge” on mosque

On September 11th, I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker for an event hosted by Unity Productions Foundation, … Continued

On September 11th, I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker for an event hosted by Unity Productions Foundation, Americans for Informed Democracy
9/11 Unity Walk and the Society for Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs at American University. The event took place at Theatre J, housed in the DC JCC. It brought together Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and others in an act of unity to remember and commemorate the victims of that day nine years ago.

The act of talking to each other to understand each other is the best monument in honor of those who so tragically died on 9/11. It is in that spirit that I contemplate the controversy that has enveloped the so called ‘ground zero mosque” -which we know is neither on ground zero, nor a mosque.

Like millions in America, I saw Imam Abdul Rauf finally break his silence his silence on the Larry King show several nights ago. I have always been impressed by his calm demeanor and his sense of purpose in being a bridge builder and a man of peace. I would always support a project which plans to bring together the different faiths at the Islamic center he has in mind. I applaud the spirit in which he works to create unity and friendship. (Editor’s note: Abdul Rauf elaborated Sunday on This Week, telling Christiana Amanpour that he believes moving the mosque would “strengthen the radicals.”)

But as a man who has been an administrator in the Muslim world I am also aware of the sociological laws of cause and effect. I am conscious of the cultural context of the debate around the Ground Zero mosque. I am aware that there is so much intense hatred being built up around the Muslim community that if it were to go ahead it would attract constant attacks. Some are already threatening to physically prevent in construction. In the end, confrontation, pain, distrust and hatred, which are a consequence of the virulent debate around the mosque, are exactly the opposite of what the imam intended. If that is the case, then surely the imam needs to give us a way out of the impasse.

For the imam to say that the national security of the US “hinges” on the building of the mosque makes little sense to me. He must plan for the immediate future regarding the mosque in the context of the United States and not link it to some theoretical or remote ideas of foreign policy and international relations. The problem is squarely situated in the United States and needs to be resolved here. Whether he shifted or changes his structure or comes up with any other solution, little will change in terms of the implications for American national security.

However, to many Americans, the imam’s insistence on linking the construction of the mosque with “national security” appeared almost like a veiled threat. He seemed to be saying to those Americans “give me the mosque or else, your national security is threatened.” When 75% of Americans are already against the mosque, this tragedy to me is counterproductive. We need to be building bridges and friendship between Muslims and non-Muslims. I believe that is the imam’s intention. If that is the case, the imam has to rethink, radically, his present strategy. Otherwise, he has dug himself into an impasse and unfortunately dragged the rest of us Muslims in America into that same hole. To go forward with his plan is to face trouble; to back away is also trouble, as it will upset many Muslims. Therefore, we need the imam’s wisdom, compassion and boldness to come up with a legitimate solution. We should not talk of vague and strange links with national security but resolve the issue of the Islamic center in New York once and for all.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the name of American University’s Society for Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs.

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  • pgtl_10

    When Mohammed cartoons were shown people paraded around the free speech banner and Muslims need to be tolerant. Muslims should not be so sensitive people said. Now people seem to have short memories or being down right hypocritical. Apparantly tolerance is only acceptable in America if others are doing the tolerating. If anything, this whole episode to get us thinking about things not so important shows that we are no more tolerant than Muslims complaining about teh Mohammed cartoons. We are hypocrites.

  • rohit57

    All I can say is Professor Ahmed is the wise voice we have been needing all this time.

  • Gonzage1

    An imam sensitive to the feelings of othersOf course, even though all (most) terrorists, today, tend to be Muslim, It is sadly true that in the world of todayThe problem of how to differentiate clearly in perception

  • OldUncleTom

    Coming in, the lead-in says question of the mosque project requires resolution.That question is already resolved, by all relevant authorities. All we have seen in the past weeks is public opinion, which is meaningless in the overall context.Its private property; NYC has approved the project, not once, but several times. If fund are raised, the structure will be built, and some will continue to whine about it. Most of us will have moved on.

  • evh1984

    If the Imam really cared about “building bridges” he’d at least be OPEN to reconsidering, but instead he’s trying to scare us into allowing his mosque to be built. He obviously doesn’t care about inflaming the average American’s sensibilites, he only cares about offending Muslims. The hypocrisy is maddening!

  • hesthe

    The weak thinking here, both in the article and in some other comments, is quite sad. Imam Rauf is in no way threatening, and only a mean-spirited observer would believe that. He is simply predicting what others NOT UNDER HIS CONTROL might do, because he is aware of the possibility.The fact that 75% may be against building the center is irrelevant. Many of those expressing an opinion have no knowledge of the facts or comprehension of the issues. Millions think it is a ”mosque” being built on Ground Zero. Other millions don’t know a single Muslim personally. Basing a decision on statistics perverted by ignorance and hate is not democracy. Read the story in the NYT about the Muslim prayer center that existed in the South Tower. Inform yourself and do a little thinking; don’t just spout a knee-jerk reaction based on prejudices.

  • TwoDog1

    What does the mighty Imam think of the First Amendment I wonder? Like Obama, he probably, irrationally, thinks that international law has precedence over the Constitution. I would help them build the mosque if he would emphatically denounce jihadists, but he won’t. We look like a nation of cowards. The loser in Florida had a protected right to burn the Koran, just like anyone would have the right to burn a Bible, a flag, or march like the KKK idiots. All American soldiers in history have died to protect FREEDOM. What are we saying to the world when we choose to bend to a hypothetical threat? Line up any set of 10 American soldiers and they will give you a heck yes I’ll fight when it comes to protecting the freedoms assured us in the Constitution. Line up any 10 of the Obama administration, and all they will fight against is the will of the people, trying to make ALL Republicans and conservatives look like enemies. We are sick to death of the ambiguity with which this administration governs. We were wrong to fire Shirley Sherrod on the basis of a part of her speech, but we also effectively condoned all of the speech, which also contained an accusation that opposition to healthcare was primarily based on the fact that we have a black President. That is racism condoned, pure and simple.

  • TwoDog1

    What does the mighty Imam think of the First Amendment I wonder? Like Obama, he probably, irrationally, thinks that international law has precedence over the Constitution. I would help them build the mosque if he would emphatically denounce jihadists, but he won’t. We look like a nation of cowards. The loser in Florida had a protected right to burn the Koran, just like anyone would have the right to burn a Bible, a flag, or march like the KKK idiots. All American soldiers in history have died to protect FREEDOM. What are we saying to the world when we choose to bend to a hypothetical threat? Line up any set of 10 American soldiers and they will give you a heck yes I’ll fight when it comes to protecting the freedoms assured us in the Constitution. Line up any 10 of the Obama administration, and all they will fight against is the will of the people, trying to make ALL Republicans and conservatives look like enemies. We are sick to death of the ambiguity with which this administration governs. We were wrong to fire Shirley Sherrod on the basis of a part of her speech, but we also effectively condoned all of the speech, which also contained an accusation that opposition to healthcare was primarily based on the fact that we have a black President. That is racism condoned, pure and simple.