The Cordoba Initiative – Why I will not support it

 The Cordoba Initiative 

… a mega project devised by a number of Muslim organizations and sponsors to create a 15-story mosque and Islamic community center two blocks from ground zero.  The official site says it is:  

“….. a Muslim-led project which will build a world-class facility that promotes tolerance, reflecting the rich diversity of New York City.  The center will be community-driven, serving as a platform for inter-community gatherings and cooperation at all levels, providing a space for all New Yorkers to enjoy.  

This proposed project is about promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture.  Cordoba House will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by Islamic values in their truest form – compassion, generosity, and respect for all.    

The site will contain tremendous amounts of resources that otherwise would not exist in Lower Manhattan; a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, art exhibition spaces, bookstores, restaurants – all these services would form a cultural nexus for a region of New York City that, as it continues to grow, requires the sort of hub that Cordoba House will provide.”  

Needless to say, there are those apposed to it.  Survivors and families of victims of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center are certainly feeling emotions right now and not all of them good.   The political far-right have condemned it, probably because they can use its creation as a rally cry to some perceived threat and thus another opportunity to claim the patriotic mantle of America.  Be just as certain the will find it a subject to blame their villainous “Barry Hussein”.  Equally, other interest groups are using it to their full advantage.  The radical Zionist movement that has strong lobby influence in the US will find it necessary to battle the project, simply because it is in their interests to demonize anything Islamic to further their own goals to annex the Occupied Territories and some fundamentalist Christian groups – well I guess they will consider something non-Christian as being from “the Devil”.  

But what is the reality behind all of this?  It is hard to actually identify.   

Emotions from those that suffered from September 11 are running high and we know from experience that it is hard to squash.   My parents found a natural dislike for anything German because of the effects of the War, though my child-hood was in Indonesia and I loved the place (and still do), some of my friends’ parents who were fighting guerillas there still hold emotional grudges.   I can only imagine what some WTC families must be feeling.   Having said that, the world does move on and it is for the politicians and our leadership to help build bridges and foster friendship.   Just like the horrors of the two World Wars and other major conflicts, we have mostly gotten over it and thus the process must also be done for New Yorkers and their perceived enemy.   I say “perceived” because the enemy is radical Islamists and terrorism, but because that is a new phenomenon, and we have no race or nation to identify, we can argue that Islam, Muslims and Middle-Easterners have to a degree filled that gab to some.      

Ashley Michelle Papon from GlobalShift correctly writes:  

Of course, it’s difficult to defend that the sentiment isn’t inherently discriminatory against the religion of Islam. Particularly when at least one major leader of an opposing religion demanded that the main focus of the Cultural Center be the teaching not of what Islam is, but rather what it isn’t, complete with a graphic museum depicting all those who have died as a result of Islamic teachings being manipulated.  

Imagine insisting that any Christian centers built in Europe must likewise feature a museum endlessly shaming current followers of the faith for what happened during the Spanish Inquisition. Or, more pointedly, refusing to allow a Catholic church to be built anywhere near the Nazi internment camps unless they agreed to make their primary focus crafting a living apology for the role that they played in assisting in the genocide (which killed an estimated 11 million people) under Adolf Hitler’s regime.  

Many arguments against the Cordoba Initiative fall under these base emotional feelings, void of logic but needs to be recognized for what they are – fear and anger.  

But still, if we cut the emotions and look at the purpose and what is capable of the project, what do we get and what does it come down to?  

You get a large community centre that if the plans come to fruition will be an asset to the centre of New York and as long as the political polarization and partisanship diminishes it will aid in the image of Muslims in New York and America as a whole, certainly not immediately after a period it will.  

That the project appears to be going ahead and mayor Bloomberg has given his “green light” and I think it is a fair assumption that the reasons for it going ahead is that the Burroughs want the development and investments, not to be seen as discriminatory and perhaps even accepting the ideals set for the project.  

So, logically speaking, what are the negatives and concerns other than the emotive or hate-agenda ones?  

Most negative comments that are not from the families or partisan political point-scoring is to do with the project being linked to or eventually hijacked by radicals and that the project is a deliberate dominating move by foreign investors and powers.  I have seen little comments about demographics, such will the facility stand half-empty because there may be not enough “faithful” using the place.  

Imam Rauf, founder of the Cordoba Initiative

The director of the project is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who does have a strong reputation for building bridges.    

Rauf is a founder, along with his wife of ASMA, American Society for Muslim Advancement.  There appears to be no radical influences or links to Rauf, ASMA or the Cordoba Project.    We do know that Rauf’s stewardship of his local Mosque (which apparently is 12 blocks from “ground zero”) is paid either fully or in part by the Government of Malaysia but that itself is neither unusual and Malaysia is by far a non-radical nation and a close friend to the west.  

As an Imam he is a conservative theologian and not all his words come out to a level that westerners may like.  In 2004 at his mosque in New York, he said “The Islamic method of waging war is not to kill innocent civilians. But it was Christians in World War II who bombed civilians in Dresden and Hiroshima, neither of which were military targets.”   He also gave the strong view that until there was a shift by western nations (lead by US) to change its views and support for dictators in the Middle-East, that there would be “an endless supply of angry young Muslim rebels prepared to die for their cause and there [is] no sign of the attacks ending unless there [is] a fundamental change in the world”  

The Cordoba Initiative is also running the “Shariah Index Project” which is attempting to rate Muslim nations on how it adheres to Shariah law.  

Is symbolism a two-edged sword?  The project is supposed to be a symbol as much as a practical tool, enhancing and embracing inter-faith and west-Muslim dialogue.  That is a wonderful concept that I support, but it raises two questions for me.   

The first is that “Ground Zero” has been chosen as a symbol as well, a symbol that includes pain, emotion and it was thrust upon them.    Does it clash or does it enhance, support or work parallel with that symbol.   My point is – has that been worked out?  The public does not know this and that can only work to confuse matters more.  

The second is that as a symbol, the Cordoba Initiative is a prime target for other agendas and ideals because of its potency and placement.   It would be a fool who thinks that the radical, Islamist, anti-integrationist and foreign forces that have so well infiltrated the American Muslim community will not try and do the same to the Cordoba Initiative.   So the point here is what guarantees do we have that it will not?   The ideals set by Imam Rauf and the project is commendable and it cannot be attacked at all, but will it be the reality that is created when the doors are opened and not a few years later on?  The hijacking of the project would be a great score to radical Islamism and anti-Western ideologies, it would then become a symbol of terror and that perversely the attacks on September 11 was some form of victory.  

Will the Cordoba Initiative be a two-edged sword? A clash with a symbol forced on America or a support to it?

At present I do not support the Cordoba Initiative as the plans stand.  Why?  

I believe there has been not enough consultation, parallel symbolism correctly valued or coordinated and work to make the population of New York and America back the project.  

Additionally and in the long term more important, I see no guarantees that the infiltration of anti-Western, anti-integrationist and foreign influences will not take over the project at some point.  That would be a disaster.   I could only imagine how CAIR, who is tainted and anything other than representing Muslims in America, are licking their lips at the prospect of getting their hands on the Cordoba Initiative site.     

It would even be worth questioning if the location is a good one?   Taking away the intentional placement at the old WTC Site, the project is large enough to consider building it in another symbolic location, such as in the capital Washington DC.  

Until those questions are answered and guarantees are made, I cannot at present support it.


About donny2811
Trots Nederlands, goed gereist en een begerige politieke centrist met een speciale afkeer voor basissen.

13 Responses to The Cordoba Initiative – Why I will not support it

  1. Debbie says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

    The image you use of ground zero… I used to have a screen saver with that image and an entire computer theme of it, but I can’t find it on the internet any more. My computer it was on crashed. That image is burned into my mind. Those towers should have been rebuilt immediately, yet there is still a big black hole there.

    This mosque should never be built, but alas, we all know it will go forward.

    • donny2811 says:

      Thanks and welcome. I also have that particular photo etched into my mind and simply found it doing a google image search.

      As you know from my item, if the situation was guaranteed and well organized, the Initiative could be justified, but not the way it is at present and as you hinted …. it will go ahead anyway which in-turn is more reason to reject it. Railroading contraversial projects is a sign of assuming that the views of some must go ahead because “it is good for the people” (that the people cannot judge for themselves).


      Donny vdH

  2. The very name Cordoba does have a particular symbolism:

    “Name Chosen for the Planned Ground Zero Cordoba Mosque Symbolizes Dreams of Expansion and Invasion of the Territory of the Other”

    I was your comment today that Jihad Watch is a hate site. And maybe you think that Atlas Shrugs is also a hate site. Still, I advise you to check out the history of Cordoba and what the word means to many Muslims.

    • donny2811 says:

      Thanks for the comment and participation.

      I certainly do know the symbolism of the name Cordoba and frankly I do not fall for the right-wing agenda version at all. I should add that for the last 9 or so years I have been travelling regularly and now have a second office in Morocco which to many is the inheritor of Andalus culture as well as its refugees. Simply put, and it is explained well enough in the Cordoba Initiative blog-site, Cordoba was for many centuries not only the most sophisticated and advanced Muslim societies when it existed but it was the bridging gap between the Christian-European world and the Muslim one. The days of Ibn-Sina, called Avicenne in Latin, the father of modern medicine being the best example, that in the darkness of a backward Europe, the source and the inspiration for advancement and study of sciences came from Cordoba.

      I do consider Atlast Shrugs to be as much of an agenda-based hate site as Jihad-Watch, that is no doubt. In fact in some ways Robert Spencer is predictable and understandable, Pamela on the other hand just does it for narcisistic reasons and is academically vulgar.

  3. Um, typo. “was” should read “saw.” Sorry!

  4. Congratulations on all your traveling. (no sarcasm)

    My major is Spanish, and I “specialized” in medieval literature — much of what I studied being the literature of the Reconquista.

    So, my perspective is historical.

    I sure that you’d call me a “right winger.” That’s okay, because I suppose that I am.

    I do know both Robert and Pamela personally. Robert is a long-time student of Islam and has quite a keen sense of humor, and Pamela is not as narcissistic as you seem to think she is. Again, I have a different perspective on them — a perspective which goes beyond what each of them writes on the web and elsewhere.

    Anyway, we disagree on a lot. And that’s the way it goes. Balance, if you will.

    In my view, balance is what’s necessary these days. Most of us have a bias, I think.

    • donny2811 says:

      Again thanks for the participation, regardless if we disagree on issues, the subject for me is civilized discussion and if need be debate, there is way to little of both lately in this world.

      Most certainly we see things from a different perspective but that is why we are humans and not drones.

      Yes I think there is bais in most things, that is why everyone pushes their opinion and view and acts upon them from the little things to the larger activities that affect others. My blog is about radicalism – that is when that pushing and opinion/agenda goes to far and is forced on others.

      I like to think that the goal of humanity is to be able to take away that base-human instict for power and radicalism and though it does not look that way, if we look at the world from a distance and over a period of time (you, like me are into history and you will understand), the world even over the last 200 years has driven in that direction.

      Perhaps only in my own mind, I am trying to be dispassionate on issues and look from the perspective, is that event, policy or politician being radical and why and then go into the philosophical discription to see it fits, so far each time it does. 1) the lie/con 2) the spin, twist and contextual abuse and 3) the assumption of the stupidity and helplessness of the audience or population.

      Getting back to the Cordoba Initiative, I am quite convinced that the driving force behind it is benign if not with great ideals and expectations, because many Muslims in America need their own driving force to shrug-off radical islamism and to bring them back into the American fold (if they ever have been). But I still come back to those issues, can there be that guarentee of non-influence later on, I think not. Even though the Imam pushing the Initiative has been a bridge builder, his tenure at the mosque and some of the funding and pushing for the project is from Malaysia and the charity organisation run by the party and family of former PM Mahathir and I rather despize that man. His deputy Anwar Ibrahim, who I have met and consider a great man, disagreed with him and thus he had him dismissed, charged and jailed on trumped up charges. The charges did not stick but the time it took and the damage aged that man more than it should and it pains me to see his photos now. I wonder what he would think of the Cordoba Initiative, I think the response would be very interesting, he would not remember me, but I will email his office and ask.

      • Just stopping back by to check on follow-up here. Sometimes my return is delayed because of my husband’s invalidism following his stroke last fall.

        I’m pleased that our discourse is civil. I can be, shall we say, abrasive. But such is not really in my nature.

        Take care.

      • donny2811 says:

        Take your time, your husband’s health and wellbeing is much more important than any discorse and genuine discourse is most welcome here, in fact encourage as without differing opinions learning is much more the difficult.

        Best wishes to your husband’s recovery.

        Donny vdH

  5. Xandar says:

    The construction of a mosque at the location where their triumphant battles were won, was a practice associated with conquering Islamic armies throughout history. Now this modern Islamic organization is seeking to build a mosque at the site of the 9/11 attack—an attack which was hailed by many Muslims, radical and non-radical, as a Muslim victory in a Holy War.

    The construction of a mosque on the spot where Al-Qaeda brought jihad to the United States would serve as a symbolic victory flag for Muslims who seek the destruction of America and represent victory to the worldwide forces of Radical Islam.

    • donny2811 says:

      Xandar, I appreciate your participation, though I have to say I do not agree with much, if anything, that you say.

      I also find a contradiction, you have used the generalized terms of “their triumphant battles” yet later you correclty say “Al-Qada”.

      For my part, there is no logic in your comments and it beggars questions:

      1) what tirumphant victory are you talking about, and who are “they”? If you are refering to “Islam” or Muslims in general then you are saddly mistaken, all but one country and all five Islamic Schools of Jurispudence condmened 9/11, if you are referring to that sad, tragic and repugnant event.
      2) what is “this modern Islamic organisation”, because you have linked it to your generalization, I am assuming you still are. If your talking about the organization behind the Cordoba Initiative, there are no links to Al Qaeda at all and the leadership does condemn the attacks, albiettries to point out a differing perspective.
      3) What evidence do you have that the attack was “hailed by many Muslims, radical and non-Muslim as a Muslim vicotry in a Holy War? Evidence actually says, as mentioned above, it was and continues to be widly condemned. The only people who have said Holy War are the terrorist and radical Islamist organisations and they are rogue (ie not representing anyone but themselves.
      4) What does a symbolic victory flag “for Muslims” mean? Again you have generalized and as I have clearly mentioned, the vast majority of Muslims and the official organisations that represent them did not support and in fact condemned 9/11. Thus, there can be no victory when there is no war.
      5) What Holy War? If you are referring to the radical Islamists and terroist groups, they certainly claim it, they certainly are trying to fight it, but then they are rogue terrorist groups.

      Like your acknowlegement that there is a terrorist organisation called Al Qaeda, at the end of your comment you again do that double-turn-and-twist by acknowledging that represents “victory to the worldwide forces of radiclal Islam”, which is almost right.

      I strongly suggest, Xendar, that you first make up your mind of who is the enemy, that perhaps you should read and study a bit more and work out what are the root causes, combatants and activists within Islam and what they represent in the greater scheme of things. I should also strongly suggest you stop reading just blogs, particularly the those with an agenda that have neither the intention or obligation to sactually say the truth.


      Donny vdH
      Rotterdam (currently in Istanbul)

  6. Observer says:

    My question is what is of what relevance is your support or lack thereof? You talk about this as a project being “rammed through.” In reality, with a few exceptions having to do with zoning issues, anybody opposed would be powerless to stop it. The first amendment is not equivocal in it’s guarantee of religious freedom. As long as a religious group adheres to our secular laws, it cannot be prohibited. You don’t get to abrogate religious freedom for emotional reasons, and certainly not because of something as hypothetical as you suspect that possibly, at some unknown later date, radical elements might attempt to infiltrate this group. Personally, I am highly dubious of Islam’s compatiblity with western style secular government, but that is beside the point. Either we uphold religious freedom or we don’t.

    While you’re probably right that radicals will attempt to infiltrate this group, don’t forget that the various communities of lower Manhattan have a strong incentive to see that the proposed community center succeed as a beacon of tolerance. If it were an institution open to Muslims only, I would also despair of its chances of doing so, but that isn’t the case. You can bet that its opponents will be watching it like a hawk. Will radical elements flourish under the blinding light that will be shining on this building? Possibly, but you’d have to concede that they’d have a pretty difficult time of it.

    The most important thing to recognize, I believe, is that opposition to this facility is really part of a larger pattern of anti-Islamic sentiment going on in the United States. Mosques in other parts of the country are being actively opposed for pretty much the same reason you oppose this community center. People are concerned that *possibly* the *might* be hotbeds of radicalism. Of course, as with the Cordoba Center, the vast majority of opposition to these other mosques are making no effort at all to find out what Muslims who will be attending these mosques actually believe or profess, they just jump to the conclusion that all Muslims are the enemy. I’ll credit you for not doing that, but surely you can see how dangerous it is for the west not to enter into a dialogue with the more moderate examples of Islam. Far more Muslims have been killed by radical Islamists world wide than Americans or Westerners have been. If we are in a war with radical Islam, we need allies. Taking on Islam as a whole is, first, unjust, and second, a war we simply cannot win.

  7. Observer says:

    Having now looked over your blog and seeing that you are Dutch, I realize that some of my comments are out of context. Needless to say, our constitution doesn’t apply to you. However, I do think you’re overlooking the importance of the First Amendment and its guarantee of religious freedom when it comes to the debate over the Cordoba House. A great many (I suspect most) of its opponents of it actually seem to believe that they have the power to stop it. 200 plus years of Church-State jurisprudence suggests otherwise. Far more dangerous is the now pervasive belief here that supressing unpopular religious expression is morally defensible. Giving to the mob the power to control freedom of conscience is a far greater danger, in my opinion, than anything represented by Cordoba House.

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