Is the Cordoba House Good for America?

Three cases for and three cases against the "Ground Zero Mosque"

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Now that the New York City landmarks commission has approved the Cordoba House, an Islamic community center that has drawn attacks for its planned location two blocks from the former World Trade Center site, the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" is one step closer to reality. Whether it ends up happening as planned or is scuttled as demanded by such conservatives as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, observers are weighing in on what the center would mean for America. What would it do, or not do, for the country and its millions of Muslim-Americans?

The Case Against the Cordoba House

  • Senator Lieberman: 'Pause' The Project  Connecticut Independent Senator Joe Lieberman said on Fox radio show Imus in the Morning, "I'd say I'm troubled by it, but I don't know enough to say that it ought to be prohibited. ... But frankly I've heard enough about it and read enough about it that I wish somebody in New York would just put the brakes on for a while and take a look at this. ... If the people building this large Islamic center are just looking to build a large facility — a house of worship and center — in New York, why so close to 9/11, with all the sensitivity associated with that? ... I've also read some things about some of the people involved that make me wonder about their motivations."
  • 'Undermines Interfaith Understanding'  Bush-era U.S. official in Iraq Dan Senor worries in the Wall Street Journal that the center could strengthen "the link between Islam and the brand of radicalism and violence espoused by al Qaeda and like-minded groups." He writes, "the Cordoba House will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a Muslim monument erected on the site of a great Muslim "military" victory—a milestone on the path to the further spread of Islam throughout the world."
  • 'Loathsome Extremism' and Mysterious Funding of Center  The "Directors" of the conservative blog RedState declare, "The fact is that the groups behind the 'Ground Zero mosque' / Cordoba House / Park51 chose the site explicitly for its proximity to Ground Zero, and then spent months boasting about it in the press. ... The arrogant and insensitive 'Ground Zero' branding of Rauf, Khan and el-Gamal is why [we oppose this]." They accuse the center's founders of "loathsome extremism" and of "deliberate opacity behind the 'Ground Zero mosque’s' funding."

The Case for the Cordoba House

  • Center Hurts al-Qaeda, Makes Us Safer  The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg gets real. "The Cordoba Initiative, which is headed by an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an enemy of al Qaeda. ... Bin Laden would sooner dispatch a truck bomb to destroy the Cordoba Initiative's proposed community center than he would attack the ADL, for the simple reason that Osama's most dire enemies are Muslims," he writes. "[Rauf] represents what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country. Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of the mosque project are giving him what he wants."
  • Alienating Friendly Muslims a Terrible Policy  The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen writes, "For folks like Gingrich, Cheney, Giuliani, et al, Feisal Abdul Rauf is exactly the kind of American ally who should be embraced. Instead, the right is going to genuinely ridiculous lengths to isolate, offend, and ostracize him, signaling their belief that all Muslim Americans should be treated as second-class citizens. If Osama bin Laden were to write a script for what he'd like to see happen here, it'd be identical to the one Gingrich & Co. are following. This isn't intended to question their patriotism, but rather, their sanity."
  • NYC Mayor Bloomberg: This Is America  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today delivered a speech defending the center. Highlights are below:
Our doors are open to everyone. Everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it's sustained by immigrants -- by people from more than 100 different countries speaking more than 200 different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here or you came here yesterday, you are a New Yorker.

... Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

... Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure, and there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God's love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us can attest.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.