Cordoba House upholds American values

Richard Weeks

     Over the last few months, a row has broken out over the planned Islamic center Cordoba House two blocks from Ground Zero. Generally, the response has been an outburst of anger against Muslims, but this shouldn’t be the way to deal with a situation that touches a nerve: logic and reason will solve this problem.

     One argument against Cordoba House is that Muslims are building a victory mosque on their conquered ground. Although not all Muslims are terrorists, when the word “terrorist” is mentioned, most people will automatically think of young, Muslim Middle Eastern men going to airports with bombs. However, while there is a strong Muslim extremist group, they are not the only terrorists. Say “terrorist” to people who lived in Britain in the 1970s and they will most likely think of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). For those who don’t know, the IRA is a Catholic group fighting for all of Ireland to be part of the Republic of Ireland. They decided the way to do this was to take up arms against the UK and blow it to pieces. Using this information, a neat comparison of today’s argument that all Muslims are terrorists because a minority goes blowing things up would be like saying that all Catholics are terrorists because the IRA planted bombs in London. Equally, it could be said that all Americans are racist because the KKK exists. This is simply not true and these wild generalizations are equally offensive to all religious groups and people.

      Cordoba House should be built because it upholds our American values. Yes, many people lost their loved ones September 11, but to those who have lived outside of America the US gives an impression that all are welcome and religious tolerance is the norm. However, in the current debate there hasn’t been much by the way of tolerance. Rallies in New York have seen people holding fairly intolerant signs such as “EVIL MOSQUE,” as seen on the Russia Today news network. So what happened to that tolerance? Rather than disappoint the world and prove America is all talk when it comes to tough decisions, Cordoba House should be built, cementing those traditions of freedom of religion on which America was founded. If the mosque’s construction is halted Americans are effectively saying that they do not practice what they preach. This is a dangerous attitude because America continually claims the moral high ground in most situations. The rest of the world gets very tired of hearing this anyway so Americans should prove that the high ground does indeed belong to them, rather give ammunition to their global critics.

     However, there is also the argument that rather than completely disallowing the community center, it should just be moved. At a glance, this would seem like a great idea; there would still be an Islamic center and those opposed to it wouldn’t feel that it’s too close to Ground Zero. However, that spot was chosen for a reason. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wanted the building in its proposed location because he preaches to that community from a Mosque ten blocks north. There would be no point in building a YMCA on the other side of town for a community that needs it. Similarly, Cordoba House should be in the area that the Imam believes it’s needed.

     This brings me to the point that this so called “Ground Zero Mosque” isn’t actually a mosque: Imam Feisal said in an interview with Joseph Ward III of The Huffington Post that he is trying to model his Cordoba House after the YMCA and 92nd Street Y, which is a similar Jewish community center. The closest YMCA is also two blocks away and there are many other community centers sponsored by various other organizations not to mention the Mosques already in Manhattan. This leaves us with the conclusion that the bad reaction is the result of the misconception that all Muslims are responsible for a fringe group who committed the act of terrorism. In spite of this overreaction, the question of “how close is too close?” still arises. If we draw the line at twenty blocks, we already have a Mosque in that range, so that would be pointless. If we say no Muslim institutions on Manhattan Island, we would also need to move all religious buildings from the area to maintain a neutral stance on religion. This is obviously not going to happen any time soon, so in the interest of upholding values, the Cordoba House project should go ahead.

      Now that we know the whys and wherefores, it seems odd that Cordoba House has got the hostile reaction it has. We don’t have any problem with other religious community centers, but large portion of the country has a problem with Islam. Cordoba House is not a triumphant memorial to the martyrs of Islam; it is a place for the local community to gather. The fact that these people happen to be Muslim shouldn’t determine their right to congregate and socialize. Preventing the right to gather peacefully is distinctly un-American.