Hate and lies in Manhattan

By Eli Gottlieb

Recently, the American far-right raised controversy over the building of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” the Cordoba House to be built several blocks north of Ground Zero in Manhattan, currently occupied by an old Burlington Coat Factory. They have several things wrong: they believe that the Cordoba House would be a mosque, they believe it would constitute a “victory mosque” built by Islamists and they believe that Islam has no place in the United States of America.

Let’s clear this matter up.           

The proposed building is not a mosque or at least not a mosque alone. The proposal is for an Islamic Community Center. If I may quote from the Park51 website, the proposed facilities include: a swimming pool, gym, basketball court, auditorium, restaurant and culinary school, library, 9/11 memorial, art studios and “a mosque, intended to be run separately from Park51 but open to and accessible to all members, visitors and our New York community.”

They also propose to have cultural exhibitions and childcare services. This does not limit itself to serving as a mosque or as an exclusive preserve of New York’s Muslim community.

Instead, this building takes the solid, proven concepts from YMCA’s and JCC’s everywhere and adds even more, opening all of it to any and all New Yorkers who want to come.

If some fundamentalist Christian can’t bear to set foot in a building consecrated to Allah (despite the fact that “Allah” is the same deity worshipped in Judaism and Christianity, and in fact the same name used by Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians), they don’t have to.

The rest of us can enjoy the fact that in the middle of horrific economic conditions, somebody has proposed to build with their own money, a building this awesome for public use.           

To continue, Park51 would in no way, shape or form constitute a “victory mosque.”  This term refers to a mosque built atop the demolished site of a non-Islamic shrine in territory taken by Muslims in a holy war of conquest. For everyone outside New York City who doesn’t know or hasn’t noticed, the September 11th attacks did not even begin to conquer New York City for an Islamist state. A disused department store, no matter the objections of people who don’t even live in New York, does not constitute holy ground, and the Park51 building will not be built over any kind of religious site.           

To address those who claim that the imam involved, Feisal Abdul Rauf, comes from an Islamist ideology, I will simply quote the man. The text following here comes from Rauf’s words in a 2003 memorial service for Daniel Pearl, the American journalist beheaded by Islamists in Pakistan: 

 “We are here to assert the Islamic conviction of the moral equivalency of our Abrahamic faiths. If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind and soul … Hear O’ Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one, Mr. Pearl.  … If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of my heart, mind and soul, and to love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then not only am I a Christian, but I have always been one Mr. Pearl.” 

Hearing that, I don’t care if this man displayed a mild version of the leftist political reservation, long heard in far more despicable formulations from the mouths of so-called “anti-war” demonstrators, against calling out terrorism by going so incredibly far as to disclaim comment. 

Islamists simply do not declare themselves so allied with Jews and Christians. They proclaim that, to quote the Hamas charter, “The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslims, ‘O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” 

Islamists follow Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Tariq Ramadan and Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Feisal Rauf follows Sufism, has served the government of the United States under the Bush administration and proclaims full and entire solidarity with Jews and Christians. We see here a black-and-white difference.           

The final matter is the easiest to refute. Some have claimed that the Cordoba House building must not be built because it constitutes a part of an Islamic or Islamist (they don’t differentiate the two) invasion of the United States, an invasion by an essentially foreign religion. Those people ought to shut up and go away, because in aiming to restrict the free practice of religion via the government, they are un-American.

To quote that supreme primary source on American-ness, the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

If you honestly think that this utterly final law of the land does not apply to Muslims, I can only urge you to throw yourself into a volcano, because you are a fascist thug on par with the Islamists you claim to oppose. Wearing a different color doesn’t make you any different if you do the same things using the same tactics: legal suppression of “enemy” religions and a resort to terrorism when that fails.           

In conclusion, if the brown shirts come, I will keep American Muslims safe myself, in faith that they would do the same for me and have done exactly that in the past. Until then, the Park51 developers have every legal right to put up their damn fine building already and I wish them peace and security in doing it.           

Eli Gottlieb is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].