Some of our readers seem to regard the plans to build an Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero as some sort of victory dance by Islamists intent on humiliating the non-Muslim majority in the US.
Before they become too attached to that notion, however, they ought to consider the words of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, head of the Cordoba Initiative which is planning the construction, as cited by Jeffrey Goldberg. It may not change their minds (and Goldberg makes clear he disagrees with Rauf on some matters) but they should at least be willing to weigh it as part of the evidence necessary before judging the intentions of Cordoba or Rauf.
In 2003, Imam Rauf was invited to speak at a memorial service for Daniel Pearl, the journalist murdered by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan. The service was held at B’nai Jeshurun, a prominent synagogue in Manhattan, and in the audience was Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl’s father. In his remarks, Rauf identified absolutely with Pearl, and identified himself absolutely with the ethical tradition of Judaism. “I am a Jew,” he said.
There are those who would argue that these represent mere words, chosen carefully to appease a potentially suspicious audience. I would argue something different: That any Muslim imam who stands before a Jewish congregation and says, “I am a Jew,” is placing his life in danger. Remember, Islamists hate the people they consider apostates even more than they hate Christians and Jews. In other words, the man many commentators on the right assert is a terrorist-sympathizer placed himself in mortal peril in order to identify himself with Christians and Jews, and specifically with the most famous Jewish victim of Islamism. You can read the full text of his remarks on the B’nai Jeshurun website, but here is an especially relevant portion:
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 Shma` Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ahad; 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.
And I am here to inform you, with the full authority of the Quranic texts and the practice of the Prophet Muhammad, that to say La ilaha illallah Muhammadun rasulullah is no different.
It expresses the same theological and ethical principles and values.
Update: Goldberg offers his take on Pamela Geller– who probably did more than anyone to stir up the controversy over the “Ground Zero mosque”– here.