Home > Interfaith, Israel, Lebanon, United States of America > Why this rabbi opposes a mosque near Ground Zero

Why this rabbi opposes a mosque near Ground Zero

By Rabbi Ben Kamin

Rabbi Ben Kamin

SAN DIEGO –The case for or against the building of the Cordoba Center (named after one of the largest and most murderous conquests in Muslim history—the 8th century establishment of the Cordoba Caliphate and the attendant genocide of Christians and Jews) roils New Yorkers and Americans alike. 

Left-righteous voices such as The New York Times and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and sundry cloying rabbis have practically broken their editorial and political backs in remonstration against those who are unhappy with the prospect—systemically accusing them of bigotry, Islam-phobia, and really bad manners.

It’s not about building a mosque in New York City—there are innumerable Muslim worship centers, aid societies, academies, recruiting stations, and libraries in the city.  It’s about this mosque.

I have prayed in mosques, been moved by the beauty and sanctity of such houses of God, from California to Europe to the defining Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem.  I am horrified by the small, fractious, lunatic element of Israeli religious society that dares to suggest the razing of the centerpiece, golden Dome of the Rock in that city in favor of building the “Third Temple” along the blueprints of biblical hysteria.

It’s not about building a mosque in New York City—there are innumerable Muslim worship centers, aid societies, academies, recruiting stations, and libraries in the city.  It’s about this mosque.

As Abigail R. Esman has astutely opined: What would be the reaction, say, of people in Beirut if a group of Jews proposed a synagogue on the camps of Shabra and Shatila, where Israeli forces more or less stood by and overlooked the massacre of hundreds in 1982?  Ms. Esman, of Forbes, has also eloquently expressed:

“Everyone who was in New York at the time remembers what happened that day, when 19 Muslim men stopped the world, when ash and dust and human remains coated the streets of downtown Manhattan, when New York became something we never imagined it could be.”

This project, a blot on American memory, is scheduled to climb 13 stories above the collective graveyard of 9/11 and cost $100 million dollars.  History, context, and plain sensibility all cry out against it. 

Why do we remain so naïve?  Why aren’t we angry enough at what was done to our people, our land, our integrity to say—not at the expense of religious democracy,  but in favor of self-respect—NO, not this mosque, not this time. 

Look, I’m embarrassed enough for all of us that nine years of political wrangling, economic jostling, real estate bickering, and just plain greed and indolence amongst the government agencies of New York, New Jersey, Washington, the Port Authority, and so many other small-minded agencies and people have resulted in no real evidence of a replacement tower or towers at the site of the worst terrorist attack in history.

There will be no Freedom Tower shining above New York on September 11, 2011.  And it isn’t bigotry that suggests that there should not be a high-rise Islamic shrine there instead.
Rabbi Kamin is a freelance writer and author based in San Diego.  His column also appears on examiner.com

  1. August 14, 2010 at 9:20 am

    It never ceases to amaze me how easily people pull the “victim” card. No one has argued against the practice of Islam. No one has attempted to ban mosques. These accusations — and they are occurring everywhere — seek to twist the truth of the issue and deflect the blame. If Bloomberg and Obama are too stupid (and, as political officers, too indifferent to the Constitution) to realize it, that’s a problem we will have to deal with as well. But we aren’t all that easily distracted. That an apparently “moderate” American Muslim would advocate the building of what is inevitably going to be a Wahabbi-backed mosque run by an imam who blames America for the attacks of 9/11 is, to my mind, far more disturbing than the fact that a Jew would speak out against it.

  2. Asif Khalid
    August 14, 2010 at 8:31 am

    I am an American Muslim born in NYC and living in Northern NJ. I have many Jewish friends and have prayed in Temples in NJ during different interfaith events.

    Hearing from members of the Jewish community opposing the Mosque near Ground Zero has really come as a surprise to me. It wasn’t that long ago there were many people opposing Temples in parts of this country. It wasn’t too long ago Jews had to start their own hospitals and country clubs because they were wanted to the existing ones. In many cases it was Jewish Lawyers fighting for Freedom of Religion rights.

    Just as a reminder, there were dozens of Muslims who also died on 9/11. I take great pride in being American. It always amazes me when good Americans take pride in there freedoms and the constitution and feel that it is an inspiration to the rest of the world except when it may be inconvenient to how they feel. Mayor Bloomberg’s speech was not only the moral thing to do, it was a great lesson in civics.

  3. August 7, 2010 at 3:45 am

    I thank you for your reference to my piece, and am pleased to see your kind and thoughtful statement. I think it important to add, too, that there are serious concerns regarding the true intent of the mosque: the imam has been extremely elusive regarding the source of his funding, but the truth is that most of the mosques in the western world that have come at such a high cost (financially speaking) have been sponsored by Wahabbist Saudi factions who then plant their own imams who promote an extremist agenda. That is a fact. Imam Faisal Rauf has also clearly stated that America itself was responsible for the events of 9/11. When a member of the Arab royal family made a similar statement when offering a generous gift to the city of New York after 9/11, mayor Giuliani had the dignity and decency to refuse it. There are serious security concerns about this mosque (and let’s be honest: that’s what it is, regardless of the words being used by its founders to describe it otherwise).

    As for JohnC’s remark: while it is, on its face, a good analogy, the reference to the daughter marrying a black man fails on further thought. This is not about love. This is not the only location in which such a project can be built. There are historical, political, and sociological implications to this project that are not a part of your hypothetical marriage.

    However, if you prefer to go in that direction, I ask you: If the daughter wanted to marry the man who had killed her father’s wife, and her father was against it, what would you think, then?

  4. JohnC
    August 6, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    “And can it really be called a show of ‘respect’ and ‘peacemaking,’ as the sponsors claim, to build it there when so many members of the community and families of the victims of 9/11 find the very idea impertinent and crude?”

    I’m sorry, but I cannot agree with your premise. The only reason why there would be any legitimate cause for controversy about building a mosque near Ground Zero is if the mosque somehow represents the same thing that the 9/11 attackers did. If you’re willing to make such a conflation – I’ll call you out on it. You would be a bigot. B-I-G-O-T. I don’t care what your faith or excuse is.

    On the other hand, if you understand the mosque to represent the beliefs of the vast majority of Muslims who hold no ill will toward the United States or other religions, then there’s no grounds for controversy, and the people who find the Cordoba House “insensitive” are slaves to their own ignorance.

    Let me put it in a slightly different way. If a white person thought it was “insensitive” of his daugther to marry a black man because black people are different than whites, should the daughther not marry the black man in order to cater to her father’s sensitivities? Or does the father have to simply learn to deal with his prejudice?

  5. intracoastalbob
    August 6, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I am surprised that a Jewish Rabbi would call believing the Torah in regard to the building of the Third (or 4th) Temple “Biblical hysteria”. Perhaps, Rabbi you should look again at what HaShem has written about the land He gave to you and what he intends to do about those who whould try to “change” his plan.

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