Home > Ira Sharkansky, Israel, Saudi Arabia > Words of controversy: It’s ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ to some, ‘Cordoba House’ to others

Words of controversy: It’s ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ to some, ‘Cordoba House’ to others

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM– The Ground Zero Mosque as its opponents call it, or Cordoba House according to its promoters, has become a mirror of  politics in the United States and elsewhere, and not always the best of those politics. Bottom feeders in New York see strong opposition as their best road to a nomination. Some who claim a posture of high principle do not go beyond the slogans of religious freedom or property rights to the problem that there are no rights without limits.

Relevant here is the counter slogan against those who would call fire in a crowded theater. A song in the style of American country music shows that the issue has gone far beyond New York City. Europeans are chiming in to focus on American naivite, and urging the sane to do something like their own campaigns against large mosques proposed for city centers.

Somewhere is a report that the project has only been able to raise $18,000. Insofar as the total cost is estimated at $100 million, the issue of money has been a prominent topic of speculation. The promoter has not ruled out relying on money from Saudi Arabia or some other Middle Eastern source. That raises the possibility that it may come from some of the pockets that paid for 9-11, making that tragic event into a project of urban renewal that will produce a Muslim icon in lower Manhattan instead of the World Trade Center.

Trust is an element in the controversy.

Important to those supporting the project is the notion of Islam as a religion that deserves protection in the fabrics of American society and politics. Some have signed on to the concept of Abrahamic religions to replace Judeo-Christian as the inclusive adjective for the United States. The word has an attractive ring, but I am not aware of how many Muslims subscribe to something that considers their faith as only one among equals. Also, Abrahamic religions does not include Hindus and others who may be as well represented as Muslims among immigrants who came to the United States since the 1960s.

Opponents do not deny that Islam is a religion, but they assert that it is associated with a political agenda, ancient and modern violence, and aspirations to dominate wherever it can. The principal promoter of the mosque, Feisal Abdul Rauf, has caused problems for those who admire him by refusing to speak clearly about funding, or to condemn Islamic groups widely identified as terrorist, like Hamas and Hizbollah.

Rauf has sought to convey an Islam that is not aggressive toward others, but skeptics doubt that his sentiments will assure that the lessons taught over the years in the community center, and the sermons offered in the mosque will overcome other themes that have been more prominent in Islam.

Accommodationists have endorsed the rights of the Muslims to create something like Cordoba House, without putting it on what many view as the sacred location of Ground Zero. President Obama backed off from an endorsement offered at a Ramadan ceremony to express his concerns about the wisdom of that location. The archbishop of New York indicated that he had no strong feelings about the project, but that it was his “major prayer” that a compromise could be reached.

He refered to the actions of Pope John Paul II in ordering Catholic nuns to relocate a convent from the location of the Auschwitz death camp in response to protests from Jewish leaders. According to the archbishop, “He’s the one who said, ‘Let’s keep the idea, and maybe move the address’ . . . It worked there; might work here.”

Intrade is a pari-mutual internet site that accepts bets and adjusts the odds about a large number of public events. On the subject of “Construction of ‘Ground Zero mosque’ to commence before midnight ET 30 Jun 2011,” the odds shifted during August from showing a bit over 60 percent positive probability to only 20 percent positive probability.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

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