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Categorized | American Muslim

Cordoba House: ‘Islam is an American religion’ Daisy Khan

Posted on10 May 2010.

While the plans for building a mosque and community center are on track, there is a lot of buzz on the internet. If Imam Faisal can get the funding he plans to create a “Cordoba House” franchise with centers in the US, Europe and other countries.

“The time for a center like this has come because Islam is an American religion,” Daisy Khan, executive director of the Muslim society, told CNN. “We need to take the 9/11 tragedy and turn it into something very positive.” According to the New York Daily News, Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, who helped found the Cordoba Initiative following the 9/11 attacks, said the project is intended to foster better relations between the West and Muslims, but if conservative commentators are any indication of the reaction, the mosque is opening, not healing, old wounds.

But the plans for the mosque have been apparent for months, if not longer, and the complaints have had little influence. Last year WorldNetDaily’s Chelsea Schilling collected reader responses when news of the mosque was first unveiled. The protest? Sound and fury, signifying nothing–so far.

Martin Barillas and others are furious at Imam Faisal and Daisy Khan.

In a building that was grazed by one of the jet liners that crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, a 13-story Islamic cultural center and mosque is to be established. Two Muslim organizations have cooperated in purchasing a property that promises to be a place of worship and education in lower Manhattan within sight of the place where Twin Towers once stood.

Despite some voices of opposition, Daisy Khan—the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and board member of the Cordoba Initiative, the two organizations sponsoring the project—explains that a growing population of Muslims in the area require more space for worship.

Said Khan, a vocal proponent of what ASMA says is ‘moderate’ Islam, “We want to create a platform by which the voices of the mainstream and silent majority of Muslims will be amplified. A center of this scale and magnitude will do that. We feel it’s an obligation as Muslims and Americans to be part of the rebuilding of downtown Manhattan.”

The Muslim cultural center and mosque will be known as Cordoba House, in honor of the Spanish city that was once a beacon of Islamic culture in Spain in a near-mythical time of peace among Christians and Muslims. The two Islamic organizations mentioned above are sponsoring the project in the amount of $100 million that was announced on May 5. The building was sold in July 2009 for $4.85 million.

According to the Cordoba Initiative website, the purpose of the new Islamic center includes, “In recent years the global public has shown an increased interest in Islam and the Muslim world. Many facets of Islamic life, religious, cultural and artistic, remain underrepresented and misunderstood. The Muslim community must provide an opportunity to educate individuals about Islam through education and organized experiences of art, culture and entertainment.” Moreover, said the website, “A need exists in New York City, America, and the world to integrate Islamic education, spiritual development, the arts and culture under one roof. The Muslim community in NYC will build a world-class facility to promote tolerance, self-awareness and self-recognition within society.”

The fifteen members of New York’s financial district committee for Community Board 1 passed a resolution in support of the project, while a spokesman emphasized that the board had no authority to approve or disapprove a house of worship. Said Edward Sheffe of the committee, “They came to tell us what they had in mind and see what we felt about it. The understanding we came away with was that this was an ongoing dialogue.” While there were some concerns over the aesthetics of the building, the overriding concern of the committee appeared to be for building such community amenities in what is now a quickly growing residential area.

Daisy Khan is frequently seen on television and is active in interfaith groups that advance understanding the commonality of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She is married to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who leads a mosque in New York City and is the author of What’s Right with Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West.

Imam Rauf’s book, conceived as a response to Bernard Lewis’s What Went Wrong? promotes what he calls an “Abrahamic Ethic” in response to what he believes is the media’s prejudice against Islam. Rauf promotes his Cordoba Initiative as an intermediary between the United States and Sudan, where Arab Muslim traders have waged war for decades on largely black Christian/Animist southern Sudan.  His website defines Rauf as “a prominent Muslim elder statesman and independent voice for moderation, tolerance, and understanding.”

According to the Cordoba Initiative website, “The Qur’an makes it clear that Mohammed did not establish his new faith in a vacuum; he simply reinstated a primordial religion originally founded by Abraham, making it accessible to all of humanity. Because of this, Jews and Christians (known in Islam as “People of the Book”) are seen as brothers and sisters of Muslims and common followers of scripture.”

Rauf cites Jesus Christ’s Golden Rule of loving God and one’s neighbors as part of a thread of the “Abrahamic Ethic” that links Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Muslims, he says, “have preserved these values in Islamic ritual and social law. In Islam, loving God means worshipping Him in accordance with the principles set down by the Prophet and his disciples.”

…“Loving one’s neighbor takes the form of charity and the deep sense of social responsibility encapsulated in one of Islam’s five pillars (zakat).”The largest bond shared by Muslims and Westerners is a set of common values, enshrined collectively in the Abrahamic Ethic. Chosen by God and revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, Abraham’s legacy embodied a simple creed, that of loving both God and one’s neighbor. So powerful and revolutionary was this message that Jesus Christ himself declared: “Upon these two commandments hang all of the law and all of the prophets.” Muslims, too, have preserved these values in Islamic ritual and social law. In Islam, loving God means worshipping Him in accordance with the principles set down by the Prophet and his disciples. Loving one’s neighbor takes the form of charity and the deep sense of social responsibility encapsulated in one of Islam’s five pillars (zakat).”

Before visiting Australia in 2009 for two weeks on a speaking tour, Rauf said that “The Islamic method of waging war is not to kill innocent civilians. But is was Christians in World War II who bombed civilians in Dresden and Hiroshima, neither of which were military targets.” He sought Westerners’ understanding for the terrorists who killed thousands on 9/11 and scores more in the 2007 bombing in Spain. Rauf said there was an endless supply of angry young Muslim rebels prepared to die for their cause and there was no sign of the attacks ending unless there was a fundamental change in the world.

The Muslim leader warned that no progress can be made in relations between the West and Islam until the United States acknowledges backing dictators and its president offers an apology to the whole Muslim world. Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America.

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