Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Did Imam Rauf take Yossi Klein Halevi's advice?

Last week, in an open letter to Feisal Abdul Rauf, TNR's Yossi Klein Halevi proposed the following -- granting undue authority, in my opinion, to sensitivities of those who choose to be offended by an Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero:
I believe that you intend to create a center of Islamic moderation near Ground Zero. And it is precisely for that reason that I am turning to you with a plea to reconsider your plans to build the center in its current form. Instead, I urge you to consider turning the site into a center for interfaith encounter. Build the mosque—but do so together with a church and a synagogue and a center for common reflection for all three faiths and for those with no faith. Do this, Imam Feisal, not to surrender to your critics but to honor their pain, and, in the process, to honor Islam.
In an op-ed in Today's Times, Imam Rauf seems to have acceded to that wish -- unless the brief formulation below is not quite what it seems, or the plan was always thus:

At Cordoba House, we envision shared space for community activities, like a swimming pool, classrooms and a play space for children. There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
While Halevi's letter seemed coercive to me, the terms of Rauf's embrace of this concept, if that's what's indicated above, do not come off as capitulation.  The paragraphs immediately following the floorplan preview above describe an ecumenical ideal (for the Abrahamic faiths at least) that Rauf has espoused for some time:

I am very sensitive to the feelings of the families of victims of 9/11, as are my fellow leaders of many faiths. We will accordingly seek the support of those families, and the support of our vibrant neighborhood, as we consider the ultimate plans for the community center. Our objective has always been to make this a center for unification and healing.

Cordoba House will be built on the two fundamental commandments common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam: to love the Lord our creator with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength; and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We want to foster a culture of worship authentic to each religious tradition, and also a culture of forging personal bonds across religious traditions.
Compare the slightly conditional assertion of Abrahamic unity that Rauf voiced at a memorial service for Daniel Pearl in 2003 (addressing himself to Daniel Pearl's father):
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.
And I should not leave off the next sentence, which, while referring to Pearl's murder, suggests too at least some part of the spirit in which Rauf conceived  Cordoba House:

We are here especially to seek your forgiveness and of your family for what has
been done in the name of Islam.


  1. i believe the plans for the cultural center as spelled out by the imam have always been thus, as stated on their website. however, i believe they previously called it "meeting space", the idea of it being open to "Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths" is not new, nor is the plan for a 9/11 memorial. but all that has been ignored by certain parties because that would dillute their outrage.

  2. If its all about respect and values why are they stuck on building there prayer center there by ground zero. The families of the 911 act should be given some respect no matter what..NO MOSQUE ON GROUND ZERO!!!