Building on Faith
On September 7, 2010 Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf responded to the American public on the controversy over the WTC Mosque (Cordoba House) in an opinion piece in the NY Times entitled, Building on Faith. I sent the following to the Editor of the New York Times.
To the Editor of the New York Times.
Re: Building on Faith, by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Sept. 7, 2010
The purpose of Cordoba House may be to build bridges, as Imam Rauf suggests, however his stated “life’s work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups…” As a Muslim why has he not devoted his efforts in Muslims Countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Libya, Syria, and others. This would have been meaningful and worthy. It would have demonstrated his intent and success if there was evidence of such tolerance towards other religions (like a church or synagogue built with open preaching allowed) in those areas as a result of his work. And his efforts should be conducted on his dime, not at the expense of the American tax payers. Why start in a Country with existing religious tolerance and be openly intransigent, insensitive, towards, “how this controversy has riveted the attention of Americans…” Let him go to where his efforts are most needed, start in Mecca or elsewhere. Start by condemning Hamas. Is not the ‘radical ideology’ about which he writes clearly in evidence in Muslim dominated areas of the world? Why choose America when his ‘life’s work’ has many arenas in which it is already necessary.
Excerpts from the Article:
- Every day, including the past two weeks spent representing my country on a State Department tour in the Middle East, I have been struck by how the controversy has riveted the attention of Americans, as well as nearly everyone I met in my travels.
- The level of attention reflects the degree to which people care about the very American values under debate: recognition of the rights of others, tolerance and freedom of worship.
- My life’s work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups and never has that been as important as it is now.
- We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House.
- Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures.
- Our broader mission — to strengthen relations between the Western and Muslim worlds and to help counter radical ideology
- From the political conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians to the building of a community center in Lower Manhattan, Muslims and members of all faiths must work together if we are ever going to succeed in fostering understanding and peace.
- 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 clearly identify all of our financial backers.
- President Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg both spoke out in support of our project.
- As I traveled overseas, I saw firsthand how their words and actions made a tremendous impact on the Muslim street and on Muslim leaders.
- This is an opportunity we must grasp.
- How better to commemorate 9/11 than to urge our fellow Muslims, fellow Christians and fellow Jews to follow the fundamental common impulse of our great faith traditions?
The Bridges are Most Needed in Muslim Countries
His personal mission would have been wonderful if he spent his time in Countries where religious tolerance is not in evidence. Why did he choose America? The answer – because we are tolerant. We will remain so as long as efforts such as Cordoba House do not inflame negative feelings towards Muslims. But it has. Why can’t Imam Rauf sense that. No one has denied the right to build, only the logic and the intent. Maybe he needs to go to Dearborn, Mi and observe tensions arising by the presence of Muslim concentrations and explain to this nation – Why? Are we at fault? Are they at fault? He should travel to Morocco and encourage the leaders of that Nation to open the doors to churches and synagogues; instead they are asking Christians to leave. These are Christians that have lived in Morocco for many years (they considered themselves residents) serving in orphanages and helping the poor, without proselytizing, and today are being escorted to the borders.
If the Quran says,” … Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error …” [2:256], why is Imam Rauf not living in those areas to promote freedom of religion. It seems most evident that for Muslim controlled countries the freedom is only to leave the country, not to stay and openly live and practice their faith among Muslims. He can build bridges, but start where the bridges are most needed.
Grace and Peace