We welcome the planned construction of the Cordoba House mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan. Although we fully recognize the strong sentiments that have characterized the debate over the center, we strongly believe that Cordoba House’s presence will reflect our nation’s historic commitment to religious liberty. After consulting with rabbinic and lay leaders of our New York area synagogues we express our belief that the decision to allow the Cordoba House to move forward best embodies our values and the interests of the New York community. We affirm our abiding commitment to the principle of religious freedom that ensures that houses of worship not be subject to discrimination and to the principle of religious equality that ensures the right of the Muslim community to locate and build its houses of worship like Jewish, Christian or other houses of worship…
We commend Mayor Bloomberg, who has always supported the rights of the Jewish community as he has those of all religious communities, for advocating the position that the New York community will be enriched by this Center and for his view that New York should not embody in its actions any form of religious intolerance or discrimination.
Their statement, like so many similar ones, appeals to the principle of ‘religious liberty’. It does not even obliquely mention the fact that a large group of 9/11 families have expressed their sincere desire to have the mosque built somewhere — anywhere — else.
Rabbi Meir said that a person who speaks excessive words of comfort to a mourner more than a year after his loss is like a doctor who breaks a patient’s leg again so he can reset it (Mo’ed Katan 21b, quoted in Telushkin, A Code of Jewish Ethics, Vol. II, p.134). So how much worse is it to tear open someone’s wounds over and over by building what he will perceive as a permanent monument to the murderers of his loved one?
The callous approach to the survivors — whose pain is simply ignored — is only part of the problem. By emphasizing the concepts of ‘religious freedom’ and ‘religious equality’ and contrasting them to “religious intolerance and discrimination” the URJ suggests that those of us who oppose it are bigots who deny religious freedom. One wants to say — “please, drop the straw men and ad hominem arguments and respond to our real concerns!”
If ‘intolerance’ and ‘discrimination’ were the motivation, then why would the critics of the project almost all say “build another mosque in New York if you wish — but in a different place?”
In addition to the question of respect for the mourners of 9/11, here are some other issues:
There is a Muslim tradition of building a mosque on holy or important sites of vanquished peoples. This mosque will clearly be perceived throughout the Islamic world as a sign of Muslim victory over America. If this were not the case, then why do they insist on this site? Why is moving it a mile or two unthinkable?
There are questions about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. He’s connected with the Perdana Global Peace Organization, the largest single contributor to the Free Gaza Movement, which in fact supports Hamas. He has refused to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization. Although he denies that he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he is close to several American groups which represent it in the US.
There are questions about the funding for the Cordoba Institute. The building will cost $100 million. Some of the $5 million price of the Burlington Coat Factory building may have come from Qatar, although Rauf says that it was all put up by NY Muslims.
I’ve come to think that this issue is really a litmus test which can tell us which of our ‘leaders’ truly get it, and which do not.
The URJ just flunked.