Debate is heating up on plans for building a 15-story Islamic community center and a mosque near ground zero. The controversy has become a national problem and was described by many opponents as a slap in the face.
Those who support building the mosque contend that the project, with an estimated cost of $100 million, is intended to span the divide between Muslim and non-Muslim, not widen it.
Oz Sultan, the programming director for the center, said that building the mosque is intended to create a national model of moderate Islam and to build bridges between faiths.
In addition, the imam behind the proposed center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, who helped found the Cordoba Initiative following the 9/11 attacks said, “Here, we ask the moderate leaders of the Muslim community to step forward, and when one of them does, he is treated with suspicion.”
In fact, the Daily Beast and L.A. Times supported building the mosque as a symbol of religious freedom and criticized Sarah Palin’s views against building it.
This complex situation raises many important questions and concerns.
1. Can Imam Rauf and the other mosque leaders stand in public to denounce the Islamic Shariah teachings that promote killing apostates, beating women, and stoning adulterers? Are they willing to state clearly in media outlets that these laws are unacceptable and countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran that practice them must stop these barbaric practices?
Otherwise, it is hard to believe that the leaders of this mosque are truly moderates. Failure to clearly stand against these laws should mark such Muslim leaders as “radicals” rather than “moderates.”
I am inviting and challenging the mosque leaders to prove that they are true moderates by loudly rejecting such inhumane laws and denouncing the countries that practice them in unambiguous words.
2. Allowing building such a mosque cannot be an additional limitation of the religious freedom of American Muslims who want to convert from Islam. The government officials and media outlets that support the construction under the banner of religious freedom must explain why they do not give similar care for the religious freedom of those American Muslims who want to leave Islam.
3. Gathering so many people in a mosque in New York City carries major security threats. History shows that mosques have been used to start violent Muslim riots. If this mosque is built, a single provocative ceremony can result in moving tens of thousands of worshipers to violence as we have seen in Islamic countries where Muslim riots erupted after inflammatory prayers.
4. Building this mosque in this area will be perceived by many radicals as a triumph of the Taliban and al-Qaida. This can encourage more violent acts against America and its interests all over the world.
In fact, since the New York City community panel approved building the mosque on May 27, an unprecedented rise in attacks against Americans has occurred. It is hard to prove a definite cause-and-effect relationship, but the possibility that the approval of the mosque emboldened the Taliban cannot be excluded.
5. Building the mosque is perceived as insensitive to many of the families of the victims of Sept. 11. Polling shows a majority of Americans oppose building it near ground zero. Muslims should not ask others to be sensitive to their feelings if they themselves do not show sensitivity to the feelings of most Americans.
Choosing the former site of the twin towers does not seem to be based on good intentions as it is likely to be perceived by many Islamists as a symbol of victory over America and it matches the historical tendency of early Muslims to build mosques in famous spots to prove their triumphs.
6. Building the mosque in this emotionally sensitive place — where thousands were killed in the name of Islam — is very provocative to many non-Muslims and can result in more hatred toward Muslims and can aggravate friction between civilizations. Besides, there are other places to build this mosque.
In brief, decision makers must consider the following points in relation to building this mosque at this particular location.
1. The mosque leaders must clearly and loudly condemn violent aspects of Shariah and countries that practice them before considering them as true moderates.
2. If the mosque leaders will not stand clearly against killing apostates and denounce countries that practice such a law, then allowing this mega mosque to be built will add restrictions to the religious freedom of Muslims who want to convert to another faith.
3. Allowing this construction can increase violent acts against U.S. targets since it will be perceived by radicals as a sign of victory over America.
4. A mega mosque can allow violent riots by Islamists to occur at a big scale at any time.
5. Muslims must be sensitive to the feelings of non-Muslims and thus build this mosque somewhere else if they want others to be sensitive to their feelings.
6. The mosque can aggravate friction between civilizations and may increase hatred toward Muslims for being insensitive to Americans' feelings.
7. It does not matter how the mosque is perceived by liberal Americans but rather how it is going be perceived by jihadists and how this perception can negatively impact our national security.
To conclude, Muslims have many other places to build their mosques to prove their “moderation.” Selecting this particular place seems very suspicious as such an act is typically seen in the Muslim world as a sign of victory over infidels.
If the mosque leaders portray this construction as a sign of moderation and to build bridges between civilizations, then Muslims should not be surprised if businesses crop up nearby such as pig-slaughtering houses and shops to sell alcohol and pornography as a sign of moderation that also aims at building bridges between civilizations.
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