Much to my relief, upon his return to the United States from travel abroad, Feisal Abdul Rauf affirmed intention to proceed with the Cordoba House community center, exactly at the location already planned, inspected, permitted, and approved. I couldn’t have said it better than he did.
“I have been away from home for two months, speaking abroad about cooperation among people from different religions. 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.”
It is notable that, as an American, albeit not born in this country, he declined to respond to controversy within the United States while abroad:
“Many people wondered why I did not speak out more, and sooner, about this project. I felt that it would not be right to comment from abroad. It would be better if I addressed these issues once I returned home to America.”
Apparently he understood the criticism many people directed at the Dixie Chix – that whatever their opinion of the President, they should not make such remarks while abroad.
“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.”
It’s hard to argue with that. This was even more impressive:
“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. It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims. Their statements sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations.”
That is really our strongest card in the face of those who embrace a military understanding of jihad, and then take up arms based on that understanding. Not only are Muslims free to build Cordoba House, but we also have two Muslims in congress, at least one of whom was elected from a district with a Christian majority, and more Jewish voters than Muslim voters.
Cordoba House is not a mosque, it will contain a space for Muslim worship, but whatever it is called, building it is a victory – a victory for the United States of America, and the best of what our nation has offered the world.