Nearly 70 percent of Americans oppose building an Islamic house of worship near the site of one of the worst attacks on America — perpetrated in the name of Islam. Some moderate Muslims agree that the proposed location of the Cordoba Mosque near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan should be reconsidered.
Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, told The Daily Caller that despite their relative silence on the issue, many Muslims question the placement of the mosque.
“This is not a humble Islamic statement. A mosque such as this is actually a political structure that casts a shadow over a cemetery, over hallowed ground. 9/11 was the beginning of a kinetic war, it is not an opportunity for cultural exchange. It was the beginning of a conflict with those who want to destroy our way of life,” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told The Daily Caller.
“I am in no way looking to infringe on First Amendment issues. I approach this as a Muslim that is dedicated to reform,” he said.
Jasser cited the Quranic verse, “Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book [Jews and Christians],” and said that Muslims backing the project should be introspective during this month of Ramadan.
“From sunup to sundown Muslims are fasting and working on putting our needs tertiary to our God and our country, not what we need. They are abandoning these principles and saying, ‘Well, this is what we need and we are victims if you don’t let us do this. And we can do it, so we are going to.’ I think that is un-Islamic. That verse is one that teaches Muslims not only to be respectful but to actually treat equally other religions.”
Schwartz echoed Jasser’s concerns. He highlighted three problems with the project. “First of all, aside from the issues of conflict with jihad, Islam teaches us, especially Muslims living in non-Muslim societies, to avoid conflict with our neighbors,” Schwartz told TheDC. “We think this is an incredibly heedless project. It went forward without adequate planning or foresight, without anticipating reaction and it is absurd to think that there would not have been reaction. It is simply absurd. Second, there is the problem of Imam Feisal’s propensity to mix with radicals. And thirdly, there is a problem with the lack of transparency about money funding.”
According to Schwartz, Muslims are wary of entering the fray: “Muslims are talking but they are talking privately because the issue has become so divisive that Muslims are concerned about backlash and are hesitant to get involved. But people in the community are upset by this. They wonder, ‘How can they do this in such a heedless manner?’ … I really can’t think of anyone else who will speak on the record about this.”
Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, told TheDC that moderate Muslims have been silent on the matter, despite possible disagreements, due to religious concerns. According to Fatah, however, the need to avoid causing another person pain should trump such conflicts.
“There is a widespread belief among Muslim teaching that anyone who opposes the construction of a mosque, which is the house of God, is committing a sin,” he said. “So a lot of people who want to voice their opinion do not want to become a part of the controversy. But especially during the month of Ramadan it is important that our actions not cause pain to anyone. Any action by a Muslim that causes any pain to anyone else should be halted!”
Fatah believes the mosque plans are moving forward because they have the support of the American government. “I think they have an official green light either from the State Department or the White House telling them to, ‘Go ahead, you have our full backing,’ and they want to use this Islamic center as a place for diplomacy to the Middle East to demonstrate that the United States is a place where Muslims thrive. But that has backfired because this could have been done in many other ways.”
Jasser said that the building of this mosque is ‘fitna,’ a religious term meaning mischief-making, which is severely frowned upon in Islam. “‘Fitna’ is anything that causes chaos in society,” he said. “This mosque is causing chaos, it is causing ‘fitna’ and that is not the Islamic thing to do … This is ‘fitna’ and ‘fitna’ is wrong.”
Fatah agreed saying that ‘fitna’ is an ethical and moral issue that ought not be taken lightly. “If a step taken by an individual causes disharmony then it is ‘fitna.’ [The mosque] has caused so much pain. There are many mosques already in New York, nobody has ever opposed a mosque, if there is opposition to a mosque on grounds of hatred I would be the first to confront it. But over here it is a matter of sensitivity and there is no residential community even near the community center.”
Schwartz said that the idea of trying to heal wounds is a good one, but that the Cordoba Mosque is not the right avenue to do so. “Outreach is a good idea, but outreach should be done in an appropriate time and manner, and this is not the place nor the time nor the manner. Outreach should be done in a setting that doesn’t encourage problems and controversy.”
“We are Americans who happen to be Muslims, not Muslims who happen to be Americans,” Jasser concluded. “And this structure is all backwards. They just want to force Islam upon the American people and it is going to be used around the world, especially in Islamic media. From the ashes of this destruction comes the flourishing of Islam and I think that is just the wrong message. It is not good for America or for Muslims.”