Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Cordoba Mosque in New York

“A Symbol of the Islamic Conquest of Christian Lands

مسجد قرطبة في نيويورك: رمز للغزو الأسلامي للمسيحيين

By Jacob Thomas

On 18 May, 2010, the Arabic-language online daily Elaph posted an article by an Arab Muslim, in which he decried “The Cordoba Mosque” building project being planned for construction in the vicinity of Ground Zero, in New York City.

Set forth below are excerpts from his article, and from two other articles on this same subject.  My analysis and comments will follow.

The project by Muslims to build a mosque in the United States, close to the place where the 9/11 attack took place, is causing quite a stir. It is worth noting that the name chosen for the mosque is confrontational and provocative. The first Cordoba mosque was built in that Spanish city in the aftermath of the Muslim conquest of Christian Spain. This Islamic “Conquista” was followed by the killings of men, and the enslavement of women, many of whom were carried away to the Arab lands to work as servants and concubines for their Muslim masters.  For both Arabs and Muslims, the history of their conquests remains as a symbol of their past glory, and power. They have no thoughts of remorse or shame, when they recall those heinous crimes that accompanied the colonization of Spain!

Nowadays, some Muslims in America dream of repeating that ugly history of Islamic imperialism. In fact, I submit that the very choice of “Cordoba” as the name for the projected mosque was not an innocent one. On the contrary, it indicated a longing for the resumption of Islamic futuhat (conquests) throughout the world.

Actually, New York City has already several Sunni and Shi’ite mosques. It is a known fact that the Irhabi ideology has infiltrated many of the Sunni centers; while some Shi’ite mosques have allowed Iranian Intelligence services to operate freely within them.

The State of New York has no need for more mosques, since there are plenty of them. Furthermore, Muslims living in New York do not frequent their mosques on a daily basis; usually they go to them either on Saturdays or on Sundays, due to the nature of their work. Therefore, there is no real need for the building of the Cordoba Mosque; especially as the project has already provoked the sentiments of Americans, by reminding them of the attacks on 9 September, 2001, the Islamic conquest of Spain, as well as the tragic consequences of Islamic imperialism in general.

As an Arab Muslim, and a citizen of the United States, I would urge the United States Government to confiscate the funds that have been set aside for this Project, and to allocate them for the re-building of the World Trade Center in New York City. I would also suggest that the building of new mosques in the United States be curtailed, as they have become centers for the spread of radical Irhabi ideologies that instill in the minds of some American Muslims a powerful hatred of all non-Muslims.(Arabic source; translation mine)

The second article entitled “Mosque Unbecoming” was published 25 May, 2010 on the website of Family Security Matters.  Its author, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, is the founder and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. He served in the U. S. Navy as a physician, and is now in private practice. I found the following excerpts from his article very touching and heart-warming:

In the 1960s, my parents left their despotic motherland of Syria for the promise of genuine liberty and religious freedom in America. In the decades since, we have led the construction of a number of mosques in the towns where we lived.

These were all humble mosques, funded locally by our congregations. It's plain the planned ‘Ground Zero mosque’ is something very different. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, his wife, Daisy Khan, and an investor intend to build ‘Cordoba House,’ an ostentatious $100 million, 13-story Muslim community center including a gym, a swimming pool, a performance-arts facility and a mosque.

I am an American Muslim dedicated to defeating the ideology that fuels global Islamist terror – political Islam. And I don't see such a ‘center’ actually fighting terrorism or being a very ‘positive’ addition near Ground Zero, no matter how well intentioned. To put it bluntly, Ground Zero is the one place in America where Muslims should think less about teaching Islam and ‘our good side’ and more about being American and fulfilling our responsibilities to confront the ideology of our enemies.

Khan and Rauf avoid discourse on reform and political Islam. Instead, they simply give us the familiar, too vague condemnation of ‘extremism and violence.’ They seem to conveniently view 9/11, al Qaeda and every manifestation of militant Islamism, as simply a public-relations problem for ‘Muslims in the West.’ Imam Rauf has even gone so far as to bizarrely say that the 9/11 terrorists were ‘not Muslims.’

When Americans are attacked, they come together as one, under one flag, under one law against a common enemy that we are not afraid to identify. Religious freedom is central to our nation – and that is why the location of this project is so misguided. Ground Zero is purely about being American. It can never be about being Muslim.

On Sept. 12, 2001, I was first an American. When those planes hit the World Trade Center, they hit at the core of my being as an American. The attack on my faith by the terrorists was secondary to their attack on my homeland. Americans must always remember the horrors of 9/11 and must be vigilant in not allowing political Islam to wear down the principles that built our country. This center is trying to change the narrative of 9/11 – to diminish what happened at Ground Zero. That can only weaken us against the very real threat of Islamist radicalization. (Source; emphasis mine)

The third article appeared the same day in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Mosque at Ground Zero: Questions to ask the man who wants to build a Muslim cultural center near the former Twin Towers” was written by Bret Stephens.

Opponents also argue that building the center so close to Ground Zero is an insult to the memory of the victims of 9/11. Germany has spent six decades in conspicuous and mainly sincere atonement for Nazi crimes. But it surely has no plans to showcase the tolerant society it has become by building a cultural center down the road from Auschwitz. Japan is no doubt equally disinclined to finance a Shinto shrine in the vicinity of the Pearl Harbor memorial.

Be that as it may, I still think Mr. Rauf and his wife should be taken at their word—provided they are also held to it. As a confidence-building measure for those of us who live in the neighborhood, it would help if the pair voluntarily answered some questions about the nature of their beliefs. A sampler:

Who perpetrated the attacks of 9/11, and what was their religion?

Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state?

What aspects of Shariah law, if any, do they repudiate?

Do they consider the Muslim Brotherhood to be extreme?

Finally, it is worth asking Mr. Rauf and Ms. Khan the broader question of how they think about tolerance itself. In the case of the famous Muhammad cartoons, ‘moderate’ Muslims typically make the case that while free speech has its place, the sensitivities of the Muslim community should be respected. But tolerance can’t just be a one-way street, and sensitivity is not the preserve of Muslims alone. So what do they make of the sensitivities of 9/11 families in the face of their mega-mosque? And if they are prepared to so lightly traduce on those sensitivities, will they perhaps return the favor by hosting an exhibition of pictorial depictions of the prophet? (Source)


The article, “The Cordoba Mosque in New York: A Symbol of the Islamic Conquest of Christian Lands,” is very encouraging. After all, it was addressed to the vast Arab readership of a daily that does not hesitate to publish controversial articles that would never appear in the print press.

My quotations from Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser’s article, “Mosque Unbecoming,” gave me hope that, some Muslims who have immigrated to America are proud to proclaim with Dr. Jasser, “On Sept. 12, 2001, I was first an American. When those planes hit the World Trade Center, they hit at the core of my being as an American.”

Mr. Stephens’ Wall Street Journal op-ed is noteworthy because of the pointed questions he asked Imam Rauf. They were to the point, and necessary to be asked.  That is because some Muslims still subscribe to the age-old Islamic tradition of “taqiyya.”  Taqiyya means to dissimulate and hedge answers to difficult questions such that the questioner can never be sure of getting an honest answer.  But it is still important to ask the tough questions, as Mr. Stephens does, to put the responder on notice that his answer will be noted and tested against reality.


It is noteworthy that the author of the Elaph article did not restrict himself to discuss the proposed “Cordoba Mosque.” He went ahead and gave his readers an unpolished account of the “great and glorious” Islamic futuhat that brought Islam to the Iberian Peninsula within less than one hundred years after the death of Muhammad in 632 A. D. Unlike Muslim historians, who claimed that the futuhat liberated benighted people living in ignorance of Islam, this author applied the terms “colonialism” and “imperialism,” to the Islamic conquests.  This is an interesting turn-around because these words are almost exclusively applied negatively to Western imperialism.

He immigrated to the United States, became a citizen, and is now a loyal American. Being knowledgeable of the religious needs of the Muslim communities in the State of New York, he saw no real need for building more mosques in the Empire State. A disturbing phenomenon appeared a few days after the posting of his article. I counted 92 comments, most of them excoriating the author for vilifying Islam! I read only four comments that applauded his courage and frankness.

What troubled me most were the words used by his detractors depicting a hatred for any dissent from the ideology that regards Islam as the only legitimate faith in the world! The fact that his critics used the Internet, and composed their vitriolic comments in correct Classical Arabic, indicated that, despite their education and material position in life, their minds were filled with intolerance, fanaticism and obscurantism.

To end on a positive note, here are excerpts from the four commentators who wholeheartedly agreed with the Elaph writer’s criticism of the “Cordoba Mosque Project.”

“Thanks. An Excellent article. All you mentioned is true, even though many try in vain to embellish our Islamic heritage.” Wednesday, 19 May, 2010

“Courage and Wisdom. The writer proved himself to be an honest person who told the truth.” Tuesday, 18 May, 2010

“Muslims across the ages are marked with their eagerness to confront and provoke the followers of other religions. For example, they don’t hesitate to build four mosques around one church building, thus making it difficult for Christians to get to church!” Wednesday, 18 May, 2010

“I agree with you. As an Arab and an Egyptian living in America, I totally agree with you. The Wahhabi ideology is spreading in America like cancer. On the other hand, Americans don’t seem to learn anything from what happened lately like in Times Square or the other incidents where Muslims, even after securing citizenship, their attitude doesn’t change toward Americans. Alas, they live in this country, but call it “Bilad al-Kuffar,” i.e. the Lands of Infidels! May God protect America and its people from the hatred of all Irhabi thoughts. I love America, and having lived here, I know that it doesn’t discriminate between its citizens regardless of their race, color, or creed!” Tuesday, 18 May, 2010 


Further news and articles on the Ground Zero Mosque can be found on the Answering Muslims blog.