The plan for Cordoba House — which those who oppose it call a mosque, and those who support it call a cultural center with a place for prayer — has been the dream of Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan. Khan describes it somewhat like the Jewish Community Center uptown, with facilities for athletics, arts, performances, lectures series, forums and weddings, as well as a prayer space.Here is a link to the complete transcript of the story.
Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf considers himself an orthodox Muslim, but he is also a Sufi, a contemplative and mystical path in Islam. The offices of the Imam and his wife are in a building used by many faiths that is part of Riverside Church in upper Manhattan, a liberal bastion of interfaith work. When you listen to Khan speak, she sounds very much in that tradition.
"Our religion has been hijacked by the extremists," she says. "This center will create this kind of counter momentum which will amplify the voices of the moderate Muslims. If we have to defeat the extremists, Muslims have to be leading that effort."
Many of the right-wing opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque have been quoting this particular story, especially the Daisy Khan sound-bite about "hijacking". I think it's important for people to know that the actual source of the "hijacking" quote is a story by everyone's favorite Überliberal Unitarian Universalist Pagan journalist.
My question for Daisy Khan (and her fan Margot Adler) is: If Islam has been "hijacked", how are we to distinguish between (1) the hijackers, (2) those who have been hijacked, and (3) the un-hijacked "moderate Muslims" who are supposedly "leading the effort" to "defeat the extremists."
Now, to all those moderate Muslims out there who are leading the effort to defeat the extremists: I salute you.
But forgive me if I ask: Where are you? Who are you? What are these "efforts" you are engaged in, and how is that going? Also, I would like to know: when did Daisy Khan join your ranks?
Daisy Khan and her husband, Faisal Abdul Rauf, and the other movers and shakers of the Cordoba Initiative apparently want us to take their word for it that they are the good guys. They refuse to openly discuss their relationships with other groups or their (apparently very considerable) sources of funding. And why do they only speak of "extremists" in the abstract? Why not tell us who the extremists are, and what, specifically, the moderates are doing to "defeat" them?
An interesting, and illuminating, side-issue is the way Adler asserts that "those who oppose" the mosque call it a mosque, while "those who support it" call it a "cultural center." This just so happens to be a lie.
Everyone called the mosque a mosque until quite recently. And it has taken a while for everyone to get the memo to stop calling the mosque a mosque. For example, Michael Bloomberg has stated "I happen to think this [Ground Zero] is a very appropriate place for somebody who wants to build a mosque." He said that on July 16, the day after Adler's NPR report.
And four days after Adler's report a piece by Harris Zafar, a Senior Writer for the Muslim Writers Guild of America, appeared at the Huffington Post under the title: "Ground Zero Mosque: A Muslims' Perspective", in which Zafar writes, "Organizers of the Muslim mosque near Ground Zero are pushing the project forward despite a growing number of vocal opponents wishing to halt this project in its tracks."
And just yesterday, on August 4, none other than Al freaking Jazeera gleefully reported on the Landmarks Preservation Commission vote under the headline:
On the one hand it is a small thing, perhaps. But on the other hand it is quite revealing how Adler and others are obsessing over the word "mosque" -- turning it into some kind of shibboleth of decency. Anyone who dares to call the mosque what it is must be automatically categorized as a hate-monger, while anyone who wishes to avoid the charge of racism must fall in line and stupidly pretend that the mosque will just be a place for people to play ping-pong and take cooking classes.