In order to fully understand the proposed Ground Zero Mosque it requires us to understand the meaning of understanding. There seems to be a misunderstanding of understanding where it concerns Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Cordoba Initiative and the Park 51 project.
According to the Park 51 website:
Park51 will be a community center promoting tolerance and understanding through three types of programs: arts & culture, education and recreation.
The Cordoba Initiative describes its programming in this manner:
The programs at Cordoba Initiative (CI) are designed to cultivate multi-cultural and multi-faith understanding across minds and borders. In the ten years since our founding, the necessity to strengthen the bridge between Islam and the West continues to prevail.
In a guest editorial that was published in the New York Times on September 7, Rauf explains the significance of the name Cordoba:
Our name, Cordoba, was inspired by the city in Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle Ages during a period of great cultural enrichment created by Muslims. Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures.
During his September 13 address to the Council on Foreign Relations, Rauf returns to the theme of understanding:
But genuine understanding can only happen when there is honesty, sincerity of motive, and an open heart. For when issues are politicized or used as fodder for commentators on the right or on the left, we just pour fuels on the flames of misunderstanding.
Now for most Americans, understanding means mutual respect and tolerance towards others whether as individuals or groups. But understanding can also have another meaning. It is entirely possible to achieve an understanding in the absence of mutual respect and tolerance. If your child goes to school and the class bully tells him that his lunch money is the price he must pay to avoid being beaten up, then there is an understanding. It is perhaps a painful understanding but it is an understanding nonetheless. With this in mind let us examine what happened in Cordoba, Spain more than 850 years ago.
In 1148, Cordoba was invaded and taken over by the Almohades, a sect of Islamic fundamentalists. The Almohades gave the Christians and Jews of Cordoba three choices.
They could convert to Islam; they could leave Cordoba or they could be executed. Amongst those who fled Cordoba was Moses Maimonides, who in adulthood would become a world renowned physician, philosopher and rabbi.
There was undeniably an understanding between the Almohades and the Christians and Jews of Cordoba. But it was an example of an understanding based not on mutual respect and tolerance but rather an understanding based on conquest and contempt of non-Muslims. Suffice it to say, when Feisal Abdul Rauf cites twelfth century Cordoba as a model by which to “cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures,” it neither inspires confidence nor establishes trust. Just ask Christians in Malaysia.
In January, Malay Muslims burned down Christian churches after the Herald, a Catholic monthly newspaper, had the temerity to correctly use the word “Allah” in reference to the Christian God.
Enter Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf with editorial in hand. While Rauf would acknowledge the use of the word Allah was correct in both legal and theological terms he stated nonetheless that when used by Christians, “it is socially provocative.” As Andy McCarthy of National Review Online put it recently, “You know what else might be ‘socially provocative’? A giant mosque at Ground Zero.” Rauf went on to write:
If you want to have influence with people in Malaysia, you must find a way to convey your message without provoking this kind of response.
If you want to reach the Malays, then use the Malay word for God, which is Tuhan.
Rauf’s words are contemptuous of Christianity. His words can also be described as sheer chutzpah. Yet I would also point out that his words convey an understanding. Not only do you have a Muslim Imam living in America telling Malaysian Christians how to practice their religion, but he is also telling Malaysian Christians to expect violence from Muslims if they dare to properly observe their religion. The understanding here could not be clearer.
When Rauf appeared on Larry King Live last week, he told guest host Soledad O’Brien that moving the site of the Ground Zero Mosque would “strengthen the argument of the radicals to recruit, their ability to recruit, and their increasing aggression and violence against our country.” Once again, Rauf was again conveying an understanding — either the Ground Zero Mosque is built as planned or there will be violence against America.
But so long as Rauf wants to spread understanding to us, he must be prepared to understand a few things as well. Rauf must understand that he will not make friends with Americans if he insists that violence will be visited upon us if he does not get his way. Rauf must understand that he cannot tell us on one hand that “Islam categorically rejects the killing of innocent people” and then on the other hand be unwilling to condemn Hamas for its acts of terrorism including the brutal murder of a pregnant Jewish woman in the West Bank last month. Rauf must understand that he cannot on the one hand tell us that he loves America and then on the other hand tell us that America has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda.
Please don’t let me be misunderstood. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf can build the Ground Zero Mosque. But just because you can do something in America doesn’t mean you should. I hope he’ll understand.