We would like to cut through the spin of opportunistic politicians and profit-driven pundits in order to offer some reflections that we hope will help our communities see the beauty of the Cordoba House project, sometimes mischaracterized as “the Ground Zero Mosque.” We would also like to reassure our Muslim neighbors who may be sensing an upsurge in anti-Muslim sentiment that we stand with them in friendship and in defense of religious freedom.
Cordoba House is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the USA. This Amendment protects the freedom of religion for all Americans – no matter our religious perspective – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist, etc. If the builders of Cordoba House, a Muslim community center, aren’t guaranteed this Constitutional right, then the freedom of religion for all people is threatened. This is something to take very seriously. It is understandable that at the very mention of 9/11, Americans of every religious background are stirred emotionally, but to allow the pain of 9/11 to usurp the religious liberty of all Americans would be to encourage and empower the violence of religious extremists.
Cordoba House is being built by The American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, two organizations that seek to improve the relationship between Islam and the West. In the weeks after 9-11, we asked these moderate Muslims to step forward and speak out. Now that they are coming forward in such important ways, we should welcome their efforts with open arms.
Cordoba House is being organized by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who works to improve relations between Muslim Americans and other Americans. In fact, in 1997, he founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement. Many people, including University of Iowa alum and progressive Muslim author, Reza Aslan, consider Rauf to be an important leader of Islam in the USA because of his commitment to pluralism and peace. Imam Rauf is a model for us all.
Cordoba House is named after Cordoba, Spain, a city where Muslims, Jews, and Christians thrived together successfully for many years. This name is significant because it reminds people that, in the words of Feisal Abdul Rauf, "Muslims created what was, in its era, the most enlightened, pluralistic, and tolerant society on earth." We should hold Cordoba up as an example for the USA. Our nation should be a place where all people, no matter their religion, can live together in peace and prosperity.
Cordoba House is a community center that will feature a fitness center, culinary school, childcare services, etc. It will also feature a prayer room. Such a building would be similar to a JCC or YMCA. These kinds of organizations provide services that are good for the entire community. Cordoba House has met all of the local and state ordinances and building codes; to block its construction would not only violate our nation’s provision of religious freedom, but also violate the recognized rights of local and state governance.
Cordoba House would share the neighborhood with a Mosque, Masjid Manhattan, that has been in the area for over 30 years. Clearly, Islam has been a part of the heritage of New York for a long time. Muslims are not exotic outsiders to be feared. They are friendly neighbors to be treated like we would like to be treated. The Torah and Gospels remind us to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” And that includes our Muslim neighbors.
Cordoba House is a product of moderate Islam. It has nothing to do with fringe, fundamentalist groups like Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is political fundamentalism that has declared war on everything and everyone that stands in the way of their political agenda. Conversely, the form of Islam that is promoted by the sponsoring organizations of Cordoba House would be committed to a spiritual and peaceful form of Islam. It's important to remember that Islam, like every other religion, has a lot of diversity. We must not hold all Muslims accountable for the actions of extremists that claim their religion any more than we would want to be held accountable for the actions of extremists that claim our religion.
We strongly support not only the Constitutional right of the building of Cordoba House, but we also strongly support the moral imperative of standing beside people who work to build a more peaceful and pluralistic world.
Rev. Brian Brandsmeier, Iowa City, IA
Sara Klosterboer, Iowa City, IA
Rev. Deanna White, Chauncey, OH
Rev. Gregg Brekke, Rocky River, OH
Jon Trouten, Iowa City, IA
Dr. Philip Clayton, Claremont, CA
Rev. Becky Turner, Saint Louis, MO
Jill Dempster, Cedar Falls, IA
MaryAlice Kirk Suter, Saint Louis, MO
Mary McInroy, Iowa City, IA
Melvin Bray, Atlanta, GA
Tripp Fuller, Redondo Beach, CA
Kristine Butterbaugh, Martelle, IA
Sabrina Wagoner, Belleville, IL
Alison Dix, Mount Vernon, IA
Kris Grover, Elkader, IA
Nicole Farrar, Corbin, KY
Dana Isaacson, Waupaca, WI
Rosalba Juarez, Green Bay, WI
Rabbi Jeff Portman, Iowa City, IA
Carl Fongheiser, Iowa City, IA
Deb Scott-Miller, Iowa City, IA
Jake Vitense, Tipton, IA
(If you'd like to add your name, please just leave a comment that says you'd like to be added.)