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entries tagged with: Feisal Abdul Rauf


Mosque near Ground Zero?

Cordoba House could ‘encourage more attacks’

Former Islamic terrorist urges moderation

If the Cordoba House is built in the shadow of the Sept. 11 site, radical Muslims will increase their efforts to attack America because of a perceived victory in their war to transform the United States into a Muslim nation.

So says Dr. Tawfik Hamid, senior fellow and chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Hamid is a former member of the terrorist Islamic organization Jamaa Islamiya with Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who later became the second in command of Al-Qaeda. For more than 25 years Hamid has spoken out in favor of reformation in the Muslim world based on peaceful interpretations of Islamic texts.

The Cordoba Initiative’s choice of location for the Cordoba House Islamic center may be constitutionally protected, he said, but it is insensitive and has caused a rift between the Muslim community and America.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid suggests the Cordoba Initiative should change the location of its Islamic center and build a memorial to Sept. 11 victims inside. Courtesy Tawfik Hamid

“My worry is this can be the spark that can create a clash of civilizations if our leaders are not wise enough to have a strategy that can respect everyone and end it in a peaceful way to bring moderate people to the table to stop radicalism that can come from both sides,” he said.

Also, Hamid said, should the center be built at the Park Place site, the radicals responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks will believe their actions paved the way for a new Islamic institution in America.

“The aim of building the mosque was to build bridges,” he said. “The outcome was the opposite of this. By the radicals it will be seen as a sign of victory and encourage more attacks on America.”

Recently, Hamid wrote a Declaration of Beliefs of Muslim Moderates, which calls for “contemporary understandings of Islam to replace currently predominant harsh and radical (Salafi/Wahabbi) interpretations of our religion.”

The declaration calls for Muslims to ban the Redda Law, which Hamid said allows for the killing of Muslims who convert out of the faith; an end to violence against women; a rejection of the idea of Islamic domination of the world; a declaration of anti-Semitism and slavery as un-Islamic; and an end to laws that permit the killing of homosexuals.

The declaration — which is circulating on the Internet — is part of what Hamid called a new theological interpretation, providing a way that Islam can remain viable without radical interpretations of core values.

“That is the problem with many Muslims — they are so scared that if they start to touch these values their religion will collapse. The only way to help these people is to give them other interpretations.”

Hamid has received mostly positive feedback from non-Muslims to his declaration, while the Muslim community has thus far remained silent, he said. The requests in the document are simple and can be phrased as yes or no questions that get at the core of Muslim beliefs. He expects Muslim leaders who sign it to take action to change Islamic education, rather than just pay lip service to the document, he said.

“Many people, especially intellectuals, consider it one of the best ways to evaluate and define if a leader of Muslims is a real moderate or a radical,” he said.

In the end, Hamid believes the Cordoba Initiative will change the location of the Islamic center. If the group shows that it did not intend to cause pain or act insensitively, that will help close the rift it has caused. He also suggested that wherever Cordoba House ends up, organizers should build a memorial to Sept. 11 victims inside.

Hamid challenged Cordoba Initiative founder Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to sign the Declaration of Beliefs. If Rauf does this, he said, the radicals will look at the mosque as a sign of defeat.

“If this imam can stand clearly and unambiguously and sign this declaration, I will be the first to support him,” Hamid said.

Read the Declaration of Beliefs here.


Mosque near Ground Zero?

Questioning character of Cordoba imam ‘just inappropriate’

Josh Lipowsky
Published: 20 August 2010
Tenafly man recalls long relationship with Rauf

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the head of the Cordoba Initiative, should be praised for creating bridges between moderate Muslims and people of good will, according to Tenafly resident Alan Silberstein.

The pair’s relationship goes back decades to their days as engineering students at Columbia University in 1967. Rauf’s father was an Egyptian diplomat and the family had recently relocated from Kuwait. When the Six Day War broke out, the two students were working side by side at summer jobs in the religion department. They often ate lunch together and, rather than drive them apart, the war sparked discussion and mutual respect.

“He was really genuinely curious about my Zionism, and what it means for an American Jew to be so concerned for Israel,” Silberstein said.

The pair stayed in touch through the years as Rauf switched from engineering to religious leadership. Recent attacks on Rauf’s character — questioning his positions on terrorism and radical Islam — are unacceptable, Silberstein said.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

“If you read his books, you’ll see that he takes pains to demonstrate that Islamic values are compatible with American ideals and that many practices taken in the name of Islam are customs and not religious requirements,” Silberstein said.

Silberstein recalled a conversation last year with Rauf, during which the imam “took pains to explain the differences between Muslim religion and its interpretations.”

“Because some countries use Sharia law as justification for cruel and extreme practices doesn’t mean they’re interpreting the law correctly,” he said.

Silberstein praised Rauf for his work in fostering understanding between Muslims and Jews. The imam has been to Israel and works closely with rabbis and priests, Silberstein said. “To question his character is just inappropriate.”

“When I see religious leaders, particularly those I know directly or indirectly, jumping to his defense as a trusted peer, I’m not surprised. When some question the location [of the Islamic center], I understand that — I have had my own concerns. When I see people question whether he’s said enough or done enough to jump to Israel’s support or repudiate those who think he may be anti-Semitic, I’m not sure what more they’re looking for.”

If the mosque’s opponents succeed in forcing a change in location, it will not be good for the Jews, Silberstein said.

“Jews have to stand up for the rights of other minorities; that’s what we stand for; that’s who we are,” he said.

Silberstein asked the imam to speak to The Jewish Standard, but was told he is not speaking to the media.


Mosque near Ground Zero?

Locals call Cordoba House ‘the wrong place’

All of Islam bears some responsibilty for 9-11 and the epidemic of terror carried out in its name and by its adherents,” wrote Rabbi Benjamin Shull of Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake in an e-mail to The Jewish Standard.

Asked to elaborate, he added, “I realize that there are many Muslims who practice a moderate form of their religion and who do not condone terror or violent jihad, but it is obvious to anyone who has studied the history of Islam that the violence we see today is not a mere aberration. There is endemic to Islam an aggressive and imperialistic strain that, many times in the past, has reared its head and brought much religiously fueled violence to the world. Many truly moderate Muslim leaders have acknowledged this and called for a reform of Islam. The leader of the World Trade Center mosque has not — though he will condemn terror in one breath he will excuse it in another. He actually once claimed that Osama bin Laden was created in the United States (by U.S. foreign policy).

“I don’t think that the government should stop the mosque, but I do believe that we, the Americans, can demand accountability. This is not Islamophobia, it’s common sense.”

Alex Grobman, a historian who lives in Englewood and is the author, most recently, of the ironically titled “The Palestinian Right to Israel” (Balfour Books), was similarly negative about the mosque site.

He wrote in an e-mail to the Standard that “If those building the imposing 13-story $100 million mosque were truly interested in portraying Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance, this is clearly the wrong place to do so. Allowing a mosque to be built so close to the destruction of the Twin Towers will be seen as an act of triumphalism. What else are we to assume when the projected name is Cordoba House, a term obviously identified with conquest? As one analyst noted, the first Cordoba mosque was erected in Cordoba, Spain, following the Muslim conquest of Christian Spain in the eighth century.

Rabbi Benjamin Shull, left, Alex Grobman, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach File Photos

“A very transparent and unmistakable message will be conveyed to the faithful,” Grobma added, “that they have been given a premier platform from which to preach their form of Islam under Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. He is a prominent member of Perdana, which is ‘the single biggest donor’ to the Free Gaza Movement, according to David Horowitz, and refuses to say if Hamas is a terrorist organization.”

Grobman wrote that in “Abdul Rauf’s book, published in Malaysia, ‘A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11,’ the word ‘dawa’ refers to spreading sharia [Islamic law] by any way except through violence, according to Islam expert Robert Spencer.

“Is this mosque not then a Trojan horse?”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an Englewood resident and a columnist for this newspaper, has written frequently of his qualified opposition to the mosque. The author, most recently, of “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life,” he wrote on the Huffington Post website on Tuesday that he is, in fact, “a supporter of the mosque being built, but only under two conditions. First, that its builders consult the families of the Ground Zero dead, who are the people whose opinion matters most. Second, that the 13-story complex include a museum detailing the events of 9/11 with exhibits explaining the modern abuse of Islamic teachings by extremists and their repudiation by Islam itself.”

Responding to accusations of bigotry against opponents of the mosque, Boteach wrote, “There are bigots in America but Americans are not bigots. There are a hundred mosques in New York alone and nobody objects. But the average American is souring on Islam not based on any intrinsic prejudice but based on the violence they constantly read in the newspapers….

“[T]his is where the builders of the Ground Zero mosque squandered a unique opportunity to portray Islam in a favorable light,” he continued. “They could have said that while they are firm about their intentions of creating an Islamic presence at this hallowed site, their intention in so doing is not to offend the families’ sensibilities but to repudiate the fanatics who have tarnished the name of Islam and hence, the builders wish to proceed with the greatest sensitivity and understanding.

“Sadly, … none of this happened. Rather, it was announced that a mosque is being built adjacent to a giant American cemetery irrespective of the families wishes, that it’s a First Amendment right, and that all those who oppose it are bigots.”


The words behind the man behind the mosque

Published: 26 August 2010

Couple behind Ground Zero mosque model of tolerance

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