Hanna , I applaud any Muslim initiative that seeks empower a peaceful interpretation of Islam and root out violent extremism. What makes me crazy is that our discourse is so polarized that every issue immediately becomes a platform for expressing an extreme world view. I found Michael Bloomberg’s remarks following his speech to be inflammatory – essentially implying someone is an anti-Muslim bigot if they want to know where the $100 million for the mosque and cultural center is going to come from. I can’t stand Sarah Palin, and I reject the assumption that if she opposes the mosque, and I have some questions about it, then I might as well be Sarah Palin. Brett Stephens in this column in the Wall Street Journal points out that as of 2008 the Cordoba Initiative has assets of less than $19,000. It is a joyous thing if they are able to raise $100 million from sources that agree wholly with a mission of interfaith acceptance and peace. But why should it be nobody’s business – as Bloomberg said – where they get their money? Iman Rauf was quoted in a London newspaper saying he expects some of the money to come from Arab and Islamic governments. Often people who pay the bills like to have a say in what gets done with their money.
The builders of Cordoba House are free to petition to build wherever they want, and if they get the approvals, as they appear to have done, then of course they have the right to go ahead. What I think is unfortunate is that they chose a place that would inevitably mean their important message gets swamped by raw feelings. WSJ columnist William McGurn points out the parallels here to the building of a Carmelite convent at Auschwitz. Who could be a more peaceful, healing presence than a group of Carmelite nuns? Yet eventually Pope John Paul II told them to move –not because they were doing anything wrong – but because the large cross they erected and their presence at that place , was counterproductive to their mission. Think how powerful it would be, think of the broad support he would get, if Imam Rauf said that his message is the most important thing and he realizes it will be best heard if he builds his center somewhere else in the city.