What is Being Said in the Leading Arabic International Daily Newspaper About Cordoba House/Park51
I can’t follow the logic in the second article. In any case, here are three takes on the issue from asharq alawasat.
By Ali Ibrahim
Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat’s Deputy Editor-in-Chief, based in London
… A writer for the ‘New York Times’ has described the mosque debate as one that is taking place between ‘two Americas’. Firstly there are those who believe in the constitution, stating the right of everyone to religious freedom, whatever religion, and the rights of equal citizenship for citizens old and new, regardless of the language they speak. Secondly, there are those that view society from the perspective that people of a particular culture have the duty to assimilate with everyone else. This practice succeeded in incorporating large waves of migration in the 1920s, into American society. But today’s world is different from the 1920s; it has become entangled and inter-connected. There is considerable international interest surrounding the controversy associated with the mosque project, beyond a local framework, and the message that it [the final decision] will send is important in the outside world, especially in Islamic countries.
It was possible to avoid this controversy, which has rekindled an atmosphere similar to the Islamophobia that was apparent the period after the September 11th attacks, if sufficient studies and surveys were conducted before selecting the site. Polls suggest that 70 percent of Americans oppose the construction at this site.
The difficulty now is undoing the negative message that this would convey to Islamic groups, who wish to correct the misconceptions and likewise the suspicion that there is a relationship between Islam and the September 11th attacks. Yet the truth is that the attacks were carried out by a terrorist group that plagues almost all Islamic countries.
The solution? Perhaps the way out is to return the issue to its local framework, as a matter for the residents of New York to decide what they want, within the framework of their local laws. However, there is nothing wrong with taking into account the feelings raised, on the grounds that the project serves Muslim Americans who must be a part of the interactions of their local community.
By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. Mr. Al Rashed is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad
US President Barack Obama adopted a difficult position when he supported the building of a mosque near ground zero, where 3,000 US citizens died at the hands of Al-Qaeda terrorists on 11 September 2001.
Despite the fact that the president adopted the correct stance in principle, i.e. the principle of freedom of worship, in my opinion he adopted an unnecessary and unimportant stance, even as far as Muslims are concerned. The mosque is not an issue for Muslims, and they are not bothered by its construction.
This reminds us of another principled stance Obama took when he insisted on putting the Guantanamo prisoners accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda on trial before civilian courts, and on closing down the military prison. It is true that this stance deserves appreciation. However, the fact is that he fought a battle that does not concern Muslims across the world, because there are tens of thousands of Muslims - similar to those accused of extremism - who are imprisoned in worse conditions in Muslim countries.
Muslims do not aspire for a mosque next to the 11 September cemetery, and are not bothered with Bin Ladin’s cook being put on trial in a civilian court. Muslims have issues that encroach upon the destinies of nations; these issues are the cause of isolation and calamity, such as the establishment of the State of Palestine. For Obama to focus his energy and efforts, and fight for the establishment of peace in the Middle East is more important and more valuable than a mosque in New York
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What the US citizens do not understand is that the battle against the 11 September terrorists is a Muslim battle, and not theirs, and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam. This is what has started to happen now; they claim that there is a mosque being built over the corpses of 3,000 killed US citizens, who were buried alive by people chanting God is great, which is the same call that will be heard from the mosque.
It is the wrong battle, because originally there was no mosque in order to rebuild it, and there are no practicing Muslims who want a place in which to worship.
By Hussein Shobokshi
A Businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al Takreer on Al Arabiya, and in 1995, he was chosen as one of the “Global Leaders for Tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum.
Amidst the continuing depressing talk of the clash of civilizations and cultures, and the war between religions, comes news of a unanimous vote undertaken by the Landmarks Preservation Commission [in New York], to demolish an old building and construct a modern Islamic centre in its place. The new structure will consist of a mosque, a school, and centre for cultural interaction. The vote represents the latest administrative step to remove obstacles hindering the ‘Cordoba Initiative’, the name given to this excellent project. The building is planned to be built near ‘Ground Zero’, where the September 11th terrorist attacks took place.
The project has been met with an enormous wave of aggressive objections, lodged by extremist voices from the American Right, Zionist movements and Christian fundamentalists. Such groups have given the project the worst possible description, portraying it as ‘the Hatred Centre’, the ‘Heart of Extremism’, and other derogatory labels. On the other hand, there were numerous voices calling for the practical application of ‘freedom to practice religion’, and for the non-discrimination of US citizens, regardless of religion background or race. This is one of the most important principles upon which the renowned US constitution was based on. Among the most prominent supporters of the Cordoba Initiative’s plan are current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Speaker of the New York City Council, Christine C. Quinn, together with rabbi Robert Levine, who joined them by expressing his delight at the outcome of the vote.
Such wise and balanced opinions were in stark contrast to other more cautious and tense voices such as Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, together with Newt Gingrich, former Congress Spokesman, and Sara Palin, former Mayor of Alaska (both being the Republican Party’s runners for the presidency in the upcoming elections). All three were keen to warn against the construction of the ‘Hatred Center’ near the site of the largest terrorist incident in American history, because of “the contempt [it shows] towards the feelings of the victim’s families.”