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August 16, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque: Why the name "Cordoba House"? (Updated)

Topics: Political News and commentaries, Understanding Islam

The imam behind the planned Ground Zero Mosque has named it "Cordoba House." Why that name? Apparently, the Middle East provides some useful background on the history of Cordoba that we should be aware of - and it tells us much about what Imam Rauf's "tolerance" entails. And it has nothing to do with outreach and everything to do with conquest.

Jennifer Rubin writes:

New York has so many mosques that the question of tolerance of Muslims in America is not in doubt, except in the minds of the mosque's defenders, who equate the placement of the mosque with religious "freedom." Now, Rauf can hardly be ignorant of the history of Cordoba, as many of his defenders seem to be. He has, in the selection of his mosque's name and placement, chosen to carry a message to his fellow Muslims and the world at large. It's not a message that any of us, especially the left, which is supposedly opposed to religious domination of societies (or is that only a rule for Christians?), should embrace.
Rubin points to an article by Michael Lame of "the decidedly non-partisan" Re-Think, that explains what that message is and what it symbolizes:
[...] Another key to understanding Imam Rauf's thinking is his use of the name Cordoba. His non-profit group is called the Cordoba Initiative and, until very recently, the mosque project was called Cordoba House. In order to emphasize "the community center aspect of the project rather than religion," that name has now been changed to Park51, a more hip, New York style name that offers no associations to another place and time (except perhaps to Studio 54, which I'm sure is unintentional). Cordoba House, by contrast, summons up a host of images and historical references for those familiar with Islamic, Spanish, or medieval history and culture.

[...] Imam Rauf's book, What's Right with Islam: a New Vision for Muslims and the West, narrows the pertinent time frame, explaining that the Cordoba Initiative is "named after the period between roughly 800 and 1200 CE, when the Cordoba Caliphate ruled much of today's Spain."

[...] Professor [Richard] Fletcher weighs in on the question: "Early medieval Spain was multicultural in the sense of being culturally diverse, a land within which different cultures coexisted; but not in the sense of experiencing cultural integration. Toleration for Christians and Jews as "Peoples of the Book" is enjoined by the Koran. But in practice it was limited - Christians under Islamic rule were forbidden to build new churches, to ring church bells, to hold public processions - and sometimes it broke down altogether. In 1066 there was a pogrom in Granada in which its Jewish community was slaughtered. Thousands of Christians were deported to slavery in Morocco in 1126. Thoroughly dismissive attitudes to Christians and Jews may be found in the Arabic literature of al-Andalus. It is a myth of the modern liberal imagination that medieval Islamic Spain was, in any sense that we should recognize today, a tolerant society."

Not exactly a message of tolerance; it's the polar opposite of what imam Rauf claims to be his intent. And interestingly, there are Muslims that are essentially saying the same thing that Lamb is, that the GZ mosque has everything to do with conquest and nothing to do with interfaith outreach. As one Muslim survivor of 9/11 puts it: "It would become a symbol of victory for militant Muslims around the world."

8/17 Update: Abdul Rahman al-Rashid, the left-leaning director of al-Arabiya TV and former editor of London's Arab daily, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, has come out against the GZ mosque and poses the question - "A House of Worship or a Symbol of Destruction?"

Related:
Hamas Nod For Ground Zero Mosque
Cordoba: Not Just a Car With Fine Corinthian Leather.

Posted by Richard at August 16, 2010 11:36 AM



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