Who is organizing this project? What is the relationship of the Cordoba Initiative to this project?
The Cordoba Initiative, of which Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is founder and chairman, is a multi-faith non-profit organization whose aim is to improve relations between different communities, and in particular between the Muslim world and the United States of America.
The proposed community center in Lower Manhattan will serve as a platform for multi-faith dialogue. It will strive to promote inter-community peace, tolerance and understanding locally in New York City, nationally in America, and globally.
Daisy Khan is a board member of Cordoba Initiative and also the Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA). ASMA is committed to helping Muslim women and youth to improving their lives within their communities through projects on contemporary issues.
Both Imam Feisal and Ms. Khan are strong advocates for multi-faith collaboration. They share a vision of a community center in which various religious leaders and civil society will work closely together to foster community cohesion and advance the shared goals of moderation, peace and understanding. Through programs offered by the Cordoba Initiative and ASMA, the community center will crystallize this shared vision of peace into bricks and mortar.
Why are you building a mosque at Ground zero?
The community center is not located at Ground Zero.
It will be a multi-floor community center open to all New Yorkers, much like a YMCA or Jewish Community Center (JCC) with a designated prayer space (mosque) in one area to serve the needs of the large existing community of American Muslims in the neighborhood.
The community center will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their culture or background, will find a place of learning, arts and culture, and, most importantly, a community center guided by the universal values of all religions in their truest form – peace, compassion, generosity, and respect for all.
Why did you choose this site so close to Ground Zero?
We were always close to the World Trade Center. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been the Imam of a mosque twelve blocks from the Twin Towers for the last 27 years.
Who is funding the community center?
No funds for this project have been raised to date. A project of this scale will require very diverse fundraising sources, including individuals from all faiths and beliefs –who are committed to peace and understanding. We expect that our sources of funding will include individuals of different religions, charitable organizations, public funds, institutional and corporate sponsors.
You will need a lot of contributors. Who will review your donor list?
The New York Charities Bureau and the US Treasury Department will review the donor list to assure that all funding sources are vetted to their satisfaction and approved. In addition, our Trustees and Advisory Board will be comprised of a multi-faith group of distinguished individuals who will ensure that the community center stays true to its objectives of peace, tolerance and understanding between all.
How did you purchase the building?
SoHo Properties, a New York real estate development firm based in lower Manhattan, acquired the property a couple of years ago. Sharif El Gamal, owner of SoHo Properties, is a member of Imam Feisal’s lower Manhattan congregation that has been in the neighborhood for a number of years.
Why so close to Ground Zero?
We have been residents and neighbors who are deeply committed to the neighborhood for the last 27 years. American Muslims have been peacefully living, working and worshipping in this neighborhood and were also terribly affected by the horrific events of 9/11.
As Muslim New Yorkers and Americans we want to help and be part of rebuilding our neighborhood in lower Manhattan. It is important for all of us to show the world that Americans will not be frightened or deterred by the extremist forces of hatred.
Isn’t this insensitive given that the 9/11 attackers were Muslims?
The events of 9/11 were horrific. What happened that day was terrorism, and it shames us that it was cloaked in the guise of Islam. It was inhumane, un-Islamic and is indefensible regardless of one’s religious persuasion. Not only Americans but also all Muslims are threatened by the lies and actions being perpetrated by these self-serving extremists and their perverted view of Islam.
The community center will be a platform to amplify the voices of the overwhelming majority of Muslims whose love for America and commitment to peace gets drowned out by the actions of a few extremists. It will become a platform where the voices of those who resist religious extremism and terrorism can be amplified and celebrated.
But, why not build it a little bit farther away? Let’s say a mile away?
No one should be driven out of his or her own neighborhood – especially for religious reasons. It is unconstitutional and un-American. Our congregation has been peacefully worshipping in this area for almost three decades. Our neighbors have encouraged us to remain here and the City and the Community Board have encouraged our continued presence here. The community has backed up their support by approving every resolution and challenge in the community center’s favor.
What about the 9/11 families? Don’t you see their pain?
Like all New Yorkers and Americans we were too devastated by 9/11. We share and respect the incredible pain and loss suffered by the victims of 9/11. We fully recognize their legitimate concerns and sensitivity to the community center. It shames us that extremists who profess to be Muslim perpetrated murder on such a horrific scale for political and financial gain in the name of Islam.
We look forward to actively engaging with leaders of the victims of 9/11 to respond to their concerns and obtain their support for our efforts.
Will the extremists take over the Community Center once it’s built?
Extremism on both sides is the danger – it’s what we’re working against. A community center that celebrates diversity and multi-faith collaboration is antithetical to the extremists’ worldview. This center will be a blow to all extremists.
In addition, the multi-faith Trustees and Board of Advisors will also help assure that our good intentions are not hijacked by extremist elements who are against our vision of peace, tolerance and understanding.
Are you not building a project that will be one of conquest? Isn’t this a victory for the extremists?
The community center is opposed to religious extremists of all faiths. It demonstrates that Americans cannot be intimidated and will join together to promote moderation, peace and understanding when challenged.
The extremists will not find victory or comfort in a community center whose sole purpose is to bring peace through multi-faith collaboration and celebrate the diversity of views in our world.
This center is an important step towards building understanding and peace. Just as we strive to understand the faith and traditions of our neighbors, this center will invite others to learn about the true nature of Islam. A religion of peace, tolerance, and understanding.
So what will happen at this community center?
The community center will meet the needs of all New Yorkers with six programmatic areas: 1. Culture and Arts - 500-seat auditorium, exhibition) 2. Education - Lecture hall, conference rooms, library, classrooms,) 3. Social Cohesion,(cooking classes, senior citizens space, child care, banquet hall)4. Religion + Healing - Muslim prayer space, Contemplation and reflection area, 9/11 victims memorial5. Global Engagement - Mapping studies on trends in the Muslim world, resources on good governance and principles of liberal democracy, women’s empowerment issues, youth development, countering religious extremism.6. Recreation - pool, gym, medical education and wellness programs
Clearing up false charges made against Imam Feisal:
“On 60 Minutes, the Imam said that American Foreign policy is an accessory to terrorism”
The ‘60 Minutes’ piece was completely incorrect as the statement was edited out of context. In the full interview, Imam Feisal describes the mistake the CIA made in the 1980s by financing Osama Bin Laden and strengthening the Taliban. This view is widely shared within the US and the US Government today, and Imam Feisal underlines the importance of not supporting “friends of convenience” who may in the future become our enemies. This is common sense.
Imam Feisal is an American who takes his role as a citizen-ambassador very seriously. He is frequently requested by the US State Department to tour Muslim majority and western countries to speak about the merits of American ideals and Muslim integration into Western society. At the request of the FBI after 9/11, he provided cultural training to hundreds of FBI agents.
“Imam Feisal has not condemned Hamas”
Imam Feisal has always condemned terrorism (see his 1995 book “What’s Right With Islam is What’s Right with America” and his hundreds of speeches). Hamas is both a political movement and a terrorist organization. Hamas commits atrocious acts of terror. Imam Feisal has forcefully and consistently condemned all forms of terrorism, including those committed by Hamas, as un-Islamic. In his book, he even went so far as to include a copy of the Fatwa issued after 9/11 by the most respected clerics of Egypt defining the 9/11 attack as an un-Islamic act of terror and giving permission to Muslims in the U.S. armed forces to fight against those who committed this act of terror. Imam Feisal included this in his book to prove that terrorism must be fought even if Muslims have to fight fellow Muslims to stop it.
“Imam Feisal is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood because his book was translated into Arabic by a publisher with ties to the Brotherhood.”
Both charges are false. Imam Feisal has no connection whatsoever to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Arabic translation rights to his book were arranged by the Arabic book program at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, United States of America.“Imam Feisal is a member of the Perdana Global Peace Organization, which is a funder of the flotilla that attempted to deliver aid to residents of Gaza.”
Imam Feisal has never been a member of this group. Several years ago, Imam Feisal was invited to Malaysia, the most moderate Islamic country in the world, to participate in a Peace Conference sponsored by the Perdana Peace Group. He was one of the hundreds of speakers present. He has no political, advisory or business affiliation of any nature with the Perdana group. A photo of Imam Feisal was taken at the conference, and this has been used to “prove” his membership in the Perdana Global Peace Organization, but the allegation is false. Because of the controversy surrounding Perdana, we have requested the Perdana Group to remove the photo of him from their publicity.
“Imam Feisal wants to establish a ‘shariah state’ in America.”
Actually, quite the contrary. Imam Feisal believes that all Muslims must adhere to the laws of the land in which they reside, including in America. This is a basic tenet of Islam. He has repeatedly stated that America is already one of the most Shariah compliant countries in the world because of America’s adherence to our Bill of Rights and because it allows members of all religions, including Muslims, to practice their faith freely. In other words, Imam Feisal believes that Muslims practice Shariah when they fast, pray, give to charity and uphold the commandments of protecting life, liberty, dignity, the pursuit of happiness and the right to freedom of worship.
“Why isn’t Imam Feisal currently in New York? Isn’t he supporting this?”
Imam Feisal travels the world in his life-long endeavor to bring the message of moderation, peace and understanding to both Western and Islamic countries.
Currently, he is in Malaysia working on projects designed to counter radical Islamist ideology within the region and the world. As the leading moderate Muslim country in the world, Malaysia is strongly interested in developing such initiatives and has requested Imam Feisal's assistance in their formulation.
Following this, Imam Feisal has been requested by the US State Department to make an extended tour, sponsored by the US Government, of Islamic countries throughout the Middle East to further his moderate Islamic message of peace and understanding with scholars, religious leaders and political leaders in the region.
His absence should not be construed in any way as a diminution of his deep commitment and concern regarding the issues surrounding the community center. It is unfortunate that some events related to the center transpired during his extended travels but he has full confidence in his staff and and partners, including the team at SoHo Properties, and Daisy Khan, Executive Director of ASMA and one of the founders of Park51 – to carry on in his absence.++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Thank You!
We wish to thank the following organizations for their support:
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, J Street, The Arab American Family Support Center, CLAL–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, Auburn Seminary, American Jewish Committee, Cause New York, Chautauqua Institute, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, Faith House Manhattan, Friends of the Arava Institute, Interfaith Youth Core, Intersections, Interfaith Center of New York, The Interfaith Alliance, Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, Lutheran Seafarers and International House, New York Buddhist Church, Odyssey Networks, New Seminary, Out of Cordoba, Averros and Miamonides, NY interfaith Disaster, One Voice, One Spirit, St. Bartholomew's Church, Same Difference Interfaith Alliance, The Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, Tanenbaum Center, The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Trinity Wall Church, The Healing of the Nations Foundation, The Migration Policy Institute, Union Theological Seminary, St. Peters Church, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific,
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