Hassan Abu Nimah wrote: A fierce controversy is raging in the United States over plans to build an Islamic community and outreach centre, including a mosque, in Lower Manhattan, several blocks from "Ground Zero" - the site where the World Trade Centre stood when it was attacked on September 11, 2001.
The controversy started when the Cordoba Initiative, led by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, wanted to get a permit to build the centre, to be called Cordoba House.
In its mission statement, the Cordoba Initiative clearly states that one of its aims is "bringing back the atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect that we have longed for since Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony and prosperity eight hundred years ago."
Allowing the Cordoba House to be built in downtown Manhattan and offering it support is not a great gesture to Islam. It is meant to be a symbol of healing and reconciliation for all faiths.
Ishaan Tharoor wrote: New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg spoke passionately in defense of the project. "Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans," Bloomberg said in a speech that day. "We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else."
Other politicians argue in some instances that a mosque near Ground Zero would be a monument to terrorists.
In this context, figures like Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf — the Arab-American cleric behind the mosque project near Ground Zero — stand out. A consummate moderate who has made a career preaching about the compatibility of Islamic and American values.
Cordoba House, named for the city in Spanish Andalucia where Muslims, Jews and Christians once co-existed for centuries in an extraordinary flourishing of culture and science.