The Cordoba Initiative and Park51, the amended title of the Cordoba Mosque project at Ground Zero, is inflaming public opinion like no other issue in recent history ... and rightfully so. For the people who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center attacks, the wound may just have been starting to heal. But the proposed building of the "Ground Zero mosque" makes the victims feel like September 11, 2001, is happening all over again.
It is important to understand how the 9/11 victims feel and why this issue is spurring such a heated national debate.
I understand exactly why most of these families are adamantly opposed to this mosque. Why? Seventeen years ago, my beloved mother, Gail Parker, was brutally murdered in Tucson, Arizona. So let me tell you what it is like to have salt poured in an open wound that is your heart.
After the initial horror of having your loved one taken away by violence, it takes years to stabilize from that event. And then come the years of suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is largely triggered by reminders of that horrific event.
So, I implore all Americans to see what this mosque means from both a victims' perspective, and a historical one.
This project is purposefully named after "The Great Mosque" or "Mezquita" in Cordoba, Spain. In the early 8th century, The Christian Church of Saint Vincent sat upon the foundation of a Roman temple. Then the Moors (or Arabs) came, tore down St. Vincent's and built "The Great Mosque" to commemorate their victory over the Christians in Southern Spain. This conquest of the territory signified the Islamic supremacy over the Christians. And the Cordoba Mosque became the second most important house of worship, after Mecca, in the Muslim world.
When the Christians re-conquered Southern Spain in the 1236, they built a Cathedral inside the Mosque so they would never forget the history of what had happened years before. Throughout Southern Spain in the cities of Seville and Granada, most of the churches were also converted to mosques during the Muslim occupation of Andalucia. I spent a considerable amount of time in Southern Spain and have been to the mosque/cathedral in Cordoba. When you see the size and scope of the Mezquita, it is crystal clear what message the Muslims were sending to the conquered Christians.
Southern Spain is not the only place where mosques are built over churches and synagogues to signify Islam's dominance over Judaism and Christianity.
The Dome of the Rock was built on the ruins of Judiasm's holiest site, the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem. The Al-Aqsa Mosque was built on the southern end of the Temple Mount and over the Basilica of St. Mary of Justinian. The Grand Mosque of Damascus was erected over the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. There are hundred of examples of Islam's need to show dominance over the West.
So I ask? Why is this project being called the Cordoba Initiative here in lower Manhattan? If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Cordoba Initiative, was interested in building bridges between the Muslims and the West, why would they name the mosque something so incendiary?
Apparently, some people are now referring to the mosque/cultural center as Park51 because of the imagery created by the name Cordoba. However, if you visit Imam Rauf's website, the project is still referred to as the Cordoba Initiative.
The Executive Director American Society for Muslim Advancement, Daisy Khan, (who also happens to be Imam Rauf's wife) appeared on "This Week with Christiane Amanpour" to explain that what this Islamic center represents. Khan states that the project would be modeled like a JCC or (Jewish Community Center). She explained that there would be auditorium, swimming pool, cooking classes, schools, forums, conferences and a prayer space. Sounds good, but why won't Rauf and Khan meet with New York Governor David Patterson, who is offering state land to build the mosque elsewhere?
And why does the Imam and his wife want to open this mosque on the 10th anniversary of the attack on Ground Zero? These are questions the Imam is unwilling to answer.
The ultimate gesture of peace and humanity would be to build the Cordoba Mosque (or Park51) somewhere where the 9/11 families wouldn't have to feel the agony of having a shrine to their loved ones stomped upon.
In addition, this is a wonderful opportunity to build bridges between the moderate Muslims and the West by showing tolerance for our feelings and concerns. That would truly be a breakthrough in history ... and in the hearts and minds of the American people.