As an American, a Republican leader, and a practicing Muslim, the issue of building a mosque near New York's Ground Zero is of natural interest to me. For the record, I deeply support building this mosque. To my fellow conservative leaders who say they are against this project, yet claim to not be bigoted, I have news for you: you are a bigot.
Let's examine the facts: the Ground Zero mosque is not just a mosque, it is the Cordoba House, a community center that will provide meeting rooms, art exhibition galleries, a swimming pool, movie theaters, and bookstores, all in the heart of New York City, and all made freely available to the public. According to the Cordoba House website, the motivation is to create a center that will be "promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture," in addition to "providing a space for all New Yorkers to enjoy." As a matter of fact, around $100 million is being spent on all the amenities above, all for the sake of turning this distressed business district into a hub of intellect and encouraged tolerance.
Shame on Republican leaders for criticizing such a fine project. After all, I believe many of these conservatives were the same leaders who supported the bailouts of 2008 and turned blind eyes to the book-cooking that kept companies like Enron in business?
Perhaps the founders of the Cordoba House should abandon the project, convert to Christianity, and invest their $100 million into a more modest building, closed to the public, that will instead house an oil company that cooks its books to reflect fake profits? History dictates that the same conservatives criticizing the Cordoba House project would probably give this new oil company a large bailout -- provided that the good oilmen are white and Christian.
After all, Rick Lazio, a Republican leader running for Governor in New York, has called for an "investigation" of where this $100 million is coming from, with no basis other than the good donors being Muslim. The Village Voice uncovered Lazio's former profession, as a head in JPMorgan Chase's "lobbying unit," where he collected a bonus of over $1 million from the company while it collected billions in TARP funds -- this, despite the fact that his normal salary was around $325,000. Surely, if every entity was investigated for questionable investments, Lazio would be one of the first to hand us American taxpayers a check for $1 million.
Equally frustrating are calls that this project would hurt our collective spirits. As Governor Sarah Palin said on Twitter, "it stabs hearts." Stabs hearts? Since when did America become so wimpy that our conservative leaders need to protect our fragile collective ego? And, for the record, Governor Palin is one of few GOP leaders who has often promoted Islam as a religion of peace, which is why her recent twitter has 'stabbed' my heart (I was a supporter, having donated to SarahPAC).
I just cannot call Palin a "bigot," as she has said too many good things about Islam -- as has Newt Gingrich, who endorsed me during both of my political campaigns in Colorado. Nonetheless, their recent comments are not only heartbreaking, but also a further example of the GOP's brightest minds bartering thoughtful statesmanship for hurtful pandering.
But most importantly, this idea that Islam is some foreign entity that cannot cooperate with American culture is completely false. Thomas Jefferson carried a copy of the Quran in his library and is believed to have sought guidance from it. A tribute to Prophet Muhammad adorns the walls of our Supreme Court, as he is recognized as one of the world's greatest judges. And of course, a high percentage of the Africans who were enslaved by us were Muslim, but forced to convert to Christianity upon capture -- yes, I'm sure that this incident also 'stabbed' some hearts. Regardless of hurt feelings, one fact always remains -- Islam is as deeply sewn into the fabric of American history as the Confederate flag -- and that will never change.
I personally know many of the leaders behind the Cordoba House, and they are great Americans, whose good intentions reflect the idea that, while radical Islamists may have destroyed the World Trade Center, peaceful Muslims will now rebuild it, giving us a destination that is open to all, with tolerance and love as its goal.
Lastly, I am deeply proud to be an American, with a proud, personal history of denouncing terrorism, including my founding of Muslims For Bush. However, what truly reeks within this debate is not the shadow of bigotry, but rather, the cloak of dishonesty. In the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where I was born and raised, it is believed that your word -- your honesty -- is everything that makes you a man.
My fellow conservative leaders, please quit lying. If you are against the mosque, then call yourself a bigot and give us the gift of an honest dialogue, the kind we carry on so proudly here in America.
Yes, you will be a bigot -- but at least you will be a man.
Follow Muhammad Ali Hasan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HasanDaddy