Saturday, July 31, 2010

Anti-Defamation League Seeks Variance

The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) took a stand for defamation this week, crossing the line into terminal self-denial and issuing a statement opposing the construction of the Cordoba House Islamic Center on the site the old Burlington Coat Factory building in Manhattan, a couple of blocks away from where the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11.

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.
Cordoba House is a project of the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA).  The Cordoba Initiative takes its name from the medieval Spanish city, seeking to renew its "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."  ASMA Executive Director Daisy Khan and Cordoba Initiative Chairman Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf envision a 15-story building with a performing arts center, culinary school, child care facilities and a swimming pool.  Cordoba House would also include a prayer center, but this would not constitute a mosque which would otherwise prohibit the serving of food and the playing of music that are to be integral features among the activities of the center.  Nevertheless, opposition has rallied around its characterization as the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque." 

"It's a house of worship, but we are at war with al-Qaeda," said Representative Peter King (R-NY), ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee.

"There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Meanwhile, elements among local Jewish leadership have assisted and expressed support for the Cordoba House development, as reported in the New York Jewish Week.

Khan and her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, both said they have received assistance from the JCC [Jewish Community Center] as they draw up plans for their center, comments confirmed by Rabbi Joy Levitt, the JCC’s executive director.
“They came to us because they felt the values we represented — diversity, dialogue, the education of children — were values they wanted to espouse,” Rabbi Levitt said. “They have the same kind of diversity in their community that we have in ours, and they were looking for strategies to bring [those different segments] together.”
“I have no illusions about anything,” said [Yehezkel] Landau, a faculty member at the Hartford Seminary who, for many years, lived in Israel. “We have enemies. ... But Daisy Khan and Imam Feisal are not enemies of anyone.”

In raising "a question of what is right," the ADL could have stood by its own charter, "to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens."  Instead it shamelessly caved to cynical demagoguery and mob rule.

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