Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously not to designate a proposed site for an Islamic community center as a landmark, saying the 152-year-old building just two blocks from Ground Zero wasn't special or distinctive enough to meet criteria to qualify as a landmark. This 9-0 vote allows the Muslim leaders of Cordoba Initiative (CI) to move forward with their plans to convert the existing building, plans that have outraged many 9/11 families and others from across the nation.
It’s not a matter of legality. As NYC Mayor Bloomberg aptly stated, “The fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it.” It’s a matter of principle.
According to its website, CI seeks to steer the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect, and away from heightened tensions. Yet its choice of location for its New York City community center has done just the opposite.
In a press conference, Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf compared the center to the Y or a Jewish community center, saying it will offer programs which serve the community of both Muslims and non-Muslims. He said, “This is also our expression of the 99.999% of Muslims all over the world including in America who have condemned and continue to condemn terrorism.” “This is about the vast majority of moderate Muslims who have been and want to continue to be part of the solution.” “We condemn terrorism. We recognize it exists within our faith community, but we are committed to eradicate it.” This said by a man who has associated himself with radical Islamic causes, and who said in a “60 Minutes” interview televised shortly after 9/11 that “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”
In a statement released Tuesday following the vote, the imam said, “Park 51 will be a home for all people who are yearning for understanding and healing, peace, collaboration, and interdependence. We are more determined than ever to take this opportunity, which we also see as a responsibility to our community and to our neighbors in Lower Manhattan. We are creating a new space where fresh stories of cooperation and service will reflect the living vibrancy of inter-connected communities.”
What so many are asking is this: If this group of Muslims seeks to promote healing and peace, why would they be so determined to pour salt in the wounds of the 9/11 families and create an uproar? Where’s the love in that? We cannot claim to know, but I do know that as Christians, our response to this decision may be the most important thing of all.
We are called to bring light into the world despite the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We are called to love our brothers, our neighbors, and even our enemies. Will we see light and love from the body of Christ, or darkness and hate? Or will we see yet a third possibility?
“Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, told The Wall Street Journal in Tuesday's editions that the center's board will include members of other religions and explore including an interfaith chapel at the center,” wrote AP Reporter Karen Matthews.
Will we see Christians welcoming the idea of “interfaith” worship?
In a post regarding Chelsea Clinton’s recent wedding, I wrote about the idea of “interfaith”, stating essentially that it is an impossible concept at its core. Faith refers to beliefs. We might have shared values between religious groups, but we do not have shared beliefs about God. A chasm exists between the ideas of unity in the name of Christ and unity in the name of peace – a.k.a. a “one-world religion”, understood by many scholars to be a sign of the last days.
In these times Christians must guard not only our behaviors toward others in this hostile world and be committed to a walk of love, but we also must guard our minds from opposing worldviews. We are called to love others and to live peacefully with all men as much as is possible, but first and foremost we are called to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Question: How do you protect your mind daily from the cultural influences that can sway you from steadfast belief?