The 16-acre site of the former twin towers is undergoing reconstruction with a total of seven new buildings and a memorial for those lost in the attack on 9/11.
The surrounding area is like other districts in New York, with shops, restaurants, offices, and other sites for service and commerce. Lower Manhattan has been in need of a community center, much like those in other cities, where people can view and learn the arts, take fitness classes, hold meetings, and enjoy other activities related to serving the surrounding neighborhood.
Park51 is being developed to do just that, and more. In an effort to meet current needs, unite the community within, connect with the world, and bring the world to New York, the structure. which will take over the prior site of the Burlington Coat Factory a few blocks from the World Trade Center, is going to be 15 stories tall.
The Cordoba House is part of this structure, from which the Cordoba Initiative will operate under the leadership of Imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf. Unfortunately, Islamophobia has infected many casual observers, turning mainstream Americans into intolerant, fearful, uninformed activists who have not learned details of what they are protesting.
The Cordoba Initiative has a mission of outreach to “cultivate multi-cultural and multi-faith understanding across minds and borders.” The effort is being made to dispel the mysteries about Islam and the Muslim community, but instead of accepting the offering of peace and brotherhood, narrow-minded westerners are slapping the welcoming hand and extinguishing the light of knowledge.
Imam Feisal has accrued an impressive curriculum vitae and has worked for a number of years with the U.S. Government to improve Islamic relationships; he currently is on a trip in the Middle East, encouraging religious tolerance.
“He is the most liberal, forward-thinking Imam I have ever met,” said my friend Deonna Kelli Sayed. Her husband, a UN diplomat, will be meeting with Abdul-Rauf this week in Bahrain. I sensed a bit of dismay in her voice when she mentioned this tidbit, since she will not be there to welcome this man about whom she discusses with great admiration.
Imam Feisal is a true visionary in his efforts to create peace and understanding amid such turbulent topics. His project, the Cordoba Initiative, is being met with vitriolic backlash, much the way peacemakers before him have been addressed.
- Socrates was forced to die by poison for his belief that humans had souls.
- Jesus was crucified for his efforts to peacefully introduce new doctrine into mainstream society.
- Gandhi was a victim of prejudice, yet sought peaceful co-existence and political reform which was met with aversion.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. sought equality and peaceful race relations, but faced adversaries in mainstream America.
There is a long history of people seeking integration, peace, and unity while being met with hatred and violence. I only hope that Imam Feisal and the Cordoba Initiative can pave a new road for Western advancement, setting an example for world peace efforts.
Reporter: "Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?"
Gandhi: "I think it would be a very good idea."
"All we are saying, is give peace a chance" - John Lennon