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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mosque at Ground Zero - Some Clarification and my take


Much is being made of the Cordoba Initiative, an Islamic cultural center being built a couple of blocks away from where the Twin Towers used to stand in New York City. There is a lot of misinformation being put out there as well. Robert Spencer and Pamela Gellar keep calling this an Islamic Supremist Center. Based on the United States Constitution and the zoning laws of New York City, there is nothing wrong with this center being built there. One hesitancy might be that this is going to send a wrong message, which is why my friend and former advisor in seminary, Warren Larson (Director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies), said he opposed it. The following article from the New York Times actually clears up a few things:
Since long before the Islamist terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, a storefront mosque has been sitting on West Broadway in TriBeCa, a dozen blocks from the World Trade Center. No one seems to have ever minded its being there.

Okay, this mosque has been there for more than 10 years and nobody cared.  Continuing in the article:

No one is known to have protested the fact that three blocks from ground zero, on Murray Street off West Broadway, there is a strip joint. It prefers to call itself a gentlemen’s club. A man stood on the street corner the other day handing out free passes to willing gentlemen.

On Church Street, around the corner from where Cordoba House would rise, there is a store that sells pornographic videos and an assortment of sex toys. A few doors east of the planned Islamic center, there is an Off-Track Betting office. Spilling onto the sidewalk in front of it the other day were men who would have been described in my old Bronx neighborhood as degenerate gamblers.

A strip joint, a porno store and a government-run bookie operation. No one has organized demonstrations to denounce those activities as defiling the memory of the men and women who died a few hundred yards away.
Okay, so, we are okay with porn, naked women, and gambling, but not okay with a house of prayer. Not to say that they're praying rightly, but there seems to be a problem here. Many of the opposition claim that we were founded on Christian principles and that we have a duty to oppose the building of mosques. Many of the founding fathers were deists, at best, but hardly Christians. Our Constitution guarantees that Congress cannot establish a state religion, meaning which, this nation is not a Christian nation. We are not a Theocracy. I think the protests are hurting the Christian witness more than anything. The following is what I think is being most missed and this is astounding because it shows how much people do not know about Islam (emphasis mine):
New York officialdom, while sensitive to the displeased families, has long made it clear that it is not about to hand them veto power over how the city builds and rebuilds. Officials from the mayor on down have endorsed Cordoba House, in large measure because of Imam Feisal, a Sufi who has cultivated relations with other religions and who has spoken out against the violence of Islamist fanatics. He has given no one a reason to doubt his sincerity.
Wait a second! A Sufi? He's not a Shi'a (Iran/Iraq) or Sunni (the majority of Muslims)? But he is a Muslim, that should count for something, right? Not necessarily. So, what does that mean, that he's a Sufi? Sufism is defined as a mystically-oriented school of thought within Islam (Phil Parshall, Bridges to Islam). Dr. Parshall is perhaps a leading Christian expert on Sufism as he dealt with it a good deal when he was in an Asian country as a Missionary most of his life. I will be referencing the above book a few times in the next little bit.

Parshall says the following about Sufism:
Sufism is the embrasive influence of mysticism within Islam. I particularly like to use the word influence in attempting to define and understand Sufism. Mystical Muslims may or may not fit into categories or orders. Their behavior and even doctrine may differ widely among themselves, yet there are definite patterns within their fraternity that have the effect of creating homogeneity within heterogeneity. A Muslim has defined Sufism as "truth without form." That may be basically correct, but the so-called truth will be identifiable as we study the way it is expressed within the multiple sects found throughout the Islamic world. (Bridges, p. 26).
In Sufism, there is a striving for one's personal holiness, emphasizing love. There is little concern for heaven or hell, but only love (Bridges, pp. 27-28). In other words, Sufism is not the Islam we think of when we watch the evening news and see a bomb has been blown up in Baghdad or Kabul. No, Sufism, if anything, can be seen as the peaceful side of Islam.  Many Sunnis and Shi'a shun Sufism as it does not adhere to strict tenets of Islam.  Sufism has a history of syncretism as well, as can be seen by the history of the Sufi Imam of this mosque in New York City.