With the world's attention currently fixed on the upheaval in the Middle East, it is easy to forget that only last summer, the most significant debate over Islamic politics and practice was in fact raging within the United States. In question was the fate of a vacant building in Lower Manhattan. Only several blocks away from the former World Trade Center, this building was the proposed site of Park51, a Muslim community center.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, this week's guest on The God Vote with Sally Quinn and Jacques Berlinerblau was at the center of the controversy surrounding Park51. Imam Rauf was the chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, an organization dedicated to "improving understanding and building trust among people of all cultures and faith traditions." The Park51 community center was a cornerstone of this project. It was intended - like a Muslim version of a YMCA or a Jewish Community Center - as a place where people of faith could gather together for socializing, entertainment, and worship.
Yet the proximity of the proposed center to Ground Zero struck a raw nerve in the American political conscience. Prominent figures including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin denounced the project as the "Ground Zero Mosque". Right-wing pundits accused Imam Rauf of seeking to construct a "victory mosque" to "commemorate a great [Islamic] victory over the United States on 9/11." And even many moderate critics argued that the project was distasteful, given its location. After facing such sustained criticism, Rauf admitted in his Sept. 8 interview with Larry King:
Lost in the debate over the "Ground Zero Mosque" was the fact that Imam Rauf had become an indispensable voice for moderate American Muslims, sent by both Presidents Bush and Obama to be an American ambassador to Muslim nations.
Although he is no longer the chief religious figure behind the Park51 project, he continues to use his platform to advance his belief that Islam and the West are reconcilable.
Source: The Washington Post - Sam Dinger