Rabbi Shmuley Unleashed

Rabbi Shmuley Unleashed

Is a Giant Mosque at Ground Zero Justified?

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly claimed that the Ford Foundation was helping to fund the mosque at Ground Zero. We regret this error.
Tempers are heating up in the New York City area over the plans by the American Society for Muslim Advancement and another Islamic group known as the Cordoba Initiative to build a $100 million, 13-story, Islamic cultural center and mosque just two blocks from Ground Zero. And if that were not inflammatory enough, the plan is to inaugurate the new center on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Another provocative aspect is the fact that the majority of the money will allegedly come from the Saudis. Furthermore, the Imam who helped found the Cordoba initiative after 9/11, Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, is on record as telling CNN, right after the 9/11 attacks, “U.S. policies were an accessory to the crime that happened. We (the U.S.) have been an accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. Osama bin Laden was made in the USA.”


New Yorkers seem overwhelmingly opposed to the plan, comparing its insensitivity to the German government opening, say, a Bach appreciation museum right outside the Auschwitz death camp, or Toyota opening a car factory by the Arizona Memorial on the island of Oahu. On my radio show many families of 9/11 victims called in to condemn the plans as ‘a slap in the face,’ ‘highly insensitive,’ and ‘a despicable attempt to claim victory at the site where so many innocent Americans died.’
The issues at stake affect the very heart of American democracy. On the one hand it would be the height of insensitivity, not to say an outright provocation, for the Islamic community to build a giant Islamic shrine at the resting place of 3000 innocent Americans who were murdered by Islamic terrorists. On the other hand, America is a tolerant country that allows for the free worship of all its citizens and one bridles against the idea of preventing any mosque from being built.
I have a simple, elegant, and deeply moral solution. Let the Islamic Cultural Center be built. Let the mosque be included. But, the Muslim organizations building it should commit right now to making the principal focus of the building a museum depicting the rise of Islamic extremism, its hate-based agenda, and how it is an abomination to Islam. The museum would feature exhibits showing the major fomenters of Islamic hatred worldwide and the cultural and religious factors that have gained them so wide a following. It would have exhibitions on some of the terrible atrocities committed by these Islamic fundamentalists, focusing specifically on the slaughter at Ground Zero on 9/11. The Islamic Center would have a major exhibition on the evil of Osama bin Laden, detailing his crimes against humanity and the number of innocent people he has killed. Most importantly, the museum would repudiate these haters by showing how their actions are an abomination to authentic Islamic teaching and how every G-d-fearing Muslim has a responsibility to spit them out.
Who could possibly object to Muslims coming together to create a museum condemning growing Islamic intolerance and call Osama bin Laden, Hamas, and Hezbollah what they are – perversions of Islam that are defiling and destroying a great world religion.
If the groups building the Cultural Center and mosque are prepared to make this its focus they will have proven that they are not only enormously sensitive to the families of the victims who lost loved ones there, but that they are courageous voices who wish to take back their religion from the fiends who purport to represent it.
This is something that the German government has done extremely well since the holocaust. They have built memorials and museums that depict the rise of Nazism and how state organs such as the political establishment, the media, and business all facilitated and contributed to Hitler’s rise. Many of these government-sponsored exhibits go even further, exploring a German national character that was so subservient to and respectful of authority – and so dependent on strongmen to lead it – that it eagerly embraced the anti-Semitism of Hitler and became, in Daniel Goldhagen’s memorable phrase, ‘Hitler’s willing executioners.’
Without a similar degree of introspection, on the one hand, and widespread condemnation of Islamic terrorism on the other, Islam risks being taken over by fanatics who disgrace their faith by murdering in the name of Allah. Communities that are not self-critical always risk going off the deep end. They have no internal mechanism to weed out corruption. And an Islamic Center at Ground Zero dedicated to that deeply necessary and currently absent introspection would repudiate the terrorists who perpetrated the atrocity, honor the victims who died there, and serve as a powerful step toward G-d fearing and decent Muslims taking back their faith from the fanatics.
But it goes without saying that my opinion on the matter does not much matter. It is the victims families who must be consulted the Islamic groups on question first and foremost.
About fifteen years ago I visited the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp for the first time. I was taken aback by giant Christian crosses that dotted the deathly landscape. Wherever you looked there no Jewish symbols only Christian ones. I asked my close friend Prof. Jonathan Webber, one of the world’s leading authorities on Auschwitz and my guide at the camp, why there were so many Christian symbols when more than ninety-five percent of the people who died there were Jews. He explained to me that the Jewish response to Auschwitz was one of emptiness and silence. Something unspeakable and inexplicable had happened here. The horror was too great to capture, the meaninglessness of the act too profound to be justified with any kind of memorial. Jews did not want to give meaning to something so utterly meaningless. Indeed, Jewish theologians speak of the holocaust as a time of Hester Panim, the hiding of G-d’s presence. Hence, the Jewish community took the approach of leaving the slaughterhouse empty of symbolism or memorials. Christians might seek to redeem it, but some places remain unredeemable. The Jewish community discussed this with our Christian brothers and many of the Christian symbols were removed.
In the same way it behooved our Christian brothers to allow us Jews to choose to commemorate the extermination of our people in the manner we saw fit, it likewise behooves our Islamic brothers and sisters to approach the families of those who died on 9/11 and ask them how they wish the site to be commemorated. And if as a body they object to any kind of mosque being built there, then their wishes should be respected.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly claimed that the Ford Foundation was helping to fund the mosque at Ground Zero. We regret this error.

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posted May 17, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Interesting and challenging suggestion, consistent with my own frequent calls for the rational people of faith to stand up and loudly denounce the fanatics within their own faith. Without fanaticism and the hatred it inevitably breeds, there would be no religious conflicts in the world. The real conflict is not BETWEEN different faiths but between rational people and fanatics WITHIN each faith.
It will be interesting to see if the Muslim community takes Rabbi Boteach’s challenge to heart… but I won’t hold my breath.

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posted May 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Two blocks from Ground Zero in NYC is NOT at Ground Zero. Perhaps if the various religions would spend more time examining the similarities they share instead of waging war over ancient radical beliefs and “entitlements”, this world would be a better place. There is in fact only one Creator and so called “true believers” are misguided in judging each other.

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posted May 18, 2010 at 12:39 am

I would say if the mosque is funded with Saudi money, there first should be a church built in Saudi Arabia. Mecca would be a good place.
A little even handedness would go a long way.
Once the church is built in Saudi Arabia, then, the mosque may be considered for the WTC area.
First, I don’t expect the Saudis to permit a church to be built anywhere in Saudi Arabia.
Secondly, this proposed mosque, to be erected at the site of the islamofascist sneak attack on the US is comparable to Japan building a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor. Too insensitive at this time, or ever.
Again, Saudi Arabia must first show its good will and permit a church to be established in Saudi Arabia.

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Patrick Longworth

posted May 18, 2010 at 3:10 am

Perhaps the President and New York’s mayor have to have a “heart to heart” chat with the organizers of this new mosque and find out if they are “insensitive” Muslims or if they’re trying to poke New Yorkers in the eye?

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posted May 18, 2010 at 7:21 am

This is not insensitivity. The Muslims building this center understand perfectly the message that this will send – and it is the message they want to send: That the 9/11 bombing was a triumph of Islam over the West. What could trumpet that message louder than associating their giant Mosque, and a cultural central that extolls Islam, with the site of the bombing?

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Steve Sandberg

posted May 19, 2010 at 8:42 am

So they’re going to put up a $100 million, 13-story building that nobody whosoever in New York City wants, and that massive unwanted project is going to go up so fast that the whole thing will be done in time to get dedicated on that solemn anniversary only sixteen months from now? And there’s nobody whosoever smart enough in NYC to find a way to stop it? …. I doubt it.

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Frank Haas

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:50 am

Placing the mosque in that location is showing they conquered us. It is a show of pride for what they accomplished in NYC.That is the reason they want it there. I agree with Russ, Steve, Patrick, Edward and totally disagree with JamicaJoe. Islam is not a way of life in America. Islam is a society not a religion.

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posted May 19, 2010 at 11:06 am

Does this sound familiar?
Step 1: find a site of special importance to your enemy
Step 2: build a mosque as close to it as possible
Step 3: declare this site sacred to Islam
Step 4: dictate to the rest of the world who can and who can’t visit the site and what they are permitted to do there.
Step 5: if anyone violates your wishes, you have free license to riot or carry on in any way you see fit.

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posted May 19, 2010 at 11:15 am

I can only agree with those who feel that to construct such a building
anywere near that spot is an unholy abomination and a travesty on human sensitivity.

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posted May 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm

NO NO and again NO — in no way should a mosque be permitted there — nor will the naive attempt to create a museum outlining the rise of evil have the necessary impact — it will slowly be declared as one person said holy ground and we will lose all control over this area — not a wise move — tolerance for other does not mean being stupid to the needs of the community both jews and americans — we don’t and shouldn’t permit swastikas then why permit this — its an outrage that needs to be stopped and that our govt stands silent on this is another slap in the face — there should be no discussion just a resounding NO

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posted May 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I say to hell with them…… is interesting to see just how far they will go…..and if they can be stopped…It will take a lot of prot esting by the NY people and survivers to pull together to stop this anywhere in the state of NY…or any state for that matter.!!

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posted May 19, 2010 at 4:58 pm

The Catholic Church built a convent right outside the gates of Auschwitz in 1984, despite Jewish opposition. At the convent, nuns prayed for (among other things) the conversion of all Jews to Christianity. The convent was followed by the installation of a 10 foot cross and a number of smaller ones. Following years of Jewish protest, the convent was finally closed in 1993.
Considering that the US guarantees religious freedom, the mosque doesn’t sound any more offensive than a Catholic convent at the site of a Jewish extermination camp. After all, the leader of the Catholic Church, Pius XII, did nothing during the Holocaust to save Jews.

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Marv From Brooklyn

posted May 19, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Where I am all for the Mosque itself being Built, The site of it is very poorly chosen. I think there should be a Synagogue and a Mosque built close by as well, if it approved for construction, since there is a Church Directly Across from WTC (mind you it was there Looooong before WTC was built but it is there. I think Each Holy mouse should indeed be Represented since Muslims died that day , as did Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religions practitioners as well.
Falling Victim to the Exclusionary Rhetoric and Hate will only make the point these Murderous Terrorists want to show, that the so called Zionists are out to get them (rolling my eyes at that one). Islam is not evil, there are 1.6 Billion People who practice it and the ones enacting most of the extremism are Arab / Persian which count for less than 15 percent of the Muslim faith and less than 10 percent of that follow extremist Islam like Taliban Law, and of that same 15 percent less than 1 percent are true believers in Violent extremists ideals and doctrine.
I think a Museum should be built as well(if not instead of) , so the world does not forget , and it should focus on all forms of Religious and political extremist in past and current world events.

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posted May 20, 2010 at 11:40 am

Re: the mosque at Ground Zero. Oh HELL NO! And as for your “Museum” suggestion: that is never going to happen. There are too many forces working against that.

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posted May 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Pleasant words. Would that things could be so.
But I am afraid you are mistaken. If you read the Koran, you will see that hatred and violence toward unbelievers is the foundation of Islamic teaching. Therefore, such a mosque/cultural center repudiating these teachings would be going against Islam itself. It cannot and will not be done in this manner.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm

I cannot refer to the Islamic Commnuity as my Brothers or Sisters , I am a Follower of Y’shua a Christian my Bible tells me My Brothers and Sisters are those that Do the WILL or the Divine Purpose of the word of G-D, This Building would be an Dis justice to the Lifes that were Lost, because of Hatred and Greed, any Building Arose on or near the 9/11 incident should show how people of all difference backgrounds came together to Seek the face of G-D and show how Unity was Birthed for a moment out of dispair. Shalom

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posted May 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm

The idea of making the islamic center and mosque a museum to the attrocities that have been inflicted world wide, and at ground zero is good, but I don’t see it ever happening because the islamic movement is too self-important and abusive all the way around. I agree with you that these crimes are the equivelant of the crimes of Hitler’s Germany. I personally believe the islamic movement needs to be shut-down world wide, and especilly in the USA.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Are you kidding? O HELL NO IS MILD COMPARED TO MY THOUGHTS AT THIS MOMENT!!! I am from NJ and saw the WTC go up, become part of the skyline and watched it destroyed on TV…..NO WAY SHOULD MAYOR BLOOMBURG GIVE THEM PERMITS TO BUILD THIS!!! Stop it now!!!

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Your Nameava

posted May 22, 2010 at 1:31 pm

it is a big slap on the face of all those who lost a loved one in the attack.what are they thinking?

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Joan Smith

posted May 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

This is an insensitive idea.

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Anan E. Maus

posted May 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I agree. I think this Mosque should not be built.
I think it is a clear affront to the memory of the victims of 911.
At the same time, confrontation and hatred don’t solve problems…on either side.
To resolve the differences between the Arab world and the West, we need extremely extensive, involved diplomatic exchanges. And we need extremely extensive, involved, and constant cultural exchanges.
We find peace by working for peace.
We don’t find peace by walling off from each other and thinking of ways to kill each other.
The world has 1 billion Muslims. They aren’t going anywhere. There is a need to resolve this problem with something other than force.
I don’t mean that terrorists should not be stopped. But that can only ever be the tiniest portion of the resolution to the problem.
The rest has to be the work of peace.

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posted May 24, 2010 at 3:23 pm

This intention of Islam to put a major exclamation point at the end of the sentence it believes we so deserve for our failure to believe as it prescribes is a pill we need to swallow just to cure of ourselves of thinking that Islam is a religion of respect for all humanity as claimed. It’s not. And its respect for the adherents of its faith is deep in doubt, as they slaughter one another more than us. The sentence which it started at ground zero and which it intends to be completed with an exclamatory mosque will gradually materialize into Surahs of damnation, if we let them. And if we let them not, then surely not at all, and safely for the sake of our salvation.

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J LaLone

posted May 25, 2010 at 12:48 pm

The Moslems would never agree to your proposal. IF the VAST majority of Moslems disapprove and detest the hatred, violence and deaths the jihadists have caused, I do not hear them. None of us hear them. Thus, no, I say. A resounding no to the mosque in the face of the place where thousands of innocents died for no good reason, except some bizarre belief by people filled with hatred. The built a mosque on top of the Jewish (and thus Christian) Holy of Holys, the Ariel, The Dome of the Rock. This is the way they behave. They make a habit of building mosques atop spots that hold great meaning to others, turning them into thier Monuments to Hate. NYC/NYS/USA must stop this desecration.

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Your Name Feodosia

posted May 27, 2010 at 5:26 am

I was born in N.Y. in the 50″s and Iam now living in the West. As millions watched this evil take place on 911 I was in shock. The families have had to suffer enough and this is evil once again rearing it’s ugly head. These people who have the nerve to think that they can build a mosque so close to our most tragic event in AMERICA are not only disrespectful to the families, those murdered and the people of New York but the rest of Americans who will flip over this idea. I do not trust these people when they say it will be a community center. Imagine what the rest of our global enemies will think of us! How stupid is what they will be thinking. I do hope and pray that God does intervene and wipe this humiliating idea out of our city.

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Nick S.

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:46 am

The Rabbi makes an excellent point. Is he in a dream world? No. Is he a stupid man? No. Is he ignorant of today’s world? No.
The Rabbi is expressing a challenge. A challenge to the world of Islam to practice what has been preached by them, “The Religion of Peace”. A challenge to those who are not of the Islam faith to fully expect the challenge to be taken. AS Henri Higgins fully expected and believed Eliza Doolittle to make the positive change that she made in Shaw’s Pygmalion, so can we as a people fully expect and believe that what the Rabbi suggest can come to pass. The real challenge is to get the human species on both side of this issue to act…….. human.

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posted June 5, 2010 at 8:25 pm

I don’t see what the problem of opening an Islamic mosque two blocks from the WTC site. I mean, a few blocks away is the holocaust museum. Just because of a few psychotic misanthropes, we cannot and should not blame the entire Islamic movement. Since when does NYC turn its back on any culture or religion?
If people took as much energy to love each other as they do to hate and be prejudiced, the world would go round much smoother and happier. Blessings and love to all…..including Islamic’s.

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