Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the proposed Lower Manhattan mosque, has returned to the United State and penned an op-ed in today’s New York Times. Meaning among other things, that any chance of the Park51 mosque story slipping away with the August newscycle is pretty much a fantasy at this point.
In his notably optimistic piece (a cynic might call it a tad naive at this point) Rauf notes that he’s been out of the country “representing my country on a State Department tour in the Middle East” and that he has not spoken out on the issue till now because he “felt that it would not be right to comment from abroad…My life’s work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups and never has that been as important as it is now.” Also, people around the world are just as “riveted” as Americans by this story.
Nevertheless, the Mosque will be built:
We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House. More important, we are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for many reasons.
Rauf says he plans on seeking the support of 9/11 families and also commends Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama for their words of support and says these words have had a “tremendous impact” on Muslims overseas.
It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims. Their statements sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations.
Rauf concludes by calling on the American public to “rise to this challenge” as a way to “commemorate the anniversary of 9/11”:
From those who recognize our rights, from grassroots organizers to heads of state, I sense a global desire to build on this positive momentum and to be part of a global movement to heal relations and bring peace. This is an opportunity we must grasp.
I therefore call upon all Americans to rise to this challenge. Let us commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 by pausing to reflect and meditate and tone down the vitriol and rhetoric that serves only to strengthen the radicals and weaken our friends’ belief in our values.
Related: Building on Faith [NYT]
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