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I'm grateful to our mayor. I regret that some have misunderstood our intentions. Every year. to reach out to my brothers and sisters of different faiths in America. some have exploited this issue for their own agendas. What began as a dispute over a community center in lower Manhattan has spawned and grown into a much larger controversy about the relationship between my beloved religion and my beloved country. . to explain and to share my love of my religion. (AFP photo/files/Luke Frazza) It is customary for Muslims to begin by first invoking the name of the all-merciful and all-compassionate creator. we mark the anniversary with great sadness. persistent efforts in making peace in the Middle East a priority in your first term.% &' Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. The events of the past few weeks have really saddened me to my very core. And I'm deeply grateful for your robust. You affirm my belief in the decency and morality of the American people. between Islam and America. the God of Moses and Aaron. the creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. and second. and is anchored in my own experience. and the God of Mohammed. And I'm deeply disappointed that so many of the arguments have been based on deliberate misinformation and harmful stereotypes. and I thank them all. We come together at a time of great crisis and danger. I am also grateful. the God of Abraham. with respect and with open minds and hearts. but with even greater resolve to fight against the radical philosophies that have been used to justify these acts. I thank you for your support. for speaking out so forcefully and repeatedly on behalf of religious tolerance and the values that make our country great. and to so many others who have spoken out in favor of our project. I do recognize that among the critics are some who have lost loved ones on 9/11. And for all of those who have voiced their objections to our plans with civility. the God of Ishmael and Isaac. I'm deeply distressed that in this heated political season. there is much I am thankful for. Their positive responses have filled my heart. But despite the disappointments. Barack Obama: Mr. President. to reach out to my Muslim brothers and sisters all over the world. First. Peace and blessings upon all of these noble prophets and messengers. To our president. Mary. This is my personal mission. I offer my heartfelt sympathy and my prayers upon their departed souls. My goal here today is twofold: first. the God of Jesus Christ and his mother. To all of them. to explain and share my love of America. Michael Bloomberg.

But religion in America is not imposed on us: We can be as devout or as agnostic as we like. what I truly wanted and chose to be. we call it interfaith dialogue. The American way of life has helped many Muslims make a conscious decision to embrace their faith. Islam and America are organically bound together. I came to America by boat when I was only 17 years old. this place sure is different!" I got my bachelor's in physics at Columbia University. they imprinted on our currency "In God we trust. They wanted something better. religion was considered by many to be passé. non- parochial but substantively religious. three days before Christmas. Within the governing documents they created. In that sense. These documents are legal expressions of in fact a religious ideal. we do protect these differences. a number of them tragically lost their lives. I am an American. Today. So for me. that is rooted in the commandments and principles of the three faiths practiced by the People of the Book³Jews. That choice. "Wow. In 1979.Allow me. The twin towers defined our skyline and our neighborhood and were part of our daily lives. even anti-religious. On Sept. The Founding Fathers of this nation were men of faith. you could say that I found my faith in this country. or anything else for that matter³forced me to think about who I was. is precious. We assemble in our various houses of worship to pray. I believed. In the 1960s. We protect different expressions of faith. just 12 blocks north. promoting understanding between different religions. and pledged allegiance to the values of the United States Constitution. extraordinary. Christians and Muslims. In America. and that is why America is precious. and I had a number of occupations: a high-school teacher. the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. My father was a religious scholar who studied and graduated at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. and I know that these sacred rights were won by the blood of brave American soldiers. but I looked forward to it. coming from a country where the majority was Muslim. from congressmen to taxi drivers. and a struggling writer. to chant. and has given me a profound appreciation for the country that provides these freedoms. they affirmed their most sacred spiritual values. My own niece³my own niece³ currently serves in the United States Army. We sailed into New York Harbor on a sunny and cold winter day in December 1965. please. I discovered that the country that at first had seemed so anti-religious in fact has a profoundly spiritual base and a religious purpose. I married. Our community grieved alongside of our neighbors. I became a naturalized U. I found this society remarkably nonreligious. I remember seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time³that beacon of freedom rising and looming majestically in the harbor. It is in the same neighborhood as the World Trade Center. even when we're in the markets. Like many of your ancestors. He was active in what used to be called the ecumenical movement. who I am. freedom of speech. I had no idea what life would be like in America. to recite our sacred scriptures. and together we helped slowly rebuild Lower Manhattan. And I thought to myself. And to remind us. separation of church and state: these were among my earliest lessons in American civic life. or simply to come together in communion and draw together and draw strength as a community. Participatory government. Our congregants come from all over the world and from every walk of life. I remember the cover of cime Magazine that screamed out. raised my children here. I remember admiring her strength and her beauty and her colors in that morning. For me. 11. I'm a typical New Yorker. ladies and gentlemen. citizen. and still believe.S. to begin by telling you my story. I know that this country was founded by individuals who left their countries of origin because they were unhappy with their government and with the restrictions imposed on religious life and liberties. But this is not my story alone. a crutch for the feeble-minded. of a mosque in Tribeca. an Islamic institution of great distinction and learning. I was born in Kuwait to Egyptian parents. or prayer leader. That choice³to be or not to be religious. ladies and gentlemen." Since 1983 I have served as imam. "Is God Dead?" This was shocking to me. . a salesman of industrial products. He was sent to this country by Al-Azhar to head a growing Muslim community in New York City. crisp sunlight.

It is your story and that of your parents and your grandparents. we exemplify not only the ideals of the Founding Fathers but also the deepest values of our faith traditions. is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is THE immigrant³it is THE American immigrant story. this is not just my story. As President Obama made clear in his remarks in Cairo last year. to the Egyptians and North Africans in Astoria. clearly and unequivocally. It's not about them. hijack the discourse and hijack the media. From them to the more recently immigrated Sudanese in Minnesota. I pray five times a day. as Muslims. Sadly. I'm a devout Muslim. and I observe the rituals required by my faith. Both have shaped up and made up my core identity as a human being. Since the 1800s American history has been intertwined with the history of Muslims. Irish and Italians. [Laughter. 99-point-whatever percent of the Muslims in the world absolutely. All faiths have among their members those who distort and twist the core values for their own agendas. Every religion in the world has extremists. In time each group has overcome these challenges. That idea. Islam is among them. I pledge allegiance to the flag. from the music of the blues and jazz. if I can. It's about us and who we are and who we want to be as Americans. blacks and Hispanics. And I'm a Giants fan. to the Syrians and Lebanese in North Dakota. essential ways. [Laughter. the real battle that we must wage together today. Their struggle and their story is central to the story and the narrative of Islam in America. Islam categorically rejects the killing of innocent people. We must overcome. I pay taxes. And I seek your help. destructive cycle. But the challenge of fitting in is often made more difficult by rejection. they took up the cause of freedom in the civil rights movement. to drink from this cup. I vote in elections. Let no one forget that. And I'm also a proud American citizen. The real battle front. Radical extremists would have us believe in a theory of a worldwide battle between Muslims and non-Muslims. As immigrants.] I'm glad they won yesterday. donate to charities. and when they say that Islamic values are fundamentally violent or domineering. Now it is our turn. we absorb American culture. and this became their home. It is between moderates of all the faith traditions against the extremists of all the faith traditions. That only fuels greater extremism. In no way do they represent our religion. When we fast. We are Americans. all of us are obliged to refute it and to refute it loudly.I belong to this neighborhood. and we must break it. They advocate positions that we here and that decent people all over the world³and. We shall overcome. How? By creating a coalition of moderates from all of the faith traditions to combat the extremists. ladies and gentlemen. . Many thousands of African Muslims were brought here as slaves. and we must not let them define us. observe our commandments. When irresponsible individuals or some in the media equate Muslims with anti-Americanism or extremism. Terrorists violate the sanctity of human life and corrupt the meaning of our faith. whatever their faith. sometimes more. have shaped me. It is a dangerous. from generation to a generation. And some intellectuals and thinkers have furthered that idea. We must not let the extremists. is false. whatever their political persuasion. totally find this abhorrent. as I intimated earlier. But ladies and gentlemen. In the 1950s and 1960s. Other groups and faiths have found themselves targets of such prejudice³Jews and Catholics. I assure you. Let there be no mistake. pray. ladies and gentlemen.] Both this country and the teachings of my faith have nourished me in fundamental. Queens. American Muslims have enriched this country throughout its history. Let me now address the subject of extremism. ladies and gentlemen. they are Americans. and we witnessed the emergence of Islam in the African-American community. and our core values have been affirmed.

is a categorical yes. The world will be watching what we do here. government and the American people. Spain when Jews. I have been explaining the faith of Islam at schools and universities. I'm bipartisan. . ladies and gentlemen. some people have asked is there really a need for an Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan? Is it worth all this firestorm? The answer. For when issues are politicized or used as fodder for commentators on the right or on the left. make the spirit of Cordoba multinational. yes. better to jaw-jaw than to war-war. Muslim and non-Muslim. Inspiring the initiative and our projects are the two commandments. What happens right here. as Jesus said. the way we speak about them. And in recent years I've traveled abroad explaining the values and institutions of America to people of other nationalities. the way we seek to reconcile our differences. Let us especially not exploit the memories of the victims of that tragedy or the suffering of their families and friends. named for the time in Cordoba. in mosques too. matters. the Christian and the Muslim faiths: to love the lord our God with all of our hearts. in this city. all of our minds. all of our souls and with all of our strength. ladies and gentlemen.S. The goal of the Cordoba Initiative is to repair the damage done to Muslim-American relations in recent years and to use this formula of a partnership between faith traditions to build such a new Cordoba. And it matters more than ever. within their own cultural expression. talking can be powerful. To the heads of government. Why? Because this center will be a place for all faiths to come together as partners. As an American and as a Muslim. Haven't we seen. And the second. I therefore. The need to clear up the many misconceptions about Islam and America is greater now than ever. I went to Bahrain. on a mission by the State Department. because people all over the world admire and look up to our freedoms and our institutions. peace-loving nations everywhere. churches and synagogues³and. Let us affirm that the values of Islam co-exist in harmony with tolerant. But genuine understanding can only happen when there is honesty. As Churchill said. Let us therefore reject those who would use this crisis and the sacred memory of 9/11 to achieve their own ends. And I hope and am committed to continuing with this work. as stakeholders in mutual respect. the two most important commandments at the heart of the Jewish. It will bring honor to the city of New York. to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. is watched and is resonating all over the world. to American Muslims across the country and to Americans all over the world. in our city. I believe³and I've been told³I can make and have made an important contribution by serving as a messenger. sincerity of motive. These trips are important. And I offer you my pledge³we will live up to our ideals. we just pour fuels on the flames of misunderstanding. Let us share it with the world. In recent days. as a bridge. and an open heart. Skeptics might ask³and they have³why spend time in dialogue? From experience. co-equal to the first. call upon you³upon each of you³to think of what you can do to make a difference. by explaining what life is like here in the United States. and³[inaudible word]³really want them for themselves. I was asked to go on this mission by the Bush administration. On two occasions. The way we confront our problems. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Let us condemn the use of holy texts or religious symbols for political or financial gain or even for fame. Christians and Muslims lived together and built together the most tolerant and enlightened society on earth. these last few weeks. how hurtful and how destructive the power of extremist acts and language can be? That is why I remind you that the story is not yet over. and by helping clear up the many misperceptions and false ideas. and twice by the Obama administration.For 35 years. some of whom have already reached out to me. I recently returned from a trip abroad. ladies and gentlemen. I can tell you. That is why eight years ago I also founded a multifaith organization called the Cordoba Initiative. right now. It was my fourth trip representing the U.

"He is a Christian. General Powell added. Colin Powell. then and now. do I need to remind you that in supporting moderation and peace. as He has said. In October 2008. reject those who would sell America's soul for short-term gains in public opinion. and he couldn't wait till he was old enough to serve his country. and he was an American from my home state of New Jersey. To the business community. The photo came out around the time that a controversy had broken out over President Obama's faith³an issue that still hasn't gone away till today. and to bless all of those who are committed to peace on Earth. It gave his awards³the Purple Heart. And thank you very much. It had the Crescent and the Star of Islam." But then. I want to remind you of an incident from the presidential campaign of 2008 involving Gen. many of whom I see here. His name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. no. You could see the writing on the headstone. He was only 20 years old. for. the media. She had her weeping head on the headstone of her son's grave. there is everything right with being an American Muslim. is. a man I deeply respect. He was 14 years old when 9/11 happened. it didn't have a cross. at the top of the headstone." Powell said. "But the really right question is: So what if he were a Muslim? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" Our answer as a nation. let us continue the extraordinary dialogue that has emerged from this crisis. Muslims and non-Muslims. remember that while the campaign against terrorism is fought with troops and armaments. is. didn't have a Star of David. blessed are the peacemakers. To the media.To the politicians among us. And then. creator of us all. "He has always been a Christian. And he gave the ultimate sacrifice: his life. You. . I pray to the Almighty God. the Bronze Star³showed that he died in Iraq. can fuel the radicals or you can limit their airtime. there is really even greater profit and prosperity? To my fellow faith leaders. I call upon you to reach out to each other in your communities. to bless all nations on Earth. to bless you. there's nothing wrong with being a Muslim in America. then and now. break bread together and extend your hearts in the spirit of friendship and goodwill. to bless America. Open your homes. General Powell talked about seeing a photo essay on American troops serving abroad. One picture was of a mother grieving in Arlington National Cemetery. In closing. To my fellow Americans. Amen. the campaign against radical ideologies is about winning hearts and minds. Our answer as a nation. speaking about President Obama.

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spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Sept. 2010. ("c . Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. chairman of the Cordoba Initiative. 13.

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I could not help but recall the time when my father took me to visit Syria and Jordan while I was a student at the American University of Beirut. Observing the shameful and venomous debate raging in the U. One of the most striking revelations for me.S. was seeing the tomb where the head of John the Baptist was said to lie inside the famous Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. over plans for a Muslim civic center and a mosque in downtown Manhattan two blocks from Ground Zero. . as a Christian.

The unfortunate hoopla in the U. the Kuwaiti-born cleric founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement and is considered "a leader in the effort to build religious pluralism and integrate Islam into modern society. The Mosque of Omar still stands today on this very spot. he traveled to Qatar. of what the Israelis are doing to a famous Muslim site in occupied Jerusalem³the historic Mamilla Cemetery.Many years later. a sumptuous Spanish dish³then her favorite. the architect of the Cordoba Initiative. was fatigued by the number of churches. "That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan. adjacent to a synagogue. into a mosque. and the Jewish-run Anti- Defamation League its surprise condemnation." Though the media and officialdom in the U. left no doubt about his feelings." Cordoba House has been endorsed by New York's Jewish Mayor Michael Bloomberg.S. which is believed to house the tomb of Jesus. More striking are the impressive credentials of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf. much to the satisfaction of attendants at an iftardinner at the White House. There are other examples of religious tolerance. perpetrated by 19 terrorists linked to al-Qaeda³in itself a minority group that does not have any significant support among Muslims in the Arab world and elsewhere. in accordance with local laws and ordinances. I took my family on an extensive tour of Spain." The president's ringing declaration. "as a citizen. interfaith oriented. I could only convince her to make one more sightseeing and educational stop when I told her that this building in Cordoba. government-sponsored initiative to discuss "Muslim life in America and religious tolerance issues. where the Caliph Omar once refused to pray inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre lest his fellow believers turn this all-important church. sounded off on a U. led by the Republican party and extremist groups. Instead. The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has unlawfully started working on a Museum of Tolerance and Human Dignity on the grounds of the cemetery just as its director. mosques.m. whose approval of the project was essential to bring it to fruition. surfaced because of growing. after I moved to the U. especially in Istanbul and Jerusalem. especially after she learned that we would then feast on paella.S. as has been claimed. and as president. the Caliph stepped outside into the square and prayed there. Rabbi Marvin Hier. envisioned as a "victory monument" in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist massacre in 2001. unjustified Islamophobia and the approach of mid-term elections. in the hope that Arab residents of the city would not notice their disgraceful action on the hallowed ground of this ancient cemetery. Although an argument can be made that the center could have been located in other parts of Manhattan.. "Let me be clear. The American right. Bahrain and the UAE recently as part of a U. [and known for] embracing diversity. Leila was convinced. described as a city that was "tolerant. . Leila. television program about the Manhattan project. which envisions an inter- religious community center in Lower Manhattan that will focus on improving relations between the Muslim world and the West. In 1997.S." he declared. the fact remains that it was not.S." housed a beautiful mosque and a church in the same building.S. None of the critics are aware of the background of the proposed Cordoba House. My youngest child. let alone criticism. is trying to shake up the Obama administration and his Democratic party. there was hardly any mention. synagogues and other historic buildings we visited. gave the Muslim undertaking in New York their top attention." He went on. With police protection. the workers began their digging at 2:30 a. and President Barak Obama³despite what some mistakenly saw in his off-the-cuff remark to a journalist that he was not commenting on "the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. which dates back to the 7th century." Interestingly.

In fact." Jeff Helper. What "tolerance and human dignity" is this? . a previous Israeli regime had recognized it as "one of the most prominent Muslim cemeteries. the digging began on the eve of Ramadan. where 70. director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.500 Muslim graves have been cleared in several nighttime operations. pointed out that "some 1." And to add insult to injury.000 Muslim warriors of [Salah Al Deen's] armies are interred along with many Muslim scholars.

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DC-based columnist for Gulf News and Jordan Times. Reprinted with permission. áeorge Hishmeh is a Washington.Contact him at: <hishmehg@aol.com>. c $c"!.

S. massive. and sometimes arson. Wars initiated by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our government makes no effort to explain why foreigners protest our policies. they are a massive roadblock to balanced. Gallup polls reported nearly half our citizens fearful of Islamic intentions. In the Middle East. but they left millions of misinformed Americans convinced Muslims approved the massacre. 9/11 was payback by a few people infuriated over our pro-Israel bias. . Pennsylvania and Washington. Anti-American protests rise mainly from the same bias: U. I became convinced that anti-Muslim passions based on false stereotypes are a cancer that threatens the well-being of all Americans. both Muslim countries.S.S. Hoping to ease these dangerous passions I wrote Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam. aid keeps flowing to Tel Aviv. they nurture bigotry and fear. a Cornell University poll disclosed that 44 percent of those surveyed were so apprehensive about Islam they wanted the civil liberties of all U. policies. At home.S. At the same time. While lecturing across America during those years. =    The sustained outcry against the Islamic Community Center two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City is not the first time U. a book inspired by personal acquaintance with hundreds of Muslims here and abroad. especially in Muslim countries. not just followers of Islam. This year. Places of worship were the target of vandalism and crude graffiti. fair U. magnified the outrage. It was published one month before 9/11. DC that killed nearly 3.000 innocent Americans. anti-American passions have risen worldwide. Muslims curtailed. Nor does it lift a finger to correct legitimate Muslim grievances. Three years later. complicity in Israel's brutal treatment of mostly-Muslim Palestinians and its illegal seizure of their land. long before 9/11. the day professed Muslims carried out the horrible suicide bombings in New York. During the 1990s.S. which condemns suicide and injury to innocent people. Muslims have been on the defensive. Although Israel's daily conduct clearly violates international law. unconditional U. The bombings were a gross violation of Islamic doctrine. they were suffering discrimination in the workplace and often the target of physical threat and attack.

If our government had refused to help Israel when it decided to destroy Palestine and brutalize its people. hate. Nothing could justify 9/11. I know Obama could prevail. Our president should suspend all aid until Israeli forces withdraw from all Arab territory seized in June 1967. fear. and bankruptcy. It is never too late to do the right thing. The commission twice voted against holding hearings on motivation. like most other Americans. Rather than end bias in Middle East policy. but the American people deserve to know why it happened and why our government made no serious effort to stop Israel's criminal policies. . Barack Obama³any president³will win massive public support for this showdown if he explains the crisis in clear language directly to the American people.S. 9/11 would not have happened. tip-toed in silent retreat rather than embarrass Israel and risk being called anti- Semitic. The revelation by the chief planner of 9/11 should have served as a wake-up call for every American." This significant revelation was buried in the report of the 9/11 Commission but mentioned nowhere else. Future historians will be amazed at the utter stupidity of our government. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The main motivations for anti-Muslim passions in the United States and anti-American passions abroad would not exist. policies that favored Israel. plainly and publicly stated his motivation. and Israel would not have been able to carry out its illegal takeover of Arab land.The chief planner of 9/11. our government would not have started wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was his "violent disagreement with U. but the members of the president- appointed 9/11 Commission. Congress is populated with puppets for Israel. but enlightened public opinion will change their behavior overnight. Based on my years in Congress. our officials keep our nation in the black hole of war. where I was a close witness of presidents in crisis.

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will be published in April. served 22 years as a U. His latest. representative from Illinois. IL. who resides in Jacksonville.S. a memoir. including the bestseller They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel·s Lobby and Silent No More: Confronting America·s False Images of Islam (both available from the AEc Book Club). . He is the author of six books. Paul Findley.

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