If the Cordoba House is built in the shadow of the Sept. 11 site, radical Muslims will increase their efforts to attack America because of a perceived victory in their war to transform the United States into a Muslim nation.
So says Dr. Tawfik Hamid, senior fellow and chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Hamid is a former member of the terrorist Islamic organization Jamaa Islamiya with Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who later became the second in command of Al-Qaeda. For more than 25 years Hamid has spoken out in favor of reformation in the Muslim world based on peaceful interpretations of Islamic texts.
The Cordoba Initiative’s choice of location for the Cordoba House Islamic center may be constitutionally protected, he said, but it is insensitive and has caused a rift between the Muslim community and America.
|Dr. Tawfik Hamid suggests the Cordoba Initiative should change the location of its Islamic center and build a memorial to Sept. 11 victims inside. Courtesy Tawfik Hamid|
“My worry is this can be the spark that can create a clash of civilizations if our leaders are not wise enough to have a strategy that can respect everyone and end it in a peaceful way to bring moderate people to the table to stop radicalism that can come from both sides,” he said.
Also, Hamid said, should the center be built at the Park Place site, the radicals responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks will believe their actions paved the way for a new Islamic institution in America.
“The aim of building the mosque was to build bridges,” he said. “The outcome was the opposite of this. By the radicals it will be seen as a sign of victory and encourage more attacks on America.”
Recently, Hamid wrote a Declaration of Beliefs of Muslim Moderates, which calls for “contemporary understandings of Islam to replace currently predominant harsh and radical (Salafi/Wahabbi) interpretations of our religion.”
The declaration calls for Muslims to ban the Redda Law, which Hamid said allows for the killing of Muslims who convert out of the faith; an end to violence against women; a rejection of the idea of Islamic domination of the world; a declaration of anti-Semitism and slavery as un-Islamic; and an end to laws that permit the killing of homosexuals.
The declaration – which is circulating on the Internet – is part of what Hamid called a new theological interpretation, providing a way that Islam can remain viable without radical interpretations of core values.
“That is the problem with many Muslims – they are so scared that if they start to touch these values their religion will collapse. The only way to help these people is to give them other interpretations.”
Hamid has received mostly positive feedback from non-Muslims to his declaration, while the Muslim community has thus far remained silent, he said. The requests in the document are simple and can be phrased as yes or no questions that get at the core of Muslim beliefs. He expects Muslim leaders who sign it to take action to change Islamic education, rather than just pay lip service to the document, he said.
“Many people, especially intellectuals, consider it one of the best ways to evaluate and define if a leader of Muslims is a real moderate or a radical,” he said.
In the end, Hamid believes the Cordoba Initiative will change the location of the Islamic center. If the group shows that it did not intend to cause pain or act insensitively, that will help close the rift it has caused. He also suggested that wherever Cordoba House ends up, organizers should build a memorial to Sept. 11 victims inside.
Hamid challenged Cordoba Initiative founder Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to sign the Declaration of Beliefs. If Rauf does this, he said, the radicals will look at the mosque as a sign of defeat.
“If this imam can stand clearly and unambiguously and sign this declaration, I will be the first to support him,” Hamid said.
Read the Declaration of Beliefs here.