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Here on Ricochet the other day, Conor Friedersdorf asked, in effect, What would it take? What would those behind the mosque at ground zero have to do to demonstrate good faith? An arresting question. If the organizers of “Cordoba House” would publish the following brief manifesto, I’ve decided, I would welcome them to lower Manhattan. Heck. I’d contribute a hundred bucks to their construction fund.
1. Over the centuries, we recognize, Islam has proven aggressive and expansionist, seeking to invade and subdue Christian Europe. (See, for example, the conquest of the Iberian peninsula in the early eighth century, the battle of Poitiers in 732, the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the battle of Lepanto in 1571, and the siege of Vienna in 1683.) Given this record, and given that the terrorists who killed thousands of innocent Americans just two blocks from the site on which we intend to build a mosque did so in the name of the jihad, we can understand why many Americans view our mosque not as an act of reconciliation but a provocation.
We therefore condemn, explicitly and categorically, any use of violence in the name of Islam whatsoever. We furthermore pledge ourselves, irrevocably, to the proposition that jihad must be understood only as an interior and spiritual struggle and never, ever as a political or military contest.
2. Given, again, Islam’s long record of what can only be termed imperialism, and given that the name we have chosen for our mosque, “Cordoba House,” hearkens back to the centuries when Muslims ruled much of Spain, subjecting a historically Christian territory to the rule of caliphs, and given that the express ambition of many Islamic radicals today includes the reconquest of “Al-Andalus,” the Arab name for Spain, we have decided to change the name of our mosque. We will now call it “Rumi House,” in honor of Jalaluddin Rumi, the medieval theologian and mystic, who truly understood Islam as a religion of peace.
3. We recognize that Americans have special grounds for looking with concern upon Saudi Arabian promotion of Wahabbism, the sect of Islam now dominant in Saudi Arabia—for years now, the Saudis have been using oil wealth to fund the construction of Wahabbi mosques and madrassas throughout the world, and the correlation between Saudi funding of Wahabbism and the rise of radical Islam simply cannot be denied. We therefore declare that we will accept no Saudi funding whatsoever.
4. When our mosque is complete, the United States will have become home to nearly 100 mosques. We wish formally to express our appreciation of the freedom of religion that has made this possible—and to call upon the countries Islam to adopt freedom of religion themselves. We note with special regret that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, home of the holiest sites in Islam, is home to not a single church or synagogue—and, indeed, that in Saudi Arabia the mere possession of a Christian Bible represents a crime. This year, and every year, we will submit a petition to His Majesty, the King of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, imploring him to lift these and all bans on genuine freedom of religion. As we build our mosque in New York, we wish our fellow Americans to know that we cannot be content until there is a church in Riyadh, and a synagogue in Jeddah.