Imam discusses Park51, Muslim identity

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Slifka Rabbi James Ponet ’68 examined the relationship between Islam and the West during a full-capacity talk Wednesday.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Slifka Rabbi James Ponet ’68 examined the relationship between Islam and the West during a full-capacity talk Wednesday. Photo by Hyung Mee Lim.

Despite the controversy surrounding his Park51 Muslim community center, slated for construction near the former site of the World Trade Center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf emphasized his belief that American and Muslim values are fundamentally similar at a Wednesday talk.

Rauf, the public face of the proposed lower Manhattan facility commonly known as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” spoke with Slifka Rabbi James Ponet ’68 about Islam and the West in front of the packed auditorium at Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall. The two discussed how Muslim Americans can incorporate the two aspects of their identities into their lives. Since the Park51 center is controversial, the talk was monitored by Yale security forces, but the visit did not spark protests on campus.

Rauf became a national figure in early 2010 when he emerged as the chief proponent of Park51, which purchased a site two blocks from the former World Trade Center. He said Wednesday that he envisions the community center, which is intended to bring together people of all faiths, as a way for the Muslim community to serve New York City as a whole.

“It’s about time we Muslims do something for our city, do something for our country,” he said, adding that Park51 would be like a Muslim version of the Young Men’s Christian Association.

After discussing the aims of the Park51 project, Rauf emphasized the need to create a Muslim-American identity, in the same way that Jewish-American and Catholic-American identities were formed in the past. This identity, he claimed, would arise from overlapping American and Muslim morals.

“As religious people, we believe that the creator endowed us with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” said Rauf.

Rauf said the need to take care of one’s fellow man is a central tenet of Islam, adding that America does this better than any other nation in the world.

Before its labeling as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” the center’s original name, the Cordoba House, referenced a Spanish city where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived peacefully in the Middle Ages. Since Cordoba was eventually invaded by the Muslim Moors, however, the name was changed to Park51, reflecting its location on Park Avenue.

Sam Hamer ’13, a member of the group Jews and Muslims at Yale, which sponsored the event, said he was relieved by the “mature” reception of the imam, adding that Rauf has encountered few problems at the other universities he has visited recently. Still, audience members were instructed to write down their questions and pass them up to Ponet, which Hamer said was intended to avoid interruptions and disrespectful comments.

The only protest of the imam’s visit came in the form of a full page advertisement in the News yesterday. The David Horowitz Freedom Center, a right-wing organization that opposes “leftist and Islamist enemies at home and abroad,” purchased the ad and published a list of pro-Palestinian arguments, which it titled a “Wall of Lies.”

The Silfka Center took out a full-page ad as well, and wrote a letter in response titled the “Wall of Truths.”

“We reject attempts by outsiders to inject hateful ideas to our campus discourse,” the letter said.

Two of three students interviewed praised the talk for promoting moderate discourse.

“I think that Rauf and the rabbi illustrated how the middle of the road should be the guiding force for our country,” said Sam Teicher ’12. “Positive dialogue at it’s best.”

Gabe Audu ’14 said though he enjoyed hearing Rauf speak, he found aspects of the talk “disheartening,” and the questions from the audience sometimes “narrow-minded.”

Rauf has written three books on Islam’s role in the western world and has founded two non-profits to enhance the discourse on Islam in society.

Comments

  • Arafat

    Unbelievable! And people seriously take this man’s words as being sincere?
    **********************
    Google “Undercover Mosques”
    Google “Extremist Mosques in America”

    And you will see what this planned mosque will really be like. Marketing it as “like a YMCA” is nothing more than marketing and bares no resemblance to what it will really be like. Find me one mosque in this country or in Europe that is “like a YMCA”.
    ****************************************************
    “Yet the philosopher Maimonides, a Jew who lived for a time in Muslim Spain and then fled that supposedly tolerant and pluralistic land, remarked, “You know, my brethren, that on account of our sins God has cast us into the midst of this people, the nation of Ishmael, who persecute us severely, and who devise ways to harm us and to debase us….No nation has ever done more harm to Israel. None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us. None has been able to reduce us as they have….We have borne their imposed degradation, their lies, and absurdities, which are beyond human power to bear.”
    Notably, Maimonides directed that Jews could teach rabbinic law to Christians, but not to Muslims. For Muslims, he said, will interpret what they are taught “according to their erroneous principles and they will oppress us. [F]or this reason … they hate all [non-Muslims] who live among them.” But the Christians, he said, “admit that the text of the Torah, such as we have it, is intact”–as opposed to the Islamic view that the Jews and Christians have corrupted their scriptures. Christians, continued Maimonides, “do not find in their religious law any contradiction with ours.”

  • Arafat

    According to historian Richard Fletcher, “Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.” On December 30, 1066, about four thousand Jews in Granada were murdered by rioting Muslim mobs–more than would be killed in the Crusaders’ infamous Rhineland pogroms of the mid-twelfth century. What enraged the Granadan Muslims was the political power of the Jewish vizier Samuel ibn Naghrila and his son Joseph: the mob resented the fact that these men had authority over Muslims, which they saw as a “breach of sharia.” The mob was incited to kill the Jews by a poem composed by Muslim jurist Abu Ishaq: “I myself arrived in Granada and saw that these Jews were meddling in its affairs. … So hasten to slaughter them as a good work whereby you will earn God’s favor, and offer them up in sacrifice, a well-fattened ram.”
    The mob heeded his call. A Muslim chronicler (and later sultan of Granada), ‘Abd Allah, said that “both the common people and the nobles were disgusted by the cunning of the Jews, the notorious changes they had brought in the order of things, and the positions they occupied in violation of their pact [of second-class status].” He recounted that the mob “put every Jew in the city to the sword and took vast quantities of their property.”
    “Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews…” — Qur’an 5:82.

  • uncommons

    Arafat, were you even at the talk? Because I was, and your comments have zero correlation to what the Imam said.
    Furthermore, I actually did google both “Undercover Mosques” and “Extremist Mosques in America.” The British movie – I assume you are referring to documentary Undercover Mosques – did not reference the Imam, and Extremist Mosques led me to a debunking of Fox News’ claim that 85% of mosques in America are radicalized.
    As for the quote, again, it has nothing to do with the Imam or his talk. Although I will give you this: there was certainly religious prosecution in Moorish Spain. Well done. Although I’m like 90% sure the Imam wasn’t there. He did look pretty old, so maybe someone will have to CQ that.
    Anyways Arafat, I’m left to question, is your problem with the Imam, or just Muslims? Either way, please try to think a bit before you write a laughable post like this…

  • Arafat

    uncommons,

    I was responding to the following quote in the article, “Before its labeling as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” the center’s original name, the Cordoba House, referenced a Spanish city where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived peacefully in the Middle Ages.”

    Did you even read the article?

  • Arafat

    uncommons,

    Did you even read the article?

    “Before its labeling as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” the center’s original name, the Cordoba House, referenced a Spanish city where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived peacefully in the Middle Ages. Since Cordoba was eventually invaded by the Muslim Moors, however, the name was changed to Park51, reflecting its location on Park Avenue. ”
    ********************
    According to historian Richard Fletcher, “Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.” On December 30, 1066, about four thousand Jews in Granada were murdered by rioting Muslim mobs–more than would be killed in the Crusaders’ infamous Rhineland pogroms of the mid-twelfth century. What enraged the Granadan Muslims was the political power of the Jewish vizier Samuel ibn Naghrila and his son Joseph: the mob resented the fact that these men had authority over Muslims, which they saw as a “breach of sharia.” The mob was incited to kill the Jews by a poem composed by Muslim jurist Abu Ishaq: “I myself arrived in Granada and saw that these Jews were meddling in its affairs. … So hasten to slaughter them as a good work whereby you will earn God’s favor, and offer them up in sacrifice, a well-fattened ram.”
    The mob heeded his call. A Muslim chronicler (and later sultan of Granada), ‘Abd Allah, said that “both the common people and the nobles were disgusted by the cunning of the Jews, the notorious changes they had brought in the order of things, and the positions they occupied in violation of their pact [of second-class status].” He recounted that the mob “put every Jew in the city to the sword and took vast quantities of their property.”
    “Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews…” — Qur’an 5:82.

  • yale

    Please stop hating on Muslims Arafat. The Imam presented a beautiful vision which Americans – both Muslims and non-Muslims – should be honored to support.

  • jnewsham

    No, Arafat is a troll who has been stalking college newspaper sites for months and is immune to the facts–i.e., Park51 is a 13-story building, of which a prayer space open to all occupies two stories. Besides the prayer space, there’s supposed to be a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare services, art exhibitions, bookstore, culinary school, and a food court serving halal dishes–of TERROR!

  • Arafat

    uncommons, did you even read this article?

    From the article: “Before its labeling as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” the center’s original name, the Cordoba House, referenced a Spanish city where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived peacefully in the Middle Ages. Since Cordoba was eventually invaded by the Muslim Moors, however, the name was changed to Park51, reflecting its location on Park Avenue.”
    **********************

    According to historian Richard Fletcher, “Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.” On December 30, 1066, about four thousand Jews in Granada were murdered by rioting Muslim mobs–more than would be killed in the Crusaders’ infamous Rhineland pogroms of the mid-twelfth century. What enraged the Granadan Muslims was the political power of the Jewish vizier Samuel ibn Naghrila and his son Joseph: the mob resented the fact that these men had authority over Muslims, which they saw as a “breach of sharia.” The mob was incited to kill the Jews by a poem composed by Muslim jurist Abu Ishaq: “I myself arrived in Granada and saw that these Jews were meddling in its affairs. … So hasten to slaughter them as a good work whereby you will earn God’s favor, and offer them up in sacrifice, a well-fattened ram.”
    The mob heeded his call. A Muslim chronicler (and later sultan of Granada), ‘Abd Allah, said that “both the common people and the nobles were disgusted by the cunning of the Jews, the notorious changes they had brought in the order of things, and the positions they occupied in violation of their pact [of second-class status].” He recounted that the mob “put every Jew in the city to the sword and took vast quantities of their property.”
    “Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews…” — Qur’an 5:82.

  • harbinger

    American and Muslim values are in no way similar. It’s laughable to even begin to suggest they are. There is no common bond between the two, one is a democracy and the other a single minded wave of religious intolerance that either bends you to it’s will or sweeps you before it. Ask them about rights for gays, women, transgenders, atheists, and any practitioners of a religion other than Islam. All the hot button topics at Yale, and see what type of answer you get.

  • uncommons

    Well done Arafat. It seems obvious from your other comments on the site that you don’t really have any interest in what the Imam said. You found the one paragraph in the article that didn’t actually relate to the talk. Bravo. Conspiracy exposed.

    @harbinger, judging by your opinion, shouldn’t we then support this Imam who is trying to inject liberalism and freedoms into the religion? Of course there are some Muslims values that are very intolerant, so I would say that the Imam’s message of peace and acceptance become even more important.

  • saywhat2014

    @arafat, i read the article – i even wrote the article.

    i was hoping that it would open up a dialogue not on *whether* Islam could become a part of the American identity, but *how* could Islam become a part of the American identity. discussing the ways that Islam has been violent or intolerant in the past really won’t solve anything. let’s try to find a way forward with this instead.

    thanks,

    -tap

  • fools

    research what this wolf in sheep’s clothing says to his Arabic audiences

  • fools

    why are there so many “no go” zones in the UK where nobody but Muslims live?