Cordoba House: A Strategic Analysis

Cordoba House: A Strategic Analysis

by Dr. Robert D. Crane

  One point not addressed in media coverage of the fascinating Cordoba House issue is that most or all of the pundits premise their attacks on the Manhattan community center, known also as the Ground-Zero Mosque, with statements that promotion of religious tolerance and cultural diversity are important and necessary.  This is immediately followed by blanket rejection of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s insistence from the very beginning a year ago that a main purpose of the Center is to represent an American community condemnation and warning against the essence of modern evil represented by 9/11 and as a counter-measure to promote interfaith understanding and cooperation based on the best of all faiths.

  This point about the duplicity of the current highpoint in the spread of Islamophobia is made in Anthony DiMaggio’s article, “The Muslim Community Center at Ground Zero: A Manufactured Controversy”, published on August 12, 2010, by CounterPunch, which supports the conclusion of William R. Hutchison in his monumental book, Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal, that, “America leads the world in naivete about its own superiority as a pluralistic society”.

  DiMaggio, however, does not adequately address the fact that the politicalization of discourse in America over the Cordoba House does not result from this particular issue, but that instead such politicalization, which has a decades-old professional background in an Islamophobic industry, has produced the moral crisis of Cordoba House.

  Perhaps a few months from now, after the dust has settled on this “August issue,” which may well be ancient history before the “November” issues decide the outcome of the next election, a strategic analysis would be in order.

  This perspective on the moral and political crisis of Cordoba House has been addressed in many of my writings over the past twenty years, especially in deconstructing the phenomenon of Islamophobia.  One of the main actors, who has a long history in this field, is the dean and prince of political pander, Newt Gingrich, who started out with his Progressive Institute (now excluded from all media coverage of his background) and then switched in 1994 in order to engineer the so-called Gingrich Revolution by taking over both houses of Congress for the “Conservatives”, defined as those who a poll suggested supported the ten most popular vote getting themes, which became his Contract with America. 

  Gingrich waited out the 2008 presidential election, because he saw it as a lost cause, but now he is seriously preparing for 2012 and is trying to resurrect what he thinks is a winning theme triggered by the opportunity to ride the wave of disinformation about Cordoba House. 

  When Gingrich ran into trouble in Congress as Speaker of the House because of his totalitarian management style, he needed a scapegoat to consolidate his power.  He did so by laying the groundwork for a new war against evil by calling for a war against Islamic totalitarianism.  On February 8, 1995, at a much-ballyhood conference of military and intelligence officers on developing a global strategy, Gingrich announced, “I have yet to see a coherent strategy for fighting Islamic totalitarianism”. 

  This was strategically a brilliant move.  In the American lexicon developed in the war against Communist global conquest, the world is full of harmless tyrants who seek only their own power at home and therefore can be co-opted to serve American purposes.  Such tyranny is different from totalitarianism, which by definition seeks control of the human mind not only as a means to consolidate its own power but primarily as the ultimate end of its own destiny.

  The use of the emotive word, “totalitarianism”, became an instrument of mimetic thought control and escalated the battle against terrorism to the ideological level of grand strategy, because totalitarianism was the major global threat to Western civilization for most of the 20th century.

  By the mere turn of a phrase, this seminal thinker of the half-century-old NeoCon movement transformed Islam from a religion that occasionally has been distorted to justify both private and state-sponsored terrorism into a generic monster that must be fought wherever it raises its ugly head, because “Islamic totalitarianism” by definition threatens the survival of the Free World. 

  This simple change in terminology served to short-circuit thought so that both long-range global forecasting and operational doctrine and specific military plans no longer had to based on knowledge.  The thinking has already been done and encapsulated in the new language, where a false symbolism becomes an unchallengeable reality.  And by a process of self-fulfilling prophecy, the potential danger becomes real and thereby triggers a spiraling confrontation of action and reaction with the zero-sum result of universal chaos.

  Global chaos is indeed a threat to civilization, whether through a biological attack on major American cities, or an Israeli attack on Iran, or a rogue Russian nuclear attack of revenge on Israel, or merely through the disintegration of public discourse and the death of freedom in America.

  What is the answer?  One element surely is to support the enlightened purpose of Cordoba House.  As explained in my essay, “Cordoba House: Missing the Message,” published on August 19, 2010 in the p,urpose of the so-called “Mosque at Ground Zero” is not to demonstrate freedom of religion, nor should it be supported only on that basis. 

  The dream of its founder, Imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf, a renowned Sufi shaykh, has been to create an interfaith center to bring out the best of all religions in America.  The importance of this dream was only reinforced by the terrible tragedy of 9/11.  His proposed interfaith center is named after the flourishing of religion and culture in Cordoba, Spain, once the largest city in the world with more than a hundred libraries.  For more than two centuries before it was destroyed by petty tyrants from both within and without it was an intellectual and spiritual center of the Abrahamic religions unrivaled in human history as a symbol of interfaith understanding and cooperation.  The purpose of Imam Abdul Rauf’s proposal for Cordoba House is to bring into reality the Common Word of all world religions, which is to seek reconciliation for the hurts of the past so that together in solidarity we can reduce the mutual hatred spawned by the crime of collective guilt and build a better future.

  Ideally the funding for Cordoba House should come from representatives of all three of the Abrahamic religions involved in the two-phase Common Word project, and from representatives of Buddhism, perhaps the Dalai Lama, as part of the third phase, now known as Common Ground. 

  A major challenge to all people of faith today is to rehabilitate the role of religion in the world as a cure rather than as a cause of chaos.  This requires mutual understanding of each other’s faith traditions in order to bring out the best of all faiths, as well as solidarity in action to address the issues of conscience that concern all people of faith in their search for peace, prosperity and freedom through faith-based reconciliation and compassionate justice.

  The key to such understanding and cooperation is mutual respect based on equality in human dignity, unity in diversity, recognition of everyone’s personal relationship with God, and a common search for transcendent truth, as developed in my recent book, The Natural Law of Compassionate Justice: An Islamic Perspective, January 2010, 224 pages.

  Interfaith dialogue and cooperation rely on the common conviction that the search for solutions to the issues of conscience in the world must follow the path of inclusive pluralism and constructive cooperation as the best means to marginalize those who seek solutions through confrontation and violence.  The task of bringing out the best in all faiths, rather than surrendering to the worst, requires a mindset of hope.  This task requires an opportunity mentality rather than the self-defeating threat mentality produced inevitably by the paranoia of fear.

  Success in marginalizing the forces of fear by marshaling the forces of civilizational renewal through ecumenical pluralism will depend on reviving in every religion its classical or traditionalist wisdom embodied in the Jewish “fear of God”, the Christian love of God, and the resulting Islamic search for truth and justice, based on recognition that all three originate in God’s love for everyone of us.