The Anti-Defamation League has been tracking religious extremism
for several decades, including anti-Islamic violence in the United States after 9/11. Nonetheless, the organization joined right-wing opposition
earlier this week to the construction of Cordoba House
, a 13-story Muslim community center and mosque that may be built two blocks away from the site of the former World Trade Center. The ADL's alignment with calls for "refudiation"
by Republican celebrities Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, along with other members of the GOP who are ramping up
angry sentiments in voters during an election year, have puzzled and angered religious, political and cultural figures of various stripes, particularly within New York City itself.
Reverend Gaddy of New York's Interfaith Alliance posited in strong terms
that "those who claim to defend religious freedom can not turn their back on it when faced with controversy." Rabbi Irwin Kula, President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
, responded that the ADL "should be ashamed of itself." NYT columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman argues
that "[w]e can’t afford to live in a tribal world." NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked, "What is great about America, and particularly New York, is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us?"
Planning for the center has been lead by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
, an Egyptian-American who has worked in New York since 1983, and his wife Daisy Khan
. In 1997 he founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement
, the "first Muslim organization
committed to bringing American Muslims and non-Muslims together through programs in academia, policy, current affairs, and culture." Ms. Khan describes the Cordoba House as "a symbol, a platform that will give voice to the silent majority of Muslims who suffer at the hands of extremists. A center will show that Muslims will be part of rebuilding lower Manhattan."
For its part, the ADL argues that the mosque's proximity to the WTC site would cause grief to the families of 9/11 victims and maintains that there are yet unresolved, if unspecified questions
about who is behind its construction, even if those questions are ultimately irrelevant to the group's main objections:
In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values. These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming. But regardless of how they respond, the issue at stake is a broader one.