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Religious Tolerance logo

A proposed Muslim community center near 9/11's "ground zero"

Origin of the name "Cordoba."
Root causes of the conflict.

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Origin of the name "Cordoba:"

Cordoba (a.k.a. Cordova) refers to a city in southern Spain by the same name. It was once a major center of Islamic culture and learning. The name may not have been a good choice. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim historians cannot agree on the degree of tolerance in this area during medieval times circa 800 to 1200 CE:

According to Israel National News, Cordoba:

"... was also the seat of an Islamic caliphate in which Jews and Christians suffered under second-class 'dhimmi' status and was the site of [a] large-scale pogrom, perpetrated by Muslims, in the year 1011" C].1

According to Imam Rauf, the name "Cordoba:"

"... reminds us that Muslims created what was, in its era, the most enlightened, pluralistic, and tolerant society on earth." 2

Marc Tracy, writing in a Jewish magazine "The Tablet" commented:

"Rauf is seeking to align himself with those who see the period as the 'Golden Age of Spain,' or what’s called the convivencia -- 'the coexistence' -- when members of the three Abrahamic faiths lived side-by-side in peace, prosperity, and astonishing cultural and intellectual creativity." 3

This occurred during the Middle Ages, an era when Christians engaged in massive oppression of Jews via pogroms, and of Muslims and fellow Christians during the Crusades. The concept of religious tolerance as practiced earlier by the Roman Empire had not yet been reborn in Europe at that time. Mutual religious hatred was the norm; religious respect was almost non-existent.

The use of the name Cordoba and its link what some consider to be religious intolerance in medieval Spain became a focal point for many people who oppose the construction of the community center. In mid-2010-JUL, members of the Cordoba Initiative decided to rename the building with a neutral name: "Park51." 4

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The root causes of the battle over Park51:

As usual on matters related to religion, ethics, and morality, Americans are profoundly divided over whether to encourage, tolerate, or oppose the development of the Park51 community center.

The divide between religious and social liberals and conservative, which is affecting conflicts like the debates over abortion access, same-sex marriage, equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals (LGBT), etc., is driving this conflict as well.

As you read the essays in this section, we urge you to search for an accurate understanding of:

  • The entire world population of about 1.6 billion Muslims, who follow many different traditions within Islam, including Shi'ite, Sufi, Sunni, Wahhabism, etc.

  • Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the head of the Cordoba Initiative (CI), and the Sufi tradition of Islam of which he is a member.

  • The small minority of Muslims who are fundamentalist, radical, violent mass murdering terrorists who have little or no regard for human life or fundamental freedoms.

  • Christians and others who cover the full range of religious beliefs from the most fundamentalist to the most liberal, who have taken a stand either in favor of, or opposed to, Cordoba House, based on their level of concern for freedom of speech and freedom of religion and their concern for honoring the victims of 9/11.

  • Media sources that give a balanced presentation of the facts, and those who selectively report only one side of the issues.

In our opinion, the conflict over the Cordoba Center should not degenerate into a Muslim vs. Christian battle. Reducing religious hatred, intolerance, and oppression, while promoting religious understanding, tolerance, and freedom are factors that affect all religions.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Fern Sidman, "Demonstrators say 'No' to mosque at ground zero," Israel National News, 2010-JUN-07, at:
  2. Feisal Abdul Rauf, "What's Right with Islam is What's Right with America: A New Vision for Muslims and the West," HarperOne, (2005). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  3. Marc Tracy, "Why Cordoba," The Tablet, 2010-AUG-16, at:
  4. Ground Zero Mosque & Landmarks Preservation Commission Hearing, Vigilant Squirrel Brigade, 2010-JUL-17, at:
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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2010-JUL-27
Latest update: 2010-SEP-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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