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Moderation and the mosque debate

In these days, when controversial statements are made by some leaders and representatives we may not be so familiar with, the question is often asked: “Are they spoken by a moderate person or does this individual really represent an extreme position?”

In the case of Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam responsible for the initiative to build a mosque near Ground Zero, he is considered a moderate and a bridge builder. This is how he is described time and time again by the press when discussing the future mosque in Lower Manhattan.

But the imam made the following statements in a “60 Minutes” interview in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks: “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened [on 9/11] … Because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world.”

And in a 2004 article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Imam Feisal is reported to have “argued for a Western style of Islam that promotes democracy and tolerance,” but “said there could be little progress until the U.S. acknowledged backing dictators, and the U.S. president gave an ‘America Culpa’ speech to the Muslim world.”

It would be interesting if any reporter today had asked the imam why he is demanding that the U.S. apologize before terrorism stops, as he puts it, an “America Culpa,” but that is for a more lengthy discussion.

If readers believe these quotes are moderate statements, then nothing more need be said. But if people find these quotes highly objectionable, then it behooves those individuals to speak out.

And how much more of an impact would they have if they were to be spoken by truly moderate Muslim representatives in the greater New York-New Jersey area, which is home to a large number of activists.

Jonathan Gold, M.D.


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