Thomas Jefferson stated that "though the will of the majority is in all things to triumph, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable." But before one can make a reasonable decision, it is necessary to know the facts and the truth to which they testify.
Those who are actually familiar with the Cordoba Project's plan to erect an Islamic community center in New York City are aware of the fact there will be no minarets clashing with the spires of the city's iconic cathedrals of commerce. This is, in part, due to the fact that it is not "a mosque" any more than a nearby YMCA is "a church" - which is, after all, the institution after which the community center in question was patterned, following consultation and advice from Jewish and Christian community leaders in NYC.
Then there's the fact that even if it were purely a religious structure, there still would be no minarets as there is simply no room and that most urban mosques in the West favor a modernist style in harmony with the local architecture.
Now, as to the name "Cordoba House Project," the claim has been made that the reason the name was chosen was in recognition "of one of Islam's great historic conquests, whereby a Christian church in Spain was converted into an Islamic mosque."
Not only does the claim make little sense, it is inaccurate, not to mention needlessly redundant. The re-purposing of the church was hardly a "great conquest" as the church in question was little known outside the city of Cordoba itself, much less outside the Iberian peninsula by either Christian or Muslim. The name "Great Mosque of Cordoba" relates to its size, not unlike the myriad great cathedrals in the rest of Europe erected over smaller pagan shrines.
This leads to the broader issue of the claim's lack of reason. Now if the community center to be constructed on the site were replacing a church or YMCA, then the analogy would at least make some logical sense. But this is not the case. The building to be replaced was a store, long disused at that. In fact, had it not been for local American Muslims renting the abandoned building as a place to meet there would have been no life in it save vagrants and rats, neither of which are known for contributing to the community socially or economically.
Furthermore, to assume the only connection to the city of Cordoba was the transition of a single house of worship is to do a great disservice to the extraordinary city of whose history the people of Spain are rightly proud. Historians often proclaim the city as having been a veritable jewel of culture, learning and tolerance when the rest of Europe suffered through the degradations of the Dark Ages.
When Abd ar Rahman became ruler of Moorish Spain, with Cordoba as its capital, he could have demanded conversion of the Christian and Jewish population to Islam under threat of torture or death as was the common practice of the Christian rulers north of the Pyrenees (much to the dismay of my Jewish ancestors who in later years fled persecution by the Christian king of France).
The historical fact is that even at the height of power of Muslims in Spain, they were barely a quarter of the total population. Following the Quranic verse (2:258) that there be no compulsion in matters of religion, Christians and Jews were permitted to continue to worship as they chose - this was also in keeping with the actions of the Prophet Muhammad himself who permitted continued worship among Arabia's Christians and Jews (it is to the great shame of the Saudi government that their Wahabist movement has abandoned the Prophet's example).
And even though Abd ar Rahman originally imposed social restrictions on the non-Muslim population, those restrictions wasted away with time. In the years that Abd ar Rahman III ruled Spain, Cordoba was unparalleled in Europe and North Africa in diversity, culture and prosperity.
Moorish Spain (or Al Andalus as its own citizens knew it) with Cordoba as its capitol had risen in stature to such a degree, even during the reign of Abd ar Rahman I, that caliph Al Mansur, in the Middle East, had grown envious of their prosperity and furious that there were Muslims who refused to bow to the East's leadership. In his anger, Al Mansur dispatched a general to crush the great power in the West. In 763, Abd ar Rahman and his army of Western Muslims charged into battle to protect a land in which they were the minority against an attack by foreign Muslims. Their sacrifice preserved Cordoba and ensured that it would grow as a city whose strength was born of its diversity, not slavish devotion to corrupt clerics.
In our generation there is another city of unparalleled culture and diversity, whose stature in the world has caused corrupt figures in the East to grow envious of its prosperity and furious that its Muslims reject the dictators of the East.
In anger they struck out in hopes of destroying the great power in the West. But once again, as in 763, Western Muslims were among those who charged into the fray to protect a land in which they were the minority from an attack by foreign Muslims.
They were among the officers of the NYPD and NYFD who perished when the towers fell and among the soldiers of the US Armed Forces who answered the call to avenge the innocent. They are among the civilians who teach the young that great nations find strength in diversity rather than the slavish devotion to corrupt clerics as the 9/11 attackers believed.
The Cordoba House Project does not draw inspiration from a "Muslim conquest," but is more an effort to harken back to a time when Western Muslims worked together with their Christian and Jewish neighbors to create a golden age of diversity, culture and prosperity in a world riven by ignorance, fear and grotesque violence, and protect the city that came to symbolize their hopes for freedom, opportunity and tolerance.
Kevin Sharbaugh is a resident of Salamanca.