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September 9, 2010

Column #1,515

The Solution to the Mosque Dilemma

By Mike McManus

                I have the perfect solution to the problem of building a 15-story mosque and community center two blocks from Ground Zero where two planes crashed into the World Trade Center.

                Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who wants to build the center, told his side of the story for the first time on Larry King Live, interviewed by Soledad O’Brien. He asserted, “I have been an imam, in a mosque 10 blocks from the site, serving that community for a quarter of a century.

                “A member of my congregation, who knew we needed more space, found this building, acquired it, and offered it for us to establish a center.  I’ve had a vision for 15-20 years to create a center which embodies the fundamental beliefs that we have, as do Christians and Jews, to love our God and our neighbor.  We want to get to know each other and forge personal bonds.”

                Soledad interjected, “There is a lot of anger about building it on that site.  Why not go someplace else.”

                “I understand the sensitivity of the people, and am very concerned about it. We have reached out to many of the families (who lost relatives). This story broke last December on the front page of the New York Times, and no one objected.   The controversy began in May, when some politicians decided to use it for political purposes.  It has been politicized and is now dangerous and tragic.”

                Soledad noted that 71 percent of Americans in polls oppose the mosque at that site.

                The Imam responded, “I have a responsibility.  If we moved from that location, the headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack. I am less concerned about radicals in this country than I am about radicals abroad. I am concerned about our national security and that of our troops.  I have a niece with the Army in Iraq. 

                “I am concerned for Americans who live and work and travel.  If the radicals are strengthened, it will strengthen their ability to recruit.”

                Fareed Zakariah, who hosts his own CNN show, told Anderson Cooper that the Imam has a point that if he gave in, after a “Christian” pastor burns the Koran in Florida, that “Osama Bin Laden will use it to manipulate public opinion, as was done with the Danish cartoon.” 

                In a column published Wednesday by The New York Times, Imam Feisal wrote, “We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House.  More important, are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels, and leaders from across the religious spectrum.”

                After spending the last two weeks on a State Department tour of the Middle East, his sixth trip, he noted, “President Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg both spoke out in support of our project.  As I traveled overseas, I saw firsthand how their words and actions made a tremendous impact on the Muslim street and on Muslim leaders.  It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims.”

                Soledad asked, “Didn’t you think this would be controversial?”  Again he noted that no one objected for months, and that his goal was to create “an atmosphere of peace.”

                She asked whether the controversy suggests he was mistaken? 

                He acknowledged, “There is no doubt that it has become such a bad situation. Had I known that would happen, I would never have done so, creating more divisiveness.”

                Fareed Zakariah commented he “is a moderate who is looking for a way out, a face-saving gesture.”

                I have the face-saving gesture.  Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein reported in The New York Post this week that “The original owners of the Ground Zero mosque site mysteriously spurned dozens of higher bids before selling the prime downtown location at a bargain basement price.”  For example, New York developer Kevin Glodek offered $18 million cash for the former Burlington Coat Factory, but the owners did not respond. Glodeck wants to build a 60-story condo tower on the site. He was livid when he heard it was sold it for $4.8 million to the Imam’s friend.

                Here’s my solution: The Imam sells the property to Glodek for $18 million, making a cool $13.2 million profit, that he can use to build his mosque/community center ten blocks away.

                I called Glodek at 10:45 Wednesday night, and he said, “We are brainstorming that.  I am ready, willing and able to proceed.”

                Muslims around the world would understand. Imam Feisal would emerge as a hero, and the sacred soil of the 9/ll site would not be overshadowed by a mosque, but a by a condo tower.

                Everyone wins.

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