Interfaith at Ground Zero

September 17, 2010

Author: Diana Eck

Source: The Harvard Crimson

Since Sept. 11, the interfaith movement has grown exponentially in American cities, towns, and college campuses, including Harvard. Among these interfaith initiatives, is the Cordoba Initiative of Feisal Abdul Rauf. So how is it that one of America's leading Muslim advocates of closer interfaith relations between Muslims, Christians, and Jews is now at the center of the controversy dubbed "the mosque at Ground Zero?" Many Americans heard Imam Feisal Rauf in person for the first time on CNN just last week. But those of us involved in interfaith work have heard him for many years. His book, “What's Right with Islam is What's Right with America,” has been read in classes, like my own, and in book clubs and study groups. I first met Imam Rauf when both of us spoke at an interfaith forum at the United Nations some five years ago. He was excited then about the Cordoba Initiative, a vision that comes from the period in the history of Spain when Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived together in cultural and religious harmony and creativity. It was called the convivencia, the "living together." Now more than ever, we need a new era of convivencia—especially here in the U.S. The creation of Cordoba House was to be a place for that vision, and it was a plan that won the support of Jewish leaders, such as Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue and Rabbi Joy Levitt of the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, as well as Christian leaders in the city's seminaries and the National Council of Churches. When the plan for Cordoba House was announced last December, Imam Rauf said, "We want to push back against the extremists." He has walked that walk for many years.