The Moment

8|3|10: New York

  • The last legal hurdle to an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site has been removed, but bigotry and politics may prove more formidable obstacles. New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission ruled that a building can be torn down to clear the way for Park 51, a cultural center and mosque. The project's critics range from those who believe Islam was the malevolent force that brought down the towers to opportunistic politicians. Ironically, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, the project's main movers, are precisely the kind of Muslim leaders conservative commentators should welcome: modernists who condemn the death cult of al-Qaeda. Rauf is a Sufi, Islam's most mystical and accommodating branch, yet he finds himself accused of extremist leanings. This browbeating of a moderate Muslim empowers the al-Qaeda narrative that the West loathes everything about Islam. As New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said, caving to Park 51's critics "would be to hand a victory to the terrorists." Rauf and Khan hope their project will promote greater interfaith dialogue. The furor underlines how much it is needed.