Volume 23, Number 4 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | June 4 - 10, 2010

TALKING POINT

A Tradition of Tolerance: Welcoming Cordoba House

By Jean Bergantini Grillo and Paul Newell

Speaking at last week’s Community Board 1 meeting on Cordoba House was both distressing and heartening. Distressing because too many voices were raised in anger, too many names were called. Heartening because our community ultimately embraced tolerance over division and neighborliness over exclusion.

No one in this community has any illusions about the dangers we face in this world. We lived through the attacks of 9/11 and years of rebuilding. Many of us responded that day and afterwards – including dozens of members of Imam Rauf’s congregation. Our neighbors at Sufi Books (now Dergah Al-Farah), which has been on West Broadway since 1983, responded immediately and passionately in our neighborhood’s and our country’s defense – by helping to save lives at the site of the attack and by immediately condemning the terrorists and their cause. Rauf recently described his mission as to “embolden the vast majority of Muslims who hate terrorism to stand up to the radical rhetoric” and to “interweave America’s Muslim population into the mainstream society.”

When Ms. Grillo leads tours as a docent for the 9/11 Tribute Center, she asks visitors from all over the world to focus on the word “tolerance.” What better place to teach tolerance than near the site where hate tried to kill it?

Lower Manhattan has always thrived precisely because we are a tolerant, welcoming community. It is no coincidence that the World Trade Center was built here - nor that extremists attacked this symbol of globalism and pluralism. It would be a danger to our economic and cultural future if we were to reject thoroughly legal projects based on faith. When the 92nd Street Y was looking for a downtown home, no one asked if Jewish prayer services were to be held there. We embraced the investment in our community. Indeed, after eight years of growth and recovery, now is no time to turn away such a project. Like the 92nd Street Y, Cordoba House will bring jobs, money and services our community desperately needs.

A thousand years ago, Cordoba was one of the most dynamic cities on earth. It housed the world’s largest library. The great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides called the city home. It was a global center of trade and culture where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in prosperous harmony. Eleventh century Cordoba’s modern counterpart is New York City. We embrace that legacy and our neighborhood’s future. We welcome Cordoba House to Lower Manhattan.

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