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September 8th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

My take: The Imam Feisal I know

Editor's Note: Eboo Patel, Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based organization building interfaith cooperation and is author of Acts of Faith. Follow him at @EbooPatel. CNN's Soledad O'Brien has an exclusive interview with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on "Larry King Live" Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET. Submit questions for the imam via iReport here.

By Eboo Patel, Special to CNN

The first time I saw Imam Feisal - the man behind the proposed Islamic center in New York - speak was at a church.

He opened with the line, “My dear brothers and sisters.” His message was clear and simple: Islam is a faith of peace and pluralism, that above all Muslims believe in loving God and in loving our neighbor and that this is the most powerful common ground Muslims share with Christians and Jews.

He quoted from the Quran, the Constitution and the Bible.

The second time I saw Imam Feisal speak was at a Jewish conference.

He opened with the lines, “My dear brothers and sisters.” His message was clear and simple: Islam is a faith of peace and pluralism, that above all Muslims believe in loving God and loving our neighbor and that this is the most powerful common ground Muslims share with Christians and Jews.

He quoted from the Quran, the Constitution and the Hebrew scriptures.

The third time I saw Imam Feisal speak was at a Muslim conference. He opened with the same line, quoted the same sources, got the same response: love and respect.

I have seen Imam Feisal speak a dozen times, from largely Muslim audiences in London, to largely Christian audiences in upstate New York, from an audience of grassroots interfaith leaders in Louisville, to an audience of political heavyweights in Washington.

His message is always the same. His demeanor is always gentle. His audience always leaves enriched and inspired.

I have prayed with Imam Feisal, waking up at dawn to face Mecca and repeat, “In the name of God, the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful.”

I have envisioned the future of Islam with Imam Feisal, talking about the emergence of a distinctly American Islam, a faith community that is simultaneously true to its tradition and making significant contributions to its country.

“This is what happened to Catholics and Jews in America,” Imam Feisal would explain. “The change was good for those religions and it was good for this nation.”

He would talk about Jewish hospitals and Catholic universities as models, institutions that had been founded by faith communities but that served the common good of the country.

This is what Muslims have to do in America, too, he would say. We need to put the spirit of our faith - peace, pluralism, mercy, generosity, beauty - into the form of an American institution, one that serves people of all backgrounds.

Imam Feisal has spent much of his time with young Muslim professionals, counseling couples considering marriage, coaxing Muslims to learn more about their own faith and conveying the privileges and responsibilities of American citizenship.

He has lived all over the world and has a deeply personal sense of how special the United States is. Imam Feisal believes that God wants the human family in all its diversity to flourish, that America is the world’s best opportunity to realize this divine possibility and that Muslims have much to contribute to the American project.

Looking back, I can see glimpses of the vision of Cordoba House - Imam Feisal’s proposed Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan - in my conversations with him over the years.

Patterned after a Jewish community center, the Islamic center is meant to be the American institution into which Muslims could pour their energies and serve their country.

It has been shocking to watch that vision twisted, its founder smeared.

But Imam Feisal is not the first person in history this has happened to. Mahatma Gandhi was called seditious, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela branded dangerous communists.

Each of them, in the spirit of their respective religions, forgave their tormenters and achieved their dream.

I have no doubt that Imam Feisal will do the same.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Eboo Patel.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Interfaith issues • Islam • Mosque • Muslim • New York • Opinion • United States

soundoff (145 Responses)
  1. Iqbal khan

    See what they are saying...

    http://patriotsquestion911.com/

    October 8, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  2. Iqbal khan

    Please check this...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poiUCIHpt1k&feature=related

    October 8, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
  3. Ames F. Tiedeman

    Islam is the largest totalitarian regime the world has ever known. The West should stop importing these people and start deporting them. I am sick and tired of hearing all the liberals speak of America being the land of freedom for all religions. Last I checked we didn't much like the religions of the American Indian. In fact we forced them to take Christian names and when this didn't work in their conversion process we put them on reservations or worse, we sent in the U.S. Cavalry. Do you think Islam would have been accepted in Jamestown in 1629? Would William Penn have appreciated Islam? What would William Bradford think of a religion that advocated the killing of non believers? America does not have to accept Islam any more than is had to accept Communism. In fact Islam is a greater threat t to the survival or American Civilization as we know it than the USSR every was. Russia was not going to go to war with America over religion. The Russians were rational. They were not Islamic mad men. The Cold War was a giant chess match with rules. Dealing with Islam is mess with no rules. Why do we even engage these people? They should be isolated and blocked from humanity. Do you want to see women in the obscene Berka at your local mall? Our women wear skirts, not the Berka! Islam is not my civilization. The reason we have countries and boudaries and borders is so we do not have to live with people, countries, and civilizations that we do not respect nor want to be associated with. Islam and the West do not mesh. Go study the Battle of Vienna and the Surge of Vienna. We already went down this road to a degree. It didn't work. I hate re-runs and this is the greatest re-run of all time. I read today that Prince Harry is under threat. When does Britain wake up. Why not deport every Muslim from England right now. Why wait for London to be hit or Prince Harry to be harmed. Get on with it. Get Islam out of Western Civilization....

    October 4, 2010 at 7:48 am |
    • Muneef

      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      If ye have received a blow, the (disbelieving) people have received a blow the like thereof. These are (only) the vicissitudes which We cause to follow one another for mankind, to the end that Allah may know those who believe and may choose witnesses from among you; and Allah loveth not wrong-doers. (140) And that Allah may prove those who believe, and may blight the disbelievers. (141)
      Sura 03:140-141   

      October 8, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  4. Satheesan Kochicheril

    Religious fundamentalism is a psychic disorder that is being created by the people who control the consciousness of the followers. Whether in the prosperous America where all followers of the faith can attain material success, or elsewhere this has become a problem with the fundamentalists. Islam under the present leadership has taken a departure from what the Prophet preached. What the Prophet demanded was living on the relationship with the System of Life that controls our life. He called the System the Truth, like many other enlightened ones. Faith in God is faith in the System of God/Truth, which is living intellectually and emotionally in relationship with the System which is Nature. The demand came at a time when the people around him were depending on their faiths to manage life. Degradation of consciousness takes place when the mind gets taken over by the elements that we make based on our reasoning. Such products are external to life, what is internal is our relationship with life and its relations. Life is supported by the products of the System that are necessary for the maintanance of life. This way of life really expresses our spirituality. Spirituality can be had only by living in relationship with the System of God. What ails the believers is the externals to life such as the religious techniques that the preachers assert as the signs of faith. Islam has thus deviated from the enlightened vision of the Prophet, for that there is only one remedy- enlighten the followers of the demands of the Prophet which are different from the religious preachings of islam. for more visit http://www.purereason.org

    September 13, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  5. regal

    please Can someone ask the Imam WHY CHRISTIAN ARE NOT ALLOWED TO WEAR CROSS IN SAUDI ARABIA WHY????WE CAN NOT EVEN MENTION THAT WE WANT TO BUILD A CHURCH, FOR ALL THE CHRISTIAN EX PAT.
    MUSLIM YOU ARE WELCOME TO BUILD MOSQ ANY WHERE AND YOU ARE DOING ANY WAY, BUT IN THE SAME TIME VICE VERS SHOULD BE THERE .

    September 13, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  6. CoSa1

    @Reality it shows u had very sad life when u were bought up by ur family as they didnt teach u anything abt respecting other religions and 2nd u dnt the knw anything abt islam so stay shtum ok ...................get a life ...loser

    September 11, 2010 at 8:24 am |
  7. alaa

    Please read:

    FOR MUSLIM AND NONE.

    I strongly urge all Islamic communities in all over USA to stand united against this project and show the true face of our religion. I truly believe this is a moment of truth for all Muslims to confirm that Islam is religion of peace, love, forgiveness, tolerance, sympathy and considerations. It is great opportunity
    now to restore the American people confidence in Islam, as the religion of doing what right. It is now or never.

    Let me remind my brothers and sisters and all people that Islam does not belong to us, so let keep Islam pure and out of politics games and out of the endless conflict and wars between minority / majority, ethnicities and religions.
    Building the Islamic center shows the American people no sympathy or considerations for the tragedy of 9/11 and makes Islam and Muslims look bad, so if we truly condemn terrorism then let not continue what the terrorist started, and that is distorting the true message of Islam.

    Brothers and sisters: I truly believe it is the time to reexamine our leadership in every community all over USA, and if that leadership is just people like us and doing what we want them to do, then we really need to reexamine our selves. Let remember that the leadership must be held accountable for their decisions, especially when these decisions are hurting Islam, Muslims and others in USA, as the decision of building the center will lead to.

    There is agenda for those people who are paying the $100 million and it is clear to every one of us as Muslims, this agenda is to make our lives harder and harder in USA and make Islam very disgusting religion to others,?.

    I will say loudly, that is not fair to us. How long more we will let this corrupted leadership of us to do harm to Islam and Muslim and Americans, they did it to us back homes and made our countries unbearable place to live and they drove us to leave our families and come to USA, and now they are doing it to us hear in USA .

    It is the time now to separate our selves from them; it is the right time to tell them to their faces STOP! YOU DON’T REPRESENT ISLAM OR MUSLIMS , WE ARE AGIANST YOUR CORREPTION AND WE ARE SIDING WITH THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
    Please speak up brothers and sisters, especially whom of you who lives in New York.

    Islam has greatness in him and if we fail to show it to others, then we fail Islam and ourselves.

    I want every American to know that there a lot of Muslims out there who share with me those Ideas and there voices yet to be herd.

    Please brothers and sister post your opinions and let the others know the true Islam.

    Alaa
    posted on 08/25/2010.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
  8. Grai Mann

    Untill last night I didn't care one way or another about the mosque. I feel sorry for the families but decency has long been a victim of politics in this country.
    That was until I saw the Imam's interview last night.
    Now I think that it should be bulldozed and put in a public toilet. You can still call it Cordoba House.

    September 9, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  9. Lawrence of Arabia

    So, Americans must be politically correct in the handling of the Muslim mosque in NYC and allow it to prove that we are tolerant of all peoples and religions of the world. We must also allow it because there will be a huge "backlash" from Muslim extremists if we do not allow it. Right?

    Will America bow to such extortion and lack of reason? Oh, you say, only Muslim extremists are the problem, not the moderate or peaceful Muslims that are pouiring into our country. Where are the voices of the moderate or peaceful Muslims when atrocities in the name of Allah are committed around the world AND in America, which has happened on numerous occasions in recent history. They have been ominously silent.

    When the Muslim "religion", if you wish to call it that, is scrutinized closely, it is discovered that it is a filthy, ugly, hateful kidealogy whose single objective is to control all countries of the world and either subjugate those who disagree with them or do away with them completely by whatever means. After all, that is what their Prophet Muhammud taught and is also what is clearnly taught in their "holy" book. No wonder "Pastor Jones" is ticked off.

    America, WAKE UP!

    Any idealogy whose prophet (supposedly a direct representative of their supreme being) was a pedophile and clearly followed Sharia law, which allows a grown man to marry a one year old girl and consummate the marriage when the giirl reaches 9 years of age – – any such idealogy – – no matter what any Imam (using U.S. taxpayer's money to travel abroad) may claim or say is, first of all against the law in the United States of America and is entitled to no tolerance whatsoever, but prosecution. Or perhaps we, as Americans, should allow such acts in the name of tolerance and just look the other way.

    Any idealogy whose Sharia law allows a man to beat his wife with or without a reason cannot be tolerated in America. Sharia law also allows such a man to have 4 wives at once in addition to a temporary one. Last time I checked bigamy is not a legally acceptable practice in the United States.

    Wake up America! We have a Trojan Horse in our midst and the horse has already been accepted in such places as Dearborn, Michigan.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:26 am |
    • JS

      Good attempt at fear mongering .

      Washington Irving 'Mahomet and His Successors' writes about Prophet Muhammad PBUH .

      He was sober and abstemious in his diet and a rigorous observer of fasts. He indulged in no magnificence of apparel, the ostentation of a petty mind; neither was his simplicity in dress affected but a result of real disregard for distinction from so trivial a source.
      In his private dealings he was just. He treated friends and strangers, the rich and poor, the powerful and weak, with equity, and was beloved by the common people for the affability with which he received them, and listened to their complaints.

      His military triumphs awakened no pride nor vain glory, as they would have done had they been effected for selfish purposes. In the time of his greatest power he maintained the same simplicity of manners and appearance as in the days of his adversity. So far from affecting a regal state, he was displeased if, on entering a room, any unusual testimonials of respect were shown to him. If he aimed at a universal dominion, it was the dominion of faith; as to the temporal rule which grew up in his hands, as he used it without ostentation, so he took no step to perpetuate it in his family.

      "Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion, nor drove you out of your homes. Indeed, Allah loves those who deal with equity" The Holy Qur'an, Chapter 60, Verse 8.

      "...If anyone killed a person not in retaliation for murder or to spread mischief in the land, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind. And (likewise) if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole of mankind" The Holy Qur'an, Chapter 5, Verse 32.

      Thus, all other types of extremities such as hostage taking, hijacking and planting bombs in public places, are clearly forbidden in Islam.

      September 9, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  10. Sam

    I think we have to return to the doctrine and read the doctrine.
    I would build a school that teaches tolerance.
    I think we should build a place where violence doesn’t exist.
    I don’t think that you have a modern Islam and radical Islam, or modern Christian and radical Christian.
    If it is written in the book, the instruction of the doctrine is dictating what is the doctrine is about.
    We have to build a center where everyone can learn about the religion of the other. Good and bad and talk about it freely.
    I think this is the situation, if tolerance is the objective, the solution shall be a discussion center where we discuss with all freedom our opinion and discuss freely our ideas. It is about freedom. ok! let’s build something where we can teach and learn.
    Library, with religion discussion center, Why not build all religions tramples together one floor each.
    If someone is sad about Koran, they should read it loud and discuss what they are sad about, and make it public through this center instead of burning it.
    I think this is not a civilized way to discuss by burning something valuable for someone else. I am Christian and I believe that we have to teach radicals persons what Christianity is about. Christianity is about love, transformation through the love and the faith.
    Being a Christian is not to be submitted. Love the other doesn’t mean to be a looser!. I think radical person they are missing education, insurances, let’s open the public to the Christianity and other faith. Let’s not forget that Christians are dying daily in Egypt and Arabic Saudi because they can’t practice freely there religion. We need to educate radical Muslim especially wahabist about Christianity and change judgment that they have about Christianity ex that we don’t worship one God...or that we don’t worship pictures and structures... ect. By knowing the other, you get more confident to accept the other.
    For American too they will learn that the first part of the Koran is very similar to our bible. They are different because they believe about the human nature of Jesus and not the divine one like the church of Arabic Saudi long time ago.
    If this is downtown center and should accept every American.
    Why don`t we build the international religion center where all religions in the world can have a place, they should worship with love. This is the best solution ever.
    The solution is an international center.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:01 am |
    • Sam

      Sam
      I think we have to return to the doctrine and read the doctrine.
      I would build a school that teaches tolerance.
      I think we should build a place where violence doesn’t exist.

      I don’t think that you have a modern Islam and radical Islam, or modern Christian and radical Christian.
      If it is written in the book, the instruction of the doctrine is dictating what is the doctrine is about.

      We have to build a center where everyone can learn about the religion of the other, the difference between Good and bad for each, and talk about it freely. I think this is the situation, if tolerance is the objective, the solution shall be a discussion center where we discuss with all freedom our opinion and discuss freely our ideas. It is about freedom. ok! let’s build something where we can teach and learn.

      In addition to the center, a Library with no restrictions on books, with religion discussion center, Why not build all religions temples together one floor each.

      If someone is sad about Koran, they should read it loud and discuss what they are sad about, and make it public through this center instead of burning it.
      I think this is not a civilized way to discuss by burning something valuable for someone else. I am Christian and I believe that we have to teach radicals persons what Christianity is about. Christianity is about love, transformation through the love and the faith.

      But, being a Christian is not to be submitted. Love the other doesn’t mean to be a looser!. We have to stand up for our values and teaching them louder. I think radical person they are missing education, insurances. Let’s open the public to the Christianity and other faith. Let’s not forget that Christians are dying daily in Egypt and Arabic Saudi because they can’t practice freely there religion. We need to educate radical Muslim especially wahabist about Christianity and change judgment that they have about Christianity and the wrong ideas ex that we worship more than one God., they don’t know that we have one god (Father, Sun and Wholly Spirit are the same God) , they don’t know that we fast every Wednesday and Friday in our live, and 40 days in Easter, and 2 other months, they don’t know that we don’t adore pictures and structures... ect. By knowing the other, they will start to accept Christianity better,
      Education is better than attacking suspect terrorists and killing innocents then creating other terrorists because all the bad economy that ware is bringing to the attacked country.
      We should teach them. By knowing the other you get more confident to accept the other. When you feel the pain of the others, you can understand them.

      For American too they will learn that the first part of the Koran is very similar to our bible. They are different because they believe about the human nature of Jesus and not the divine one like the church of Arabic Saudi long time ago.
      If this is downtown center and should accept every American.
      Why don’t we build the international religion center where all religions in the world can have a place, they should worship with love. This is the best solution ever.
      The solution is an international center of religions with a discussion center and with a TV station where you may be connected through internet to discuss and you can be connected with complete confidentiality.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:47 am |
  11. leciat

    so now he is martin luther king jr and nelson mandela rolled into one? right cause muslims are the new african americans cause they have not been allowed to build any mosque and do not have the same rights as every other us citizen. now ameirca is the great apartheid satan of the world.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:38 am |
  12. Meiguo

    The Islamic Center should be built as proposed last December. After watching Larry King and listening to what the imam had to say, I believe that this cultural center should be built. We live in America, our country stands for freedom. If we don't build this mosque we will be against everything that our country is.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  13. Margaret Hurrle

    The feelings of the surviving relatives of 9/11 victims should take precedence over everyone else, when it comes to the building of the mosque in N.Y. Period...That is the least we can do for these poor people who have suffered such unspeakable loss.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:01 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.