Shelomo Alfassa: Beware the Cordoba Initiative

Roundup: Historians' Take


[Shelomo Alfassa is the former US director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries and a scholar of Judaic life in Islamic Spain. He lives in New York.]

The world should know that the ‘Cordoba Initiative,’ the New York City based organization desiring to construct a massive Islamic house of prayer at ‘Ground Zero,’ has posted on its website, a peculiar and disingenuous statement indicating the desire to bring back the atmosphere of, “interfaith tolerance and respect that we have longed for since Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony and prosperity eight hundred years ago.”

I point this out because contemporary scholarship has clearly demonstrated that there was no ‘harmony’ or ‘prosperity’ for non-Muslims in Islamic Spain. The Cordoba Initiative is attempting to revisit some sort of mythical “tolerance and respect” which never existed.

What is irrefutable is that living under Islam, the non-Muslim population was always mandated to submit to Islam, accept discriminatory laws, and make payment of a mandatory Quranic tax imposed upon every non-Muslim. For a period of about 800 years, most of Spain was ruled by Muslims and this area was known as ‘Al-Andalus.’ Islamic rule ended in 1492, when the city of Granada, the last Muslim kingdom in Western Europe, capitulated to the Spanish Catholics.

The Cordoba Initiative is an organization whose very name makes reference to what was, 1,000 years ago, one of the world’s most advanced cities, Cordoba, Al-Andalus (Spain). This was a city that was politically and religiously dominated by Islam, and a city that was conquered by jihad (holy war). Today, there are Islamic groups such as Al-Qaeda that have a dream of seeing a pan-Islamic world that would extend from old Al-Andalus (Spain). This is based upon Islam’s principle of dar-al-Islam, which means a world where Islamic sovereignty prevails over the citizenry. Dar-al-Islam is attained through jihad and the media is replete with Al- Qaeda’s calls for jihad and their claims to Al-Andalus and its major cities such as Cordoba.

Clearly, Islamic Cordoba was once a city where a number of intellectual Muslims such as Averroes (Ibn-Rushd), influenced European thought with Arab philosophy related to the scientific teachings of Aristotle. In mathematics, the Arabs built upon the foundations of Greek mathematicians. At one point there were dozens of free schools in Cordoba for the education of poor Arabs and at some point there existed some 600 mosques. However, even with all of this scholastic and societal grandeur, the route to get to such a point of magnificence was through violent warfare.

Not only were successive battles for Spanish cities bloody, but desiring more than Spain--the Arabs declared a jihad against France, then crossed the Pyrenees, and in successive swarms spread over the southern regions of the French countryside, slaughtering the Christians by thousands, and burning their churches to the ground before being halted.

We must remember that a practice associated with conquering Islamic armies was the construction of a mosque at the location where their triumphant battle was won. Thus, this modern Islamic organization is seeking to build a mosque at the site of 9/11 attack—an attack which was carried out by 19 Muslim hijackers who considered their mission holy war.

Insomuch, it is this man's opinion that a Muslim house of prayer that would be cemented in the ashes of catastrophe at the foot of New York's lost Twin Towers would be a symbolic victory flag for Muslims who seek the destruction of America. Further, it is my honest opinion that no matter how the construction of a mosque at ‘Ground Zero’ may be perceived by well-meaning Americans, the construction of a mosque on the spot where Al-Qaeda brought jihad to the United States will unquestionably represent victory to the worldwide forces of Radical Islam.