War on Terror

Cordoba: Not Just a Car With Fine Corinthian Leather

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Newt Gingrich claims the name of the Cordoba Initiative, the group planning to build an Islamic community center and mosque near the site of the World Trade Center, signals its aggressive, anti-Western aims:

The true intentions of [Imam Feisal Abdul] Rauf are also revealed by the name initially proposed for the Ground Zero mosque—"Cordoba House"—which is named for a city in Spain where a conquering Muslim army replaced a church with a mosque. This name is a very direct historical indication that the Ground Zero mosque is all about conquest and thus an assertion of Islamist triumphalism which we should not tolerate.

Gingrich says the failure to grasp the significance of the project's name illustrates the "historic [sic] ignorance of American elites," who "don't understand that 'Cordoba House' is a deliberately insulting term." Not surprisingly,  Rauf has a different, rather more plausible explanation: As a new article in the online Jewish magazine Tablet notes, he says the name alludes to the peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Christians, and Jews during the "Golden Age of Spain," when a caliphate based in Cordoba controlled most of the Iberian peninsula. According to Rauf, his group's name alludes to "the period between roughly 800 and 1200 CE, when the Cordoba Caliphate ruled much of today's Spain, and its name reminds us that Muslims created what was, in its era, the most enlightened, pluralistic, and tolerant society on earth." Although scholars continue to debate exactly how "enlightened, pluralistic, and tolerant" that regime was, its reputation makes it a natural symbol for moderate Muslims and does not in any way validate Gingrich's conflation of Rauf and his supporters with the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center.

The Tablet piece, which discusses how shifting perceptions of the Cordoba Caliphate have been shaped by ideology, is worth reading in full.

More on the mosque controversy here.