BECAUSE IT NEEDS TO BE READ: Mansoor Ijaz is a “voice of reason” among the name callers and bigots on both sides of this “increasingly polarizing debate.”
I am an American by birth, a Muslim by faith and a New Yorker at heart — I’ve lived and breathed the vibrancy of that greatest city in the world for more than 25 years. Educated at Harvard and MIT and blessed with a Wall Street career that has lasted nearly three decades, I can truly say I have lived the American dream.
A defender of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, I have worked for 20 years to strengthen our democracy by creating a legitimate role and voice for millions of American Muslims. I am an American first, and then a Muslim. I negotiated Sudan’s offer of counterterrorism assistance to the Clinton administration in 1996 when Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri and their Muslim Brotherhood followers were still a manageable threat. I reached compromise with the most virulent of Muslim extremists in Kashmir in the summer of 2000 to bring about a comprehensive ceasefire there with Indian security forces. And I helped our government unravel the illicit nuclear arms bazaar of Pakistani scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan from 2000 until he confessed in February 2004. In short, I know every kind of Muslim — radical, modern, activist, pacifist, terrorist and most of all, the hypocrites. I know what they want, how they intend to get it and why they use the methods they do to achieve their goals.
To many of my fellow Americans, my record in dealing with Islam’s many faces made me a lonely voice of reason in the vast sea of darkness that has engulfed Muslim believers since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. To those who considered themselves Muslim first while living in America, I became an "Uncle Abdullah" — an apologist living among infidels who sought to appease them rather than practice our faith strictly. This criticism, it turns out, was leveled by Muslims who were the worst of Islam’s hypocrites because they sought to exploit America’s freedoms while planning its destruction.
That is why I can say it is wrong to erect one of Islam’s most sacred symbols — a mosque — anywhere near Ground Zero.
Cordoba House, as the Ground Zero Islamic Center is to be named, should not be cast as an issue of religious tolerance in America, or the right of American Muslims to build a mosque. It should be cast as a question first of American Muslim responsibility in fixing what has gone wrong inside Islam. Muslims living in America should make clear to their fellow Americans that they understand the cultural and emotional wounds left open by the terrorist attacks.
Neither Cordoba House’s detractors nor its supporters understand this central point in the increasingly polarizing debate.
Read the full story on the Washington Post website: Guest Voices: US Muslims should be American first – On Faith at washingtonpost.com