Cordoba House is not some sudden and new issue, but the latest attempt by the Republican Party to displace meaningful political debate with pitch-fork-and-torches style mass hysteria.
The themes of these newest wave of delirium are familiar: Muslim conspiracy; infiltration by foreign terrorists; Liberal collusion.
Are we a nation ruled by mass hysteria — a nation that sees conspiracy behind every unfamiliar face? Or are we a nation that raises above the tyranny of the mob roused to rid the village of those in league with the Devil? Those are the questions that the Mayor and President should have asked, but nobody seems to be asking them.
When mass hysteria has been allowed in the past to drive public policy it lead inexorably to shameful results that destroyed lives and weakened democratic society.
Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam, which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. But in the eyes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he is an infidel-loving, grave-worshiping apostate; they no doubt regard him as a legitimate target for assassination.
For such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam — accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and nonbelievers — and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West.
The great Sufi saints like the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi held that all existence and all religions were one, all manifestations of the same divine reality. What was important was not the empty ritual of the mosque, church, synagogue or temple, but the striving to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart: that we all can find paradise within us, if we know where to look. In some ways Sufism, with its emphasis on love rather than judgment, represents the New Testament of Islam.