Much has been written (most of it worthless) on the controversy over the Cordora House in New York. Build or no build. I have written on it. I’m positive that I haven’t changed anyone’s mind.
Matthew Alexander adds his voice to chorus.
The Cordoba House would be a powerful symbol of U.S. tolerance and freedom that will stand in direct contradiction to al Qaeda’s narrative that Americans hate Muslims. As a symbol, its construction demonstrates that the U.S. is not at war with Islam and that Muslims are welcome in America. It communicates a message of moderation that stands in stark contrast to al Qaeda’s bankrupt ideology.
As I discovered as a high-level interrogator of al Qaeda members in Iraq, symbols like this matter. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the policy of torture and abuse handed al Qaeda its number one recruiting tool. Those who think al Qaeda will not be able to spin this controversy to their advantage are disastrously mistaken — but it can be a victory for America as well.
The political uproar over the Cordoba project, and in particular the use of harmful, bigoted rhetoric by some opportunists, leaves America facing a choice. It can project one of two symbols: One of integration, acceptance and positive affirmation of American values; or one of intolerance, rejection, and animosity. The former will work to undermine al Qaeda as part of a long-term strategy to defeat them. The latter will bolster Islamic extremists’ arguments that America is an intolerant country hell-bent on war with Islam, aid recruitment efforts and add support for more terrorist attacks.
The choice is obvious. Let’s build the Cordoba House.