SOON after the 9/11 outrage in 2001 that destroyed the Twin Towers in New York with the loss of 3'000 lives, an organisation called the Cordoba Initiative was set up to build bridges between moderate Islam and the West. One of its projects has been a new mosque on a site just two blocks from where the Twin Towers stood. The proposal has drawn extremely strong opposition from Republican politicians, families of those killed in 9/11 and even from the Anti-Defamation League which usually fights bigotry and anti-Semitism.

This week those opposed to the mosque attempted to persuade New York's Landmark Commission to put a protection order on an unused building which stands on the site of the proposed mosque; the Commission voted 9--0 against doing so. New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the outcome, saying that the issue was “as important a test of separation of church and state as any we may see in our lifetime and it is critically important that we get it right.” Then, speaking more like your typical Big Apple first citizen, he said, “Everything the United States stands for, New York stands for, is tolerance and openness.”

One of the saddest results of 9/11 has been that it has led many Americans to abandon the principles of tolerance and inclusion on which their country's greatness is based. New York's example shows that such principles still stand.


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