Source: Pajamas Media
The principal mosque in Rome has a surface area of 30,000 square meters and can hold thousands of believers. The Christian church of Mecca has a surface area of zero square meters and can hold zero believers. In fact, there is no Christian church in Mecca. In other words, Rome is an open city and Mecca is a closed city.
There has never been opposition by Muslims to the exclusive character of Mecca. Their main sanctuary is located there, and it is forbidden for non-believers to cross the city limits. No other sanctuary of any world religion is closed to members of different creeds. The Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Jews’ holiest site, can be visited by anyone — Muslims, Christians, or Buddhists. The Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, the center of the Roman Catholic religion, is open to any person that wishes to visit its splendor. Hindu and Buddhist temples welcome anyone who walks in, but not the Muslims’ main mosque.
Muslims claim that their religion contains the final message of God and that all other religions express falsehoods, lies, and distortions — which means that adherents to other religions cannot be accepted as equal human beings with the same rights. Churches are banned in Saudi Arabia. In “modern” Turkey, it is, in reality, impossible to renovate an old Christian church, let alone create one. In a traditional Islamic country, adherents of different religions who refuse to accept Muhammad as their prophet have to live a life with restrictions and special rules. They are the so-called “dhimmis” — people who believe in a single God but who should be treated with special restrictions because of their refusal to follow the prophet Muhammad.
In the Western world, Muslims claim the same rights as other believers. Although it is perfectly normal to them that their holiest site is forbidden to non-believers, they demand that nations in which other religions dominate grant them space and opportunity to build their mosques. The idea that this could be reciprocal is virtually unknown in Muslim communities since Islam is the superior creed and, by Allah’s word, should reign over the earth and over all the other religions.
Reciprocity would be like a denial of Allah’s word.
It speaks for itself that Muslims will try to build a mosque close to one of America’s most sacred sites, the area of the World Trade Center. They expect non-believers to step back and bow to their demands. The whole world should be open to Muslims, while in the Islamic world different religions should be restricted and controlled.
In The Jews of Islam, Bernard Lewis writes:
The claim to tolerance, now much heard from Muslim apologists and more especially from apologists for Islam, is also new and of alien origin. It is only very recently that some defenders of Islam have begun to assert that their society in the past accorded equal status to non-Muslims. No such claim is made by spokesmen for resurgent Islam, and historically there is no doubt that they are right. Traditional Islamic societies neither accorded such equality nor pretended that they were so doing. Indeed, in the old order, this would have been regarded not as a merit but as a dereliction of duty. How could one accord the same treatment to those who follow the true faith and those who willfully reject it? This would be a theological as well as a logical absurdity.
The people wishing to build a mosque close to where the World Trade Center towers fell, have called their organization the Cordoba Initiative. On its website, they state:
Cordoba Initiative (CI) aims to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions.
Cordoba refers to the Spanish town of Cordoba. In the 8th century, Muslims conquered the south of Spain and massacred many thousands of non-believers. Around 1100, the Muslim jurist Ibn Abdun formulated the following legal opinions:
No Jew or Christian may be allowed to wear the dress of an aristocrat, nor of a jurist, nor of a wealthy individual; on the contrary they must be detested and avoided. It is forbidden to [greet] them with the [expression], “Peace be upon you.” In effect, “Satan has gained possession of them, and caused them to forget God’s warning. They are the confederates of Satan’s party; Satan’s confederates will surely be the losers!” A distinctive sign must be imposed upon them in order that they may be recognized and this will be for them a form of disgrace.
In 1011, Muslims massacred the Jews of Cordoba. In 1066, in Granada, 4,000 Jews were killed in one day by Muslims. Despite the terrible bloodshed, there were periods of relative tolerance towards Christians and Jews in Al Andalus, but never based upon mutual recognition and respect but always under Muslim sovereignty.
However, the people behind the Cordoba Initiative can make a historic gesture. They should finance and build a multi-confessional center. In their building, they should create a church, a synagogue, Hindu and Buddhist temples, space for unbelievers, and a mosque, equal in size and importance, in order to honor the victims of 9/11. Only then do they show “mutual recognition and respect.”
But the most impressive gesture would be the creation of a church in Mecca. Muslims built a mosque in Rome, they have dozens of mosques in New York City, but they have cordoned off Mecca for non-Muslims. The Cordoba Initiative should build a church or a synagogue in Mecca. That is mutual recognition and respect with a lasting message. A mosque in New York for a church in Mecca.
Leon de Winter is a novelist and columnist for Elsevier Magazine in the Netherlands. His last novel, The Right of Return is a thriller set in Tel Aviv in 2024. He presently lives in Los Angeles.