Daisy Khan is shocked. In a phone conversation with her minutes ago she said she couldn’t believe that what had started out as “a community center for everyone in the neighborhood, to scale up and build up people of all religions has become so skewed. It’s hard for us to imagine we are in the thick of a controversy like this. The Republicans are really going after us.”
Daisy Khan, along with her husband Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is one of the co-founders of Cordoba House, which has proposed to build a mosque more than two blocks from Ground Zero, causing a political and religious furor.
She says she and her husband will not back down. “There is too much at stake,” she says. “Constitutional rights, the development of the Muslims here, how the world is watching the United States. We tell people America upholds religious freedom. We should not compromise those values.”
Khan says that it is “evident that there is still healing that needs to happen. There are bigger issues here and it’s also about how Muslims are perceived. When will Muslims be accepted as plain old Americans?”
Khan says that there are huge ramifications to closing down or being forced to relocate. “We are debating about having a healing dialogue, building bridges and this whole thing has turned into the opposite of what we have envisioned. ” She says that they are now having discussions with 9/11 families. “We will have a dialogue with them. ” But she says, “It is private property. To walk away without taking everything into consideration would be irresponsible.”
Some of the most serious considerations, she says, are the fact that the publicity would hurt Muslims in the rest of the country and that religious freedom is under such serious attack. Not only that, but Khan says that the vilification of the plans for the mosque “have only strengthened our supporters. None of them have caved. They are circling the wagons around us. They know they could be next.” She mentioned supporters of all faiths.
As far as funding, fundraising has not yet begun because “On the advice of our attorneys we wanted to clear the civic hurdles first. Now that it is clear we find ourselves in the midst of this controversy.”
She and her husband have been in contact with Muslim communities across the United States. “It’s a major concern of the Muslim communities because it has sparked anti-Islam and anti-moque feelings everywhere. Six mosques have already been prevented from being established. We have to be careful about every step we take. There are huge stakes in this.”
She and her husband have been the target of major death threats since the controversy began and they are ramping up as is the hate mail. “We are working with the police on this.”
“What gives me strength,” she says, is that “we are in a history making moment. Our ideals must prevail. We have to fight for a bigger society.”
Daisy Khan says she is afraid these days to open the paper or turn on the TV. “It’s hard to see yourself portrayed this way daily. But to me it’s an indication that the post 9/11 controversy is not finished. It’s not over and neither is the healing. This is a teaching moment. A healing moment.”
Her husband Imam Feisal is on a State Department tour around the Middle East. She says that so far they have not had too much interest from the Muslim community abroad but that the ones who they have heard from are waiting to see what will happen. “I am sure while the imam is abroad that that will generate interest in the subject.”
As for now, “We have too important a moment to back down. We have to take our opponents and transform them. We have to convince people that not all Muslims are extremists. We have to educate them on being able to distinguish between us and on the issue of Islamophobia. This is a bigger fight. This is a defining moment for us”