The Imam in the middle of the Ground Zero mosque controversy finally spoke about the issue Wednesday by publishing a New York Times op-ed without once mentioning the overwhelming public opposition to the location of this Islamic center.
Somewhat curiously, he didn't even refer to last week's poll by the Times finding two-thirds of New York city residents against the building of such a facility two blocks from where radical Islamists killed thousands of innocent people almost exactly nine years ago.
But that didn't stop Feisal Abdul Rauf from putting a happy face on an issue that has deeply saddened much of the nation he is also a citizen of:
We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House. More important, we are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for many reasons.
Yes, but not with the support of the very community this mosque would serve. Let me remind the Imam of what the very paper he wrote in Wednesday reported just five days prior:
The poll, however, reveals a more complicated portrait of the opposition in New York: 67 percent said that while Muslims had a right to construct the center near ground zero, they should find a different site.
Most strikingly, 38 percent of those who expressed support for the plan to build it in Lower Manhattan said later in a follow-up question that they would prefer it be moved farther away, suggesting that even those who defend the plan question the wisdom of the location.
Weeks prior, a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found similar opposition nationwide.
How could a man claiming his "life's work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups" not recognize in his call for unity the overwhelming opposition to this mosque from the very people he says he wants to build bridges between?
Shouldn't the beginning of such a process be to validate the existence of powerful resistance and concern?
By ignorning the volume and intensity of these sentiments, the Imam was actually offending those that possess them. Instead, he continued to make his pitch like a salesman ignoring negative feedback from his prospects:
Our broader mission - to strengthen relations between the Western and Muslim worlds and to help counter radical ideology - lies not in skirting the margins of issues that have polarized relations within the Muslim world and between non-Muslims and Muslims. It lies in confronting them as a joint multifaith, multinational effort.
From the political conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians to the building of a community center in Lower Manhattan, Muslims and members of all faiths must work together if we are ever going to succeed in fostering understanding and peace.
Great thoughts indeed, but you can only convert your opponents by recognizing their existence. By ignoring them, you run the risk of further alienating those you claim to be reaching out to.
With this in mind, if Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal had any input to what Rauf wrote before it was published, one has to wonder if he suggested to the Imam that it might be a good idea to mention last Friday's poll. He may have balanced this by referring to the Times own editorial the same day wherein the Gray Lady spoke in favor of the mosque despite the poll's findings.
After all, the absence of both suggests regardless of the optimistic title "Building on Faith," either Rauf had little faith his readers could handle the truth or he is refusing to face it himself.
Whichever the reality, it didn't paint a picture of a religious figure trying to build bridges.
As a result, this op-ed might act to further the divide concerning this mosque rather than unify a nation with many remaining questions about its possible construction.