I was born in pre-revolutionary Iran. My family led a largely secular existence -- I did not attend a religious school, I never wore a headscarf -- but for us, as for anyone there, Islam was part of our heritage, our culture, our entire lives. Though I have nothing but contempt for the fanaticism that propelled the terrorists to carry out their murderous attacks on Sept. 11, I still have great respect for the faith. Yet, I worry that the construction of the Cordoba House Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site would not promote tolerance or understanding; I fear it would become a symbol of victory for militant Muslims around the world.
I greatly respect the feelings of those who lost loved ones on 9/11 which was perpetrated in the name of Islam and who oppose this project. Personally, if I had $100 million to build a mosque that promotes interfaith tolerance, I would not build it in Manhattan. I d build it in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. That is where 9/11 came from, and those are the countries that espouse the most puritanical version of Sunni Islam - a version that shows little tolerance not only for other religions but for other strands of Islam, particularly Shiite, Sufi and Ahmadiyya Islam. You can study Islam at virtually any American university, but you can t even build a one-room church in Saudi Arabia.