August 21, 2010 4:54 am

Prejudices overcome facts in the Cordoba House wrangle

From Mr Carl R. Guerrero.

Sir, Newt Gingrich claims that the Great Mosque of Córdoba was a symbol of Islamic conquest (as quoted in “Zero tolerance”, Life & Arts, August 14).

It is true that the mosque, now a World Heritage site, replaced a Christian church in the 8th century before becoming a cathedral itself five centuries later, after the Christian reconquest.

However, virtually every historian regards the period when Córdoba was under Muslim rule as a golden age of religious tolerance, at least until the middle of the 12th century, when Muslim Spain was taken over by Islamic fundamentalists.

The distortions and falsehoods being directed against the backers of the Cordoba House (or Park 51) Islamic centre in New York have less to do with religious history than with prejudice against unpopular minorities, which is all too common in times of economic anxiety. Jews and African-Americans were the targets of increased hatred during the Great Depression. Muslims and Hispanic immigrants are in that unenviable position today.

Ironically, the Islamic system of finance, which offers alternative ways to control the excessive greed and risk-taking that are being blamed for the recent economic crisis, is now coming into vogue in the west (“Islamic banks urged to show west the sharia way forward”, March 3 2009). There is an advertisement in my FT on August 14 for an Islamic Financial Intelligence Summit to take place this November in London (which has not exactly been immune from terror attacks itself).

Is it totally beyond imagination that New York’s financial centre, which is close to Ground Zero, might be the site of a similar conference some time in the near future? If so, what will Mr Gingrich say?

Carl R. Guerrero,

New York, NY, US

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