Professor Newt’s Distorted History Lesson

There are any number of reasons why an American might oppose the Cordoba House, the planned $100 million Muslim-financed community center that has come to be known in the press as the “Ground Zero mosque.”  I don’t think any of them are particularly good reasons, but the universe of potential justification is much broader than the narrow scope of this humble blog.  There is one justification being floated around, however, that is both within this blog’s purview and completely and totally bogus.  Indeed, this particular justification is such an egregious and purposeful misreading of medieval history that I feel I must speak up.

Last week,* Newt Gingrich released a Newt Direct statement at concerning the project.  As you may have heard, he’s somewhat opposed to it.  And to explain why, he offered this history lesson:

The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.  For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term.  It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex. […I]n fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest.  It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way. [emphasis mine]

It’s that appositive phrase there buried in the middle of my quote that is the problem.  In these twenty-five words, Newt offers the final word on medieval Cordoba: “the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.”  This fact, the transformation of a church into a mosque, is the only thing we should think of when we hear a modern Muslim use the word “Cordoba,” according to Mr. Gingrich.

Notice how carefully he’s phrased his claim to give the impression that during the medieval conquest of Spain the Muslims charged into Cordoba and declared it the capital of a new Muslim empire, and in order to add insult to injury seized control of a Christian church and built the biggest mosque they could, right there in front of the Christians they’d just conquered, a big Muslim middle finger in the heart of medieval Christendom.  Essentially, they’ve done it before, they’ll do it again, right there at Ground Zero, if all good Christians don’t band together to stop them.

The problem is, in order to give that impression of immediacy, Newt elides three hundred years of Christian and Muslim history.  Three hundred years. The Muslims conquered Cordoba in 712.  The Christian church that was later transformed into the Great Mosque of Cordoba apparently** continued hosting Christian worship for at least a generation after that.  Work on the Mosque didn’t actually begin until seventy-odd years later in 784, and the mosque only became “the world’s third-largest” late in the tenth century, after a series of expansions by much later rulers, probably around 987 or so.

Then there’s the matter of the two odd verbs in Newt’s summation of Cordoba’s history: “transformed” and “symbolized”.  Surely, a mosque as great as The Great Mosque of Cordoba has symbolized a lot of things to a lot of people over the years.  But Muslim historians writing about the Great Mosque don’t point to it as a symbol of Muslim triumph over Christians; rather, they treat it primarily as a symbol of Muslim victory over other Muslims.

Keep in mind that when ground was broken on the Great Mosque, the vast majority of the men who had been personally responsible for conquering the Iberian peninsula were long dead and most of their sons were dead, too.  Sure, a few extremely ancient grey beards might have been present as very, young men, and a few older men might have been able to talk about what their fathers had done during the Conquest, but Muslim control of Spain was simply a fact of life for them, not something they felt they had to justify to the Christians.

The mosque was indeed begun in the wake of a Muslim conquest–just not the conquest of the Christians.  Rather, it was ordered built by the Umayyad emir Abd-ar-Ramman I, probably in part to commemorate his successful conquest of Cordoba in the 750’s, fought against other Muslim chieftains loyal to the rival Abbasid Caliphate, and his successful repulsion of subsequent Abbasid attempts to dislodge him by force throughout the 760’s.***  This is, incidentally, probably why the Great Mosque–unlike almost every other Mosque in the Muslim world–is built facing south. Usually, Mosques are built facing Mecca, as Muslims are meant to pray towards the holy city.  But the Great Mosque is oriented as if it were actually built in Damascus, the original capital of the Umayyads and the city from which abd-ar-Ramman had had to flee in exile when it was conquered by the Abbasids.  Damascus is north of Mecca, while Cordoba is much further west.  By pointing his Mosque south, Abd-ar-Ramman I was telling his Muslim rivals, “This exile to Iberia is a temporary thing; you may hold Damascus for now, but in the eyes of our god, my family still controls it.”

Still, the Muslims did “transform” a Christian church, didn’t they?  Possibly, but only in a very qualified sense.  Most standard histories of Cordoba will note that the Great Mosque is built on the site of the Basilica of St Vincent, Martyr, a Visigothic church that was itself built on the ruins of a Roman pagan temple.  And archaeological work has confirmed that the present site of the Mosque did at one time belong to some sort of Christian church.  There’s no indication that the present-day structure included any elements from that church, though, and exactly when it was razed and under what circumstances is unclear.

Muslim historians of the late tenth century tell that Abd-ar-Ramman bought the church from the Christian congregation after sharing it with them for fifty years “following the example of Abu Ubayda and Khalid, according to the judgement of Caliph Umar in partitioning Christian churches like that of Damascus and other [cities] that were taken of peaceful accord”.****  The Christians, we’re told, took their money and relocated their church to the outskirts of Cordoba.  Now obviously, these are Muslim historians writing two-to-three-hundred years after the events they describe, so we must always take their accounts with a grain of salt (as we would with any historian’s work, Muslim or not) and consider the political motivations responsible for their histories.

These tenth-century historians were writing to please the ears of the Cordoban caliphs, Abd-ar-Ramman III and his successors, in the wake of yet another victory of Muslim over Muslim.  Abd-ar-Ramman III, after all, is the one who declared Cordoba to be an independent caliphate, not just an Umayyad emirate. In rewriting the history of the Mosque of Cordoba, these historians were writing imperial justifications for their patron, explaining why Cordoba deserved to be the capital of its own caliphate, held up as the equal to Damascus, site of the Great Mosque of the Umayyads, and even Mecca, the holiest of cities, which was still under Abbasid control.

This is the important fact that Newt hopes those who read his polemic will be ignorant of: for a ruler to be legitimate in Muslim eyes in the tenth century, during the time when the Great Mosque was being expanded into its present-day dimensions, it was important to emphasize the peaceful succession of Islam from the other religions in the area.  A caliph was expected to have arrived at an accord with the Christians and Jews over which he ruled.******  Far from “symboliz[ing] their victory” the Mosque was held up by Muslim historians a symbol of peaceful coexistence with the Christians–however messier the actual relations of Christians and Muslims were at the time.*******

So what should modern Christians think when they hear a Muslim use the word “Cordoba”?  Well, I know that Newt hasn’t been a Catholic for very long now, but maybe his priest ought to direct him to read a little thing called “The Catholic Encyclopedia“.  Allow me to quote from the 1917 edition (which has the virtue of being in the public domain and easily searchable) and its entry on Cordoba:

In 786 the Arab caliph, Abd-er Rahman I, began the construction of the great mosque of Cordova, now the cathedral, and compelled many Christians to take part in the preparation of the site and foundations. Though they suffered many vexations, the Christians continued to enjoy freedom of worship, and this tolerant attitude of the ameers seduced not a few Christians from their original allegiance. Both Christians and Arabs co-operated at this time to make Cordova a flourishing city, the elegant refinement of which was unequalled in Europe. 

The article then discusses the persecution of the Christians under Abd-ar-Ramman II, which included the martyrdom of St. Eulogius.  Then it continues with the rule of those rulers who expanded the Mosque:

In 962 Abd-er Rahman III was succeeded by his son Al-Hakim. Owing to the peace which the Christians of Cordova then enjoyed […] the citizens of Cordova, Arabs, Christians, and Jews, enjoyed so high a degree of literary culture that the city was known as the New Athens. From all quarters came students eager to drink at its founts of knowledge. Among the men afterwards famous who studied at Cordova were the scholarly monk Gerbert, destined to sit on the Chair of Peter as Sylvester II (999-1003), the Jewish rabbis Moses and Maimonides, and the famous Spanish-Arabian commentator on Aristotle, Averroes.

So it’s easy to see why a group of Muslims creating a community center in the heart of a majority Christian country in a city known for its large Jewish population might name it “The Cordoba House” They’re not, as Gingrich hopes we would believe, discreetly laughing at us because “Cordoba” is some double-secret Islamist code for “conquest”; rather, they’re hoping to associate themselves with a particular time in medieval history when the largest library in Western Europe was to be found in Cordoba, a city in which scholars of all three major Abrahamic religions were free to study side-by-side.

*While I was away in Italy.  Suspicious?  I think so. [RETURN]
**This is a loaded “apparently” for reasons that will become clear later in this post. [RETURN]
***If your eyes glaze over at the sea of Abds, Umayyads, and Abbasids, let me put it another way.  If it’s legitimate for Newt Gingrich to say the Great Mosque of Cordoba was built by Muslim Conquerors in their capital city wishing to symbolize their victory over the Christians, then it’d be just as legitimate to describe the Statue of Liberty as being built by English conquerors in their capital of New York to symbolize their victory over the Dutch.
****Idhari, al-Bayan 2, pp. 341-342.  Cited in Nuha N. N. Khoury, “The Meaning of the Great Mosque of Cordoba in the Tenth Century” Muqarnas, 13 (1996), pp. 80-98.[RETURN]*****
*****Sorry, I know, using a footnote to cite an actual source isn’t really what you expect from me.  Those who traveled down here in search of a joke–maybe some sort of pun on those weird Muslim names–my deepest apologies.
******Again, see Khoury for this, in particular, pp. 83-85. [RETURN]
*******Earlier histories don’t mention the church of St. Vincent at all.  Instead, they refer to the site of the new mosque as a place where the previous ruling Muslim dynasty had mercilessly executed several Muslim martyrs.  So by this reading in creating the mosque, Abd-ab-Ramman I was consecrating the memory of Muslims killed by Muslims, not desecrating the memory of Christians killed by Muslims. [RETURN]

† So that people will stop emailing me… I am well aware that the Jewish jack-of-all-trades that the Catholic Encyclopedia calls Maimonides bore the first name Moses. Nevertheless, I did not misquote the CE; the Rabbi Moses it refers to is probably Rabbi Moses ben Enoch, a 10th-century scholar from Cordoba. So it really is “Moses and Maimonides.” [ /Updated 8-25-10/ [RETURN]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • lilburne

    Excellent. although one doesn't expect American politicians to know much about history, or geography for that matter.

  • Tim of Angle

    Coulda, shoulda, woulda. What they *might* mean by "Cordoba House" is a set with a large number of members; what they *do* mean is significantly smaller.

    My personal opinion is that what they mean is "What we did in Cordoba we will eventually do in New York", and I suspect that Mr Gingrich is of the same opinion. (I always appreciate it when people agree with me.) Your Mileage May Differ, as they say (although probably not in Arabic).

    • OneNation

      Your “opinion” based on what? Did you read any part of the article? It seems you did not, as your reply contains no reference to anything in the article. Gingrich is a blithering idiot who’s been desperately seeking relevance his entire adult life, but (aside from a cadre of fans who share his intellectual incapacity and mean-spiritedness) he’s failed miserably. His false “scholarship” and shoddy research (if any) on this, and a host of other subjects for which he’s completely unqualified to comment on, are a disservice to the public discourse, and an embarrassment to our Nation. Oops: I’ve just described all of murdoch’s fakenews mediocrities!

  • Laura Brown

    This is a brilliant debunking of Newt's claims, and it's a shame that most of those who need to read it probably won't.

    (And I figured they'd called it "Cordoba House" because in the Arab city of Cordoba were two miles of public lighting in the streets when London was a village ….)

    • Randan Ramul

      A “brilliant debunking” based on a bunch of “probably” suppositions? Really?

      Newt’s “probably”s are at least as valid as the Debunker’s “probably”s, are they not? “Opinion I agree with” does not trump “Opinion with which I disagree”, as both remain opinion.

  • peter-erwin

    Tim of Angle said:
    My personal opinion is that what they mean is "What we did in Cordoba we will eventually do in New York"

    What, get chased out by fanatical Christians? That is, after all, what happened to Cordoba; the mosque in question was converted directly into a cathedral.

    If "their" putative goal is some kind of future all-conquering triumph, as you seem to imagine, naming the center after a place with an ambiguous, even tragic history is an odd way of proclaiming it.

  • Sheryl

    Thank you for the hyperlink footnotes! They made actually reading your footnotes when appropriate and returning to the right place in the text much easier.

    And yes, it was unexpected to see an actual reference in one of your footnotes. 😉

  • Amy

    Now come on, would a "good American" like the Newt-ster let a little thing like fact get in the way of his ramblings… I think not. How else can we justify PILES of history since Euroepeans arrived on these shores to cleanse the ethnic Native-Americans….

  • A World Quite Mad

    The Christians ought to keep their mouths shut when it comes to mentioning the medieval period (and more ancient history), lest they insert both feet.

    Of course most of them are ignorant of the slaughter that took place in Spain when the Christians gained control of it back from the Muslims. The Muslims had ruled in peace over the Christians and the Jews, allowing them to continue practicing their religions and as you say, study side by side. When the Christians took Spain back, they expelled all of the Muslims (that they hadn't killed) and gave the Jews an ultimatum. Convert, leave or die. Of the ones that converted, they were scrutinized (i.e. tortured and/or executed) by the Spanish Inquisition on a regular basis, and often believed to have relapsed into what Bernard Gui calls the "vomit" of Judaism.

    Heck, what am I saying? I bet Newtie boy and his readers have never even heard of Gui. *sigh*

  • hoelmoel

    What can I say? You just want to find a reason to make a war? I feel bitty for you?!

  • Karl Steel

    My personal opinion…
    Which is founded on what? A 'personal opinion' is no more likely to exist, or to be meaningful, than a 'personal language.' What's your basis for judgment?

    Thanks for this excellent post, BTW, CP.

  • Charles

    Just to be fair, Newt isn't as ignorant of history as most politicians are, he earned a Ph. D. in the subject of European history. So let's not pretend like he isn't smart enough to know better.

  • Anthony Emmel

    Excellent post, but I must point out that Newt could be right is his assessment as well.

    I favor your view, however. I always point to Valencia under the Cid where for 5 brief years Christian, Muslim, and Jew created a place where they lived and fought and died together.

  • TalkBack

    I am not as interested in Newt's knowledge of history as the symbolic message given by the building of the mosque at Ground 0. Remember that most followers of al-queda are illiterate and/or extremely fundamentalist which means that symbols are powerful.
    The actual details of the Cordoba mosque building are lost to most. The symbol of conquest is strong and clear, especially as the mosque is the symbol of the caliphate-Islamic government and religion.
    This mosque building will do doubt be used for recruitment overseas, showing the power of al-queda to replace the symbol of secular capitalism with Islamic religion and governance. I find this very dangerous.
    Although religious tolerance and diversity are foundations of our nation, so is national defense. (and I am a pacifist-wanting to avoid violence by paying attention ahead of time)

  • Rosamond

    Fascinating. Also incorrect in Newt's quote is the "3000 Americans" perishing on 9/11 at the WTC. It was a lower number of humans who died and roughly half were NOT American.

  • Will

    Newt = pwnt

  • Wallace

    I see several points in your blog that trouble me. Your blind trust in a history compiled and no doubt mostly written by two of the most dominant conquering forces in the world, both of whom twist and make their own versions to fit their agendas. The other issue is the real possibility that the majority of Christians, rather than being "seduced" (please), as you suggest, were eliminated so that in a generation or two, little remained but to erect a giant mosque. The Catholic Church is not going to squeal too much about this because they may have to make a deal with them some day. Put on your listening ears and open up your mind to what really happens in life.

  • Big Jujju

    I don't think that anyone would expect Newt to be honest about anything. One a more pedantic note I believe the phrase "the Jewish rabbis Moses and Maimonides" should read "the Jewish rabbi Moses Maimonides"

  • bagreise

    From NPR – On Point/WBUR from 4 August 2010
    2 more remedial history students for this fine debunking:

    Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), who represents Arizona’s 2nd District, which includes Maricopa and Mohave Counties, and towns like Glenndale, Peoria and some of Phoenix.

    David Gaubatz, author, along with Paul Sperry of “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that’s Conspiring to Islamize America.”

  • John

    Conquerors get to rape, pillage, plunder and build where they want to build. In your face, is the preferred methood of rubbing it in and reminding those who lost, that they lost. Ask any American Indian. The idea is not to invite your future conquerors in and help them toward their goal of domination. Until we learn to fight our wars all out, we will be gradually eaten alive. Letting Bin Laden go should have been a signal to everyone that we are never going to be allowed to win either war by our own leaders.

  • jtravism

    What I continue to find stunningly myopic when Newt, Palin, and all of the others screaming about the denigration of the victims of 9-11 by the building of Cordoba House is this:

    The buildings were called the "WORLD Trade Center".

    Yes, they were on the soil of the United States, but they represented the world. There were 310 foreign nationals killed in the attacks.

    And how does a Ph.d historian forget the 1st amendment of the US Constitution?:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


    Cordoba Spain under Muslim domination was not democratic or free city. Christians and Jews faced severe restrictions and were completely subservient to the Muslims. They were not allowed to carry arms, or even ride on horses. They were assessed heavy infidel taxes from which the Muslims were exempt. The Muslims were not easy on the infidels. The Cordoba Project is a symbolic Wahabi code word for reestablishing Muslim domination over the Western World-just as in jolly old Cordoba.
    Go on ..hide your heads in the sand.

    • Hanalei

      Bully for you Connecticut Yankee for telling it how it really is. Look the other way the way the Germans and Japanese did with Hitler and Tojo. We Americans have a bad case of hyper-individualism. “If it doesn’t effect me….it’s O.k.”

  • Zeke

    I find Gingrich's story of Córdoba's supposed church-forced-into-mosque considering that today, the mosque structure has had a Catholic chapel rather haphazardly forced into its center. The architectural transition alone is an abrupt one, and is very fitting of the changes in ownership. Spain is full of these things, and is a terrible example for any person of an Abrahamic faith to claim unreciprocated oppression throughout the region's history

  • fcdt3

    As with all of the rethuglycants — "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing".

    And nobody has "little knowedge" like a rethuglycant.

  • fcdt3

    Jim Cullen:

    Does pointing out that:

    (1) Mouslims should be spelled Muslims


    (2) Infedels should be spelled Infidels

    mean that people who are literate and can actually spell correctly hate you too?

    Just wondering!

  • Globe2U

    I've lived and worked in several Arab-Muslim countries in the course of a diplomatic career spanning nearly 3 decades. Years before 9/11, much less the plan for this Muslim cultural center, I'd often heard Muslims describe the caliphate in Cordoba as a golden age of scholarly learning, enlightenment, and tolerance among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. In Morocco today, conferences study Maimonides and Averroes together, and celebrate Morocco's Andalusian history and culture. I agree with one poster above that the subsequent transformation of the Cordoba mosque into a Catholic cathedral is much closer to the type of symbolic conquest gesture that Newt Gingrich wants us to read into the proposed Cordoba House name.

  • jonathan

    "I am not as interested in Newt's knowledge of history as the symbolic message given by the building of the mosque at Ground 0. Remember that most followers of al-queda are illiterate and/or extremely fundamentalist which means that symbols are powerful."

    Considering that you can't even see the planned Islamic center from Ground Zero, exactly how are these "illiterate and/or extremely fundamentalist" followers get the message? How could they tell the part of New York where the center is being built from any other American city? Heck, if they're really so illiterate and fundamentalist, why not just take a picture of a mosque in Philly and then tell them it was built on the ruins of Ground Zero itself?

  • limpey

    Bravo! I'm going to share this with whomever is willing to read it.
    The more I find out about the NYC Mosque kerfuffle, the more I despair over the willful ignorance of the Newts and Palins of the world.

  • Pragmatique

    Newt doesn't hold the world championship for the most lies and distortions in a sigle speech for nothing, he is indeed a world class liar and distorter.

  • Julian

    Time of Angle: "my personal opinion is that what they mean is "What we did in Cordoba we will eventually do in New York", and I suspect that Mr Gingrich is of the same opinion."

    Fortunately, personal opinion is of no consequence in the study of history. What you wish they meant, and what you wish Cordoba meant to Muslims, factors not a whit into what that meaning really is, nor does it change the actual history of the site. The prideful ignorance you exhibit in adhering to falsehood in the face of facts because it pleases you is unseemly and childish. Similarly, the deliberate demagoguery undertaken by Mr. Gingrich besmirches the scholarly accolades he has earned in the past.

  • Julian

    The Connecticut Iconoclast: And? As rough as it was, the condition of Jews in Cordova during the 600s was still better than their condition anywhere in Europe, where they were banned from owning any property, banned from almost all businesses, and assessed not annual taxes but random and exorbitant "gifts" from monarchs who kept them around only to squeeze them dry. Muslims in Christian Europe fared even worse; they were killed on sight. Did you really think you could post such cherry-picking nonsense on a history blog and not get called out for it?

  • Julian

    John: The Manchu neither widely raped nor widely pillaged when they conquered China. Genetic studies have shown that the progressive waves of invasion which mark Britain's past did little to change the genetic code of the Isle's inhabitants, meaning that all of those successful invasions were more cultural conquests than racial ones. So too the wider "Germanic" invasions of Europe proper; so too the Arabic "conquests" of the Near East, Mid East, Far East, and North Africa; so too the European invasions of Central and South America. In fact, it is your concept that military victory is necessarily followed by the annihilation of the natives and the destruction of their society that is wrong-headed.

    Having said that, your idea that 'Islam' will conquer the Union if we allow a community center to be built in a Burlington Coat Factory is laughably hyperbolic.

  • Bonncaruso

    Many details of your analysis are indeed correct, and in many ways Cordoba was the flourishing "Venice" of it's time, but there is still no getting around the fact that this was still an occupation and that the building of the complex in Cordoba was also to remind the ruled who the new ruler was.

    Also, at that time, the time lapse you mentioned by the building of the mosque was normal and characteristic.

    Regardless, at the end of the day, we still have an enormous difference between intent and perception: perhaps the muslim community in New York is hoping for a sort of interfaith alliance (though I have not read of it anywhere), but the perception will be that this is a victory mosque.

    And to want to open it on the 10th anniversary takes the cake.

    If the real intent were to create an atmosphere where all three monotheistic religions could meet together and learn together, then the islamic community could have invested the money in an interfaith center, with a mosque, a synagogue and a church also on the campus. That would have been more convincing.

    Mosque/community center complexes in Europe have simply turned into hotbeds of radical islamic thought and money makers for terrorists.

  • Julian

    Wallace: If you can say with a straight face that a Christian authority from the Medieval Age would not make much of a fuss over the large-scale murder of Christians by a conquering army of "infidels" then you must not have spent much time with Medieval primary sources. If a Church official got a splinter, they wrote out the offending plank as a demon and wrote a story about how he courageously slew it for the greater glory of god. There is no subject more beloved by Medieval Church authors, (or later Protestant Anabaptists, for that matter) than Christian persecution.

  • Mohammad

    Newt nothing but a bigot and ignorant. You all need to read

    Gordoba the Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
    by Maria Rosa Menocal

    As for the Jews, this is most prosperous period in their history. Before the Muslims came to Spain, they were the scum of the society. During the Islamic rule they became the elite of the society. When the Christian came back the slaughtered them. As the crossroads did in Jerusalem, and as the Nazi did in Germany.

  • Julian

    Bonncaruso: 300 years after the conquest, during a time when people did not identify themselves with ethnic groups or even states, but with local lords and religious traditions, I'm pretty sure the locals knew well enough who the ruler was without having a Mosque built to remind them. You make the mistake of applying later Castillian and Aragonian attitudes to the people of Andalusia. They didn't think of themselves as Spaniards. That idea, "Spain", didn't exist; it wouldn't exist until the Renaissance when the two northern Christian kingdoms would resurrect the Roman idea of "Hispania" to justify their military successes against the fractious Islamic kingdoms of the peninsula (Kingdoms which, btw, they were more than comfortable enough with to make alliances). The people who lived near Cordoba; Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, and indeed, the people who lived throughout the Andalusian kingdoms that came after the imperial collapse, did not think of themselves as a conquered people. They thought of themselves as the subjects of specific kings and the citizens of specific cities, (because, unlike the Christian kings of Europe, they nurture urban centers) and their writings bear that out.

  • Bonncaruso


    the caliphate of Cordoba covered a much wider swath of territory than just Cordoba (Andalusia).

    As to whether the locals considered themselves part of an occupation of simply in debt to the new overlord, that is of course a matter of the eye of the beholder.

    We do know that sephardim (spanish jews) flourished at this time and that ladino as a sub-dialect grew exponentionally.

    However, none of this affects the 2010 issue of intent versus perception, for maybe 1 in 10,000 americans will even know what Andalusia was.

  • Simon

    I think it was Colbert who said that 'the truth has a well known liberal bias'.

    Well done that man 🙂

  • sst

    whatever happened in the past is the past. We have to deal with the present, and the present is nasty. For present day Muslims, to build such a huge complex is a sign of victory. I don't want the money coming from Saudi Arabia. We have enough with their petro money.We don't know the future, but Saudi money builds mosques around the world that can potentially house many more people than the community they presently support. Saudi money is tainted. They built a huge mosque in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on prized property. They are trying to do the same in London. It's conquest of a different sort……….beware…….there is nothing "kosher" about this building…………what are we going to do when the next terrorist caught, had the advantage of belonging and being protected by this Zero Ground mosque and their members who are either terrorized into silence or acquiescent to the idea?

  • Bonncaruso

    For those who think this is a victory mosque (and I believe it is):

    There was a huge bruhaha in Köln (Cologne), Germany, for the islamic community was just hellbent on building a new mosque that would be larger and higher than the "Kölner Dom" (the Cathedral of Cologne) – which is a religious, architechtual and historic treasure of Germany.

    It is clearly stated in Kuran and Hadith that no other house of worship (read that as: unbelievers) can be as large as the city mosque. The mosque is to tower over all other things.

    Well, the citizens of Köln didn't buy it. They had a HUGE demo in 2008 and 2009 against this, and the proposition to build the mosque did not succeed.

    The entire time, the islamic community of Köln said it was going to be an interfaith blahblahblah thingy, but once the city council saw the drawing plans, it was something entirely different.

    So, you see, there is precedent here. I've already seen this phenomenon happen practically in my back yard.

    • Looking for Verification

      “It is clearly stated in Kuran and Hadith that no other house of worship (read that as: unbelievers) can be as large as the city mosque.” Where exactly? If you are going to give references, make them references that can be verified.

      Masjid (the word mosque in Arabic which is what the Quran uses) translates precisely as “place of prostration” referring to the Muslim prostration during ritual prayers. There is no such thing as “the city mosque” mentioned in the Quran or in Hadith. Some mosques are so small you almost have to go outside to change your mind, some have been made impressive whether through attempts at self-aggrandisement or a genuine desire to create an inspirational atmosphere. The former is a human sentiment and contrary to the tenets of the Quran.

  • Apuleius Platonicus

    All matters here is that everyone agrees on the facts, and these facts are just as Newt Gingrich stated them:
    (1) Cordoba was the capital city of an Islamic theocracy.
    (2) After their conquest of Cordoba, the Muslims built a Mosque on a site where a Church had previously been.
    (3) That Mosque came to be the third largest Mosque in the world.

    Newt Gingrich is a reactionary pin-headed idiot, a hypocritical womanizing moralizer, and the world's most ludicrously over-rated pseudo-intellectual.

    Most of the time you can count on being right just by blindly disagreeing with Newtie. But it takes a real genius like Carl Pyrdum to prove that even that doesn't work 100% of the time.

  • Bonncaruso

    "Most of the time you can count on being right just by blindly disagreeing with Newtie. But it takes a real genius like Carl Pyrdum to prove that even that doesn't work 100% of the time."


  • sourceview

    Regardless of the historic niceties, I would propose that the U.S. of A. install laws that encode the concept of reciprocity – if we can own land and homes in Saudi Arabia, then Saudis can own land in US; if Christians may worship in Saudi, then Islam may worship in US. An Islamic center near ground zero is a major insult. Nothing will change – the Saudis have been laughing at Americans for decades, and they are ostensibly, our allies.

  • Simon

    I think the anti-Muslim responses prove beyond a doubt that regardless of of what they claim their opposition is based upon, their actual motivation in opposition to the community center is pure, unadulterated bigotry and cultural hatred.

  • Simon

    sourceview: if you want to live in a country whose values that of Saudi Arabia, then please leave America.
    Historic niceties? Please. Is that what you call reality that doesn't suit your hate agenda?

  • avirr

    What's weird is that Newt chose this ridiculous and anti-historic example, when there is a much more pertinent example: Hagia Sophia. When the Turks conquered Constantinople, they turned it into the Ayasofya Mosque (it's now a museum). But then, they actually conquered Constantinople (after it was sacked by the Venetians and other Westerners).

    I'm pretty sure New York has not been conquered. And the USA, for all its faults, was based on the separation of church and state. So I don't think having a mosque anywhere is likely to destabilize us. Hysterical over-reaction to a building is much more destabilizing!

  • Tyro

    Every major Muslim city had a mosque. Cordoba's distinguishing feature is not that there was a large mosque built there, because that was common to all Muslim cities. What distinguished cordoba was that it was a major center of learning and culture in the west where Christians, Jews, and Muslims coexisted in an intellectual, cosmopolitan culture. That is why you would name a center after Cordoba, because you are trying to evoke that era.

    For present day Muslims, to build such a huge complex is a sign of victory.

    Victory over what? It doesn't take any big accomplishments to build something in Manhattan: anyone with enough money can do it. That is the nature of freedom in America: anyone can do anything with the desire and the resources; it's not some big accomplishment, except maybe to prove that your community is middle class enough to raise enough money for it.

  • Donald

    I don't have any objection to the mosque, and it seems that the folks behind it are admirable liberal Muslims, but…to gloss over the militant, conquest oriented nature of Islam as a whole(they aren't all Sufis)is naive at best. Islam needs to grow up a bit more.

  • Marco Polo

    Reading Old Newt's drivel gives me yet another reason to believe that should the devil exist, it would have created organized religion. He also exploits a fundamental fact: Americans in general are so ignorant just about anything unrelated to things going on in their own zip code, whatever this shameless demagogue says has an excellent chance of sticking; and I include the news media under this category.

  • Gaurav Joshi

    Let us not get into significance of names although they might be. I am referring to Cordoba. History is indeed a good thing that one should keep track. But do we really need a piece of history to pass a judgment when WTC collapse is not even decade old. If WTC was not to happen no one would have cared about where Cordoba house stood. Our world can be a great place to leave for every body if small things like human emotions and sensitivities are respected.

  • Square Palmer

    Forgive me for taking the modern undergraduate's shortcut to scholarship, a.k.a. Wikipedia, but I did want to remind folks that Mr. Gingrich also is sometimes a professor of history:

    He received an M.A. in 1968, and then a Ph.D. in Modern European History from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1971.[5] His dissertation topic was titled "Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945-1960."..
    Gingrich taught history at the University of West Georgia (then called West Georgia College) in Carrollton, Georgia, from 1970 to 1978. He also taught a class, Renewing American Civilization, at Kennesaw State University (then called Kennesaw State College) in 1993.

    Wikipedia: Newt Gingrich

    See, his field is Modern European History, not the MIddle East. Oh, wait, Spain is part of Europe. But we're talking about 1000 years ago, so it's not modern. He shouldn't be held responsible for facts not in his supposed area of expertise!!!! But then maybe he shouldn't be shooting off his mouth, either.

  • Aria

    As an Ignostic who was raised in a Muslim country, Cordoba has always been promoted, not only as a symbol, but an era in which Muslims coexisted peacefully with Christians and Jews alike under the same ruling. No, the meaning of "peacefully" differs from what the general perception it is today but for its time, it was a ground breaking environment.

    And that is exactly the semantic that the people behind the new mosque are trying to convey: a peaceful coexistence among various faiths and understanding of each other. So for these bigots to try to flip the intend is nothing but a political charade to beguile the impressionable minds.

  • msubear77

    Typical liberal making excuses for the Mohammedans. Sure there was peace in Muslim Spain the Christian and Jews were reduced to dhimmi. As long as non-Muslims stayed in their place things would be ok.

    Now modern day Muslims seek to do that here.

  • Jessica

    "As long as non-Muslims stayed in their place things would be ok."

    Sooooo….basically, what evangelical Christians have been demanding of everyone else, then?

    As a New Yorker working in law enforcement on the same street as where the new center is to be build and who witness terrible horrors that day I say 'build it'. Religious freedom and toleration is what separates us from the animals.

  • Gabriel’s tangent

    Excellent piece, would just like to add a few things that might clarify a few points in comments.
    1) Newt's history credentials are pretty lacking in themselves. He wrote his dissertation on Belgian education systems in the Congo without ever citing any Congolese sources (surprise surprise he concludes that the system was a success, as he only read the old Belgian reports). His only academic job was at Western GA, where he didn't bother to apply for the tenure review because he had literally published nothing since his hiring. So, no, he wasn't denied tenure, because he effectively quit before it could happen.
    2) For those referencing "dhimmi," yes, it was a form of second-class citizenship, but this misses the point. First, Jews and Christians may have been second class citizens, but when the reconquista culminated in 1492 the Spanish crown expelled all Muslims and Jews. The English expelled all Jews in 1289. So yeah, by modern standards it sucks to have a second-class citizen category, but by contemporary standards it was the greatest level of religious freedom/tolerance on the European continent. Further, the limits associated with dhimmi-tude weren't that great: an extra tax, could not rebel against the government (but were allowed to fight in a rebellion led by muslims), things like that. Remember, it's not as though they were being kept of out of a democracy…

  • Matunos

    TalkBack wrote above: "Remember that most followers of al-queda are illiterate and/or extremely fundamentalist which means that symbols are powerful."

    I don't know about al Qaeda, but your characterizations apply to the rabid right-wing in this country. You know, the people who are manipulated by the simpleton logic of demagogues like Palin and now Gingrich (whom I thought above such tactics). Everything is interpreted as a symbol- either of our enemies' agenda ("… then the terrorists have already won") of our own strength or weakness (leaving Itaq will embolden our enemies).

    From this perspective, symbols are all that matter. It doesn't matter what the cost (especially if the cost is not not a direct burden), the symbols must be pursued. It's not the facts behind the Cordoba House that matter, it's the symbol of a mosque near ground zero. The right wing has completely embraced postmodernism, where truth is based not on fact but on the manipulation of information to suit one's own agenda. Of course, as the crowning achievement of their postmodernism, the right completely disavows postmodernism as an ideology of the left. Ignorance is strength!

    As if al Qaeda is rooting for a modernist Muslim imam to expand his message. As if al Qaeda cares a hoot what is built on the land currently occupied by a damaged Birlington Coat Factory building. They don't need a symbol of victory at Ground Zero, Ground Zero *is* their victory, and as long as the site remains a smoldering wastleland over which hatemongers manipulate the passions of the over-sensitized mobs, it shall remain a testament to their achievement.

    I am an avowed atheist who holds little sympathy for any of the Abrahamic religions, but especially for Islam. Were it not for this ridiculous controversy, I would be indifferent at best about the Cordoba House. But just as I wholeheartedly supported the 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day' as a challenge to those who would curtail our freedom of expression, I have become convinced that Cordoba House must go forward as planned, if for nothing else but as a challenge to those who would curtail our freedom of religion.

  • runvatorun

    I don't think you'd need a grad degree to unbundle Newt's stupidity. Stop giving Newt free press Mr. Smarty Pants.

  • John Dingler

    Is it being built with money the US gives to Islam for oil? If so, what irony, and, from a Moslem perspective, what poetic justice.

  • Ygnacio

    Actual history does matter. Newt is a fool, by any standard; but he falsely invokes history so must by true history be rebuked. Well done, Got. God bless the world, without exception.

  • Dave

    Oh you so silly… You make a great argument citing great facts to support your argument. But you forget. You're arguing against a group who isn't bothered by those pesky things called "facts". If history doesn't fit their perverted view of things, they just change it (history). Hence, every one of your points is complete left wing propaganda, noting more.

  • Bill

    Mr. Gingrich uses the same propaganda tactics as the Nazis used to gain power in the 1930's. He distorts fact and uses outright lies to allegedly prove his point. He also plays on fear, attacking muslims in the same way Nazis attacked jews. Frightening tactics from someone who clearly knows what he is doing.

  • Kaylyn

    I'm disconcerted that the planned Community Center is constantly referred to as 'A Mosque'. From what I understand, there will be a prayer room. No Mosque at all. This would be like a catholic community center with a small chapel being called a Church…or a Cathedral. I guess the idea of a Mosque is scarier to the average American who has only heard of Mosques when something bad happens in or near one of them.

  • Bonncaruso

    It is a victory mosque because after 9 long years of war, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq

    1.) Usama bin Laden is still a free man

    2.) El Quaeda still exists and terror groups have actually grown.

    3.) The WTC has still not been rebuilt.

    4.) The cost of both wars is ruining our economy.

    Yes, it is a victory mosque.

  • Bonncaruso

    "but an era in which Muslims coexisted peacefully with Christians and Jews alike under the same ruling."

    Coexistence and freedom are NOT the same thing.

  • Michi

    Thank you for this article kind sir, if only to remind us that history happened in 3D Full Color, and not the black and white starkness in which many would have it displayed.

    While the apparent perpetrators of this horrible crime professed to be Muslim, it does not follow that all Muslims are guilty of this crime. I would also venture to say not all Catholics are child molesters, and not all Hispanics are illegal aliens.

    yeah, yeah, I know its a radical idea, to view someone on their own merits rather than the merits of someone who shares certain labels with them…but you know, it's amazing what you actually see when you look…

    by the way, can someone tell me exactly when the USA became a nation of frightened children who can no longer live up to the ideals of religious freedom and tolerance that are a hallmark of our founding?

  • vpose

    It's all a little above my head. I'm just glad that someone took that chickenhawk Gingrich to the woodshed

  • Kevin K.

    Excellent post… Ihad learned about the history of Cordoba, Spain when I had visited it back in 2001 (prior to the terrorist attacks). It is interesting to see how ten years changed the outlook of so many, and unfortunately it wasn't for the better…

    Newt should shut up and go back to the children's table )with Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann and the rest of them) and allow the adults to have serious discussions…

    Also, love the dig about Newt being a Catholic!

  • msegall1

    Thank you for your thorough debunking of a fraud and a con-man. My late father-in-law, a hard-working Yale Professor and frequently published economist earned the right to be called an intellectual. I'll never forget how he blanched whenever he heard that term applied to Newt.

    I myself am astounded whenever Newt's Renewing American Civilization is characterized as a college level course. A glance at that class's curriculum quickly reveals that I received a far more sophisticated education in American History at John Dewey High School. Granted, it was a college equivalency (AP) class, taught by the best high school history teacher in Brooklyn, and probably in all of New York City — Saul Bruckner. Mr. Bruckner continued teaching the class for over thirty years after becoming principal of nearby Edward R. Murrow HS.

    Bruckner's lessons have stayed with me my whole life, allowing me to sense instinctively when American history is being distorted to serve the ends of some scurvy politician.

    As for medieval history, I learned that years earlier. As a Jew raised in an intellectual household, I was taught the related histories of Greeks, Romans, Jews, Muslims & Christians before reaching Junior HS.

    Every time I went to what I always considered to be my Museum — the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway — I could see these names incised, side by side beside the entrance way — Maimonides, Averroes, Plato, Socrates. The ignorance of so many of my fellow Americans fills me with shame and sorrow. I feel anxiety about the future of civilization — especially American civilization — the one Newt so eagerly claims to hold the key to renewing.

    Newt started out debasing history, graduated to debasing politics and now seems to have come full circle. His mosque stunt is a cheap bid to grab the limelight back from a true anti-intellectual, Sarah Palin. At least Ms. Palin is what she seems to be — a bona fide ignoramus; Newt was, is and will always be a pseudo-intellectual.

  • Bartholomew

    Excellent post. Over on my blog, I've been asking for some literary evidence which might show that "Cordoba" has a symbolic meaning of "conquest of the west". Responses so far have been along the lines that I ought to be discussing Islamic attacks on Israel or such instead.

  • RedinLA

    Who cares what Gingrich thinks, who cares what bloggers think. The families of those killed don't want it. That's the end of the story, no matter how distorted morons like Newt try to make it.

  • blackjack

    THE CONNECTICUT ICONOCLAST!: "Cordoba Spain under Muslim domination was not democratic or free city."

    Well, yeah, but name me a city that _was_ particularly democratic or free in 10th century Europe. Novgorod maybe?

  • Matt Osborne

    Outstanding dissection. Newt's pandering is quite conscious; he knows to whom and what he's appealing with this kind of knee-jerk rhetoric. Pagans, Muslims…it doesn't matter. If he can excite the base though fearmongery, he will.

    But he kinda has to because there's nothing else there to run on.

  • matthewguillen

    It's curious how the overwhelming majority of readers rapturing over this "dressing down" of Gingrich accept the author's blithe "elision"–a term he uses to his great advantage–of the "persecution of the Christians under Abd-ar-Ramman II, which included the martyrdom of St Eulogius."
    Got Medieval: this "little thing" (how I love your rhetorical "flourishes") called the Catholic Encyclopedia is, as suggested by you, no "little thing" indeed.
    NEITHER is persecution.
    Neither too is the "little thing" referred to as the Visigoths, the Christian people you give the impression seamlessly "merged" with Islam without a fight. In fact, another "little thing" you ellide is the uncontrovertible CONQUEST of the Iberian penisula by hordes of invading Moors.
    You would like to selectively swamp the reader with dates and names which, subsumed by a majestic "Got Medieval" title, will blind the reader with "science."
    Considering the wealth of names that could be given this mosque at the heart of what Islam (sorry, I realize you'd argue only a teensy number of Islamist "bad apples")destroyed in the US, "Cordoba House" cannot be justified as anything short of provocative. And comments demeaning the knowledgeability of Americans and especially American politicians in what you'd like to pass off as scholarship, issue principally from scholarly wannabes: essentially sophomoric readers who'd love to be associated with Ivory Tower, not to mention Ivy League, eminences grises.

  • Jae

    The families of those killed don't want it.

    My parents were in the WTC. I don't have a problem with it.

    I do have a problem with some jackass I've never met telling everybody on the internet that I "don't want it".

  • Owen

    mathewguillen, go back to school. Your post is infantile. You are an ass.

  • David

    The idiocy of Gingrich and his ilk is best understood when we realize we pretend this is a country of religious tolerance–but at its heart all too many believe the US to be a "Christian" country with only passing (and in fact recent) tolerance of non-Christians and then only if they do not insist on demonstrating their religious beliefs.

    Antisemitism (and here I don't mean anti-Zionism) was palpable into the 1950s nationally, easing a bit in most urban areas of this country but continues in rural areas, where being Jewish is still an oddity and someone to be distrusted. It comes as no surprise that anti_Muslim sentiment is so strong among most people here.

    Ignorance and no knowledge of history is the standard in our country–whether we are blind to things like trying to "win the hearts and minds" of Iraqis forgetting how that same policy failed in Vietnam, to forgetting how the KKK was built on religious intolerance as much as if not more than on racial intolerance, to our current populist protests against change (no government health care and keep your hands off my Medicare!).

    Newt gives voice to popular ignorance, and as a country that consistently undervalues and under funds education there is little danger we will alter the tragic level of ignorance that personifies Americans around the world.

    Opposition to the community center with an Islamic focus (can you say YMCA?) in NYC is not about anything more than a demonstration against reason and proof that we are a country fighting for our freedom to define who you are and we will kill/demonize/expel anyone who stands in our way!

  • PM

    If we use the logic of Newt – – and as some would like to cast the U.S. as the beacon on the hill of Christianity, then certainly other 'religious' statements should be ripped down. Let's start with the Mormon Temple in Washington DC!
    Problem is that the 'Newt people' have totally lost sight of what America is.

  • mike

    The Connecticut Iconoclast wrote:
    Cordoba Spain under Muslim domination was not democratic or free city. Christians and Jews faced severe restrictions and were completely subservient to the Muslims. They were not allowed to carry arms, or even ride on horses. They were assessed heavy infidel taxes from which the Muslims were exempt. The Muslims were not easy on the infidels.

    Take that paragraph and apply it to Christian Spain in 1492, and it reads like this:

    Cordoba Spain under Chirstian domination was not democratic or free city. Muslims and Jews faced severe restrictions and were completely subservient to the Christians. They were not allowed to carry arms, or even ride on horses. They were assessed heavy infidel taxes from which the Christians were exempt. The Christians were not easy on the infidels.

    It's a pretty accurate description of Spain after the Reconquest, and you can throw torture and execution into the mix once the Inquisition got underway. The Spanish Reconquest (a misnomer, since the Visigoths who lost Spain to the Muslims were long gone by the 15th century) is a very nice historical example of the winning party (Christians) giving the losers (Muslims and Jews) exactly the same treatment they had experienced when the tables had been turned the other way. Sadly, history is riddled with other similar examples, and it seems Gingrich believes that this is the correct pattern humans should follow: Do unto others exactly as they have previously done unto you: Conquer, oppress, reverse and repeat.

  • chaski

    Although this is slightly off-topic, I would appreciate some discussion…

    Newt's "scholarly" credentials have always seemed a bit circumspect to me. I know he has a Phd, etc; but there are Phd's, and then there are real Phd's, if you know what I mean.

    Obviously I am not a Newt-fan. I thought much of his ideas over the years consisted of a very twisted view of history and society–more like what you get from re-enactors than from the typical learned and accomplished professor.

  • Nebedaay

    Excellent analysis. The very fact that Gingrich is invoking this pseudo-history to tar Islam and all Muslims demonstrates to me that what is really taking over America (at least its right) is not Islam but the neo-Fascist "Eurabia" thesis (maybe "Amerabia" or better "Arabica" here?) that is sweeping Europe. If the moderates responsible for this community center are part of the Big Scary Moozlum Conspiracy to Take over the World (showing "contempt for Americans" and so on), it's hard to imagine any Muslim who would not fall under this umbrella.

    @RedinLA "The families of those killed don't want it." Two problems with that statement: the assumed "them" and the assumed "us". I'll assume "those killed" means "those killed" on 9/11. But the very fact that you (and almost everyone else) assume a connection between 9/11 and the community center means you can't separate Muslims from Muslims. If Christians had been responsible for 9/11, would anyone be against building Christian churches nearby? What some Muslims did in 2001 is irrelevant to what different Muslims do today. Second, even if 9/11 were relevant, people affected by 9/11 don't speak with one voice any more than Muslims do.

  • Laura

    thank you.

  • Captain Nitride

    The meaning of the Cordoba House will differ from individual to individual depending on their bias, that is clear. Regardless of how many view it is a conquest versus a coming together, the establishment of the Cordoba House at Ground Zero is a great opportunity for the USA.

    Let it be built and then lets monitor the heck out of it:

    – If the Cordoba House tends towards a peaceful place of worship and the coming together of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others, then its building will have been a wonderful thing.

    – If the Cordoba House develops rogue elements, let us rejoice that its island nature coupled with the capabilities of modern sniffing technology will enable us to learn more and faster about what the detailed nature of those rogue elements are.

  • Patricia

    What a delight to read something fact based and well researched. My opinion is that "professor" Newt's is showing us the regular way in which some conservatives express themselves when they want to convince the world about something.

    Pat Edie

  • Mary

    It amazes me how the Republicans continue hijacking the political narrative in this country with their "Medieval" fear mongering and distortions. Thank you for your insights about Al-Andalus. Indeed Jews and Christians had freedom of worship ( they have to pay tributes but still) under the Caliphate of Cordoba. So Mr. Gingrick when I hear "Cordoba House" I hear hope for an interfaith dialogue so necessary to bring reason here and now.

  • oopele

    Except there's one giant problem: that tolerant (for its time) and agreeable Islamic empire is dead, and what's left of this more moderate form of Islam is being destroyed by the people who lead the Islamic revival of today… the likes that subscribe to interpretations far more radical, intolerant and toxic.

    If this mosque has anything to do with Saudi money, you know it's not any closer to the historically tolerant form of Islam than the people who make it a capital offense to spread Christianity in their countries.

    I want to believe it's lead by moderates, but that would make this project an exception. The Islamic establishment of today is controlled by extremists… a fact even the leader of this project Imam Rauf admitted by calling a notorious extremist the most prominent Islamic scholar of today (New York Times, 2001).

    So, I'm not too hopeful.

  • Elohimus Maximus

    Thanks for the article. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it's above the reading level of those who NEED to read it the most (including some politicians).

    @oopele –

    I'll have hope for both of us. You should try reading "Three Cups of Tea." If we were truly creative in our strategies for fighting terrorism…we might try a "shock and awe" with Greg's approach and then followup with a counter insurgency effort from the Grameen Bank. However, it's much easier to be mad…so lets just get even. Fight terror with terror, historically, it works! For a while…

  • Jake

    Maybe a debunking of Newt's statement, but hardly a repudiation of the general sentiment. There are many extreme Muslims (maybe even the ones in question) who will view this Mosque as an affront to the West.
    That being said, it would be wrong for our government to stop the development of private property. If people opposed to the Mosque want it suppressed, they should buy out the landholders.

  • Apuleius Platonicus

    It is true that the Cordoba of the Caliphate was an oasis of religious toleration. But it is only true if your point of reference is Medieval Christendom.

    So, holding up Corodoba as a shining example of Kumbaya-ism is like holding up Fascist Italy as a place to be emulated for its enlightened attitude toward Jews — because it looks pretty good standing next to the Third Reich.

  • Morgan

    While I definitely enjoyed the history lesson (no sarcasm, really is interesting), I can't get around the fact that there really didn't seem to be a debunking of Newt's accusations. It reads as if you are both talking about the same thing, but one of you is more accepting of Islam and one of you isn't. yes, the Cordoba initiative is probably a reference to the Church in Spain. No, there isn't a hidden, secret motive behind gthe project designed to bring down capitalism and democracy in the US. It's the exact same thing you see when you walk past a group of homeless people being forced to listen to the bible before they can eat their fried chicken and fruit cups. The proselytizer has no ill will in his heart, he feels he is doing god's work and shepherding his 'children' home.

  • jcapatelli

    Newt Gingrich is ignorant of this history. He, as usual, doesn't know what he's talking about.

    Newt likes to pose as some sort of "historian" or "intellectual". It's nonsense.'

    Newt takes the tiny little bit of history he knows, and deliberately distorts it in an effort to confuse and deceive his followers. Gingrich tells them what he thinks will get them enraged and will ultimately result in more speaking engagements, more book deals and more Fox "News" appearances for him.

    Gingrich should be taken seriously, like any maniac who throws gasoline on a fire. But his ignorant rantings on "history" should be dismissed as the shams they are.

  • wwwexler

    Thank you for sending Newt back to Klown Kollege where he belongs.

    He ought to be calculating how many GOPERs fit into a Volkswagon Beetle rather than pretending to lecture us on the comparative values of two religions which he obviously doesn't comprehend.

  • altar ego

    Here's what popped out to me about the Great Mosque of Cordoba: that according to this post it represents to Muslims the conquering of other Muslims. Let's see then. A mosque by non-radical Muslims built near a site where radicals perpetrated an evil might then be seen as good conquering evil. Works for me.

  • RedinLA

    Jea, I'm terribly sorry about your parents. Horrible. I am not a jackass, though thank you for calling me, a perfect stranger a name. Very unhelpful.

    At a public forum in NYC ~overwhelmingly~ the people who spoke were family of those killed and they ~vehemently~ didn't want it.

    As a former New Yorker, as someone who didn't have family killed, as a person who no longer lives in New York, I don't think my opinion matters much. Just passing forward what I read.

    Again, thanks for calling me a name. It really made me feel good on a Sunday afternoon.

  • David

    As usual, another neo-conservative, fear mongering tactic based on half truths and complete lies, by Newt! Should anyone be surprised? I think not! The idiots who believe this crap need to take a good, long, hard look at the Qur'an, and see how close it is the the Bible. Please people, know the truth, before you make a judgment! Moslems or Muslims, those who follow the path of Islam, are in even greater numbers than Christians, overwhelmingly, good, honest, non-violent, hard-working people who follow a moral code virtually identical to Christians!

  • Juan Carlos

    I also enjoy Newt's willingness to ignore more recent history in this matter; specifically, the part where the Mezquita has a giant Gothic cathedral just sort of forced right into the middle of it, and is indeed the seat of the diocese. Strictly speaking, the building is architecturally fascinating, and standing in the middle of a full sized cathedral that has no side walls – allowing you to see the columns of the mosque in both direction – is an amazing experience.

    Apparently, Christian desecration of a Muslim structure is alright, so long as Muslims don't even contemplate doing anything similar. This sounds like the Wiesenthal Center building a "Museum of Tolerance" in Jerusalem by demolishing a Muslim cemetery to make the space.

    As for the Connecticut Iconoclast, Wallace, Bonncaruso, and other such adorable trolls pretending they know what they're talking about; at risk of sounding cliche, an ignorance of history is a truly dangerous thing. Complaining about the lack of right of non-Muslims in Muslim countries of the era is one thing, but ignoring that non-Muslims in Muslim countries had far more rights than non-Christians in Christian countries is entirely another; Coexistence and freedom may not be the same thing, but you can not have the latter without the former, and Christian Europe failed to even reach that first step – rather like yourselves. For some reason (false Amero-centrism combined with unjustified evangelism, perhaps?), you seem to automatically equate "Christianity" with "democracy" – a concept that predates Christianity by several centuries and which has spent much of its existence being trampled by Christian theocracies. And all of this is to say nothing of Islam's success at ensuring the survival of… Judaism.

    That's an unfortunate fact, isn't it? In Christian countries, Jews were frequently killed or subject to pogroms. In Muslim ones, they were not. They didn't have the rights of citizens, but they were at least safe.

    More importantly, we have the Muslim world to thank for nearly our entire body of knowledge in mathematics, medicine, astronomy, philosophy, the natural sciences, and history. Pre-Crusades Europe had lost almost the entire body of pre-existing knowledge in these disciplines, which prior civilizations (Romans, Greeks, et. al.) had spent millennia developing. The Islamic world, however, was successful in preserving – and expanding – them. Without their efforts, we likely would not have reached the level we have in these (and other) fields. Indeed, among the philosophical ideals Islam preserved were the Greek concepts of the duties and rights of the citizen. In short, without Islam, there would be no United States.

    oopele is partially right; the tolerant and agreeable Islamic empire is dead, at least as a political entity. The question before us today is this; who is responsible for that empire's murder? Ah yes; that would be Christianity. Seriously, launch a massive bloodbath that lasts for centuries and see if your victims come out of it on the other end still thinking of you as someone they can tolerate. It is truly a wonder that there are any tolerant Muslims left after the Crusades, never mind a majority.

    As for dear RedinLA, there's a reason that we don't dole out religious freedom based on the ever-changing whims of the majority. The Founders were fairly clear on what they called "tyranny of the majority", and large swaths of the Constitution (particularly the whole clause about free exercise of religion) were designed to protect minority rights from such whims.

    We would love to bury our heads in the sand as The Connecticut Iconoclast suggested, but clearly it's already a bit crowded down there.

  • michael edelman

    They also converted the holiest place in Judaism, the site of the Temple, into a Mosque. What's your defense of that?

  • CK MacLeod

    The Visigoths, whom the Muslims replaced as rulers in Iberia, weren't exactly a walk in the park. They ran a thoroughgoing plantation slave economy, rigorously persecuted heretics, and their persecution of the Jews reached a genocidal peak (under the Kings Egica and Witiza) just prior to the arrival of the invaders, who were greeted as liberators – something born out by the contemporaneous and near contemporaneous histories that also stands to reason, since a relative speck's worth of Muslim "hordes" were able to take control of the entire peninsula. From early on, Muslim Iberia was an "interfaith" project. Indeed, little of the early advance of Islam could have taken place without substantial cooperation from members of other faiths. For most of the history of al-Andalus up to the end, the vast majority of present-day commentators, including the Islamophobes, at least those who don't consider bathing an offense to God, would almost certainly have preferred "dhimmitude" in Cordoba (famously dubbed the "brilliant ornament of the world" by a visiting Saxon nun) over the fine, upstanding forms of slavery, serfdom, peonage, and so on offered to the vast majority in impoverished, illiterate, bellicose, and xenophobic Dark Ages Europe.

  • D. Ghirlandaio

    Laura Brown: "This is a brilliant debunking of Newt's claims, and it's a shame that most of those who need to read it probably won't."

    Well there are a whole lot of places on the web where wingnuts congregate. I've spent hours on them fighting the good fight. Most of the readership don't know anything and they're afraid, that's all. If you don't want to argue, just cut and paste, and link.

    And to those who say it's a victory mosque, ask a Palestinian how the Israeli celebration of the Makba makes them feel. It's not like a three quarters of a million Germans were expelled from the Rhine Valley. That would have been rough justice but closer to justice than we have now. Not to mention the continuing logic of the Jewish State, which is simply European nativism transplanted: Haider, Le Pen and the National Front in the Negev. Not that many liberals get the obvious parallel.

    Still it's tiring as a Jew, being lectured by Christians about Muslim invasion when the only reason they support Israel is because there are fewer Jews elsewhere. After all "Christian Europe" killed my family. And the reconquista isn't a holiday on my calendar.

  • Triunegroup

    This is excellent work on your part. Thanks for taking the time to write it and for providing the fact to support your debunking of Newt's foolishness.

  • lotta


    I despise sweeping generalization and really think that in 2010, sophisticated people should know better. I'm also left-handed.

    I won't speak for Jea (that's a patronizing thing to do), but I will let you know that if a right-handed person insisted that ALL LEFT-HANDED PEOPLE WANT THIS or NO LEFT-HANDED PEOPLE WANT THAT based on what a tiny few said, I'd be livid and call that person a jackass too. Jea made you feel bad when (s)he called you a jackass? How did Jea feel when you appropriated the voice of all 9/11 family members?

  • aljstl

    For a complete history of this period in Spain read "Ornament of the World". Muslims, Christians, and Jews coexisted peacefully throughout most of Spain under Muslim rule. They strongly enforced tolerance of the other groups. Because of this tolerance this region advanced much more rapidly by drawing upon all three cultures. It probably was the impetus for the Renaissance. The only problem was the Christians in Rome kept trying to screw it up.

  • Bonncaruso

    I have done an extensive write up on the Cordoba Project at my politics blog.

    To note, this is pretty much the first time that I have split with the progressives on just about any issue, but this time, I think the deception on the part of the islamic community goes one step too far.

    I have co-workers, aquantances and "friends" where I work in Germany. I have been to a mosque. I have been to the groundbreaking and later to the dedication of a new mosque. I am not against muslims building mosques – this is their right according to the constitution. But I am vehemently opposed to the building of this specific structure at this time. It is morally and ethically wrong. There is a personal story in my write-up, one that just happened last Friday evening, a true story. Go read it.

  • Bonncaruso

    "I have co-workers, aquantances and "friends" where I work in Germany. "

    Should read:

    "I have muslim co-workers, aquantances and "friends" where I work in Germany.

    And no, that it not the same as the usual diatribe "some of my best friends are black, but…"

  • 1950 Democrat

    As to the intentions of the people funding this project — well, let's see what they said. Fund-raising takes publicity, fliers, etc. What did their literature tell prospective donors?

    I agree with the negative assessments of Gingrich. However I haven't seen Palin saying anything so objectionable. She's accepted the builders' good intentions and politely asked them to back off in consideration of some people's feelings, saying those feelings are still too raw.

    Imo we need to consider the feelings of the builders who are offering this gift. Palin's request would let them back off with a saving of face — which imo would be less damaging than continued controversy and perhaps vandalism of the building if it were built.

  • Satrapy

    michael edelman, that's a slightly different situation. The Foundation Stone is extremely holy in Islam, so it's not terribly surprising the thought occurred to Jerusalem's early Muslim rulers to build a mosque there.

    I wouldn't say it was a considerate decision per se, but there's no reason to believe it was a studied insult, either. And of course, if you believe some Christians, Muslims are doing the heathens of the world a favor by delaying Apocalypse.

  • heydave

    I don't care about a mosque. What really terrifies me is another fucking Trump Tower somewhere.

  • Durendal

    It doesn't really matter if it was intended as a symbol of humiliation and dominance over Christians or if it was a mutually agreed upon settlement.
    The fact is what were Muslims doing in Cordoba in the first place? Cordoba foremost symbolizes Islamic imperialist conquest and expansion into European territory.
    it is also extremely frustrating for people who study European medieval history that from the period very little details can be learned due to a lack of source material.
    It wouldn't surprise me that what exists comes from writers who had an interest in painting situations in ways that suited them and there rulers best.
    If you believe these sort of historical sources then non-Muslim populations faced with Muslim armies have all welcomed them with open arms and celebrated the fact they were conquered and subjugated.
    You notice something similar to what you always see in a imperialist culture.
    Namely the conception that the conquerors are civilizing the people they conquered.
    All these speculations about the state of Cordoba it's population numbers and relations between the people living there are but guess work, or they come from highly biased sources.And no quoting from 1917 Catholic encyclopedia doesn't substantiate anything since they were probably working with even less historical sources then modern historians.We should however know enough not to want to EVER repeat Al-Andalus since we do know how it ended.

  • D. Ghirlandaio

    "Cordoba foremost symbolizes Islamic imperialist conquest and expansion into European territory."

    And WTF was the Roman Empire doing in Egypt?

    And again: Who else was expelled from Spain in 1492?
    I'll give you one guess.

    As a Jew in [C]hymietown, whose family arrived here as refugees from "Christian Europe" I think maybe they should build the Cordoba Center over St. Patrick's, or St. John the Devine.
    No, really, some of my best friends are christians.

  • Sam

    Maybe it would reduce the potency of – and reinforce the secular nature of the western world – to build a church, achapel, atabernacle, asynagogue, a brothel, an Ikea and a starbucks?

  • Durendal

    @D.Ghirlandano Monday, August 09, 2010 3:31:00 PM

    If you read my comment I mention at the end that Al Andalus is not something anyone should want to see repeated in the 21st century.
    The fact some Muslims don't have any issue with calling there mosque after Cordoba shows that they haven't learned anything of the history of this period.
    Or that there is a passive acceptance of the principle of Islamic imperialist conquest of non-Muslim territory and imposition of Islamic sharia law on these populations.
    The whole point of the argument Newt Gingrich, but certainly not just him , is making against this mosque at ground zero.
    Can you possible be more controversial then this?
    And it doesn't help if pseudo historians start painting this period as some kind of golden age instead of simply the beginning of centuries of ethnic conflict and religious persecution.

  • Darren

    Thanks for this. It was certainly a poor attempt by Gingrich to use historical analogy.

    Nonetheless, I have to point to a separate reason not to build this centre – I just can't see how authorities can prevent a motivated McVeigh type from harming the building, its inhabitants and its neighbours. It would be a shame to compound tragedies, not to mention that such a "reprisal" would serve as a better recruiter for those who mean the US and its allies harm than any denial of a building permit ever could.

  • Juan Carlos

    Honestly, the only necessary response to Durendal is laughter. I mean, come on; a username based ona sword from the single greatest piece of pre-Crusades anti-Muslim propaganda? I don't think reasoning with someone who has such an obvious pre-conceived bias is going to do much good. The fact that he sees the Iberian occupation as the "beginning of centuries of ethnic conflict and religious persecution" pretty much nullifies any right he may have to call others "pseudo historians".

  • 1950 Democrat

    Here's some good, though more modern, research.

    Who can doubt the secret hid
    Under Cheop's pyramid
    Is the the contractor did
    Cheops out of several millions.


  • Eves_Alexandria

    Durendal: nice (if disingenuous) try, but there is a reasonable amount of evidence – by the standards of the rest of Europe at the time – about Cordoba in the 10th century and beyond. We're not just dependent on Arabic chronicles, although there are plenty of them (Cordoba being a major centre of intellectual life and all). There's archaeology, for example, which has enabled historians to trace the phases of the mosque's expansion, as mentioned in the post above (it didn't reach its largest extent until some 250 years after the conquest, etc).

    There are also contemporary biographical dictionaries, which are (as the name would suggest) compendia of short biographies about Muslim scholars and other noted individuals; given the convention, in Arabic writing, to provide an individual's lineage when discussing them, we can see that this scholarly elite, at least, was a diverse body of people, which included plenty of Visigothic- and Hispano-Roman-descended converts to Islam. There are vast collections of fatwas, records of legal rulings from individual judges, which show us a substantial Christian and Jewish population well into the 13th century – and which also make it clear that, on a case by case basis, real life in medieval al-Andalus was way more complex than EITHER kumbaya peace OR eeevil conquering Muslims vs poor persecuted Christians. It was about people getting on with their lives.

    Those, like matthewguillen, interested in the persecution of Christians during the 9th century should read the excellent books by Kenneth Wolf and Jessica Coope on the subject (both called 'The Martyrs of Cordoba, IIRC). It's a fascinating story: Christian dissidents getting radicalised in a monastery outside Cordoba, children of mixed (Christian/Muslim) marriages struggling with their identity, workplace rivalries and petty jealousies, church politics… again, real life is rather more complex and shades-of-grey than the Newts of this world would have you believe!

  • Eves_Alexandria

    Oh, and Michael Edelman, re. the Temple in Jerusalem: You do realise it was the Romans who destroyed that, don't you?

    Also, seriously, if we're getting into a 'who built over whose religious sites' competition, several denominations of Christianity are going to win hands down: it was the Christian modus operandi for centuries. Their crowning achievement in that area being the Great Mosque in Cordoba itself, right in the middle of which they stuck a big ugly baroque cathedral.

  • Robert

    I would propose that the U.S. of A. install laws that encode the concept of reciprocity – if we can own land and homes in Saudi Arabia, then Saudis can own land in US; if Christians may worship in Saudi, then Islam may worship in US. An Islamic center near ground zero is a major insult. Nothing will change – the S

  • Robert

    "I would propose that the U.S. of A. install laws that encode the concept of reciprocity – if we can own land and homes in Saudi Arabia, then Saudis can own land in US; if Christians may worship in Saudi, then Islam may worship in US."

    That concept is great if we apply it equally to the Vatican State. When Moslems can build a mosque in the Vatican State, then Catholics could worship in the United States. Great idea!

  • Throbert

    @ peter-irwin:

    What, get chased out by fanatical Christians? That is, after all, what happened to Cordoba; the mosque in question was converted directly into a cathedral.

    Actually, in between Cordoba's Golden Age of intellectual freedom and the "fanatical Christians" was the Almohad Dynasty — you've heard of them, right?

    The Almohadians, who took control of Cordoba and the rest of Moorish Andalusia circa 1150, were more or less fundamentalist Muslims under whose forcibly orthodox reign such giants as the Jewish thinker Maimonides and the (very heterodox) Muslim thinker Ibn-Rushd — a.k.a. "Averroes" — were expelled from Cordoba.

    To be fair, although the Almohad takeover was bad for freethinking Muslims like Ibn-Rushd, bad for Jews like Maimonides, and bad for Cordoban intellectual life in general, Maimonides did find conditions for Jews to be as oppressive or worse in Christian-controlled Europe — and ultimately resettled his family in another Muslim land, namely Egypt.

    (Egypt never came under control of the fundamentalist Almohadians — the eastern limits of the Almohad Caliphate were in what is now Libya.)

  • Simon

    Here's a book on the subject, worth checking out 🙂

  • Jon Hendry

    "were expelled from Cordoba."

    Plenty of people like them (prominent scholar types in the Muslim world) often had to move around, as their patrons gained or lost power, or they themselves gained or lost favor at court.

    It wasn't particularly specific to Cordoba and the Almohads.

    Hell, it's not even specific to Islamic regions. I vaguely recall that some European Enlightenment thinkers had similar problems. Voltaire, perhaps? I believe he had plenty of legal trouble too, due to things he wrote.

  • Jon Hendry

    Oh, another example of a European thinker who got the short end of the stick due to political changes would be Dante, of course.

  • Diane Vera

    RedinLA wrote: "The families of those killed don't want it. That's the end of the story." Actually, the families are divided on the issue. Donna Marsh O'Connor, who heads the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, has no problem with the Cordoba Initiative.

  • monsieur.dnalgar

    Newt is an idiot and Palin is a nimrod. Remember that as you filter their flummery.

  • bettie

    I admire what you have done here. I like the part where you say you are doing this to give back but I would assume by all the comments that this is working for you as well.


  • walter

    If all of this is simply a misunderstanding, perhaps the Imam should take a break from bridge building abroad and give a little face time at home.

  • Tandava (Carol Henning)

    Excellent article — thank you! As a native New Yorker who watched the horror of 9-11, I am appalled that this debate is even occurring.

    It is a manufactured sh*tstorm which those of us who care about truth and primary American values like freedom of religion and freedom of speech must now deal with.

    Fortunately people like you, who actually know something about history, are helping us shine the light of clarity and reason so that others may see through the muck.

  • walter

    No, really..
    I see a lot of people going to bat for this project..but the Imam appears to have nothing to say on the matter. Come forth. Now is your moment.

  • jqb

    Great article.

    And quite predictable is the appalling stupidity and ignorance of the bigots who object to the presence of a "mosque" "at ground zero" and talk about the motivations of "the muslims" — as if Abdul Rauf and Osama bin Laden are indistinguishable.

    "But I am vehemently opposed to the building of this specific structure at this time. It is morally and ethically wrong."

    That might be a reasonable conclusion, if your blog entry wasn't so full of blithering stupidity and error, like the utterly false claim the the center is due to open on 9/11/2011, a typical piece of dishonest propaganda from the right wing noise machine.

  • walter

    Let's see…checking again for Imam statement or appearance representing outreach and bridge building… Hmmm. defense of free religion and speech and speech, Pelosi wants an investigation into "opposition".

    I, as a taxpayer funding the Imam's outreach to the world, would REALLY like to see him join the discussion. This is the time.

  • walter

    Wait! The Imam is alive! But he does not want "dialogue" with Paterson:

    Paterson said today the group is apparently committed to building in the proposed site. "I think they would like to stay where they are, and I certainly respect that and I certainly respect them," Paterson said.

    But, Paterson said the dialogue would have been useful as the project has ignited nationwide debate over freedom of religion and anger over the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.. "Having said that, how much more foresighted would it have been if the Imam who is the developer of the project had been willing to hear what we are actually talking about?"

  • Richard de Leeuw

    What a great, balanced analysis. It is up to Newt to have its opinion, but at least be open to a proper falsification approach. He just doesn’t pass the test. And ‘got medieval’ staid so neat and timid. I as a Dutch would have rude rolled over him. The Mezquita was the spiritual heart of the medieval center of enlightment. One of those few fine moments in history that created a blending synergy and routed the Hellenistic knowledge back into Europe, we all benefit from till today. All was not well, of course not. We are talking about ethics, standards and judgments of 1000 year ago. But they were easily part of the more free and liberal parts of EMEA (europe, middle east & Africa). And benefiting from that openness. And that is what counts. Make sure that US stay open and forward looking. Otherwise you might even be surpassed by the old continent. And in the meantime: enrich your life: Put on an Ipad with Ladino music (originating from Cordoba, such as Yasmin Levy) and stroll through the medieval center of Cordoba. Unbeatable and heartbreaking, so needed in these tumbling times.

  • Kdog

    I am waiting with baited breath for the next logical step: imputing some xenophobic paranoid conspiracy to the introduction in the mid-1970s of the Chrysler Cordoba. Perhaps Ricardo Montalban, with his silky smooth description of the "rich Corinthian leather," was a one-man sleeper cell activated to make a political-religious statement Da Vinci code style to the jihadists. Especially considering that the Cordoba was not the most fuel-efficient automobile on the market, timed as it was after the first OPEC oil embargo, it seems the distribution of the Cordoba might have been an early attack on the homeland, even foreshadowing the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent vision of the Cordoba House.

  • walter

    "Make sure that US stay open and forward looking. Otherwise you might even be surpassed by the old continent."

    Hmmm. EU is way ahead of us, what with certain countries banning muslim attire and all. But have a cartoonist ducking an axe wielding jihadist.
    I'll have to check and see how many mosques are being built near the Madrid station.
    Here, the public questions the prudence of a mosque near a radical Islamic terrorist site and people suggest that criticism is "manufactured sh*t" and a violation of the constitution. If so, take the case of public critique to SCOTUS and see what the verdict is.

    The fact that the Imam, bridge builder and ambassador that he is, doesn't see fit to "dialogue" with anyone should make everyone suspect. Newt may be wrong on the historical facts, but the Imam is letting others define the situation and where he stands. Paterson would probably kiss his arse to get closure on this. He would have been happy to have any discussion at all. Instead, he gets the brush off and still feels compelled to say he's very respectful. I suppose Paterson may have just felt compelled to do something to show "leadership" and preserve his check.
    Wouldn't everyone like the Imam to rise to this teachable moment and speak on his own behalf? With performance like this, I suggest he not get a raise at his next review.

  • jhs

    History is so much greater than politics.

    Great post and analysis. We need more thoughtful reflection on how we came to be what we are today, and how the world arrived at the point it is now.

    Great addition to the conversation.

  • roony j. welch

    If a major Christian denomination were allowed to build a Christian community center and chapel in Saudi Arabioa (which it will not be, because Saudi Arabia is a theocracy, as the US is not) and were to name it "Cordoba House" what would the "message" to Muslims be? That this land was Christian before you and your faith came, and though you are strong here now, one day it will be Christian again, and crosses will hang in your mosques. (The mosque at Cordoba, of course, became a cathedral after the "Moors" were routed.) Or — just maybe, though we are all flawed — the Saudi Arabians would be more aware of history than Newt, and less instantly alarmed than Americans can be, despite all their power.

  • johnny phenothiazine

    Of course it is interesting to read this debunking of Gingrich's rubbish. But aside from the handful of people who are personally involved with the project, and a handful of swine whose anti-Moslem bigotry has fricasseed their brains, nobody really cares whether this mosque or community center or whatever it is get built or doesn't.

    The one and only important issue these pre-election days is the disastrous state of the economy. This is why Republicans are hooting and shrieking like howler monkeys about Cordoba House and a slew of similar non-issues: they're desperate to distract us hard-pressed voters from looking at their abysmal record, and their diabolical plans, regarding the American economy.

  • walter

    Hey Johnny,
    At what point do the Dems, who have owned congress for some time, accept any responsibility for the economy?
    But you may be right about the distraction element. That's probably why the Imam is on the federal payroll. Dems should love the distraction from their failed and exponentially destructive economic policies.

  • 2 Mac

    The USA is large enough to select a million sites that would cause no offence to the people of New York, the families of the dead from the WTC or inflame the Religous nut jobs of any faith to celebrate in victory or seeth in anger.

    The existing reaction to this building project already shows the intent of the people behind the project.

    The funding is coming from Saudi Arabia and they have chosen a spot a stones through from Ground Zero.

    If you think this is all some good intentioned misunderstanding then you really are some of the cleverest fools I have encountered.

    One of the problems I have with Academics is that they assume others have their same idealistic good intentions. You make easy victims for deception.

    Like N. Chamberlain the alternative is so horrible and objectionable that you refuse to see what is obvious to lesser minds and instead convince yourselves there will be "Peace in our time".

    The Muslims should build a big mosque somewhere else and win a PR success in the USA.

  • walter

    There is a window for the Imam to build the bridge, engage the dialog, teach the teachable moment….
    His silence is deafening..while speaking volumes.
    If he can't deal with the country he lives in, I find it a stretch he is the one to represent us abroad.

  • David

    Ad hominem. You criticize your "impression" of what Gingrich said, which is not what he said.

  • Curly Mudgeon

    Gee, I had no idea there were so many mush-headed supporters of the 'Religion of Join or Die ' – that was Mohammad's slogan / modus operandi.
    So it was 'only' 1500 or so Americans killed on 9/11 – that of course doesn't count two dozen attacks on Americans by rabid (the only kind) Muslims since 1988. And what's 1500 Americans? Small change to the religion that wants us all dead … and remember, folks, that Mohammad endorses lying to one's enemies.
    As for American politicians – they are mostly idiots,especially Mayor Bloomberg, NYC, and N. Pelsoi who think all objection to the mosque is not allowable.
    Peace on your mosque – check out Spain today under Muslim control – or France with thousands of areas under Shari'a law – or Birmingham England, dominated by wife-stoning Muslims.
    Give 'em Hell, Newt.

  • Ralph

    Yeah, same thing I always expect from the softies.

    you don't address what Newt very correctly pointed out, that being the fact that while these are the most intolerant people on Earth, they expect us to bend over backiwards to accomodate them.

    NO WAY!!

  • Travis Pomeroy

    The very idea that Mr Gingrich's comments may or may not be 100% accurate is completely irrelevant. The heart of the problem, which this author is deliberately avoiding, is the FACT that wheather or not you like it, wheather or not our current president (for now) disagrees, WE ARE A NATION FOUNDED BY CHRISTIANS!!!!! To even sugget that constructing a mosque that close to ground zero is nothing short of a slap to the face to Americans and Christians. We would have never considered building a bomber factory in Heroshima would we? In fact if memory serves we not only had to issue several public apologies for dropping on Japan but were forced to take the Anola Gay down in the Smithsonian.

    I know I know, a bunch of left wing tree huggers and Muslims will probably be offended and say I'm comparing a mosque to a bomb factory….if the suicide vest fits….I've deployed the the desert five tours now and to date I have yet to see one Christian strap on a vest and run into a crowd and blow himself up. I've never read about Christian using children to get close to our convoys to destract us long enough to detonate the IED that lay in wait.

    I'm disgusted with todays "Americans"! Let's keep a blind eye to preserve Political Correctness. This kind of pathetic "tolerance" is exactly what will get you killed one day. Enjoy bedlam people. As for me, as long as my lungs draw air I WILL fight to the death for my God and country . God bless and good luck.

  • Got Medieval

    Hi all! I'm closing down comments for this post. If folks want to debate the mosque issue more generally, there are probably better places to do it than here.

  • Pingback: Reader Mailbag — Got Medieval

  • James Notts

    Can’t believe I did not know that they took all their money and relocated their church to the outskirts of Cordoba, I hope The Catholic Encyclopedia proves helpful for my Paper

  • azia yechimowicz

    No more Religion, please. It’s ruined every place it has touched with hate and violence. Islam should pay reparations to its victims, and Christianity as well. Destroy these organizations and you’ll have laid the foundations for peace in our time.

    • AirborneSoldier

      And what should Christianity pay for? Freeing the repressed? Defending Europe from the Muslim multiple times? Creating the conditions that allowed the emergence of Western capitalism and individual liberty? There is only one god, Jesus Christ, who came to free mankind from the repression of “religion”. Only through real relationship through Him can one be with the Father, know peace, and live in harmony with others.

  • victor

    wonderful essay! Lazy historical distortion gives the profession a bad name (Newt with his well bandied Phd in History is an argument against the liberal arts). Of course, Newt will say anything to further his personal agenda, that’s what poli…oh, heck. Fine work. this is the stuff that should be broadcast from media outlets: it is far more interesting, complex, and it shows the world that the so called clash of civilizations was often not. And even when it was, it was fruitful. From one point of view, the Cordaba House must be built near ground zero–for political reasons. Of course, peace is hardly the intention of many.

  • Anonymous

    Caliphate the
    ruler-ship of ISLAM, he is the head of the religion almost always by violent war, up till the early 1900s, today it is considered to mean conquer, accept Islam or die. Since Islam is a theocracy, the caliph is
    ideally both temporal and spiritual leader of the Muslims. When Mohammad the
    Prophet died, Abu Bakr was chosen as the first caliph. After the caliphate of
    Ali (656-61) the caliphate split between the Umayyads, who ruled from Damascus,
    and the Abbasids, who ruled from Baghdad. The Abbasids massacred the Umayyads
    in 750, but one member escaped to Spain, where he established the Western
    Caliphate, or the Caliphate of Córdoba; it lasted until 1031. A third
    caliphate, established by the Fatimid sect in Africa, lasted from 909 to 1171.
    After the rise of the Ottoman Turks, the sultans assumed the title of caliph.
    The title died out with the last sultan in 1924.
    Christians, who had managed to hold on to a slither
    of territory in the northernmost part of the peninsula began to rise, both
    culturally and militarily: the Christians recaptured much of central Castile
    (Toledo, Madrid, and Gudalajara all fell to the Christians in the late 1080s
    AD), and the start of construction of the Romanesque cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in 1075 AD
    marks the beginning of large scale Christian building projects to rival that of
    the great palaces and mosques of Islamic Spain. However the Christian reconquest,
    or ‘reconquista’
    The most famous Christian hero of the
    so-called ‘reconquista’, El Cid,  Nevertheless, the Moors in Spain
    were feeling threatened by the resurgence of Christianity, many blamed Islamic
    losses on corrupt leadership and lax observation of Islamic laws. The Islamic
    rulers invited the Almoravids into Spain to help them defend their territories
    from the Christians. The Almoravids were a tribe of North African warriors who
    believed in a strict interpretation of the Koran, they believed that the
    Islamic rulers in Spain were not true Muslims and had begun adopting Christian
    With considerable public support, the Almoravids
    were able to wrestle power from the Islamic rulers in Spain whom they had
    originally come to assist. The Almoravid grasp on power was short-lived although, as an
    even more radical Islamic movement began to take hold in North Africa; the Almohads, a
    movement so conservative that it made the Almoravids seem like freethinking
    moderates. The founder of the Almohad movement had even assaulted the sister of the
    ruling Almoravid Emir for not wearing the veil in public. The Almohads were
    able to take advantage of religious zeal amongst the populace of North Africa
    and take over virtually the entire empire of the Almoravids. When the Almohads
    arrived in Spain, they outlawed the production of wine and violently forced
    many Jewish and Christian communities to convert to Islam, most fled to the
    Christian Kingdoms of the north who were at this time considerably more
    tolerant of religious minorities. Not all Muslims in Spain welcomed the strict
    orthodox preaching of the Almohads. Ibn Mardanis,
    known as “El Rey Lobo” (the wolf king) to the Christians, led the
    resistance movement against the Almohads amongst the Muslims of Spain. By
    allying with the Christian Kingdom of Castile, he had several military
    successes against the Almohads and was able to create an independent Islamic
    Taifa with its capital at Murcia. To name a Mosque in another country Cordoba due to those who accepted Islam at the time of Cordoba, Spain, especially in the West where it is a testament to their victory against foreign rulers.

  • AirborneSoldier

    …”creating a community center”…LOL
    Newt is right about this, many muslims freely admit it.
    Islam is a satanic cult that will NEVER peacefully co-exist with any other people groups.

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