Lets take another look at Cordoba - what does Cordoba symbolize? I posted this in another thread...I think it's worth repeating in light of all this misinformation.
According to Wikipedia: It was captured in 711 by a Muslim army: in 716 it became a provincial capital, depending from the Caliphate of Damascus; in Arabic it was known as قرطبة (Qurṭuba). In May 766, it was elected as capital of the independent Muslim emirate of al-Andalus, later a Caliphate itself. During the caliphate apogee (1000 AD), Córdoba had a population of roughly 400,000 inhabitants, though estimates range between 250,000 and 500,000. In the 10th-11th centuries Córdoba was one of the most advanced cities in the world, as well as a great cultural, political, financial and economic centre. The Great Mosque of Córdoba dates back to this time; under caliph Al-Hakam II Córdoba received what was then the largest library in the world, housing from 400,000 to 1,000,000 volumes
According to Newt Gingrich:
.... "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.
According to this interesting Medievil historian
, there is considerable doubt cast upon Mr. Gingrich's hystorical synopsis of Cordoba, the Mosque and Church.
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.
He goes on to say:
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.
Shame on the fear-mongers.
Learning a bit more about Cordoba and it's relevance, makes me want to support their endeavor. It's a worthwhile endeavor, far more so than the fear, hate, intolerance that seems to be coming out in some of the opposition.