The Washington Times - July 21, 2010, 03:18PM

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In a recent op-ed for CNN, Georgetown University Professor John Esposito champions the controversial Cordoba Initiative plan to build an Islamic center mere blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood. This should come as no surprise to those at all familiar with Mr. Esposito’s far-left, often anti-American views.

According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Mr. Esposito, director of Georgetown’s Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, has on several occasions fought back against criticism of terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, was a defense witness for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development - a group that was indicted on terror-funding charges and shut down in 2008 - and is friends with University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian, an ex-board member of terror organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

His recent piece attempts to turn the fight over the Islamic center into one about Muslims in America in general, opening the door for Mr. Esposito to play the well-worn ‘intolerance’ card of the left. Unfortunately for Mr. Esposito, that’s not what the debate is about, and everyone else knows it.

“Right-wing political commentators, politicians, hard-line Christian ministers, bloggers and some families of 9/11 victims have charged that it is insensitive to 9/11 families, dishonors memories of the victims and will be a “monument to terrorism,”” he writes. “But here are the facts: The center is not at Ground Zero but two blocks away, and the Cordoba Initiative seeks to build a center, not a mosque. The center is not designed as a local mosque for a Muslim community but rather to serve the wider community. It is meant to improve interfaith and Muslim-West relations and promote tolerance — not just to provide services to Muslims. The proposed 15-story community center will include a prayer room, offices, meeting rooms, gym, swimming pool and performing arts center.”

These “facts” are so irrelevant to the topic at hand as to be laughable. Does Mr. Esposito suppose that the presence of exercise facilities and a swimming pool would somehow preclude the possibility of a building becoming a recruiting center for terrorists? 

He devotes the majority of the rest of his piece to decrying a supposedly deep-seated American bigotry toward Muslims, which he says is the real reason for opposition to the center’s construction near Ground Zero.

“The controversy over Cordoba House is not an isolated event,” he writes. “It is part of a much more far-reaching pattern and problem.”

Wrong, Mr. Esposito. What’s part of a much larger problem are arguments like yours and the ubiquity of such “centers.” Recent history has shown that these places are not infrequently tied both financially and ideologically to terrorist groups:

- One of the founding members of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., which reportedly has connections to terror recruiter Anwar al Awlaki, was a member of Hamas (according to Human Events). The center is also affiliated with the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), both of which were named un-indicted co-conspirators in the case against the Holy Land Foundation.

- ISNA board member Faizul Khan is a former imam at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Md. (where Nidal Malik Hasan, the sole suspect in the deadly Fort Hood shooting last year, used to pray).

- The New York-based Alavi Foundation, which operates the Islamic Education Center of Greater Houston and the Islamic Education Center in Rockville, Md., is under investigation for possible ties to the terrorism-funding government of Iran.

Could it be that none of these other “centers” have swimming pools?