- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Like others who call this great nation home, I am troubled by the plans to build a mosque next to Ground Zero. As one who immigrated from Sudan, I have plenty of reasons to be.

Let me tell you why. In 1983, the government of Sudan imposed Shariah law on the entire country, including the Christians of southern Sudan. Soon I, a southern Sudanese Christian, began to see the effects, including the confiscation of land, destruction of churches, forced conversion to Islam, raping of women and severing of limbs for violating Shariah’s dictates. For my part in a student demonstration opposing the regime, I was later arrested and tortured.

In 1988, I fled Sudan for this country. A year later, a military coup in Khartoum brought the most extremist, pro-Iranian forces to power. In the years that followed, the radical Islamist regime unleashed a full-scale jihad against South Sudan. It killed more than 2 million southern Sudanese and drove several million more from their homes. Its leaders encouraged the revival of the African slave trade. Countless women and children were herded into cattle cars and shipped north for brutal lives of slavery across the Middle East. I formed Operation Nehemiah Missions to provide aid to southern Sudanese refugees who were living in camps in Uganda and Kenya. In 2005, by God’s grace and with America’s help, a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) was signed between South Sudan and Khartoum, ending the Islamist terror from which the south is still recovering.

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Do those wanting to build the mosque at Ground Zero support oppressive Shariah law? Unfortunately, the imam of the proposed mosque, who claims America is somehow responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, supports the Shariah-compliant movement. Make no mistake: To support Shariah’s supremacy in America is to support the overthrow of the U.S. Constitution and its freedoms. Ironically, the Constitution is being invoked by those wanting its demise.

For Sudan, the imposition of Shariah was the latest step in a process begun more than a millennium ago, when Islamic forces destroyed the Nubian Christian kingdoms and replaced the churches they destroyed with mosques. The building of mosques near sites of Islamic conquests or successful military actions later became common throughout much of the world, including Cordoba, Spain, for which the proposed Ground Zero Mosque project is named. They became unmistakable portraits of victory and of the domination and control exercised by the victors, who plundered cities and converted captives at the point of a sword. In 1683, the whole of Europe was threatened until the king of Poland came to its aid at Vienna’s gates. That happened on Sept. 11, a date al Qaeda chose in striking America nine years ago.

The leaders behind the mosque to be built next to Ground Zero deny that their goal is to follow this fundamental historical pattern. Yet the likely result will be the same, regardless of motive. Throughout much of the Muslim world, the sight of a brand-new mosque rising over the ruins of the Twin Towers will be a powerful and enduring image and symbol. It will be interpreted widely in a manner unfavorable to the United States. It will serve as a triumphal rallying cry for terrorist groups like al Qaeda, which will seize upon the symbolism as a recruiting tool. Its leaders will proclaim it as evidence of divine favor accorded radical jihadism and specifically the Sept. 11 attackers. It will be used to refute the idea that America’s successes since Sept. 11 are evidence of divine disfavor on radical Islam. It could result in more innocent people being murdered across the world.

In the years preceding the Sept. 11 attacks, I warned that the same radical Islamist forces oppressing my former homeland were determined to attack America. Sadly, I was right. But I never dreamed that less than a decade after that attack, New York City’s government would blindly hand these elements such an obvious propaganda tool.

Ignoring all of this, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York’s leadership have made their decision, at least for now. They have given the builders their blessing.

Now it’s decision time for Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

Which side is he on - America’s side or the side of the terrorists? Not just the sensitivities of New Yorkers, Americans and family members of the Sept. 11 victims are at stake. So is innocent human life everywhere.

Mr. Rauf, if you care about America and New Yorkers, cancel the Ground Zero Mosque. And if you insist on building it, don’t blame Americans everywhere for assuming you don’t.

William Ochan Levi heads Operation Nehemiah, a relief and development organization assisting those returning to South Sudan.

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