Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cordoba House - NYC - Mosque - Columbia College

Recalling memory of perhaps forty years past, I have to say one of the best basic cookbooks of all times on basic American cooking is the Settlement Cook Book. It’s recipes are derived from a cultural secular phenomenon called Settlement Houses that existed in the heyday of mass immigration into American culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Reading the various things being put out there, I go back to the concept of Cordoba House as a community center. I am reminded of the settlement movement, a secular movement in the 19th century both in England and the United States.

Having done some research on Islam, the Mosque as the center of a community is more secular a building than the west would treat a church as sacred. A church might have a community center but rarely do you see children in churches doing homework or reading, memorizing the bible.

The Mosque as community center and as planned in Cordoba House sounds more like an old-fashioned settlement house where someone like Eleanor Roosevelt did her Christian charity and taught some classes to the poor in a secular settlement house in the slums of NYC.

As the name suggests, in the American model, a settlement house that taught English, civics, hygiene, cooking and provided a gymnasium in the midst of crowded tenements, it, as a community center was also like an assimilation center for immigrants to ease into the American culture.

Cordoba house, especially for a fundamentalist or a Sufi specialty branch of study is perhaps a settlement house of sorts. The difference is that Islam is the center of community, secular like, structure?

Settlement houses went out of existence with the social safety net of government established and expanded over the decades. I have often thought that as in the case of influx of Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, that an old-fashioned concept of a settlement house teaching English and American customs might be an old idea that would ease some tensions between the existing culture and the influx of a foreign culture(s).

There is now some credible evidence surfacing that the Proposed so-called World Trade Center mosque, Cordoba House will sit on approximately forty percent of the original land that was under the original Columbia College Building, now Columbia University, when it started in colonial times on what is now the street called Park Place in downtown Manhattan.

Columbia College Building 1857

Cordoba House being proposed on this historic American spot is perhaps a good marriage of the old native culture blending into the new secular global cultural still forming.