Imam Feisal Rauf's Jewish defenders have cited his moving speech at a 2003 memorial service for journalist Daniel Pearl . "If to be a Jew means to say with all one's heart, mind and soul, 'Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad - hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one," Rauf said at the service, held in a Manhattan synagogue.
On his Atlantic.com blog, Jeffrey Goldberg called Rauf "a moderate, forward-leaning Muslim" and said his words showed courage because "any Muslim imam who stands before a Jewish congregation and says 'I am a Jew' is placing his life in danger." Frank Rich of the New York Times cited the speech in a column attacking Rauf's critics.
But these arguments have not persuaded Judea Pearl, Daniel's father and a computer science professor at UCLA, that building the mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is a good idea.
Pearl told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) that although he was "touched" by Rauf's appearance and speech at Daniel's memorial service, he is discouraged by the failure of Muslim leadership to follow through on helping to change the civilized world's reaction to terrorism.
Pearl—who engages in public conversations with American University Professor Akbar Ahmed on behalf of the Daniel Pearl Dialogue for Muslim-Jewish Understanding—said Muslim leadership in the United States "has had nine years to build up trust by proactively resisting anti-American ideologies of victimhood, anger and entitlement. Reactions to the mosque project indicate that they were not too successful in this endeavor."
Pearl regards the current debate as a vote of no confidence in the organized Muslim leadership, rather than Rauf specifically.
"If I were [New York City] Mayor Bloomberg, I would reassert their right to build the mosque, but I would expend the same energy trying to convince them to put it somewhere else," Pearl said. "Public reaction tells us that it is not the right time, and that it will create further animosity and division in this country."