The Crescent Report

July 12, 2010

Ground Zero: Ugly Anti-Muslim Sentiments

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 2:56 pm

The Muslim American Society Freedom is currently involved in a proactive campaign against Islamophobes and anti-Muslim elements that would seek to circumvent the constitutional rights of American Muslims to build mosques (houses of worship) in the US.  If you are interested in being involved in this important civil rights initiative, please contact MAS Freedom’s Human and Civil Rights Director, Ibrahim Ramey, at 1-888-627-8471 or  Check out the piece below.  Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day:  “Justice is not negotiable. It is an irrefutable God given right.”

Ground Zero: Ugly Anti-Muslim Sentiments

By: Monique el-Faizy

An ugly dispute has been brewing in New York City that is shining a spotlight on anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.

A couple of months ago, the Imam of a small Sufi mosque in lower Manhattan announced plans to build an Islamic community center just a few blocks from ground zero, the site of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The protests have been coming fast and furious ever since. The community board hearing at which Cordoba House-the name of the project-was approved, was attended by a raucous crowd of protesters. The center still has one more procedural hurdle to clear, a meeting of the Landmark’s Commission to be held later this week.

The project has the backing of a surprising number of political leaders, including New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has shown less than robust support of other Muslim-led initiatives.

That is, in large part, because of who is leading the project, a Sufi Imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf. I met Imam Rauf more than a decade ago, and he is an intelligent and thoughtful man who is exactly the kind of leader Muslims in America need to counter the voices of Islamic radicals. Imam Rauf has repeatedly tried to reassure opponents that Cordoba House would be devoted to promoting interfaith tolerance.

Some of those opposed to the center are relatives of those who died on September 11; they say that to put an Islamic center so near the location of horrific Muslim fundamentalist violence is a slap in the face and a desecration of what is, to them, hallowed ground. While the sensitivity of the victims families is understandable, they should not be allowed to dictate policy. What’s more, they are far from unified on the matter.

Disturbingly, other groups have hijacked the issue to make their own political points, and the loudest voices are those of people who live nowhere near New York. It wasn’t long before the discourse was hysterical and offensive, with extremist groups from the right-wing Tea Party to Maurice Sadek’s National American Coptic Assembly weighing in.

Others have shrouded their objections in the pragmatic. I happen to live in the area and was talking to someone else from the neighborhood. “We don’t need another community center,” she lamented. It is true: there are already at least three such institutions nearby. One is nonsectarian and the other two, one of which she happened to be an integral part, are Jewish (to its credit, one of the Jewish community centers has come out in support of Cordoba House).

But the fact that there are already spaces serving one specific community shouldn’t prevent other groups from having their own space, too.

If I’m being charitable, I can attribute much of the opposition to the center as the result of fear and a lack of understanding of what Islam (at least, moderate Islam) is about-although it’s impossible to pretend that there isn’t a good measure of unbridled bigotry at play, too. Unfortunately, such conceptions are bound to be the norm when the loudest voices in the Muslim tent are often the most unreasonable and violent. Islamic aggression, both verbal and otherwise, renders non-Muslims’ uneasiness about the religion understandable.

And that is exactly why we need Cordoba House. Muslims and non-Muslims have such deeply rooted distrust of each other-and not without good reason on both sides. But there will be no moving forward unless we get to know and learn to understand one another, and we can only do that by interacting. My hope is that Cordoba House will serve as a bridge between open-minded people of all religions and help span the chasm of prejudice. It’s time reasonable voices prevailed.


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