Some muslims also question mosque

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Registered: 08-16-2005
Some muslims also question mosque
Wed, 08-18-2010 - 2:54pm

Some Muslims question mosque near ground zero

By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer

NEW YORK — American Muslims who support the proposed mosque and Islamic center near ground zero are facing skeptics within their own faith — those who argue that the project is insensitive to Sept. 11 victims and needlessly provocative at a time when Muslims are pressing for wider acceptance in the U.S.

“For most Americans, 9/11 remains as an open wound, and anything associated with Islam, even for Americans who want to understand Islam — to have an Islamic center with so much publicity is like rubbing salt in open wounds,” said Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic studies at American University, a former Pakistani ambassador to Britain and author of “Journey Into America, The Challenge of Islam.” He said the space should include a synagogue and a church so it will truly be interfaith.

Abdul Cader Asmal, past president of the Islamic Council of New England, an umbrella group for more than 15 Islamic centers, said some opponents of the $100 million, 13-story project are indeed anti-Muslim. But he said many Americans have genuine, understandable questions about Islam and extremism.

In light of those fears, and the opposition of many relatives of 9/11 victims, Asmal said organizers should dramatically scale back the project to just a simple mosque, despite their legal right to construct what they want.

“Winning in the court of law is not going to help improve the image of Muslims nationwide,” said Asmal, a Massachusetts physician. “You have to win the hearts and minds of the ordinary American people,”

The project has touched off a national debate over religious tolerance, American ideals and the still-fresh pain of the terrorist attacks. The center’s leaders, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, and his wife, Daisy Khan, have a long record of interfaith outreach in New York and beyond. They insist the center will be a voice for moderate Islam and will welcome people of all religions. Supporters are outraged that critics suspect the couple of an extremist agenda.

Asra Nomani, author of “Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam,” said she backs the idea of the mosque in principle but believes the feelings of families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks should trump the plan.

“I haven’t been able to support the building of the mosque right there in the location they’ve got,” said Nomani, an advocate for women’s rights and tolerance in the Muslim world.

The developers for the project, called Park51, have modeled their plan on a YMCA and Jewish Community Center. The site, two blocks from where the World Trade Center stood, will include a pool, gym and 500-seat auditorium for cultural events for the general public, along with a mosque and a Sept. 11 memorial. Rauf is now traveling overseas on his latest speaking tour for the U.S. State Department.

Even among American Muslims who back the idea, there has been grumbling about what they consider the organizers’ public relations missteps. A plan to build what would essentially be a local city mosque has now turned into a national confrontation that is roiling Muslim communities nationwide. Rauf’s decision to remain overseas without making a statement on the controversy has also caused some frustration. Khan, and developer Sharif El-Gamal of SoHo Properties, which owns the building, have mostly been the public face of Park51.

“The total absence of Feisal Rauf has a ‘Where’s Waldo’ quality that is maddening in itself,” U.S. Muslim writer Aziz Poonawalla, who supports the center, told the blog “I’m quite capable of defending Rauf against some of the accusations against him, but am not inclined to carry his water for him while he gallivants about the globe.”

Beyond misgivings about the location, some U.S. Muslims have raised concerns about what the mosque could become after Rauf and Khan retire and inevitably turn the center over to new leadership. Like houses of worship in all faiths, Islamic centers can change over time depending on the worldviews of congregants and the imams who lead them.

Nomani said American Muslims have not fully confronted extremism in Islam, which makes her worried that any mosque has the potential to become a haven for those with rigid views.

“Yes, there is prejudice against Muslims in the modern day, but also Muslims in the modern day have an extremist problem,” Nomani said.

Tawfik Hamid, an Egyptian scholar and reformer who said he was once a member of a terrorist group, said he had a “conditional objection” to the proposed Islamic center.

He said it was not enough for Park51 leaders to call themselves moderate. Instead, they should “clearly and unambiguously” reject radicalization by opposing specific extremist practices, such as killing apostates, stoning women for adultery, calling Jews “pigs and monkeys” and “declaring war” on non-Muslims who refuse to convert.

“This, in my view, will be perceived by radicals in Islam as a defeat for their ideology,” said Hamid, senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. “They think in a very primitive way. If they see a mosque near ground zero, this would certainly be perceived as a sign of victory for al-Qaeda. In the end, they will think, ‘They are bowing to us.’”

Few American Muslims who lost relatives in the terrorist strikes have spoken out, but those who have are also divided.

Talat Hamdani, a Muslim whose son Salman, a New York police cadet and emergency medical technician, was killed on Sept. 11, supports the proposal. “I’m not fighting for a mosque. I’m fighting for my rights,” she said.

By contrast, Neda Bolourchi of Los Angeles, a native of Iran whose mother was on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, opposes the plan.

“I fear that over time, it will cultivate a fundamentalist version of the Muslim faith, embracing those who share such beliefs and hating those who do not,” she wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. “To the supporters of this new Islamic cultural center, I must ask: Build your ideological monument somewhere else, far from my mother���s grave, and let her rest.”

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-28-2010
Wed, 08-18-2010 - 5:50pm
This just goes to show that "they" all don't think alike.
Avatar for rollmops2009
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-24-2009
Thu, 08-19-2010 - 5:00am

"He said the space should include a synagogue and a church so it will truly be interfaith."

That seems like an excellent suggestion.

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Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
– George Orwell
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-19-2010
Thu, 08-19-2010 - 10:02am

So do some Democrats.

Mosque debate divides Democrats, especially in NY

By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writer – Thu Aug 19, 6:52 am ET
NEW YORK – As vulnerable congressional Democrats weigh how to respond to President Barack Obama's statements on Muslims' right to build a mosque near ground zero, those in New York and closest to the controversy are staying silent or scrambling away.
Democrats control both Senate seats and 27 of the state's 29 Congressional districts, but analysts believe as many as eight House Democrats in the state may be headed to defeat this year. Republicans, hoping to ease Democrats' grip on the state, insist the economy remains the major campaign issue but say the mosque flap could also help move voters their way.
From eastern Long Island to more rural upstate areas, House Democrats have been opposing the construction of a $100 million Islamic center two blocks from the World Trade Center site. More than 2,700 people died there on Sept. 11, 2001, at the hands of Islamic terrorists, and the wound remains fresh for many New Yorkers who are still traumatized by the attacks or who lost loved ones that day.
Developers of the planned Islamic center known as Park51 have plans for a 13-story structure featuring a pool, gym and 500-seat auditorium, as well as a mosque and Sept. 11 memorial. It's a project of the Cordoba Initiative, a New York-based nonprofit group that promotes greater understanding between Islam and the West.
Obama told a largely Islamic crowd over Ramadan dinner last week that he believed Muslims have a right to build the mosque and practice their religion there. A day later, he said he wasn't passing judgment on the wisdom of building an Islamic center at that location.
The latest Democrat to break with Obama is Rep. John Hall, a two-term incumbent expected to face a strong challenge from Republican Nan Hayworth in the 19th district north of New York City.
In a statement released Wednesday, Hall said freedom of religion was essential to democracy but that he hoped the project would be constructed elsewhere.
"I think honoring those killed on Sept. 11 and showing sensitivity to their families, it would be best if the center were built at a different location," Hall said.
Hall joins three other House Democrats believed to be vulnerable in November who have announced their opposition to the project.
In eastern Long Island, four-term Rep. Tim Bishop said ground zero should be a symbol of interfaith understanding. If developers of the Islamic center are seeking such unity, they should move the project, he said.
In Staten Island, the most conservative of New York City's five boroughs, Democratic Rep. Mike McMahon said the project was a local matter and shouldn't come under federal jurisdiction. Nonetheless, he said he hoped it would be moved.
"I believe a new location is the right compromise so that Muslim Americans can worship without eliciting feelings that push us away from our country's basic tenet of religious acceptance while the families of 9/11 victims obtain the peace of mind they deserve," McMahon said.
A few vulnerable Democrats have chosen to stay silent on the matter, including Syracuse-area Rep. Dan Maffei, Rep. Bill Owens in northern New York and Albany-area Rep. Scott Murphy.
Murphy's Republican opponent, Chris Gibson, posted a statement on Facebook appearing to support the Islamic center project, saying, "It's either all or nothing — churches, mosques and synagogues should be treated the same." He later issued a clarification, saying he didn't think building a mosque near ground zero was a good idea.
There was a bit of a role-reversal in the Utica-area district where two-term Rep. Mike Arcuri is facing a strong challenge from Republican Richard Hanna. Arcuri was the first New York Democrat to break with Obama on the project, while Hanna initially said he didn't have a problem with it.
"This country was founded by people who were running away from religious persecution. So how can we become what we have beheld and found contemptible in other places?" Hanna said in a statement. He later switched course, saying it was insensitive to locate the project at ground zero.
Justin Phillips, an assistant professor at Columbia University who studies state elections, said the rejection of the mosque by vulnerable Democrats wasn't surprising.
"The Democrats who are going to lose in 2010 are from moderate to conservative districts, so these are the Democrats who are trying to be very careful in their handling of this issue," Phillips said. "They don't want to take an unpopular position on anything right now."
Indeed, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who faces only token opposition as he seeks his 10th term, has been one of the most outspoken advocates of the project. Nadler's district includes the World Trade Center site.
Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who faces a feisty primary challenge from attorney Reshma Saujani, announced her support for the Islamic Center two weeks ago but is being pushed by Saujani to speak out more forcefully. The primary is Sept. 14.
"This is a major debate unfolding in our city and country, and our leaders ... are weighing in with lukewarm statements," said Saujani, who strongly supports the project.
The matter has even quieted the state's normally garrulous senior senator, Chuck Schumer, who is seeking re-election this year and has yet to weigh in on the controversy that is roiling the state. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is also facing voters this fall, has issued terse statements of support for the center but said she would also back efforts to move it if community members decided to do so.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-28-2009
Thu, 08-19-2010 - 12:29pm

I can see where many would not want them to rocxk the boat any further....It's difficult enough as I understand it, to be a muslim in many parts of America. I'm sure that some are fearful of the inevitable backlash.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-28-2009
Thu, 08-19-2010 - 12:33pm

Big surprise!

I wonder what their biggest