Whoever questioned the existence of Islamophobia in America is probably feeling a little bit foolish right now, considering the latest political focus centering around a new Islamic Community Center being built two blocks away from Ground Zero. Polls show that an outstanding number of Americans do not support the Islamic Center–Not Mosque–being built–70% against, 29% for, and 1% undecided on what is now seemingly a “hot-topic issue” that many are using as a political platform for the November elections. That 70% against include infamous talk show host Glenn Beck, celebrity Sarah Palin and House Majority Leader, Harry Reid. The former two are no surprise since they have a record of being racist and intolerant of other races and religions outside of their own, but Harry Reid? It actually isn’t surprising. Not that many Democratic politicians have shown they have a backbone to stand up for what’s right, but what will get them the most votes in November. Harry Reid, one of the most prominent Democratic politicians in DC is in a tight race with Tea Party-backed candidate, Sharron Angle. Sharron Angle spoke out against the Islamic Community Center shortly after 15/15 New York City Officials approved of plans for building it in the location of the old Burlington Coat Factory. Harry Reid also revealed that believes the community center should be built “elsewhere”. Considering a majority of Americans oppose it being built, and only a faction of the population in Nevada are Muslims, Reid has his best interest at heart to preserve his seat in the senate by collecting as many votes as he can, regardless if it means taking a position on an issue that tramples on people’s freedom of religion.
I do not only believe that the Islamic Center has the right to be built two New York blocks form Ground Zero, but I also believe its good that it’s being built.
Before I elaborate, let’s go over some popular comments about the Islamic Center, or what I like to call myths and misconceptions:
The Mosque Should Be Built Elsewhere
Two things are wrong with this statement. One, that there actually is no Mosque being built, but an Islamic Community Center, complete with a swimming pool, a 500 seat performing arts theater and a basketball arena. The prayer room will only take a fraction of the space. Another problem with this statement is if it could be built elsewhere, where would it be? Gingrich might suggest Saudi Arabia, but to be realistic, the mosque that is already 2 blocks away from Ground Zero is overflowing. Lower Manhattan has a large Muslim population, nontheless one that is not that affluent, who would benefit immensely from a community center. The old Burlington Coat Factory at Park Place, two blocks from Ground Zero, has been described as being a perfect location to have an Islamic Center–not because it’s two blocks from Ground Zero, but because it’s in lower Manhattan.
It’s a Slap in the Face to 9/11 Victims
I agreed with this statement at first when I learned about a “Mosque” being built near Ground Zero–But after reading a few articles from Newsweek, regarding the Islamic Center, I was influenced otherwise. Earlier in the post I described the two blocks between Ground Zero and the old Burlington Coat Factory Building as being “Manhattan blocks”. New York blocks are much larger than normal city blocks–for example, a New York block is probably the equivalent of 4-5 Portland blocks. Two blocks in lower Manhattan from Ground Zero can be described as “nowhere near” it. One wouldn’t even be able to see the Islamic Community Center from Ground Zero, which makes it very difficult for the center to “slap” the 9/11 victims.
Nonetheless, the Islamic Center can be looked at as a symbol–but different than people perceive it as. Rather, that this Islamic Center that “Osama bin Laden would hate” is rejecting radical Islam by promoting a peaceful, moderate one. Take a look at Imam Faisel and his wife, Daisy Khan. They both don’t believe in Sharia Law–And you can see this demonstrated by this single photo. Daisy doesn’t cover her hair, and the Imam doesn’t have a long beard and isn’t wearing a kufi. When you go to the American Society for Muslim Advancement’s website, the first message you’ll see is “ASMA Society–fostering an American Muslim identity and building bridges between Muslims and Americans.” So is the purpose behind the Islamic Center to slap people in the face, or say, “hey if we want to combat terrorists and radical Islamists, we need to work together.”
The Mosque is One Step Closer Toward Islaminizing the US
Real Islam–Which looks a lot like a moderate one–promotes tolerance for everyone. Imam Faisel is a strong believer in this. The common interpretation of Islam is that one would not lure the sheep into the farm, but welcome the sheep if it wanders into it, when it comes to Islam.
The Islamic Center’s purpose is to promote this modern Islam which rejects radical Islam. Imam Faisel will not be feeding the minds of young Muslims the beliefs that if they kill in the name of Islam they will be welcomed into Heaven by virgins and Allah–but rather, a peaceful Islam that rejects women oppression and promotes tolerance. Faisel Rauf actually worked with the CIA under the Bush Administration on counter terrorism after 9/11. He is a highly trusted public figure. If you want to learn more about the Imam, I suggest you check out his book appropriately titled: What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right with America
Promoting a moderate Islam is the best way to combat terrorism. By not allowing this Islamic Center to be built will anger Muslims worldwide which could actually mean more terrorist threats for the US–It will give an image that it’s the US that is rejecting ISLAM, moderate and radical.
On September 11th, 2001, 2740 Americans were killed from a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Ever since, America has been at war with extreme Islam. There have been multiple attacks by Muslim extremists to recreate an American catastrophe in the name of Islam. However 99% of Muslims are not members of the Taliban, Al Shabab, the Muslim Brotherhood or Al Qaeda, and a majority of those Muslims believe in a moderate Islam.
By supporting this project, America is telling the world that we are not at war with Islam. Around the war freedom of religion is behind bent especially for Islam–the ban of hijabs, niqabs, kufis in public spaces, in some countries Muslims aren’t allowed to pray at school. America needs to keep its national heritage of religious tolerance by enforcing the freedom of religion. Park51, the name of the Islamic Center, is not a slap in the face of 9/11 victims. It’s a slap in the face of Osama bin Laden, the real perpetrator for 9/11.