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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Just because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf- The National photo
Updated August 30th in The National, a newspaper based in Abu Dhabi., was an interview with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who is behind the efforts to build a Islamic center and mosque a few blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorists attacks that felled the World Trade Center towers.

The project known as Park51, is to be a 13 story structure and reportedly will have a 500 seat auditorium, a swimming pool, basketball courts and a memorial to the 9/11 victims among other amenities.

I read the interview and the Imam seems a very reasonable man with good intentions and a firm grasp of the American system. He says his goal is to promote understanding between religions and that is a noble cause. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.

The United States' Constitution and Bill of Rights absolutely guarantees the free practice of one's religion without hindrance from the government (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof). It also confers private property rights so one can use what they own with a very few justifiable limitations. The Imam's project is covered by both of these rights by the law of the land and I am all for him using his rights as he sees fit.

In the interview the Imam said the opposition to the mosque comes from a small, radical and vocal group spurred on by certain political forces. Polls in the U.S. and even in New York City reveal this is just not the case. In almost every survey, the majority of Americans are uncomfortable with the Imam's plans.

As an American, I am all too aware of the effect the September 11 attacks have on the American psyche. Our lives changed forever, no longer were we secure in our part of the globe. We lost a lot of our naivete that day. I watched the events unfold on TV and it made an indelible impression on me. It seemed every 15 minutes something else horrific was happening. The first plane into the towers, the second plane, the Pentagon strike and then United Flight 93 crashing into a Pennsylvania farm field. Then the towers fell, it was sensory overload. All within a few hours.

So us Americans are still smarting from the experience. It's a wound that will eventually heal but that will take time. The scar will never go away. We are still pissed-off. The mass media in the U.S., for various reasons, still paint Muslims and Islam in a bad light using the 9/11 radical extremists as examples. Because of this, Islam needs a public relations "makeover" in my country. Many U.S. citizens are Muslim and they are being done a disservice from the bad press (and the extremists) and I urge them to get more proactive.

While I am all for the Imam exercising his rights to proceed with his controversial mosque, I have to question his ability to choose his battles wisely. Unfortunately his wish for more understanding and tolerance between religions may backfire if he gets too insistent against majority sentiments.  As a current resident of an Islamic country, there are things I am free to do but choose not to because at a young age I learned not to poke hornets' nests with short sticks.



Anonymous said...

We however come back to the fact that you are a foreigner in a foreign land, while this Imam is a citizen in his own country.

And it was YOU who voted for the people and by proxy the system that gave him that citizenship and thus totally equal rights as you.

Remember when I told you the US has made a mistake in allowing anyone and everyone to show up to your country, stay for a while, and then be "one of you?"

I personally have always viewed the US as a neo christian country. It is, but claims not to be. And that is something not good nor bad. Its the way it is there.

You cant hang on to your :freedom of everything" then say BUT there are wounds.

Either tell him that it CANNOT be done, or forget about it.

Truthfully I have always seen a huge contradiction between Islam and the US. The US asks you to pledge allegiance to the FLAG, and the country, when Islam asks you to pledge the same to God and Islam FIRST.

And that, being American 1st, and Muslim 2nd, isnt possible. I've always said if you ever meet an American who claims to be Muslim they are either lying or just the worst kind of muslim (Miss USA)

My personal Opinion: The US is huge, and New York is pretty large as well, with cheaper place to build a mosque, that will actually be closer to where people live, rather than where they work. I think your saying something to the effect of him choosing his battles wisely is correct.

Because you do know what's gonna happen the second the mosque is built right? Someone is going to do a drive by, or spray paint obscenities on the doors/walls...

Best to not open house where you arent wanted.

Ace said...

I agree that as a citizen, this Imam has the same rights as me. I don't dispute that. I (and the Imam) am free to build a mosque or a Wiccan coven or a Baptist church anywhere I want on my private property. That right is protected by law.

All religious institutions in the USA enjoy tax-exempt status. I am against that concept. Some are used as tax havens.

The U.A.E. has no mechanisms for me to become a citizen...ever. I knew that before I came here and accept that.

Lately, there are immigrant groups that come to the US with their own agendas and demand the majority to bend to their wishes which are sometimes contrary to the prevailing culture.

The US IS a Neo-Christian country but it is how the majority feels and votes. I lived in Utah for awhile and Mormons dominated the political scene simply because the majority of voters were Mormons.

What you wrote about Islam requiring allegiance to religion first over country is a foreign concept in the U.S. My culture separates the two, country on one hand and personal faith on the other. I fear we may remain far apart unless this Islam rule is somehow understood by the majority of Americans.

Speaking of wounds, I have the right to prance around Harlem in the white robes and hood of the KKK but realize it would not be wise to do so. I could press it but there may be consequences.

Which brings me to my point that The Imam may be wasting energy and money in insisting the mosque be built in a place that most Americans consider inappropriate.

How many New York union workers are going to show up for duty on that project?

I agree with you, build it out in the suburbs without all the fanfare.

Americans need a little more time and Muslim leaders need to be a little more sensitive to that fact. Now is not the time or the place.

Anonymous said...

You have learn to take a book less literally - there are muslims in many, many countries which do not have Islam or any other official religion.

I find it more than a little arrogant (isn't modesty a very basic Islamic virtue?) that so many of you presume to judge the faith of others -"I've always said if you ever meet an American who claims to be Muslim they are either lying or just the worst kind of muslim"

Does your religion ask you to police others?

As for countries and alligience - the world is becoming more and more immigrant friendly. Human rights rather than nationalism overrules other faiths... If a religion, very definitely set in a time and place, cannot keep pace with the changing world it'll always be ghettoised.

Chuck said...

I guess I have a problem with the fact that the Tea Partiers have great issue with this Islamic cultural center (not a mosque) being built near Ground Zero but no problem at all with a fringe Christian church which calls Muslims evil being built even closer to Ground Zero...

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