Time to Start Rejecting Mosques

Source: AP/Dawn

Source: AP/Dawn

Think about it. Why should we continue to support a group that is actively destroying our homes, cities, public infrastructure, lives and livelihood?

Why should we continue to support a group that is pitting brother against brother, citizen against citizen and promoting discrimination?

So let’s start rejecting their mosques, their sermons and their processions and give peace and love a chance. And if you cannot do without praying, at least stop funding them or donating to them.

Can we promise ourselves to hold back our charity whenever asked for a donation for a mosque?

There is no need to expect any different from them. You are not going to hear anything peaceful and sane out of these pulpits. All love that they reserve is for the Prophet, which always spells out as trouble for the sinful human beings living in the immediate vicinity of these utterances.

It is the students of these seminaries of hate and ignorance which bred enough hate to render a young man heartless enough to kill innocent Christian women and children. The same mosques have indoctrinated enough toxic hate in the hearts of millions in the name of love for the Prophet to call for killings and destroy public and private property.

The heartbreaking tragedy striking the helpless citizens of Lahore is nothing new from the enemies of this country. However, the disgusting display by the Sunni Tehreek, which should be declared a terrorist organization, and affiliated criminals in Islamabad on March 27 is an eye-opener to all. It has not happened for the first time and probably not for the last time, but the sheer audacity and absurdity with which completely unreasonable demands are made are unacceptable.

To add insult to injury, the Sunni Tehreek is distancing from the violence it unleashed on the capital and making the lives of its citizens miserable. Things get even better with their hideously ignorant and criminal demands it has put forth by gracefully offering to negotiate with the helpless government, whose leniency in letting these criminals wreak havoc is unforgivably disheartening and disappointing.

They are asking the government to glorify a convicted criminal and to give them a carte blanche to murder whoever they want in the name of the love of the Prophet. Not only does this challenge the highest courts of the state, but any standard of humanity and moral decency.

The fearlessness of these groups that is born out of never ever being questioned must be eliminated with an iron fist.

Why should we continue to be hostage to the mullahs who are hostile to our country, our law and our lives?

This is why we need to reject attendance in mosques.

There is a reason why I am saying this.

Personally, I have always considered mosques pulpits of hate and ignorance. However, religion is a necessity in a society like Pakistan, and if you deny that, odds are you don’t understand its makeup. Religion is closely linked with rites of passage and personal and social events such as birth, marriage and death.

Nevertheless, the more people continue to pray in mosques and listen to their hateful, blackmailing sermons, the more they are going to be under the influence. It is the constant exposure to the mosque and the sermon of the hateful mullah that has induced the tolerance of the liberties taken by religious extremists.

Liberals are busy trying to create a new Islam, particularly in the West, trying to fight extremism in their own way. While I wish them well, the realities of the faith in Muslim majority states are far from their utopian cherry picking and eloquent apologies. Therefore, perhaps aversion from the poisonous words of the cleric and religious scholar is a start to purge the venom.

So let the mullahs hear this message of rejection of their hateful mosques loud and clear.

At least until they can prove they are otherwise.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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Day 3: Kissa Khwani by The Citizens Archive of Pakistan – “Evolution of Cities”

Source: Kuch Khaas/Muhammad Waheed Photography

Source: Kuch Khaas/Muhammad Waheed Photography

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a platform dedicated to documenting oral history, organized a three day event called “Kissa Khwani” in Islamabad, named after the famous Kissa Khwani Bazaar in Peshawar, which was meant to promote the tradition of preserving oral historical accounts and storytelling. On June 22, 2013, the third and final episode of the three day event, “Evolution of Cities” was held in Islamabad.

The panelists of the Islamabad event included columnist Ishrat Hyatt, renowned award winning photgrapher Syed Javed Kazi, Shafiq Siddiqui, urban town planner and senior director of CDA and Fauzia Minallah, nature conservation and peace activist and founder of Funkor Child Art Foundation. The event was moderated by Parveen Malik, the President of Asian Study Group.

I am sure a lot more significant sister event was held in Lahore with the same topic, where panelists included one of my favorite speakers and writers about history, travel and archeology, Salman Rashid. The Lahore event also included urban town planning expert Imrana Tiwana, artist and preservationist Dr. Ajaz Anwer, journalist Nusrat Jamil and architect Nayyar Ali Dada.

The event started with the moderator Parveen Malik recalling her early days in the twin cities when she moved in here with her husband in the ’60s. She talked about hanging out at the Shezan Restaurant, at the London Book Store and spending New Year eves at the famous Flashmann’s Hotel. She also talked about the covered market in Islamabad, which was sold off to everyone’s shock, apart from one of the Nafdec theatres in Islamabad, which was temporarily closed after a bureaucrat’s wife was bitten there by a rat.

She also mentioned a discotheque, aptly named “Disaster”, in the early days of the Islamabad Club where families used to hang out and dance. The discotheque was shut down after one Saturday night, a couple of MNAs demanded entry into the club and jumped into the swimming pool after stripping when denied. The membership fee was a few hundred rupees in those days, which is now up in hundred thousands.

Ishrat Hyatt talked about the peaceful environment in Rawalpindi and Islamabad in the 60s. She recalled how parents had complete faith that their children would return home safely each time they went out. She mentioned the unforgettable sight of fireflies in Rawalpindi, which gradually disappeared as the city expanded. She mourned the loss of a bunch of beautiful cottages that made way for the construction of a cricket stadium.

Photographer Javed Kazi painted a picture of his pleasant walks across Rawalpindi, from the Charing Cross all the way up to Topi Rakh, the location of the Ayub National Park. Kazi observed that the natural beauty of the city offered numerous photo opportunities. Structures such as Flashmann’s Hotel and the 1907 built St. Paul’s Church are located on the same road, known as the Mall. A 30 feet high statue of Queen Victoria also stood at the square by the St. Paul’s Church, which was later uprooted.

According to Kazi, one of the most remarkable structures in Rawalpindi from the colonial times is the Rawalpindi Cathedral, which was built around 1852. Another significant building of the period was the Presidency, which was actually the palace of Sikhs related to the legendary Sujan Singh of Rawalpindi. The building now serves as the campus of Fatima Jinnah Women’s University.

Other structures by the Mall Road included the Odeon and the Plaza theatres, which were surrounded by gardens at the time. Freemason’s Hall was one of the little known structures of the city on the way to Florence Road. Rawalpindi also housed religious structures of Hindu and Sikh communities. There used to be a major Hindu temple in Bagh Sardaraan, while there was a Gurdwara of Narankari Sikhs in the Narankari Bazaar located in Rawalpindi city center.

Shafik Siddiqui of CDA commenced a long account laying out the history of the creation of Islamabad with the mention of the formulation of the Federal Capital Commission under President Ayub Khan. The commission selected a territory of approximately 350 square miles spanning an area from Kohala to Hassan Abdal and from Rawat to the location of Khanpur Dam, beyond the Margallas. The commission ruled out the idea of moving the federal capital to East Pakistan.

The Greek architects of Islamabad, Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis, chose to plan the city in a grid iron pattern. This was a feat in its own right, since the grid pattern is suited for planes, instead of plateaus and hills that make up the territory of Islamabad. To the astonishment of the audiences, he mentioned that the notorious Nullah Lai, used to be a source of fresh water supply for the residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, which was discontinued after an epidemic broke out in the 1990s. The rest is history.

He also mentioned that four major highways were planned to be built around the city, namely, the Kashmir Highway, Islamabad Highway, Capital Highway and finally the never-built Sawan Highway, which was meant to replace the GT Road. He observed that the CDA plans to remove encroachments around the city were badly affected by corruption and lack of law and order, apart from fear of certain religious groups.

Fauzia Minallah began her account by expressing her attachment to the natural beauty of Islamabad. She recalled that she instantly fell in love with the place when she moved there. She passionately talked about the pleasures of exploring the Margallas and the Saidpur village. She spoke fondly of her experience of interacting with the natives of the village and especially with the village potter Rahim Dad, who had a pottery workshop in the village.

She mourned the loss of tolerance in the society, apart from the gradually diminishing natural beauty. She told the story of the chopping down of the “Buddhist Tree” in the E7 sector at the hands of religious fundamentalists for being sacreligious, where her Japanese friend Tajima Shinji used to meditate. I found this rather ironical because I once tweeted that maybe the only way people in our culture could preserve trees was declaring them sacred.

She also noted that Saidpur used to be a pilgrimage site for Hindus but they cannot dare visit the place anymore out of fear of extremists. She observed that the fundamentalist Muslims were narrowing down the living space for people from other communities, giving them an impression that they are not welcome here. Perhaps it was her, or Parveen Malik, who mentioned that the very name of the city, Islamabad, was like a warning to people following other faiths.

She also attacked people who called Islamabad a “dead city” due to the lack of social activities. She said that Islamabad was never a dead city to her because of its immense natural beauty and for being very habitable. She said that people should understand that every city has its own mood and this is how Islamabad is meant to be. It is not supposed to look like a city with high rise buildings.

According to Minallah, the construction of high rise buildings in Islamabad has been disastrous to its appearance and environment. She warned that unusually high structures are not meant to be built in Islamabad due to its high earthquake risk for being located on a fault line. She also criticized the “so-called developmental projects” from the CDA which were a threat to the trees of the city and which polluted the then pristine fresh water streams of Saidpur village. The stream now pretty much looks like an open sewer.

Minallah mourned the insensitivity of the town planners regarding ancient and heritage structures, as well as precious trees. She mentioned that most of the urban development of the city was misguided. She insisted that people would rather have cinemas instead of shopping malls. Answering one question she rejected the notion that people do not have a good sense of their connection with nature and their heritage. She insisted that the results of the 2013 elections confirmed that the people of Pakistan were aware.

On my question about the pathetic transport system in Islamabad, which was particularly unfriendly to anyone who dared to commute to the Capital from Rawalpindi, Mr. Siddiki admitted that it has been a problem area. He said that much had been planned to develop the transportation system of the twin cities, but out of lack of funds and sincere will,  no such projects materialized the way they should have. He also blamed the local tranporter’s unions for the problem.

Siddiki also mentioned that religious extremism and blackmailing have been on the rise in Islamabad for years and it has been a major hurdle for the CDA to carry out disciplinary measures. Parveen Malik noted that mosques in Islamabad were not allowed to build madrassahs, but just about every mosque had been violating the law, without attracting the attention of the CDA. She mentioned that President Musharraf wanted to take action against the madrassahs but Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman intervened and convinced him not to.

The panelists and participants seemed to agree that the newly constructed high rise buildings looked ugly and out of the place in Islamabad. Many raised the point that the rusty water supply pipes in the city should be fixed, which were getting mixed up with sewage at places.

But as a citizen of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the cause that appealed to me the most was the preservation of trees. Fauzia Minallah deserves applause for raising the issue. I wish there were ways we could help people who stand up for nature for a change.

In the end, I found the Kissa Khwani event a very fulfilling experience as far as interacting people was concerned. I congratulate the Citizens Archive of Pakistan for organizing the event.

I really hope this town sees another one of these events.

Note: This is not a paid post.

Why the Society Absolutely Needs the Council of Islamic Ideology

Source: Pakistan Today

Source: Pakistan Today

Although it is needless to emphasize the importance of the prestigious institute of the Council of Islamic Ideology, considering the kind of constitution and state we have in Pakistan, still it would be a good idea for the Pakistani youth to evaluate the kind of ideas they are putting forth. For their guidance, of course.

I have to offer some counter recommendations to the proposals they have presented only a few days ago. Accepting these recommendations, however, are up to the able people and government of Pakistan.

The Blasphemy Law should not be amended in order to protect minorities. 

Now this is an absolutely valid recommendation. In what other way could the minority religious groups would possibly feel safe if they were not told what to say and what to do? They should actually be prosecuted and indicted more frequently under the Blasphemy Law, so they can feel safer and happier under the infallible protection and shelter of the state. Their homes certainly are unsafe places for them, as we have seen time and time again.

Source: Abid Nawaz/Express

Source: Abid Nawaz/Express

Human Cloning is forbidden under the Shariah. 

There can hardly be a second opinion to this. What could be more horrific than reproducing another human being? Rather recreating. Are not such claims synonymous to challenging Allah that we can do just as good as you do. Indeed, secular scientists only use “medical research” as an excuse to indulge in this immoral and totally unnecessary act. I propose that cloning must be dealt with under the provisions of the Blasphemy Law. This should put such Satanic ideas to rest for good.

DNA shall not be considered primary evidence in rape cases. It can only be used as a secondary or supporting evidence.

Considering that adultery/fornication is a crime of as horrific proportions as rape, especially when done on the sidewalks, the prime evidence condition of four male witnesses should be upheld, and must have precedence over all other forms of evidence. This is why women are recommended to accompany at least four men, acquainted or not, with them at all times and under all circumstances, especially when wearing provocative clothing, so that they do not feel unsafe should a rapist attempt to approach them with malicious intentions.

Furthermore, why would a sane and righteous judge want to trust a woman’s testament which only has half as much weight as that of the accused?

Surely, she could wrongfully accuse an honorable man of faith. Through science, we do know now that all human DNA is 99.99999997% identical, so she could produce someone else’s DNA as effortlessly as if it was the real deal and the honorable courts would not be able to tell the difference. Besides, using DNA as prime evidence would trigger more indictments in rape cases, which would mean more stoned-to-death men and which would mean lesser chances of reproduction for men looking to increase the population of the followers of the Prophet.

What the hell are all the liberal people and feminists complaining about?

The Rectification of the secular translations of terms “Allah”, “Rasool” and “Masjid” as “God”, “Messenger” and “Mosque” or “Place of Worship”. 

This is a much needed recommendation in order to nullify the vile actions of a certain minority in the country that is hellbent to secularize things which are not even meant to be secular. However, there should be a certain exception to the rule, before it is blindly put into effect.

You would not want the Ahmedi community to be using the term “Masjid”, would you?

Of Honor and Cruelty

Protest in Karachi for Rimsha Case (Source: Sunny Gill for Christians in Pakistan)

I missed talking about a recent case of public lynching that took place in Tando Adam, Sindh, recently, as I had not outraged about it half as much as I had done with the Sialkot incident. The Tando Adam incident is important because it is more offensive in so many ways. While the brothers in Sialkot were suspected robbers, the boys killed in Tando Adam were suspected by people of having sex with a girl in an “illegitimate” way, which was apparently not forceful. The young boys were brutally beaten in public and made to bleed to death. Sounds worse than Muslim Hell to me.

So now you cannot even have sex with some random person in Pakistan without getting killed. But thankfully, most of the people get away with it without meeting such fate. These particular individuals were not so lucky unfortunately. As usual the local police was nowhere to be seen but not sure if they were as much involved along with the primary offenders as in the Sialkot case. The video clip got leaked or was released with planning this time around as well and the media further propagated it. In any case, such brutalities of the society should not go unnoticed. The following video has extremely graphic content, posting for the record.

Ghairat” which is roughly and pretty inappropriately translated to the word “honor”, has been a great domestic killer in Pakistan, though it is also a phenomenon prevalent in the rest of the sub-continent. Not long ago, the parents, the brother and the sister of a Pakistani-Belgian girl have been found guilty for murdering her “in the name of honor” and are now doing time. While some people have objected to the term “honor killing” for the righteous impression it could give and have called for changing it with something like “dishonor killing” or something (which sounds even more ridiculous), I think that keeping it this way busts the myth that something like murder could be associated with (false) honor.

Well so much for the copulation-preventing honor, but “ghairat” is a term with a much more broader meaning and it actually also applies to being empathetic and sensitive towards atrocities and injustice, believe it or not. So while our nation can be perfectly “ghairatmand” or “honorable” to kill its daughters for having their own way with their sex lives, it is perfectly “beghairat” or dishonorable for letting a little girl rot in jail for a “crime” that she does not even understand. Blasphemy.

Just after 3 days of the 65th independence day and 3 days before Eid, Rimsha Masih, a young girl of 11 or 14 years of age, and who happens to be Christian, was arrested by the Islamabad police on the charge of desecrating the Holy Koran in the G-12 sector of Islamabad, the nation’s capital. The girl has been reported to be suffering from Down’s Syndrome, a mental disorder which disables a child’s cognitive abilities. At that age and with that mental condition, I can hardly imagine if she would even be aware of the existence of Muslims or the Koran, let alone the thought of understanding any hatred fed to her by anyone, as is the impression on many people.

The child was reported to be caught by some locals with burned pieces of a children’s learning book for reading the Koran, so you cannot even be sure if the burned page had any Koranic verses on it. But let’s suppose there must be. Regardless of that, it was inhuman of some of the locals to try beating the child and to hand her over to the police and she is still rotting in their custody. Ironically, handing her over to the police is considered rather safe in this case. What’s worse, the Christians of the colony had started leaving for the fears of a Gojra like incident, in which Muslim mobs set an entire Christian colony on fire. The matter has finally come to the attention of mainstream media, after days of outrage in the Pakistani social media circles, which has actually led to somewhat shocking discoveries.

Hafiz Khaled Chishti (Source: PukhtoonistanGazette)

On Geo TV political talkshow Capital Talk, which is hosted by journalist Hamid Mir, the Imam Masjid, or roughly the pastor of the local mosque, Hafiz Khaled Chishti was interviewed. He admitted on TV that he had been urging the locals to drive the members of Christian community out of the area, “since we are an Islamic state”, and that their presence was causing a hindrance to allow them to perform their “religious obligations”. What I cannot figure out is why that Imam Masjid has not been arrested for such a sermon instead of that poor troubled little girl. I think you hardly need to say anything else about the state and government of Pakistan and the moral degeneration of its self-righteous society.

Furthermore, the most disappointing aspect of the talk show was that no one was ready to even discuss that blasphemy should be challenged as a crime or not, which is the reason why the tone of this post is so biased in favor of the child. Also it is shameful how condescending the attitude of some of the participants was towards the “minorities”. The anchor seeing the silver lining that people actually did not seek mob justice and did not set her house on fire and the Maulana on the panel bestowing the favor of letting Christians conduct their religious ceremonies and congregations. Well thank you very much. I find it utterly disgusting.

I think we have a long way to go, if there is any end in sight anyway.

The following is the talk show as available on youtube in Urdu.

This post is dedicated to all the people who claim that Islam is an all-encompassing religion which offers complete protection to non-Muslims in a society under its domain. It is also dedicated to the people who think that certain religious minorities such as Christians are not being persecuted in Pakistan and it also requires the attention of those who consider Muslims to be incapable of any such behavior.

But then again, why worry.

Rimsha is just another guinea pig to be sacrificed in Quaid-e-Azam’s laboratory of Islam.

Bohr Masjid: No Protests for This Mosque

The Damaged Bohr Masjid façade

Not too far from where I live, Bohr Masjid, or the Banyan Tree Mosque, located in Churr Chowk, Peshawar Road, Rawalpindi has undergone some drastic changes. The façade of the mosque is almost completely destroyed by the orders of the local government, operating in the constituencies NA-54 (Rawalpindi V) in the National Legislature and PP-10 in the Punjab government legislature, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board.

While in my opinion, this step by the local government for the sake of road expansion was completely unnecessary, apart from the general needlessness of the entire project of the so-called renovation of Churr Chowk Rawalpindi, where the inauguration stone of Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif had already been erected in March 2012 (If you happen to go around Churr Chowk these days, there is probably no other structure standing in its vicinity), what happened to the mosque only added insult to injury.

This project seems nothing else but the customary election year ritual of the reigning political parties of Pakistan, in this particular case PML-N, with their incumbent MPs Malik Ibrar Ahmed for NA-54 and his brother Malik Iftikhar Ahmed for PP-10, to gain sympathy of the voters by demonstrating that “developmental projects” are underway. I would have gone on to post the image of the ridiculously large and “vulgar” political hoarding thanking the mentioned MPs and Mr. Shahbaz Sharif and Mr. Nawaz Sharif for “fulfilling their promise of making Churr Chowk look like the Sahara Desert”, but I really don’t want to make this post sound like something political and targeting any one party, because I am sure that perhaps another party would be at it anyway.

However, it does concern politics anyway because the politics is ruining my neighborhood and my city. While a book can be written on how this project is being executed, the reason why I have chosen Bohr Masjid as its worst manifestation is because apparently mosques and religion are pretty important to the people of Rawalpindi, Punjab and Pakistan. I asked quite a few people about it, but they apparently considered the subject rather too unpleasant to be discussed much and it was something they were clearly willing to ignore.

Given the religious aspect of the damage to the mosque, the people of my city are apparently too peaceful or too lazy or too naïve to make fuss about it. However, to me, that mosque was a part of the city and a part of its culture and sights and sounds. It was heartbreaking to wake up one morning and see its façade gone just like that and what is worse, it is literally in ruins now, and it offers the view of a damaged structure in a bomb-battered warzone. A few images could offer a better idea of what has happened to the mosque.

The Debris of the Destroyed Bohr Masjid façade

Source: Another View of the Destroyed Mosque façade

What I can’t figure out is this. Why are there no protests over this? Had a Christian or some other non-Muslim even spitted betel towards the mosque, the person would have already left the world for committing the crime. Alright that is a little exaggeration, but hey, we have seen colonies of Christians reduced to ashes for supposedly desecrating the Holy Koran in this country. The only reason why there are no protests I guess is because the mosque has been destroyed by an elected Muslim government, who have apparently done great service to Islam and humanity by doing this, as they are carrying out a road expansion that everyone would have done without.

The Banyan Tree with Bohr Masjid

What concerns me more than the destruction of the mosque is the fact that the old banyan trees that are synonymous with the mosque and are an important landmark of the area would go down soon as well. Already a number of irreplaceable trees have been lost for the sake of this mindless “development” project and I am not sure how many more will follow. Peshawar Road, at least its Westridge part, is one of the relatively pleasant parts of the city connecting the G. T. Road and apparently the government wants to turn it like the rest of the urban parts of Pakistan as well.

Barren, dusty, dirty, treeless and an eyesore.

The Destroyed Bohr Masjid façade

I took these photos on August 2, 2012 and even visited the place today, on August 11. The mosque is still in the state that can be seen in the images and I expect it to remain that way for quite a while. No one knows how long will this gigantic “development project” will take to complete but I wonder if anyone would do anything to rebuild this poor man’s mosque. Surprisingly enough, it is the only building in the vicinity that has been graced by the authorities for its destruction.

Just a question for understanding the religious mind. If there is no outrage on the deliberate destruction of a mosque, a holy place, just for the trivial purpose of road expansion, why would you be raging on the destruction of a mosque claimed by another religion to be the birthplace of one of their human-gods? A much more important purpose. Maybe Muslims can destroy mosques themselves, but no one else can.

There is no connection of the two really as the attack of Hindu extremists was a violent and violating act in its own right, but why have different standards on the treatment of a mosque? Why not react to this deliberate destruction of a mosque, protesting against a Muslim government? No riots please, just concern on the loss of a cultural and historic building.

I find the apathy rather fascinating.

Are Muslims the New Niggers of America? – My Comment on Roger Ebert’s Post

Rogert Ebert is probably the most famous film critic in the world, who has also become a twitter sensation. But of late, Roger Ebert has been the center of attention for completely different reasons. Ebert is a noted critic of the Republican politicians like Sarah Palin who are opposing the Park 51 Muslim Community Center, dubbed incorrectly as the “Ground Zero Mosque”,  and sees the controversy as a missed opportunity to show to the world the Constitutional freedoms that Americans can enjoy.

But in relation to his opinion and comments about the Park 51 controversy, the right wingers have actually resorted to criticize Roger Ebert for his views, for supposedly sympathizing with the “terrorists” and for accusing Sarah Palin to be resorting to tactics from Mein Kampf, the autobiography of Adolf Hitler. Despite the criticism on Ebert, his mention of Sarah Palin in the context is correct, since it was her initiative, along with other politicians like Newt Gingrich, which fueled the controversy.

And this post will further illustrate why this controversy is encouraging the notion of hatred against Islam among Americans, which is the most dangerous part of the story.

One of his very recent posts for his blog for the Chicago Sun-Times “10 Things I Know About the Mosque” offer a very balanced and common-sense perspective on the issue and I felt compelled to comment on the post myself.

“Brilliant piece. The correct reaction to this blown-out-of-proportion issue is common sense really. So are American values and the rights offered by the American constitution. While those who oppose Park 51 maintain that it is not about the religion, they maintain that mosques are “monuments to terrorism” and that Muslims are terrorists. The simple translation to that is: “We don’t like you Muslims, and you can get the hell out of here.” Which is fine, but unAmerican. Given their viewpoint, there should not even be a single mosque in the NYC because the World Trade Center was located in the city, which suffered the 9/11 attacks, leave alone building Park 51 on the proposed spot. I just hope that feeling does not spread out to the rest of the America, although I have a feeling it already has, with anti-mosque protesters rising voice in other states like Tennessee. If things get too worse, this could be the beginning of the end of the religious freedom of Muslims in America. I hope not, but if that happens, then America would need to consider a fact: Are we not resorting to the same values for which we bomb other countries?”

August 26, 2010 4:25 PM

While I won’t go explaining my comment, which really was made on the spur of the moment, I would just like to reflect on a few things here. The location of the Park 51 Community Center, which just contains prayer halls and is not a mosque, has certainly stirred a controversy, which in my opinion is absurd, but nevertheless respecting the sentiments of the families of the 9/11 victim, I would consider it to be an issue in the first place. Probably the sanest analysis of the issue which I have come across so far comes from Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and pretty much reflects what I think about the issue.

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment: There is No Ground Zero Mosque

However, in the wake of the opposition to the proposed community center, many people who opposed the very idea of a Muslim place of worship found an excuse to spew out their hatred for the Muslim community. Most of these anti-Mosque protesters hold that “Mosques are monuments to terrorism”. While they have all the right to think in that way, preventing the construction of mosques is denying Muslims their religious freedom and civil rights, which is unAmerican, which would be paradoxical since the opponents of Mosques are patriotic Americans.

Even states like Tennessee, which are miles away from either New York City or Washington D. C., which were the cities that became victims of the 9/11 attacks, and have no apparent connection to the attacks except for the fact that they are located in the same country, people have started voicing their opinion against a local Islamic Center, which is well elaborated and covered in his usual satirical manner by Jon Stewart in the Daily Show.

The opposition to the proposed community center has also revived the sentiment of hatred against the Muslim community among the American public, which like most of the non-Muslim world is already suffering from Islamophobia, with incidents like a Bangladeshi Muslim cab driver getting stabbed in New York City after the passenger asked him if he was a Muslim, and went on to stab him on learning that he was, and one drunk man entering a New York Mosque, abusing Muslims and urinating over the prayer mats.

We are talking about the United States of America here, the Free World, not Afghanistan, not Iran, not Iraq, not Pakistan, but America. Still they say it is not about religion. To those who consider these mild episodes, I would just say that let us hope that it does not get any worse.

But then again, it is Americans who have to decide whether they want to offer Muslims their rights in the country, or whether they want them out of the country altogether. Because given the theory of the opponents of the Mosque, who are clearly more concerned about Islam itself than the 9/11 victims or their families, given the example of the opposition to the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, TN and other examples quoted above, then not only should there not be a single mosque in the New York City, but in the entire country.

It could even be implied by this opinion that they also do not want any Muslims living in America altogether, since Muslims supposedly are terrorists, which is fine if the majority of Americans agree with it, which is not really the case. Just the problem is that all those Muslims living in America are “Americans”, and are somewhere in between 3 to 9 million in numbers. And you know we are not talking about illegal immigrants here and obviously it does not matter if most Muslim Americans are immigrants. Besides, America was built by immigrants anyway.

I know sane Americans like Ebert, Olbermann, President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Bloomberg believe in American values and don’t agree with those suffering from Islamophobia. But the broad public opinion matters more than that. Because if this trend strengthens, I will not really be concerned about the religious freedom of Muslims in America, but their very security. The question to ask is: Are Muslims becoming the new niggers of America? If that is the case, America certainly needs another Martin Luther King Jr.

There can be a thin line between hating terrorism and becoming a terrorist yourself.

Note: If you are still wondering why some people are insane enough to support Park 51 even after watching the video clip with Olbermann’s comments, read this.

The Anti Defamation League, the Ground Zero Mosque and America

In relation to the Islamic Center and Mosque which is to be built on the Ground Zero site in NYC, the Anti Defamation League (ADL) has opposed the idea of its construction, and has urged that the group building the mosque should find a new spot, since the location of the mosque is causing pain to the families grieving the deaths of their loved ones in the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

For those who don’t know much about it, the Anti Defamation League is an organization which has developed the reputation of being the watchdog of antisemitism around the world, particularly in the United States, and claims to promote democratic values while defending civil rights. It works to protect the rights of the Jewish community and is an advocate of the State of Israel.

Although some Muslims who don’t take the Jewish community to be holding any sympathy for them would not have been shocked over the opposition of the Ground Zero Mosque by the ADL, I seriously think they are wrong in their assumption. But while looking at ADL, I appreciate this organization as antisemitism is a behavior which certainly should not be tolerated.  But I have been largely disappointed over its stand on the Ground Zero Mosque.

Let us try to grasp some sanity out of this emotionally charged subject. First of all, I am not a believer in building a mosque or an Islamic center on any particular spot, since Muslims can build it anywhere they choose to, so there is nothing special about building one at the Ground Zero site. I also think that the opposition of the ADL is more political in nature than religious, but still I find no reason to oppose the construction of a mosque anywhere as long as it is legal to do so.

However, the opposition to building the mosque and the Islamic center seems really absurd to me. I thought the United States was a free and democratic country, offering equal rights to every community, so why are they opposing the construction of a mosque? Prominent Republican figures such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich openly opposed the idea.

In fact, the opposition from Republican politicians was a little predictable, but the reaction of the ADL was nothing short of being disappointing to me. To me, opposing the construction of a religious center is un-American and an undemocratic act, and given the values that the ADL holds and promotes, it totally seems inappropriate to their image.

The only aspect about the objections to the construction of the mosque and the Islamic center that I could really make any sense out of is how it is being funded. It is an important question to ask from the group who is responsible for its construction and the approving NYC authorities. But we don’t hear about questions raised over the funding of any other religious buildings, do we? Why? Just because they are building it at the Ground Zero, I think.

The proposed mosque and the Islamic Center is ironically named the “Cordoba Center”, which is probably a reference to life in Cordoba, the capital of the Moorish Muslim Caliphate in Spain in which Muslims, Jewish and Christians lived in harmony, and which was considered a golden period for the promotion of knowledge and sciences, and is also associated with prominent Jewish figures in history, such as Maimonides, a 12th century philosopher and scholar, who had also served as physician to Saladin.

Probably, this is the reason why noted journalist Fareed Zakaria, who is a member of the Muslim community in the United States, has returned the First-Amendment Hubert Humphrey Freedoms Prize presented to him by the ADL in 2005. He sees the move by the ADL as a mistake and as something which will harm their reputation, since he thinks that this could affect their value of upholding religious freedom in America.

While this is Zakaria’s personal act, I cannot help but agree with him in coming to the conclusion that the opposition from ADL of the Ground Zero Mosque was totally inappropriate and inconsistent with the democratic and American values, or even with the values of the organization itself. How can it safeguard the rights of one community when it does not recognize the rights of another? They certainly would have spoken out if the construction of a synagogue were opposed in this way.

What is even more shocking than that is the hatred of mosques among a lot of American citizens, who apparently oppose the constructions of mosques pretty much everywhere, leave alone the Ground Zero site, since many see mosques as monuments to terrorism, has appeared as a result of the debate over the controversial mosque. Unfortunately, secularism these days have become more anti-Islam these days more than anything else, which is not secularism by any means by the way.

It is true that Muslims can sometimes resort to actions which can really make them look ridiculous, and coincidentally the major terrorist organizations in the world such as Al-Qaeda, have their origins in radical Muslim groups, but you simply cannot alienate the entire Muslim community just because of a few terrorists. Doing so will only promote extremism, encouraging the radicals to convince moderates of the anti-Islam views of the West.

In fact, my advice to the American people would be not to alienate the Muslim community in order to curb Islamic extremism, since it would not be realistic to expel every single Muslim from the country. The only way to put an end to Islamic extremism is to accept them, and to allow religious freedom to them. A distinction should be made between Islam and terrorism, a line which has diminished in the perception of many.

In the end, whether the mosque is built at the site or not does not matter really. Even if the group backs off from building the mosque in respect of the opposition, this should not be taken as an insult by the Muslim community. It’s just that the opposition to constructing a mosque sounds unreasonable to me. At least, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks so, who is Jewish himself.