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MUSLIM WORLD: Debate over planned mosque near ground zero seen as opportunity to set story straight about Islam


The debate swirling around the planned Islamic cultural center two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York has been steadily gaining attention in the U.S. and around the world. 

After weeks of protests, fiery comments from the opposition and numerous hate crimes committed against American Muslims, the Islamic world continues to react to the controversy, according to a media analysis by Babylon & Beyond.

While many around the world are outraged over opposition to the cultural center, others see the resistance to the project, called Park51, as an opportunity for Muslims to confront the proliferation of what they see as Western bigotry and set the story straight about their religion.

The United Arab Emirates-based Gulf News published an Aug. 7 op-ed article expressing resentment over the opposition’s use of the controversy for political gain. 

“It is a deep outrage that opponents of this mosque persist in fanning anti-Islamic rhetoric for their own narrow political purposes. They are wrong to deliberately confuse the destructive and violent tactics of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, with the true Islamic way espoused by billions of people worldwide.”

In Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world, the Jakarta Post published a Sept. 1 opinion article by Achmad Munjid taking a firm stance against those who oppose construction of the 13-story Islamic center, which will include a prayer room. Munjid specifically argues against Republican Party leader Newt Gingrich’s comments, in which he accused Muslims of trying to impose Islamic law, or sharia, on the West. 

Munjid responded, “People don’t need to sign up for graduate class on Islam to know that, much like Halakha in Judaism, sharia is understood by most Muslims as the Islamic principle on how to practice the faith in daily life, for example, how to pray five times a day and how to fast during Ramadan. Islamization of America? Even in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country with more than 230 million Muslims, the idea of state-a sponsored implementation of sharia is rejected by majority Muslims.”  

Munjid continued to lambaste those in opposition of the Park 51 project by attributing their stance to ignorance, and offered this advice to Americans: “Don’t let bigots use Ground Zero to exercise zero tolerance on others and create a world full of prejudice and hatred.” 

However, most Muslim commentators are arriving at the conclusion that there are serious issues with the West’s view of Muslims and that now may be the opportune time to correct misconceptions. 

An Aug. 31 article in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper by Abd-al-Aziz al-Tuwayjiri, the director of the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, scolds the opponents of the cultural center but concludes that it’s time to buff up the image of Islam in America. 

“I believe that now is the time to move at more than one level to spread the facts about Islam, Islamic civilization, and Muslim world across the United States by all the available means, which are many. I have visited the United States last spring, and I have become more convinced that the Muslim world is absent from the United States. Correcting the information about Islam and Muslims (I do not say correcting the image of Islam) is required urgently in order to confront the currents of hatred and racism.”  

Even though the debate over the planned $100-million cultural center is far from over, most Muslims around the world simply want to escape the image that has been forced upon their religion. Despite a recent poll showing that 71% of New Yorkers oppose the project, the majority of Muslim commentators favor the project and say it should be used as a means to tackle racism and misconceptions about Muslims and bring Islam closer into the mainstream. 

Writer Aijaz Zaka Syed wrote in the late August issue of Egyptian online weekly Al-Aram, “I see an opportunity in this brewing crisis. Muslims must use this opportunity to clear the cobwebs clouding the image of their faith in the minds of Americans. They have an opportunity to remind and explain to Americans, and the world, that the destruction that struck the Twin Towers does not represent Islam, but peace, compassion and equality do.” 

-- Patrick Gallagher in Beirut

Photo: Egyptian-born Reem El Shafaki of New Jersey is seen last month standing in front of the building that is the proposed site of the Islamic cultural center, which is blocks from ground zero. Credit: Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (33)

I think this is the perfect oppurtunity for muslims to show their true meaning of their culture. We as Americans welcome all religions in the past. We can not let rascism win!!! I'm a student at Oxnard College and I would like to see Muslims sucseed in their mission to stop RASCISM.

To all the idiots, who think a mosque should be built at ground zero, you should really go and read The QURAN and I mean really read it, from page to page. Then you will piss in your pants and realize what it really offers. I assure you it's not love, faith, and peace.

I agree with a muslim's right to freedom of religion. But why ground zero? They were offered millions of dollars by Donald Trump to basically change locations and they said they wanted more. Well, that tells me that it is not about money, it is about the statement. What would the muslim community do if extremist christians nuked the holy land and then said "Oh, well not all christians are bad so we want to build a church on your ground zero to show you we are not all bad." They would not only oppose this, but oppose it violently. I lost several friends that were firefighters in the towers who gave their lives to try in vain to save people from that tragedy. Lets show them respect and squash all plans for a religious buildings in the area. Build a memorial that names the victims and build the towers again Taller and stronger

I have no problem with Muslims building mosques but why did they have to build it right there? Who decided this was a good spot for the mosque? I'm sure there are plenty of other good spots for this mosque that won't make people angry. In my opinion whoever decided this was a good spot for this mosque was just trying to make people mad... And for that I think that person is a jerk...

I am not very into the whole political scene but I am Proud To Be An American! And I have the right to an opinion ......and im totally against this mosque being built!.......I am not racist against anyone.....but I believe in right and wrong!......Why should we Americans have to tolerate a Muslim Mosque being built two blocks away from a place where many of us lost loved ones!......I believe in the first amendment where it states "The right to freedom of religion" but I dont believe in the right to come massacre millions of American people!......Inoccent people at that!........Then turn around and build a shrine two blocks away from ground zero.
I may not be very educated and im not very old but i do have an opinion and i stand by my word!.......No Mosque!....

well i think the mosque should be put there i really dont think its gonna hurt anyone yes it may make people angry but this is suppose to be a freedom of religion country so if we can have churches and other places for religion why not a mosque near there i just thenk it would help us

You all pls see the states where this religion has taken hold - saudi arabia (where only one religion is allowed), iran (arch enemy of west and israel), iraq (homeland of saddam and Chemical Ali (google him up)), pakistan (ivy league for trrorists), bangladesh, indonesia and malaysia (all other religions ethnically cleansed), egypt-turkey-syria-lebanon (attacked israel on second day of freedom). Also open your eyes to the wonders of islam in UK (their own homebred citizens preach hatred from mosques), france and belgium (under proselytization now). If this is not enough, please read

You need to get things in the right perspectve.

I have nothing against a Mosque being built, I am just not too excited about it being two blocks away from ground zero. I mean lets think about this, and I mean REALLY think about it. 9 years ago Muslim extremists killed thousands of people when they ran our own plane into the world trade center. Now, two blocks away, there is going to be a Mosque? Sounds a bit... Hmm, I don't know if 'fishy' is the right word, but let's use it.

I mean sure if you want a Mosque go ahead and build one, there is no reason you shouldn't be allowed to have one. But I think they should choose a different location, I mean it is just the principle. I know that Not all Islamic or Muslims or extremists, trust me I am not one to judge a person by their religion/beliefs. But I just don't like the idea of allowing it to be so close to ground zero, that is my only issue with the project.

Could it be that the "silent moderate" Muslim community have partly themselves to blame for today's unfortunate "anti-mosque" sentiment. Their public silence has allowed fear to fester and take hold of people's imaginations.

Do you think that if Muslim Americans had come out,beginning after the first world trade center bombing and certainly since 9/11 , in mass marches and demonstrations against Extremist Islam and its violent fanatic adherents, as much as they came out against Israel, American foreign policy , and perceived " Islamophobia", maybe these Muslim moderates would have more support among the wider american public.
Maybe if the moderate Muslims had shouted out in public marches and demonstrations for the last 9 years, "not in our name", instead of letting their spokespeople like CAIR blame US policy and Israel for all the Islamic extremism in the world- the moderates would have more sympathetic ears listening to their call for a Muslim Mosque and outreach Center near ground zero.
Where were they after 9/11, or the beheading of Daniel Pearl, or the massacres in Sudan or Mumbai, or the Ramallah lynchings and eviscerations, or the Ft. Hood shootings? I remember muslims saying they had to go "into hiding" after 9/11- but I don't recall they ever came out in public, in huge numbers, on their own, protesting against the evil of the extremists.

It's too bad there was never a Million Muslim March Against Islamic Extremism. It would have gone along way to change many, many minds and hearts.

All I have to say is, if you think whats going on today is extreme. Please consider the crusaids(mind my spelling). Thousands of men stormed into mosques with torches and swords killing any non cristian they saw....thats all I have to say about your racism. All of you need to grow up.

US is damn blind on Islamic civilization.

I know! I know! Let's take the very worst aspects of countries abroad, and impose their religious intolerance, persecution of minority groups, banning of other cultures, etc and impose them on American society.

THAT will teach them how not to behave!

I think that compromise would be a better outcome to this, but when there are so many howling down ANY MOSQUE, ANYWHERE, there is no room for compromise. If people break the law, by all means prosecute them, but don't persecute a whole group for what only some do. It is no better than the view that terrorists had of Americans as a whole, holding us all accountable.

I would defend the muslim's "right" to build a mosque at ground zero as soon as they allow the Jews to build their Temple where the dome of the rock is now located. Also, I think we should allow the mosque to be built as soon as saudi arabia allows Jews and Christians to build Synagogs and Churches in saudi arabia. With these guarantees, the mosque will never be built. The freedom of religion that muslims demand here in America is not granted to non-muslims in muslim countries. Truely hypocritical on the muslim's part.

Here is the kind of Islamist activism we can expect to see following the completion of the Ground Zero mosque...this chilling video is from the streets of Paris, France. The Islamization of France is about 5-10 years ahead of the pace set here in America, so you can also expect to see the "peaceful" takeover of PUBLIC STREETS by "peace-loving" Muslims in places like NYC, similar to what is shown in this compelling video:

French Muslims DEFIANTLY barricade public streets so they can have mass prayers right in the MIDDLE of public thoroughfares, denying access to non-Muslims who live in the area. The police stand by in fear while LARGE groups of "peaceful" Muslims illegally commandeer PUBLIC streets for prayers which would "normally" be held in a mosque.

Welcome to 2010...Islam is an aggressive faith which demands an end to the separation of mosque & state. If limp-wristed liberals like Michael Bloomberg cannot stand up to the GZ mosque leaders, how is he going to stop TAKEOVER OF PUBLIC streets in NYC in another 5-10 years?

Muslims need to understand this is NOT THE PLACE to build a MEGA MOSQUE, if you truly want westerners to understand and respect your religion and your principles, maybe you should not force this upon the opposition which is the overwhelming majority. It is a very simple equation if you want respect you need to show respect, and if you think this is in the name of "Religious Freedom" which does not exist in Islam you are barking up the wrong tree. This is not the place for the mosque- if you think 2 blocks is far enough away, watch the video of the towers collapsing and see how the entire downtown area is ground zero covered by debris, body parts, etc, and you are essentially spitting on the graves of those that lost their lives in the name of Islam, radical or not. You claim not to force your religion and ideologies upon others, however in proceeding with this, you will not only not build bridges, you will create more racism, hatred and bigotry, by forcing this issue. Secondly there is a laundry list of inconsistencies in this Ground Zero Mosque called Cordoba ( Calling it Park 51 is way too late) as well as shady characters involved. I lived through ground zero personally and still live in the area for over 20 years, simply put if you move the mosque elsewhere you would solve a lot of the issues you claim to be issues.

Talking of equality! Why Saudi Arabia is not opening & permitting other churches to be built in Saudi, so Christian working there can practice freely.

Many Muslims have apparently been in a coma (both before and after 9/11) since they appear to think 9/11 was the only incident of Muslims attacking non-Muslims. If they weren’t in a coma, there’s no excuse for such apathy and gross stupidity.

Muslims must take some responsibility for their global jihad when thousands of their co-religionists over the past two decades kill thousands of innocents of every religion around the world; and when they deprive non-Muslims of their human rights in 57 of 57 Muslim governed countries.

Look. American Muslims may be the very soul of moderation. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for folks to ask for more from (allegedly) “peaceful” Muslims than disingenuous whitewashing of uncomfortable elements of Islamic sharia tradition, as practiced in Iran, Gaza, Kashmir, Malaysia, the Paris banlieue... and (pointedly) Cordoba House in NYC.

A genuine tiny minority of anti-jihadist Muslims may be found @

Americans remain breathless in anticipation of the vast majority of (allegedly) “peaceful” American Muslims supporting this genuinely tiny minority of their co-religionists... but don’t hold your breath.

+15K deadly Islamo-supremacist attacks since 9/11 don’t lie.

Don't parrot the propaganda lies of Islamo-supremacists your whole life, LATimes Quislings.

As long as the Muslim population of any given country remains around 1% they will be regarded as a peace-loving minority and not a threat to anyone, but as their numbers grow so will their demands. The US had better start paying attention to what is going on in Europe.

‎1955: You can sit on the bus, just not THERE.
2010: You can build a Mosque, just not THERE.

The story about Islam HAS already been straight...Americans learned all we NEEDED to know about Islam on 9/11 & in the aftermath since then:

* Radical Muslim terrorists destroyed 2,700+ lives in the process of taking down the WTC towers

* "Moderate" Muslims have spoken out precious little in condemning the terror attacks of 9/11 by their fellow Muslims

* Now some closet radical Muslim (who has a history of expressing his radical views in his ARABIC writings/speeches) wants to build a symbol of Islamic conquest near the ashes of 9/11 in order to rub America's face in it the way a dog owner would rub a dog's face into a pile of his own crap.

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