Friday, 27 August 2010

Lessons from the “Ground Zero”/“Park 51”/“Armageddon” Mosque - God Bless America.

Abu Eesa Niamatullah

Okay, so I made the last name up myself seeing as everyone else is doing it, but it’s certainly no worse than the other two!

Despite actually being officially known as “Cordoba House”, the first name of the “Ground Zero Mosque” was a right-wing creation fed to the USA by some parts of the media which helped to create the frenzy that has now become mainstream news all over the world. I’m not going to bore you with a story that all of you know but in summary it seems many Americans are very worried, insulted and scared (choose any one or all three) about this building at 45-51 Park Place, Manhattan, going up near Ground Zero posing as an Islamic centre thingamajig.

The centre’s advisors by naming it “Cordoba House” clearly didn’t anticipate that some Americans would read in to such a title: war, murder, treason, taqiyyah, domination, consolidation, the Khilafah and then finally the Muslims taking over the United States of Absurdity.

Clearly a Mosque at such a location would make people suspicious of what goes on inside, especially as those guilty Muslims might be up to: secret military research, creating weapons of mass destruction, hatching assassination plots, developing loads of conspiracy theories etc. Obviously.

So what did the advisors do? They changed the name to Park51.

Yes. You heard it right first time. Of all the million alternatives they could have chosen to reduce tensions, they named the building Park51. Like that’s going to stop the haters? The advisers name the new Islamic centre after the most secretive and controversial area in the entire country – Area 51 – and they thought that’s good PR? Are you like kidding me?!

Of all the numbers from 45-51, they chose the one number which represents Aliens, Roswell, Time Machines, WMDs, the Ark of the Covenant, the X-Files, and virtually every other official secret, scheme and freaky thing or idea that the universe contains. All hidden deep inside Area 51.

So that’s alright then from a new PR angle, because now all Americans will think that the Muslims inside are getting up to: secret military research, creating weapons of mass destruction, hatching assassination plots, developing loads of conspiracy theories etc.

You just couldn’t make it up.

In fairness though you could have named the centre the “Teletubbies Mosque” or the “Big Apple Islamic Centre” and someone would find a suicide bomber link somewhere.

But enough of the jokes because some of the world’s best have had a field day with this topic, notwithstanding the brilliant Jon Stewart, our own Charlie Brooker and about a thousand other commentators who are thanking God that some real life quality comedic material has come their way for free. Actually no, at the cost of Muslims. Again.

Yes, there is a serious point to this entire discussion, most excellently summed up in my opinion by the tireless Keith Olbermann in his own unique way. Put simply, America has to change its constitution if they don’t want this Islamic centre to go ahead.

In my own personal opinion, I heard about this proposal quite a while back from Daisy Khan and I just assumed that they had polled the local community for their support because it certainly seemed to me at first hearing that it might prove a bit controversial. And they did get general support of course, before freaks like Geller, Palin and the Chai Party Wallahs got involved.

Early on in this saga when I noticed that quite a large number of people were genuinely opposed to the centre (as opposed to just being hate-mongers), I personally thought it would be better that another site was chosen because I genuinely believe that it is fair and correct that if many people in a foreign country or indeed the authorities of said country refuse permission for a new Mosque, then so be it. “I guess we mustn't grumble, I suppose that's just the way the cookie crumbles.” She said.

But after following this story in a bit more detail, I wish to support the building of this centre. It has now become clear that America needs to ensure that it allows the Muslims behind Park51 to give it their best shot, as both Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama have clearly stated. It would be going against every American value, indeed every Western value, if such a project were to be denied – if the complete freedom of religion is what the West has signed up to then that is what they must also prove, especially if other states or religions wouldn’t do the same. Like I said before, either that or either change the constitution to avoid charges of islamophobia and discrimination.

Likewise it seems that a lot of the opposition noise isn’t as genuine as it may seem, but rather a lot of loud voices busy in their hating and refudiating. Regardless of our religion or background, speaking out against such acts of racial intolerance and/or crimes against the English language must not be left to others.

The final reason why I support this project is because I teach people the value of unity, and that one of the special characteristics of the Muslims of Ahl’l-Sunnah wal-Jamā‘ah (the People of Orthodox Tradition & Community) is that they defend the rights of their brothers and sisters despite their differences. This is a time where unfortunately the Muslim community is under attack, and regardless of who is wrong or right, we shouldn’t be contributing to the voices of hate, even if our own personal opinions and objections against said project are valid. Perhaps we might advise the people behind Park51 in private, but in public they deserve our support because their dream has been hijacked by not just enemies of Muslims, but indeed enemies of the free world. Gosh, I sounded distinctly American there didn’t I? (Shudder!)

Anyway the really ironic thing here in my opinion is that I am extremely doubtful that the Cordoba Initiative and ASMA can raise anywhere near the sums being mentioned for the completion of this project, especially if they are going to restrict themselves to American Muslims only. Many people won’t touch this project with a barge-pole I’m afraid due to the massive negative publicity surrounding it all.


To the Muslim community specifically, I wanted to offer some advice and suggest a few lessons that we can perhaps reflect over during this entire episode.

The first lesson is to reflect over who it really is that the right-wing are hating upon specifically: Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf. You might very well click on the wiki link under his name but let me tell you about him myself.

I’ve known Imam Feisel for a number of years now and I consider him a friend. I’ve lectured at his conferences and I’ve lectured with him at external conferences - he’s one of the nicest and most noble men you will come to meet. And the most infuriating thing about all of this is that the kind of associations that are being created around his name with extremists and links to X, Y and Z yadda yadda is about as far away from the truth as possible. It’d be a million times easier for someone like myself to be made out to be such a bogey man but that’s because I was born carefree like that, don’t usually give a monkeys about what other people think about what I say or do or who I like or dislike, and also because I don’t need to try and convince the entire United States of Absolutely Hard Work to support my $100 million dollar dream centre.

Imam Feisel I can tell you (and as he will proudly tell you himself!) is a Sufi, very liberal and far too “progressive” for my liking as well. I mean progressive in the regressive sense as I like to maintain, about which he of course will beg to differ. Most of the Muslims I roll with on a daily basis would be shocked at his liberalism - what I’m trying to say is that every stereotype you might have of a lovey-dovey fuzzy-wuzzy “sellout” kinda Muslim guy, he’d fit. And I hope I still remain on his Eed card list after that.

But this just goes to show that when it comes to hate, no one is safe; because it isn’t just a hatred of a beard or a niqab which many people mistakenly think, but rather it is the right-wing and xenophobe’s hatred of simply your religious identity.

In fact perhaps worse, it’s racism and intolerance of a horrible kind. Who can possibly forget the tragic killing of a few members of the Sikh community post the 9/11 attacks, just because “they looked the same”? In this kind of environment, anything goes.

This is why what Keith Olbermann stated, should be spread far and wide, and really reflected over. His warning - drawing strength from Pastor Niemöller’s famous words – is a reminder not just to Muslims but a reminder to all people of all religions.

The second lesson I wanted to point out is to realize that post 9/11 it became super-fashionable to criticize the bogey man “Wahabi” entity so that they and all their affiliates and associates – indeed anything or anyone remotely connected to Saudi Arabia or the Ahl’-Hadīth school – became the root cause of every single evil upon God’s green and luscious Earth.

The unfortunate thing was that it came from a number of Muslims, most sadly – and let me be frank here – by a few extreme (and perhaps some not so extreme) leaders and spokesmen associated with the Muslim Sufi community. Yes, sad, because these were from Muslims within the Sunni fraternity.

Then as things started to move on, the “progressive” or “modernist” movements started to take shape, characterized by their ultra-liberalism, distortion of traditional texts and orthodoxy, topped off with an unhealthy obsession of blaming all the world’s new evils on any Muslim group – be it the Wahabis, the Salafis, the Sufis or just Mango Kulfis. In fact, very few Muslims that were associated with the word “Sunni” have been able to escape their misguided wrath and secretly funded agendas.

If the haters can ruin such a man’s life such as Imam Feisal, then believe me they can do the same and much worse to any other Muslim from the dazzling array of Islamic groups and sects that are out there living in the West, proving once and for all that the story of the white bull will come back to haunt you one day whether you like it or not.

So the final moral of the story: we must stick together and stop selling our brothers and sisters out who are trying to practice their Deen peacefully in the West, despite our slight jurisprudential and theological differences.

This reminder also goes to all those who used to be from our good and close people who are under pressure to change their Deen during such difficult times and jump ship to failed and humiliated organisations and ideologies such as the Quilliam Foundation or Hargey’s MECO or the Canadian Muslim Congress or Schwartz’s Centre of Islamic Pluralism – it’s better to feel a bit of pressure now rather than to fold up and dissolve away. We must stick to our religious principles because this was exactly what gave our Deen its respected image in the first place. Once we lose this, we have become like some of the Christian groups that have now disappeared off the face of the Earth, in fact there will be nothing left for us. Those who stand firm now, remain as beacons for the future, and not just for the Muslims but for humanity in general.

And if it takes a bit of shenanigans in the USA to make Muslims realize and reflect upon this point then my concluding words of this piece should aptly be:

God Bless America.

No comments: