News / USA

Ground Zero Mosque Controversy Puts Many US Muslims on Defensive

Joint meeting of Boy and Girl Scouts in Sterling, Virginia
Joint meeting of Boy and Girl Scouts in Sterling, Virginia

The controversy over plans to build an Islamic center near the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City has put many Muslims living in United States on the defensive.  But despite a rash of anti-Muslim rhetoric and possible hate crimes, some Muslims see the mosque debate as an opportunity to reaffirm their place in American society.

A rally organized by a political commentator brought a huge crowd to Washington's National Mall last weekend.

It started with a patriotic oath led by a boy scout. A few hours later, Muslim scouts in the Washington suburb of Sterling, Virginia, held a much smaller gathering in the same patriotic way.  They marked the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by inviting non-Muslims to join them in breaking their fast.

"We do want to show people that we are just normal citizens living our lives, and we happen to be Muslims -- and we are religious Muslims -- but we fit into the fabric of American society just as well as anyone else," said Jasmin Ullah, a youth group leader for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.



But the plan to build an Islamic center near the site known as Ground Zero has sparked heated debate across the country, and concerns about possible hate crimes toward Muslims.  

Everyday discrimination


Ullah covers her hair in public with a white silk veil.

Girl Scout Jasmin Ullah is a youth group leader for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society
Girl Scout Jasmin Ullah is a youth group leader for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society

"It is frightening to think that people who would just normally pass you on the street, maybe even say 'Hello,' now look at you with distrust just because of your religion,"  Ullah said.

It might appear that Muslims in America are having problems integrating into society as in Europe, where tensions have flared over mosque building and Muslim women wearing a veil in public places.

US wars

Solon Simmons is with the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in Arlington, Virginia.  He links the mosque controversy in the United States to the economic recession, combined with a popular sense that American power has suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan -- both countries with large Muslim populations.

"The role of America is still going to be important in the world, but people feel that there is a big change," Simmons noted.  "And in their own lives, they feel less powerful themselves."

Will controversy fade?

Although those issues might continue to resonate, Simmons says the controversy over building a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center attacks eventually will fade.

"I suspect that we will not even remember it," Simmons.  "My sense is it will come and go.  The facts will become clear; people will realize it is not a big deal and they will move on."

And that might be happening already.

Peace seekers

Glenn Beck is the conservative talk show host who organized the rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.  Although he has been sharply critical of the New York mosque, he did not mention it at the rally.  And those in the crowd who talked to VOA were not critical of Islam.

Janice Lippincot who attended the Beck Rally on the National Mall, 25 Aug 2010 is not critical of Islam
Janice Lippincot who attended the Beck Rally on the National Mall, 25 Aug 2010 is not critical of Islam

Janice Lippincot came from New Jersey to attend the rally.

"I believe most Muslims want peace," Lippincot said, "and that is what we all want as citizens of the United States.  But to build something there, in that specific spot, disturbs me."  

Americans see intolerance as alien to their culture.  And civil rights advocates say the debate over building a mosque near Ground Zero might offer Muslim citizens an opportunity to reaffirm their place in American society.

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid