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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More