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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid