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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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