News / Middle East

Muslims Wearied, Offended, by Islamic Center Controversy

Multimedia

Audio

The opposition to a proposed Islamic Center near the site of the 2001 terror attacks in New York has offended many Muslims both in America and abroad.  Some people are truly tired of having Islam equated with terrorism.

Nine years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, and a massive effort by clergy and secular groups to promote interfaith dialogue, some observers find the demonization of Islam has not diminished.

Said Sadek is a professor of politics at the American University in Cairo.  He says he is shocked by what he sees as the racism unleashed by discussion over the Islamic Center.

"As if 9/11 was committed by Islam in the name of Islam by the representatives of Islam: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahari," he said. "Ayman al Zawahari, Osama bin Laden and al Qaida are not Islam.  You cannot blame 1.5 billion Muslims and try to insult them by refusing an Islamic cultural center nearby, saying that 'we cannot tolerate seeing that.'"

Some in the Egyptian capital are more sanguine about the issue, resigned to what they see as the ignorance of others.  Hossam, a 29 year old telecommunications worker, points out that certain stereotypes about Muslims actually cross religious boundaries, to include conservative Christians and Jews.

"When you see a man with a big beard, people are saying, 'he's a terrorist.' On the other hand, this girl with the hijab [headcovering], she could be a nun. This guy with a big beard, he also could be a priest.  It's just people are jumping to conclusions because they have this prefixed picture of Muslims and how they look like.   Maybe that's because Osama bin Laden has a big beard and so they tend to see all people with big beards [that way].  I'm Egyptian and I don't have that beard.  I'm okay," he said.  

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is leading the project to build the Islamic center, and whose beard, incidentally, is neatly trimmed, is one of those who has spent years promoting interfaith understanding.  He is currently in the Middle East, carrying the message of moderation at the behest of the U.S. government.  

During a speech in Bahrain this week, Rauf once again tried to drive home the point that Islam is a religion of peace.

"This principle which defined terrorism is strictly forbidden in Islam,"  he said. "It falls under the category of what Muslim jurists have called "Herabah" because "Herabah" destroys the structures, the binding structures of human society.   Our faith is a religion not only of spirituality, of ethics and of morality, but also a religion of law and the rule of law."

Rauf was tapped as a moderate face of Islam by the previous U.S. administration of George W. Bush.   Professor Sadek notes that President Barack Obama has himself reached out to Muslims, most famously in a speech in Cairo last year.  But Sadek says he should have spent more time dealing with the image of Muslims in America.

"Summarizing the whole controversy into whether this Imam is moderate or not moderate is again escaping from the real issue," he said. "The real issue is do we accept Islam as part of American culture or not?"

Back on the streets of Cairo, restaurant worker Mohammad is one of many who hopes, eventually, there will be room for more understanding.

Mohammad says the Islamic center is a beautiful thing.  It's for everybody, he says.   He notes that everyone has a religion dear to them.  He says Muslims are proud of their faith and he hopes it spreads throughout the world.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid