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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
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 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.
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 US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid