South Asia: Bloggers On The ‘Ground Zero Mosque’

American People's Rally against planned Islamic mosque near ground zero. Image by Flickr user asterix611. CC BY-NC-ND

The recent debate on the planned Islamic Center/Mosque named Park 51 near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, USA has been reverberated in many blogospheres around the world. Several groups in USA are objecting to its proximity to the site of the September 11 attacks, sources of funds etc. The media coverage of this issue has been much criticized for propagating polarized opinions and blamed for inciting Islamophobia. The conversations in the blogs are so diverse and far fetched that it is hard to summarize them in one post. In this post we will look at snippets of some interesting conversations by a number of South Asian bloggers.

Bangladeshi blogger BabuBangla at Sachalayatan writes about the sensitiveness of choosing the site near the 9/11 attacks:

আইনগত অধিকার ও সামাজিক ন্যায় বিচারের প্রশ্নে এই মসজিদ নির্মাণে কারো আপত্তি থাকবার কথা নয়। কিন্তু ৯/১১ হামলায় নিহতদের পরিবার ও আমেরিকার নাগরিকদের অনুভূতির সংবেদনশীলতার প্রশ্নটি বিবেচনার দাবী রাখে। ইসলামের নাম ব্যবহার করে এই হামলা হয়েছিল। এখন যতই সকল মুসলিম খারাপ নয় জাতীয় বাণী দেই না কেন, এই হামলার সাথে মুসলিম ও ইসলামের নাম জড়িত থাকার বিষয়টি তো আর মুছে যায় না।

আগামী দিন গুলোতে বাংলাদেশে যারা এই “গ্রাউন্ড জিরো” প্রসঙ্গটি আড্ডায় বা মিডিয়ার আলোচনায় আনবেন, আমেরিকার মানুষের এই সংবেদনশীলতার বিষয়টিও সহানুভুতির সাথে বিবেচনায় রাখবেন বলে আশা রাখি।

If we consider lawful rights and social justice then nobody should have any objection in the establishment of this mosque. But the sensitiveness of the families and fellow citizens of the 9/11 victims should also be taken in consideration. The attack was made in the name of Islam. And whether now we make statements that all Muslims are not terrorists, this fact cannot be wiped out.

So when Bangladeshis should debate on the “ground zero mosque”, I would expect that they consider this sensitiveness of the American citizens.

Another Bangladeshi blogger Nayeem Hossain at E-Bangladesh questions the efficacy of the mosques in USA to draw the Muslim community closer to the mainstream culture:

Why such a controversy over an Islamic Center? Did the so-called free Willy practitioners of Islam in US ever ask themselves? Now they are taking shelter behind the liberal left but, how many of these mosques actually work into incorporating the Muslim community to the mainstream culture? [..]

It’s important that ethnic minority communities don’t become a self isolated community in a multicultural country. But for many Americans, that’s how they perceive many minority community people. If all of a sudden they think the same for a religious minority i.e. Muslims, it’s also a question we need to ask ourselves, why and how can we change that.

Indian diaspora blogger Greatbong at Random Thoughts Of A Demented Mind compares the debate mongers from both sides:

The FUD-mongers, representatives of the Christian right, are represented by the usual suspects—Newt Ginrich, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck and their medium of hate namely the Fox channel. Their aims are solely political—- galvanizing the angry masses at a time of economic uncertainty, tapping into the pervasive ignorance of a large section of the American population about Islam and brown people in general. The goals are to prevent mosques from being constructed anywhere in the US and the 9/11 mosque is simply a small part of a larger agenda to demonize an entire religion and raise the laughable bogey of the Islamicization of America. When they say “Would the Saudis allow a church near Mecca” they, in a back-handed way express their admiration for the bigotry of Islamic states, by wanting to mirror that intolerance in the US of course in a diametrically opposite way.(In India, we hear analogous arguments as to why we should be more like Pakistan).

On the other hand stand the so-called liberals. Their primary rhetorical weapon, besides wordplay (like how it is fashionable to refer to the building as Park51 or Islamic study center instead of a mosque even though their website says it houses a mosque) has been to create strawman arguments. [..]

For me of course the question that should be the starting point of all debate about the “correctness” of the whole thing has to be— what is the reason behind the Imam and his unnamed foreign backers’ stubborn determination to construct not a mosque or a mosque in Manhattan but a mosque as physically close to Ground zero as possible, even in the face of easily anticipated public dissent?

Manzer Munir at Pakistanis for Peace warns about the perils of victimizing the whole Muslim world because of a few radical terrorists:

This idea by the opponents of the mosque and the right wingers that somehow it is perverted and insensitive to build a mosque several blocks from Ground Zero is in reality only true if we buy into the belief that Muslims and Islam brought down the towers and not a handful of radical extremists of the religion of Islam. If we believe that mainstream Islam itself was responsible for all those deaths on American soil and not Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaida network, only then would building the mosque there be insensitive. But for us to somehow associate the whole religion of Islam of over 1.5 billion people by the actions of 19 terrorists is ridiculous.

We must remember that we have a war on terror and not a war on Islam. Far away from Ground Zero in cities across the US as more and more mosques come under opposition in their communities, we must hold steadfast to our ideals, principles and to the US Constitution. As the best nation in the world, we have to defend our ideal and the basis of what makes us the best and that is the US Constitution. Speaking as an American and not even as a Muslim, I know that if we stop defending it for fear of being distasteful, insensitive, or inconsiderate, then we lose what makes us who we are as the freest nation in the world and we must not ever let that happen!


  • I live in Las Vegas, and Islamophobia is rampant here in the United States, fed by radio and television commentators(like Limbaugh,Beck and Hannity) who wish to turn American back to the fifties when anyone who wasn’t white or Christian was unwelcome. What Muslims around the world should do is boycott American goods and services until the those who hate Islam feel the economic pinch. It’s non violent,and two billion Muslims refusing to purchase American goods would really hurt at a time like this. I can’t tell you how many people hate Obama here simply because his father was born into a Muslim family (even though he was an avowed atheist when he arrived here). About 30% of the people here in America are upset because of the growing number of people of color and different religions that will soon outnumber the European Americans here. Write to the American consulates in each of your countries and tell them the boycott has begun.

    • irene

      io vivo in Svizzera,se vuoi boicottare prodotti usa o occidentali devi chiederti se sei in grado di non usare ,cellulare elettricità,pc,internet,auto,aerei,film,tv,radio,aria condizionata,in fondo loro li hanno inventati.Tutto cio che deriva dal petrolio pure,molti prodotti alimentari pure come i cereali visto che sono i maggiori produttori assieme alla Russia,
      ciao uomo che ritorna al lume di candela

    • shana

      Amusing! If muslims start boycotting goods made by foreigners then they will be reduced to living a lifestyle akin to that in the middle ages. Can u name one new world product made by muslims? And how will u ever let go of your cell phone dearie?

      P.S. Listen to pakistani columnist Hassan Nisar

      • Who said anything about foreigners? I said American products! Go to Wal-Mart and see how many American products you find! I’m driving my Bentley in my Armani suit wearing Gucci loafers ,talking on my Samsung cell phone going home to watch my Sony TV! And as far as Muslims saying “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet” , you obviously are woefully ignorant of the Abrahamic faiths or you wouldn’t spout such ignorance. Allah is the Arabic name for God, The same God of Abraham, Moses and Yeshuah(Jesus,which happens to be the Greek translation for Joshua,which was his real name.Jesu in latin,Issa in Arabic). I have to assume you haven’t studied much of the three Abrahamic faiths or you’d know that. Understand Muslims don’t care about your fears and what you don’t like.We’ve taken all the cr*p we’re gonna take that we’ve suffered over the last 1000 years at the hands of invaders and people who felt they were superior because of their skin color or their religion.The days of Gunga Din kissng your A** are over!

  • shana

    And rather than boycotting the world, isn’t it a better option to integrate with other communities well? Why do u think the world is wary of muslims and not people belonging to other faiths. When muslims shout slogans that ‘Allah is the only God and Mohammed is his messenger’ in one of the world’s most liberal cities London, what else are people from other faiths are supposed to think?

    • What world? Maybe your world! No One is having a problem with Muslims except for European and Euro-American Christians. Once a Muslim visits countries outside of Europe and America,there’s no animosity,it’s actually the opposite. People all over the world that have been invaded by Europeans and Americans completely understand the Muslim mindset. People are sick and tired of the “British Empire” mentality and the “Manifest Destiny” mentality of the Americans. They’re White and Christian so we should automatically bend to their wishes. If Eisenhower hadn’t overthrown a democraticaly elected government in Iran in 1953,They’d be no animosity today. If Jimmy Carter hadn’t stopped the Democratic reveolution in Saudi Arabia in 1979,there’d be no Al Qaeda now. If Saddam Hussein hadn’t told the United States he was no longer accepting dollars for oil payments but demanded payment in Euros,there wouldn’t have been an Iraqi invasion. The only “weapons of mass Destruction” Saddam had were given to him by the Reagan/Bush administration so he could fight the Iranians, and Bush/Cheney knew it. I have relatives in the Iraqi government (just Google Nurredin Iraq”) and I also visited many times while serving in the military before and during ‘Desert Storm”. You don’t have CLUE as to what you’re talking about. P.S. WE DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK!

  • Reduced to utter sadness

    wow, I’m flabbergasted at the recent bantering…..

    I am an american! I personally would love to see a mosque near the site of the trade centers. Muslims have nothing to do with the twin towers crumbling down. Please America, turn off your stinking televisions, get off your very fat butts and educate yourself.

    My heart ACHES because of the hatred that has spread in my country and I am ashamed because of that. I just want my country back. . so I can freely worship how and where I want to worship.

    Osama bin Laden’s prophecies are coming true….. America will destroy themselves – all he had to do was start the ball rolling.

    Allah, the Buddha and Jesus are not smiling!

  • Naj

    America, is usually synonymous with freedom. But the kind of hatred and conservatism that was seen through this whole mosque fiasco (and a fiasco it was) is just mind boggling. whatever happened to promoting secularism and safeguarding civil rights? and that too in the city of New York – the city which defines multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism??!
    Saman very clearly points out where the mistakes lie in her blog:
    ” The double standards within American foreign policy have caused the largest dent in its credibility as a nation and perpetuating this trend of unfounded xenophobia will only diminish respect for the nation worldwide.”

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