- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

South Asia: Bloggers On The ‘Ground Zero Mosque’

Categories: North America, South Asia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, U.S.A., Ethnicity & Race, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Migration & Immigration, Politics, Religion

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 [2] near the site of the September 11, 2001 [3] 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 [4] 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 [5] 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 [6] 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 [7] 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 [8]:

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!