The Mosque Fiasco, Sufis, and Pretzels

Something that’s been the news a lot lately is the controversy over building a mosque/Islamic centre on Ground Zero, where the World Trade Centre was before 9/11.  I’ve been reading a lot about it, and I must say I’m shocked and disappointed in America.  Apparently 70% of Americans are against it, and seeing the signs demonstrators carry is pretty depressing – let’s protect the “real” America, or “can we build a synagogue/church in Saudi?”

Saudi? Really? Americans are now happy to compare themselves to Saudi Arabia? “Oh well if we can’t do it there why can they do it here?” Real mature.

I think this whole “debate” shows that America isn’t as over 9/11 as many people thought.  I understand that it was horrific and that it’ll take time to get over.  Fine.  But isn’t it time (it’s been 9 years) that people begin to see the distinction between Bin Laden and, well, most other Muslims? Isn’t it time people see the difference between a mosque and a training camp?  An Islamic centre and a jihadist madrassa?

I hate to say it but it seems like there are more ignorant people than I previously thought.  An what’s scarier is that America seems to get to do what it wants so these extremely high levels of ignorance can’t be good for Arabs/Muslims/Middle Easterners/anyone that is mistaken for one of the above.  Afghanistan, Iraq, who’s next?

My soon to be husband, Jon Stewart, was right on the ball, as usual:

Video here.

On related news, never eat a whole cinnamon sugar pretzel right after an iftar at a Mexican restaurant.  Bad combination.  I’m not gonna lie and say I didn’t enjoy every second, but right after those few seconds I almost collapsed and had to be carried through the mall.  Scary times.  And then I ate the pretzel.  And now I’m craving even more sugar.  I always manage to justify over-eating during Ramadan cause I always assume I could never eat more than 2000 calories after 7 in the evening. Wrong.

I’ll leave you with another amazing article, on Sufis (always nice to read about those crazy Muslims on drugs (joking)):

Read here.

I love this quote:

“Most of us are perfectly capable of making distinctions within the Christian world. The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn’t mean he’s in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers, just as not all Orthodox Christians have ties to Serbian war criminals or Southern Baptists to the murderers of abortion doctors.”

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30 thoughts on “The Mosque Fiasco, Sufis, and Pretzels

  1. The funny part is its 1) Not a mosque, but a center. and 2) its not actually AT Ground Zero or ON Ground Zero just somewhat near it.

    People need to chill.

  2. Have you seen the Keith Olbermann video? He really summed it all up nicely, from the stand point of a supporter of the mosque, anyway. You made a lot of good points. What I’m realizing, though, is that most people don’t want to make the distinction and this whole fiasco, as you called it, is all about generating an irrational, paranoia-type fear of Muslims. The situation with Muslims here is only getting worse.

  3. Omg i love John Stewart. I just posted it on my FB. What I really hate is how they’re painting Imam Rauf as an extremist. That is the biggest bold faced lie out of all of this. We’ve entered into scary times. I haven’t felt as uneasy about things as I do right now.

  4. We are dealing with people here, not animals. And unfortunately, people have the tendency of acting from their hearts, not from their minds. To varying degrees, we all have that ugly vengeful attitude in our hearts. So when we are beaten, we want, if possible, to strike back—an eye for an eye. And what’s more, if possible, we want two eyes for our single eye!

    If the 9/11 did not happen years ago, would the New Yorkers be very much against the construction of a muslim centre (which is to accommodate inter alia a mosque) 2 blocks away from the Trade Centre? I doubt it.

    The pain of losing your loved ones can last forever. Some wounds just never heal, you see. And when they do, the scars may remain forever. The human hearts has no limits for love and hate. To some people, in fact I dare say many people, 9 years is still too recent to forget! In their hearts, they probably fantasize about striking back with greater force. And yet, even if that is achievable, it still won’t really make them happy…

    And so, it is bad enough that the Isreali forces took some Palestinian prisoners, but when the Isreali woman soldier posed for a photo with those prisoners in the background, the pain suffered by the Palestinian captives is even greater. The pain of the mockery is felt not only by the captives, but also by the rest of the country, and indeed by others from all over the world.

    In much the same way, the building of the Muslim Centre at Ground Zero may be viewed as posing for photograph with the devastation of the Trade Centre in the background. Although that may not have been the intention of building the Muslim Centre, but people’s minds, with vengefulness, hatreds and fears in them, may see it that way anyway!

    However, when all the confusing issues are pushed aside, and people start thinking with the minds, not their hearts, then they will see that the building of the Muslim Centre is nothing more than a private landowner developing his land for his own use.

    But the one-million-dollar question is: Can we fight the inclination to think with our hearts?

  5. I posted that video on my facebook page too, I think Jon Stewart is awesome and I laughed out loud at the “my future husband” part! 😀
    I love the Sufi outlook, it’s very tolerant, and it’s what we need.
    I also have a love of cinnamon sugar pretzels …. and I never lose weight during Ramadan but I either gain a bit or stay the same. 😦 That’s due to me cutting back on exercise (no long walks during the day) and making up for not eating lunch at night. :))

  6. I live in New York, and the project had already been approved (which was only a courtesy vote) by the residents downtown, you can’t see the community center from Ground Zero (it’s about a block and a half/two blocks away, people are already praying at the building on Fridays and there is already a mosque on that same block. There are a lot of Muslims who live and work downtown, and who worked in the World Trade Center.

    Cinnamon sugar pretzles (warm, with cream cheese frosting) are one of the most fantastic things in the world. For some reason I’ve craved sorbet and frozen yogurt this Ramadan.

  7. I think building a mosque at ground zero is in bad taste, I really do.
    Ground zero is like killing fields, or concentration camps in the way it represents a historically significant tragedy in time. I think people should show appropriate levels of respect and consideration for that. People are grieving and the Muslim community should understand that, and allow the people their space.

    If my brother was killed by a terrorist religious group, I would not want any representation of that group to build on it. That would really upset me – not because the building and the group are related, but because of the symbolism in it all.

    I think the Muslims should just leave it alone and stop rubbing salt into people’s wounds about it all – because that’s what it is. Its very disrespectful and it’s creating a lot of problems – and this is my big beef with it all – why do we continue to force people to come out of their grief, their fear, their worry – its force force force all of the time: push push pushing ourselves in peoples faces, even at the places where their brothers and sisters died.

    I really think it’s disrespectful. Its like building a synagogue on top of the death places of the people that died delivering the Gaza Flotilla, or the places where Palestinians have died – its just bad taste with bad results, and bad effects.

    Mosques can be built anywhere – but to build one at ground zero just seems unnecessary – why there?

    Its a symbolic move – on purpose – intentional: that’s why its offensive.

    • I must say, I really disagree. It IS symbolic – but not in the negative way you make it out to be. It’s symbolic because it’s a way of saying 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam. A mosque has nothing to do with terrorism. Muslims in America have nothing to do with jihadist madrassa ideologies.
      I haven’t seen Muslims rubbing it in anyone’s faces at all. All I have seen is Muslims react negatively after a lot of racist, Islamophobic rhetoric was used to argue against building the mosque. If the arguments against the mosque had gone along the lines you just suggested then I’m sure there wouldn’t have been many problems. But no. All we heard was “a mosque represents al-Qaeda” etc etc which I, as a Muslim, find extremely offensive.
      If it was about people grieving then the arguments against it should have stated that. Instead, the arguments are about extremism.
      Like another commenter mentioned, Muslims died during 9/11 too.

  8. What’s at the heart of this whole “controversy” is the fact that building an Islamic Center two blocks away from ground zero is “insensitive” to people who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks.

    As Peter from family guy would say, “you know what really grinds my gears?” the fact that people are not making a distinction between the few individuals who “happen” to be muslim fanatics that crashed the planes into the world trade center buildings and ISLAM. Al-Qaeda declared war on America not Islam and 1.5 billion muslims. So why should Muslims, American or otherwise suffer and be blamed for the actions of a few individuals?

    What also grinds my gears is the fact that people are assuming the people who died in the attacks were all non-muslims. What they fail to promote is the fact that there were muslims who were in the trade center and who were first responders who died that day. Why is no one sensitive towards them and their families? And no one is really throwing a spotlight on those non-muslims who did lose loved ones in 9/11 who support this Islamic center.

    I have nothing against being sensitive towards people but where do we draw the line? For example, If a black person wanted to move to a neighborhood where white supremacists lived should that black person be “sensitive” to towards those white supremacists and not move in? Im sure everyone would say absolutely not.
    As Peter Beinart said tonight on larry king live “sensitivity is not an excuse for bigotry”

    At the end of the day, i think, for some of these people who are opposing this, its not even really about building a masjid or an Islamic center near ground zero, it’s about building one more masjid in America. They’re all saying, “we don’t mind if you build a mosque or islamic center, we mind the location, build it any where else or even a couple more blocks away” so why all of a sudden are there multiple protests against building of mosques all around America?

    Frankly i dont know Why this is an issue at all, sensitive or otherwise. At the end of the day, Its a constitiutional right of Muslim Americans to build a masjid or an islamic center anywhere in America. What happened to freedom of religion and religious tolerance? does it only apply to religions America/Americans deem fit and “not of the devil” or “non-terriorristic?” It’s a double standard and promotes the idea that Muslim Americans are second class citizens.

    • I’m afraid that is human nature, my friend. Sometimes, you can’t blame people for thinking the way they do. Not all of us actually take the trouble to conduct extensive research and then analyse a specific matter thoroughly before arriving at a conclusion. It is very good if we can all do that, but the reality is that most of us don’t. Instead, what usually happens is that we see what’s happening around us and then try our best to put the pieces together—however incomplete they may be. And then of course there is that inevitable tendency to arrive at the wrong conclusion(s).

      Imagine a situation where people make fun of, say, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha etc. Of course the people from all those religions may be offended. And they may all react negatively. But which people do you think are the most likely to make death threats, and are most willing to execute those aggressions?

      The point is that not all Muslims are extremists. But there are always some of them who have the tendency to become extremists. When people go to the extent of flying the jumbo jets into the World Trade Centre, thus bringing both towers down to the ground, and then claim that they’re doing it in the name of Islam, people have the tendency to judge Islam in the negative way. And what’s more, they don’t forget very easily too!

      I don’t think these aggrieved people have forgotten about those Muslims who also died in the tragedy. But their vengefulness, hatred and fear go beyond all those people. They are seeing ISLAM as a threat, and naturally they are not happy to be living within the same space with that threat. For as I said, what they have seen around them is that Muslims have that tendency, even if most of them have not! After all, it takes only a few of them to inflict devastation of unimaginable magnitude.

      Having seen the kind of devastation some Muslims can do, people are always wary of that threat. It may never happen, of course, but the mere possibility of it happening can itself be a stress—something that will always be on their mind; something that will make these people look over their shoulders all the time. It is nothing personal, really.

      I think it’s in that way that Muslims share at least a fraction of the blame. You can’t change human nature to judge you by your actions. The Muslims as a whole should behave like the other religions. Fight the tendency of killing others you dislike. Refrain from issuing fatwas and rewards for someone’s head just because that someone wrote a book against Islam and the Prophet; destroy buildings and killing thousands of people in the name of Islam etc. If that can be done, maybe—maybe, I say—people can begin to look at Islam differently.

      After all, when wanting to know if a religion is good or not, some of us would look at the people who practise that religion. If those people behave well, then there is that inclination to assume that that must have come from the teaching of that religion. But on the other hand, if their behavior is not so well, then you can probably guess how people would perceive that religion.

      • “The Muslims as a whole should behave like the other religions.”

        “Fight the tendency of killing others you dislike. Refrain from issuing fatwas and rewards for someone’s head just because that someone wrote a book against Islam and the Prophet; destroy buildings and killing thousands of people in the name of Islam etc.”

        I’m really surprised at this, unless of course I misunderstood it.

        What do you mean Muslims as a whole should behave like other religions? There is violence in ALL religious communities. Even Buddhism has inspired violence. It is ALWAYS a minority, even in Islam. So in what way should Muslims start behaving like other religions?

        Tendency of killing people we dislike? Unless you mean extremists, this is a pretty heavy accusation. If you did mean extremists, then why is that unique to Islam?

        Yes, the reaction against the cartoons was strong, but not everyone that demonstrated did so violently. Not everyone that was hurt and offended reacted negatively (myself included).

        “After all, when wanting to know if a religion is good or not, some of us would look at the people who practise that religion.”

        Great, then why not look at the majority of peaceful Muslims? Why not look at me? Why is it easier to look at the Salafi extremist and his blog? Why is it easier to look at Al Qaeda than at Queen Rania? I’m sorry, but there is no excuse for that. Don’t try and put this on Muslims and the way we act. There are more than a billion of us peaceful, loving Muslims out there. Don’t act like there aren’t any.

        • I put a lot of emphasis on the word “some”, when I commented, but I had the feeling that that word would be lost anyway. And true enough, that word has indeed been ignored.

          People do all sorts of acts of terrorism, but how many do it in the name of their religion? I am not even an American, let alone a New Yorker. I was just trying to explain human nature—why people look at Islam the way they do. I’m not trying to defend the way they think; merely explaining that that’s human nature.

          When the Americans, as a nation show their might against Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, the rest of the world had the tendency of looking at the USA, as a country, as the big bully. But that doesn’t mean that all Americans agree on the attacks on Iraq. But people still hate the Americans as a whole anyway—including those who had nothing to do with those attacks on the other countries.

          When a child behaves like a brat, people have the tendency to look at his parents. Was there something wrong in the upbringing?

          I’m just saying that people do judge from the general point of view. And unfortunately, Islam is the one religion that adopted the clever device of jumbo jets of destroying buildings and killing thousands of people. Only very FEW of the Muslims, the FEW EXTREMISTS, actually did that, but I’m saying you can’t blame people for reflecting those acts on the religion. As I said, that is human nature. You can do a lot of good and only 1 wrong, but people will probably remember you for that one wrong and not the many good you have done. Human nature, you see.

          “There is violence in ALL religious communities.”

          Yes, but how many religions you know used airplanes to destroy buildings? How many religions you know issued fatwas on someone’s head and actually offered rewards? Again let me emphasize the word SOME Muslims only.

          But am I saying that other religions don’t do stupid things like those? No, I am not saying that at all. I was speechless when an idiot called upon his people to burn the Quran. But then again, the act of burning books is not exactly the same as killing a few thousand people, is it?

          “Yes, the reaction against the cartoons was strong, but not everyone that demonstrated did so violently. Not everyone that was hurt and offended reacted negatively (myself included).”

          I did not suggest that YOU were offended, not for a moment. But of all the religions, why was it that SOME Muslims made the death threat? Why not other religions? That is the reality that you should think about. Because that is the thing that people are scared about.

          “Great, then why not look at the majority of peaceful Muslims? Why not look at me? Why is it easier to look at the Salafi extremist and his blog? Why is it easier to look at Al Qaeda than at Queen Rania? I’m sorry, but there is no excuse for that. Don’t try and put this on Muslims and the way we act. There are more than a billion of us peaceful, loving Muslims out there. Don’t act like there aren’t any.”

          I did not say that ALL Muslims are bad people. I said SOME. I am not giving an excuse, or trying to defend the people who think of Islam negatively. I’m just pointing out that people look at what they can see and make their conclusions from there. And if you would only ask yourself from the bottom of your heart, you will see that, unfortunately, Al Qaedah, for example, has done quite a lot of damage to the reputation of Islam, even if they are just a small percentage of the entire Muslim population.

          • Then I apologize. I understood that you were referring to SOME Muslims up until you said this:

            “The Muslims as a whole should behave like the other religions.”

            I assumed as a whole meant all Muslims. My mistake.

            I think we have to agree to disagree on this. Way before Muslims were flying planes into buildings, missionaries were justifying colonialism (which led to the deaths of millions), Rabbis were justifying settlements that were taking land away from innocent Palestinians, etc etc. But in those cases, Christianity and Judaism were NOT blamed. People did not look to ALL Christians and Jews to understand what went wrong. So why with Islam?

            Yes, some Muslims make death threats and issue fatwas that are ridiculous. Yes, we should be scared of them. But look at it from a Muslim perspective – people here are more scared of America. And I think in the end THAT is more realistic. America has started two horrific wars and is talking about a third. The West has colonized the ME for hundreds of years. I get that people are scared of Muslim terrorists. I get it. But people here are scared too. And from a historical perspective, that makes a little more sense.

            • “…missionaries were justifying colonialism (which led to the deaths of millions), Rabbis were justifying settlements that were taking land away from innocent Palestinians, etc etc.

              You must forgive my ignorance. For I’m not exactly well-versed in world history. I love maths and science much more. My view is that using religion to justify an act of aggression is not quite the same as executing those acts in the name of a religion. I am not saying I can agree with either one, mind you!

              “America has started two horrific wars and is talking about a third. The West has colonized the ME for hundreds of years. I get that people are scared of Muslim terrorists. I get it. But people here are scared too. And from a historical perspective, that makes a little more sense.”

              There is nothing for me to disagree here. Yes, people are scared of America—as the big bully nation, not as people who claim that they’re acting in the name of their religion. So people are scared of the nation, not the religion. BUT! as I said earlier, not all Americans agree with their government’s attacks on other nations.

              • I see the distinction you’ve made but I don’t think it makes that big of a difference. I would argue that the 9/11 terrorists used Islam to justify what they were doing.

                I also see your distinction between nation and religion. However, I would say the latter is worse since many Americans supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (in fact the majority in the first case) whereas a minority of Muslims supported the acts of 9/11.

                At the end of the day, the reason I object to Muslims paying for 9/11 is because most Muslims had nothing to do with it and were against what happened. You argue that people are against Islam and my point is – why? They should be scared of extremist Muslims who twist religion for their own benefit. We all are. But not Islam. And if they just haven’t made the time to explore the religion a bit more and see how verses are taken out of context, then they just shouldn’t voice their opinions.

                ‎”Most of us are perfectly capable of making distinctions within the Christian world. The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn’t mean he’s in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers, just as not all Orthodox Christians have ties to Serbian war criminals or Southern Baptists to the murderers of abortion doctors.”

                Murderers of abortion doctors often do it in the name of religion or use religion to justify it. Why aren’t all Christians or Christianity blamed?

                • I don’t know about the others, but as far as I am concerned, when something is wrong, then it is wrong. It is not really important whether it is lesswrong or more wrong. In the end, it is still wrong. So it doesn’t really matter to me if slaves are given rights. In the end, to me slavery is still wrong no matter how one would justify it.

                  And so in the same way, whether people kill as a nation or as a religion, I don’t really care, because either way, it’s still killing, and I can’t accept both.

                  If I were a New Yorker, I don’t think I would oppose the construction of a mosque near the former site of WTC.

                  But I am just trying to understand what’s going on in the minds of those 70% of Americans. Hence I’m offering possible explanations here. And one possible explanation I can think of is the tendency of people to judge from afar, looking at the matter from a very narrow scope.

                  If an American finds himself in the street of Kabul, he shall be conscious of the Afghans’ eyes focused spitefully on him. It doesn’t really matter if this American is one who is against his country causing wars in Afghanistan. To the Afghans, this American is still an American whose country has inflicted so much pain to the Afghans. How many of those Afghans would even pause to think that maybe this American chap might have nothing against them? I don’t think very many. At any rate, to the Afghans, Americans are not to be trusted. But can we blame the Afghans for that attitude? From what they have experienced, Americans in general can’t be trusted, so to them the Americans, first and foremost, are all out to destroy Afghanistan!

                  In America, the reverse is the case. The Americans, when seeing a Muslim, will at least have a bit of reservation. Could this Muslim suddenly become violent? In their minds, this man may end up doing something very dramatic with unimaginable consequences. They have that impression on the Muslim chap because of the experience of the WTC, even though that was the act of only a few Muslims.

                  Can we blame the Afghans in Kabul for how they feel about the Americans?

                  Can we blame the New Yorkers for how they feel about the Muslims?

                  That’s the point I’m trying to make here. That people have the tendency to judge others based on past experiences, even though an individual has nothing to do with whatever aggressions his people—and how many of them—had done in the past.

    • Great points! Really nice comment.

      I honestly am still struggling with how people can’t distinguish between Islam and the actions of a few individuals that blew up the WTC. Until this day, we are ALL paying, and that is just ridiculous.

      Of course 9/11 was devastating – no sane person would argue otherwise. But why make fellow Muslim Americans continue to suffer over something that a minority of terrorists did? How is that fair? How is that equal citizenship?

  9. I agree with the other Jasmine in a way: I wrote a post similar. IF it was purely for a symbolic purpose, if it was actually on ground zero, if if if then it really would be unsuitable in my opinion. It would be like building a huge church on destroyed Muslim territory, in a country where only about 2% of people are Christian, just like the percentage of Muslims in the US. I doubt that would go down well, as I would understand why Americans wouldn’t want a mosque on ground zero. I would have said that any 13 story building built on ground zero should reflect all Americans in unity, including Muslims, not just exclusively that Muslim 2% and should be sensitive to what occurred there.

    However, after learning that it is simply NEAR ground zero, and that a mosque was there before 9/11 and that it will apparently serve the whole community as a multi-faith centre (although I am not sure how that will work), I do understand why a mosque is being built and I don’t really sympathise too much with it’s opponents any more.

  10. (cont..) I also believe there are other ways to prove a point rather than on ground where thousands of lives were lost. So I don’t agree with all this symbolism and political correctness. It’s a virtue to be sensitive.

    • I definitely see your point. What annoys me is the arguments used against building the mosque. I don’t hear many Americans making the arguments you and the other Jasmine have made – that it is insensitive. I hear arguments equating Islam with terrorism, a mosque with terrorists, and Muslims in America with jihadists in training camps. And that makes me very unsympathetic.

      The reason I support building the mosque is precisely because it is saying no to all the arguments mentioned above. But I do see your point bout sensitivity. But then again, that is almost like admitting that building a mosque on Ground Zero is a link to al-Qaeda. A mosque shouldn’t remind people of 9/11 – I see why it does, unfortunately, but it shouldn’t.

      When people build churches here in Cairo, it shouldn’t remind anyone of foreign imperialism, since the two are not connected. And it doesn’t (except for some fanatics, of course).

      I don’t know, the whole thing seemed so black & white for me before, but isn’t anymore…

  11. Hey Cairo, still loving all the comments your posts tend to generate!

    Soon to be husband? That kinda caught me by surprise before I realised who he was. Haha. Hope ure well! (:

  12. Really good post! I am sad to see my country up in arms over this although I can understand some of the points from both sides. Still, it’s frustrating to see the divide between Muslims and non Muslim Americans get bigger (seemingly) over this. I wonder how it will affect relations after this fervor dies. And I hope it dies soon!

    I agree that comparing ourselves to Saudi Arabia is really stooping low. Do we really want to go there? :-S

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