Friday, September 3, 2010

A new mosque for New York? Yes - I'm actually serious sometimes.

To Build or Not to Build … That is the Question

A recent poll shows that New Yorkers are far more open to the idea of a mosque being built near Ground Zero than the rest of the nation. The proposed site -- just two blocks from where fundamentalist Islamics took down the Twin Towers, murdering thousands and forever changing this nation -- has actually been in use for over a year. But when developers revealed plans to erect a new center that will include a pool, gym and restaurant word spread quickly. While leaders within the Muslim community insist the true purpose of the center is to bridge interfaith understanding, there are a few problems. Let’s have a look.

From its inception, there have been problems. The mosque developer, Sharif El-Gamal, has not always been an honest man in giving straight answers or abiding by the law. In 2005, he was arrested for assaulting a man he met while working as a waiter. After punching the man in the face, breaking his nose and cheekbone and spitting on him, El-Gamal denied assaulting the man. But when CBS’ Channel 2 provided documentation to El-Gamal, he said maybe, “his face could have run into my hand.”

In 1990, El Gamal was arrested for disorderly conduct and, two years later, he was arrested again for DWI. The following year, his crime was attempted petit larceny and it was disorderly conduct again the next year. In 1998, there was yet another disorderly conduct arrest and still another one the following year. But in 2007, when asked if he had ever been convicted of or pled guilty to a crime, El-Gamal said, “no.” While he pushes to build the $100 million Islamic cultural center project forward, he owes over $227,000 in unpaid real estate taxes.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan New York, an Islamic leadership council, expressed concern about their own religious freedom. Imam Al Amin Abdul Latif, president of the Majlis Ash-Shura said, "The bigger issue and the broader issue is the issue of ethnic and religious hatred being spread by groups trying to stop the building of mosques and Islamic institutions across the country."

It is true. There is a growing mistrust and even hatred for Muslims as they push for the mosque to be built, and much of it is unfounded. The vast majority of Muslims are loving, peaceful, lovely people. The Quran is a beautifully-written bible that preaches tremendous love and respect. Sadly, however, much of it has been distorted by a small but hateful few bent on destruction. You know the old saying: It only takes a few bad apples.

But what makes all this worse is the Muslim community itself. For centuries, the inner turmoil of the Middle East has been so on-going, so passionate yet so confusing; few Americans understand the nuances of Middle Eastern politics. The result has been that many people have come to think of Muslims as dangerous or just plain crazy. Are all Muslims this way? Of course not! But when all you see on the news is a specific group of people blowing up women, children, bus loads of innocent peaceful people, this does not instill a feeling of stability among that region of the world or, sadly, their faith.

If you delve a little deeper and talk to the average Muslim, you will learn that they do not want this. They want peace and harmony and good will toward one another. They will also be quick to tell you that it is only the extremists who do these terrible things. Yet, the Muslim community as a whole continues to condone this behavior, if only by omission. Why? Fear, mostly. The peaceful Muslims do not want to further anger the extremists. The Saudis who have long been friends with the West, look the other way when Muslim extremists use their back door to flee from one country to another having just blown up a bunch of people. Pakistan not only stood by but actually stood in the way of our efforts to find Osama Bin Laden. No one wants to anger the extremists so they simply say and do nothing to act against them. So while “condoning” might be a tad strong of a word, the Muslim community on the whole has never CONDEMNED the actions of the extremists.

Last week when it was revealed that two men were arrested in Amsterdam for taping materials together on a plane in what may have been a test run to see what could be smuggled on to a plane to blow it up, no one even looked up at the television monitors to see what the guys looked like. We all knew. The world knew. They were Muslims. This isn’t hate mongering and racial profiling. Hell, extremist Muslims are the only ones who routinely blow things up and throw acid in the faces of little girls trying to get education. This is not fair to the good Muslim people who follow the Quran as it was written and, so, it is all the more reason the Muslim community needs to draw a very clear and very definite line about how it feels about terrorism. Rather than rally behind those arrested for terrorist acts, condemn the Taliban and Al-Queda. Denounce violence, lift up your women, and practice empathy for all.

Understand that it is not an anti-Islamic climate when survivors of family members blown to bits and burned to death do not want a mosque near Ground Zero. Yet, the leaders of the Majlis Ash-Shura complained that it is unethical, insensitive and inhumane to prevent the mosque from being built.

Whoa!! Let’s back this pony up. What can be more insensitive than going against the wishes of family members of the 9/11 victims to build a mosque so close to the site of a mass slaughter? This is no different than that crazy Baptist Church in Kansas that goes to soldier’s funerals and holding up signs disrespecting the dead and condemning them to hell. Do they have a legal right to be there? Yes. Is it right? No, it is morally repugnant.

Constitutionally, the Mosque has every right to be built. Indeedy. It really does. But morally, ethically, humanely speaking … for a country that still suffers each 9/11 anniversary, for those who will never see a loved one again, this is an issue of morality, not religion. Each time Americans are forced to remove their shoes at the airport, read of yet another attempt of some angry nut job trying to blow up more innocent people, we are reminded again and are outraged, frustrated, and sickened by the fact that a small group of little boys can’t play in the sandbox with everyone else.

And when this group digs in and refuses to see how tragic and horrible this action was – not just against New Yorkers and the U.S but also against the world, we have to wonder why. Why push so hard to have the mosque built? Is it because they know once it is built, some American nut will want retaliation and blow up the mosque thus allowing the extremists to re-fuel “the war” against the infidels?!? Is this a deep seeded plan to reignite hatred between Muslims and Christians?

Or is this group of Muslims in New York just really that insensitive?

We know that the developer El-Gamal is a liar. We know he has tendencies for violence and disregard for others. Is this just an unfortunate set of circumstances or is this a precursor to how the whole thing will go down? Perhaps if we saw more good will, we – as a nation – could become more trusting. Until that time … it remains to be seen.


  1. I agree with Alex. Most Muslims are very nice people that want peace. It is the extremists that are causing all the death and violence. I have had the oppurtunity to met a few Muslims myself and they have all been nice and respectful. I don't like the idea of a mosque being built near ground zero because it is a site that extremist Muslims have destroyed and it is being built by a Muslim that isn't very honest to the public and doesn't follow his own religion. If the Imam was truly respectful to the people and followed his religion, I might be able to accept the Mosque being built near Ground Zero. On the other hand, I find it disrespectful to the victims of 9/11 to have a mosque built at the site of Ground Zero.

  2. Right on, Alex. Perhaps if the moderate Muslims would stand up and condemn the extremist (terroristic) Muslims and voice their peace-loving and tolerant ideals then we Americans would have an example to follow. Maybe then I would be more willing to make the distinction between the two.