My former professor John Esposito, Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison-D, Rabbi Irwin Kula, and Talat Hamdani, mother of a 9/11 victim, discuss the Park 51 project, the plan to build an Islamic center in Manhattan.
Their voices and views have been–I believe–intentionally ignored in the mainstream media’s coverage of this issue. This is what Democracy Now! does best: it gives Americans views and coverage that we often miss in the mainstream.
A segment on tonight’s NBC Nightly News urked me a little bit. The segment was about Obama’s statements regarding the construction of the Cordoba House in Lower Manhattan, and how Muslims have the same religious rights as anyone else. When introducing the story, Brian Williams describes the situation as a “fight” into which Obama waded. Why use this word? True, combativeness does hike up ratings, butit does not help us to better understand the nuances and details of the situation. It further perpetuates the simplified “us vs. them” mentality that infects important and complicated political, societal, and cultural debates happening within our country.
As the piece continues, the “mosque” in question is not referred to correctly. It is not simply a mosque–and even if it was a mosque, big deal! The Cordoba House (it is hardly referred to by its proper name) is a cultural and community center, dedicated to bringing people of all faiths together, as well as providing swimming pool, workout facilities, and a place of worship. Basically, it is a beefed up YMCA or JCC open to anyone.
Major news outlets must begin referring to this place as the Cordoba House. Generalizing the Corboda House as a “mosque” or “Islamic center” only mystifies it and allows people to place their own views or ideas onto it.
I am also sad to see that Harry Reid is against the Cordoba House. Many Democrats look up to him for guidance about their political and social views, and his denouncement of the Cordoba House encourages more Americans to do the same.
I was initially thrilled with Obama’s remarks at the White House Iftaar this past weekend. (An iftaar is the meal with which Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.) But since he expressed his support for the Cordoba House and received backlash from some politicians and pundits about it, he has moved backward on that statement of support. Obama has tried before to distance himself from the Muslim community when conservatives claimed he was Muslim during the 2008 election. That was an opportunity to have an important national discussion about Muslims in America, and he failed to take it. Again, Obama is missing an opportunity to play a key part in a dialogue that must happen in our country. I am disappointed by his choice to back-off his support of the Cordoba House, and I hope he chooses to reverse that position soon. If he truly wants to see Americans’ religious rights protected, he must step in.
The Daily Show recently did an awesome segment about the opposition to mosque construction in the U.S. I’ll let the video speak for itself.
Our Sufi allies
This op-ed contribution discusses how as Americans we must work with those within Islam, particularly those in the Sufi tradition, to fight extremism. One of these Sufis is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim whose initiative is building the Cordoba House. Sufism is a version of Islamic mysticism, not a separate religion.
This line of poetry, written by the famous Sufi saint, Rumi, is crucial for us to remember and implement during this time.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
In today’s America, those barriers are fear and misunderstanding. Only when we recognize them can we begin understanding, befriending, and loving our neighbors.