Democracy Now!’s Islamic center roundtable

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.

Must watch vid and a birthday wish

Please take the time to watch this video, despite its length. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZpT2Muxoo0&feature=player_embedded.

I tend to be a bit of a broken record–posting things related to the rising Islamophobia in our country, especially with this Islamic center issues–but the massive amount of fear-mongering needs to be countered with something, even if my tiny blog can’t compete with Fox News. ūüôā

As Keith clarifies in the above video, the Islamic center formerly called “Cordoba House,” will now be named Park 51, because politicians have tried–and succeeded– in demonizing this name. ¬†They say it refers to the Muslim conquest of medieval Spain; as I have made clear in previous posts, that is not the case at all. ¬†It is a reference to the spirit of convivencia, “living together in harmony”, that was experienced by people of all faiths in the city of Cordoba. ¬†It was a place of knowledge, learning, and mutual understanding.

I am disappointed that the builders decided to change the name.  It seems like they are conceding a bit to the ridiculous and false criticism of politicians on the right.  Cordoba House is still going to be a part of the center; it is the name of the program promoting interfaith dialogue, as it should be.

My blog-friend, Saladin, wrote a great commentary on this situation. ¬†Check out his blog–that is where I stole this video from. ¬†Thanks, Saladin!

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Also, Happy Birthday to my younger brother, Nick, who ran in his first Varsity-calibre cross country race today.  He turned 17 on the 17th, and he ran a 17:42.  Congrats bro, you have a very proud sister.

A bit disappointed; Jon’s brilliance; and our Sufi allies

A bit disappointed with Brian, Harry, and Barack

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.

Jon’s brilliance

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.

16th-Century Miniature Painting Depicting Dancing Dervishes, Image by © Archivo Iconografico, S.A./CORBIS

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.

Two clips: Fareed Zakaria and Jon Stewart

Fareed Zakaria expresses his views on the controversy surrounding the proposed Islamic center in Manhattan, and he proposes that Mayor Bloomberg’s speech defending the center should be required reading for all American students (as I would.)

Fareed Zakaria on his program, GPS

Jon Stewart interviews Akbar Ahmed, a professor at American University, about his year-long study of Islam in America.

Akbar Ahmed and Jon Stewart

“Mayor Bloomberg stands up for mosque”

Today, the New York Landmark Preservation Committee voted unanimously to not grant landmark status to a Manhattan building, the site at which an Islamic and interfaith community center is to be built.  If landmark status had been given to the obscure building, the plans to build the Cordoba House would have been put to a halt (because the new center will demolish the older building to erect its new one).  The request to get this older building landmark status was an attempt by the organization Stop the Islamization of America and others to prevent the center from being built.  It was a futile effort because that building, once a Burlington Coat Factory, had no reason to be considered a landmark. Thankfully, the status was not granted and the building of Cordoba House can continue.

Still, there are many who oppose the creation of the Cordoba House, a center which takes its name from the Spanish city where Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived in peace for hundreds of years. ¬†Despite the fact that the center hopes to foster dialogue, tolerance, and understanding between these groups, many Americans are still fighting it. ¬†Overcome with a fear of Islam perpetuated by cable T.V., organizations like Stop the Islamization of America, and Europe’s recent actions toward Muslims, many people mistakenly believe that this center is a symbol of Muslim conquest. ¬†Some have even claimed that those supporting the center have the same motives as the terrorists who destroyed New York on 9/11.

New York City Mayor Bloomberg today gave a fantastic speech defending the Cordoba House.  He choked up a bit while giving it, and I did while reading.

You should also check out Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s op-ed in the Washington Post’s On Faith section.

http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2010/08/mayor_bloomberg_ground_zero_mo.html?f=most-commented-24h-5