By Farzana Hassan
As the controversy around the Ground-Zero Islamic Centre rages in New York and the rest of the USA, the response from the traditional leadership of the Muslim community has been predictable. Belligerence and arrogance.
There comes a time in a religious community’s life when it must face its demons thoughtfully and honestly. For North American Muslims that time has long passed. They have shied away from much needed introspection on lingering issues, resulting in their failure to recognize the sure threat of radicalism within.
For starters, Muslims must ponder the meaning of religious moderation. They must reflect on why certain categories of Muslims fail to meet that criterion. Any Muslim who upholds Sharia, a man-made system of religious stipulations cannot be deemed a moderate. Nor is anyone intending to establish a version of an Islamic state in North America a religious progressive.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the construction of a gigantic Islamic Centre near Ground zero is one such Muslim. One must question why the Imam deliberately chose a site so close to the 9/11 site. Is he so naive as to think people do not, at least in part, blame radical Islam for 9/11? What about the sentiments of Americans who lost loved ones in the brutal AlQaeda attack nine years ago? Though the Imam claims to promote moderate Islam at the centre, Muslims of all persuasions--radicals, conservatives, orthodox, and self-proclaimed progressives will undoubtedly congregate at the mosque.
Muslims are commanded by God 'to endure their persecution' (14:12), so that a congenial atmosphere may be maintained between them and non-Muslims. How it is possible then that Islam could approve of such acts on the part of believers as would ultimately vitiate mutual relationships. For the above reason, it is incumbent upon Muslims to refrain totally from building a mosque at a site which could become, today or tomorrow, a controversial issue between the two parties.
And even before its birth, the Ground-Zero Islamic Centre has become much more than the “controversial issue” the Indian Islamic scholar warns of.
If and when the mosque is built, will Imam Rauf screen every Muslim entering the mosque for possible radical opinions? Does he plan to develop a set of criteria to determine who is or isn’t a radical? How is he so sure he will be able to keep radical Muslims out of the mosque?
Those who bristle at such suggestions may wish to consider the following: It is a commonly known fact that orthodox Islamic organizations and mosques receive major funding from Saudi Arabia.The Wahabbi ideology exported by Saudi Arabia endorses the doctrine of violent jihad. No wonder the Imam enjoys support for his project from people like Nihad Awad of CAIR, an organization designated as an unindicted co-conspirator by the US Justice Department in the Texas Terror Trial where all the accused were convicted on all charges.
How will Imam Abdul Rauf live up to this claim of fostering a culture of tolerance and dialogue in the Islamic centre? Also worrisome are the Imam’s own pronouncements on the funding of the project. In a statement to Ashraq AlAwsat, an Arabic newspaper, he declared that the project would receive funds from ordinary Muslims as well as from various Islamic countries.
Will the donors who lavish heavy sums on the mosque not wish to impose their ideologies on the mosque organizers and those they serve?
The Imam has set the stage for a Trojan Horse, with all its financial and ideological infrastructure, to be established in the heart of a primary Western centre of tremendous media and socio-economic consequence. He has undoubtedly provided the means and cover for more formidable and hostlie forces to gain credibility, respectability and influence there. In light of all this, one can only dread the building of a thirteen-story Islamic centre with such genuine potential for radicalization.
Imam Abdul Rauf must reevaluate his objectives for the mosque. Goodwill, compassion and empathy demand that he withdraw his plans to construct an Islamic centre near ground zero. Prudence demands he anticipate the many pitfalls of constructing an enormous Islamic centre—one that can easily turn into a public platform for radical Islamists. Both overtly and surreptitiously, these goons will use the venue to propagate their hate-filled agenda. The contemplated Islamic center near ground zero is an ill-conceived idea.----------Farzana Hassan is the author of Islam, Women and the Challenge of Today. She sits on the board of the Muslim Canadian Congress.