The Ground Zero Mosque

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The whole Ground Zero mosque/Islamic prayer center has been in the eye of heated debate in the US for the past few weeks, threatening to become yet another political fire-storm for a floundering Obama administration.

At the heart of the whole debate, it is a very straightforward issue. The US constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the right of free expression. Provided the proposed mosque meets city zoning laws, there is really nothing one can do to prevent it from being constructed. The US constitution, unlike the Indian one, very rightfully does not consider “not hurting of sentiments” to be a conditionality of constitutional rights, since “protected behavior”, by its very definition, is one that hurts someone or the other which is of course why it needs to be protected through constitutional guarantees in the first place. Given that, the legal rights of those constructing the mosque are absolutely supreme and those who have a problem with it (even though they be the majority) can either try to change the US constitution or suck it. Simple.

What however is murky is whether the decision to have a mosque near the 9/11 site is politically and morally “correct”. Again I stress that notions of right or wrong should *not* be allowed to influence the inalienable rights guaranteed by the constitution (even “hate speech”, as long as it does not provoke violence, is allowed under the First Amendment though it might not be “right”) but there is nothing that should prevent us from debating whether the building of this center will serve a larger good.

What had made the issue so confusing are the two parties arrayed on both sides of the fence—one which engages in a campaign of bare-faced bigotry and the other which creates strawmen, demolishes them and then say “Aah see what smart boys we are”.

The FUD-mongerers, representatives of the Christian right, are represented by the usual suspects—Newt Ginrich, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck and their medium of hate namely the Fox channel. Their aims are solely political—- galvanizing  the angry masses at a time of economic uncertainty, tapping into the pervasive ignorance of a large section of the American population about Islam and brown people in general. The goals are to prevent mosques from being constructed anywhere in the US and the 9/11 mosque is simply a small part of  a larger agenda to demonize an entire religion and raise the laughable bogey of the Islamicization of America. When they say “Would the Saudis allow a church near Mecca” they, in a back-handed way express their admiration for the bigotry of Islamic states, by wanting to mirror that intolerance in the US of course in a diametrically opposite way.(In India, we hear analogous arguments as to why we should be more like Pakistan).

On the other hand stand the so-called liberals. Their primary rhetorical weapon, besides wordplay (like how it is fashionable to refer to the building as Park51 or Islamic study center instead of a mosque even though their website says it houses a mosque) has been to create strawman arguments. As an example, they take the statement “This is hallowed ground”, show that there are strip clubs near the 9/11 site  and ask “Does this seem like a holy spot?” Of course, they sidestep the fact that the people who attacked WTC did not do it in the name of lap-dancers, which makes the analogy quite besides the point.

As another example of intellectual handwaving, William Dalrymple scolds Americans for not knowing the difference between secular Baathists and radical Salafists (of course he doesnt say how the secular Baathists had over time adopted radical Islamic rhetoric to shore up their regimes in places like Syria and Iraq making the distinction sometimes academic) and then says that since Imam Rauf, the brains behind the 9/11 mosque, is a Sufi he is by extension an enemy of radical Islam quite forgetting the many historical instances where Sufis have engaged in aggressive proselytism as instruments of some of the most radical Islamists . This is *not* to say that Imam Rauf is a radical Islamist but claiming that he is not one simply because he is Sufi is a generalization which one would hope respected historians, while chiding others for generalizations, would not make.

Of course the biggest strawmen have been the humbug personalities of Ginrich and Palin and Murdoch—- lay bare their barely concealed bigotry, hypocricy and unravel their specious rhetoric (a very easy task) and immediately you have your “gotcha moments” (Jon Stewart thrives on this) and your argument is proven—that being that constructing the mosque is the right thing to do because the opponents of the mosque are douchebags.

For me of course the question that should be the starting point of all debate about the “correctness” of the whole thing has to be— what is the reason behind the Imam and his unnamed foreign backers’ stubborn determination to construct not a mosque or a mosque in Manhattan but a mosque as physically close to Ground zero as possible, even in the face of easily anticipated public dissent?

Is it because the symbolism of a mosque in such a location would be perceived as a vindication of the ideals of American secular pluralism and make the green-bandana-ed men in Pakistan and the Middle East bow their heads in shame and introspect as to how they deal with other religions in their own country, thus bringing peace and goodwill?

Or is it because the noble Imam wants to create a political lose-lose situation for the US? If the mosque is not constructed in the face of popular opinion, it will be seen as an expression for US intolerance of Islam in the Arab world, and further strengthen the perception of civilizational conflict that Osama is so fond of. And if the mosque is constructed, it will be seen as a triumph of Islam in the Islamic world which in turn would ossify Islamophobia in the US, strengthen the hands of the Christian bigots,  splitting the sides even further apart.

In conclusion, the problem I find with the mosque project is that it is a needless controversy whose only end-result will be to divide and strengthen the hands of extremists on both sides, no matter what happens. However it still needs to be built because, if it is not, then the US and its culture of secular tolerance loses its high moral ground. And that would be a horrible thing to have to come to pass.

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96 thoughts on “The Ground Zero Mosque

  1. The day this mosque will come into existence, it will be another victory of religious dogma over rational and progressive thought. The building of this mosque shows that all a muslim wants is a place of worship. In my opinion they should build an institute of learning and name it after a muslim scientist say abdus salam. If they really want to show that muslims are welcome in USA, they can even reserve 50% of seats for musilms both for students and teachers.

  2. Bong Bhai,

    Such a brilliant article with the whole problem explained so easily.

    It all comes down to the intentions of Mr Rauf and why exactly is he building the mosque. To really bridge the divide between US and Muslims or to insult the US right?

  3. @Yog

    Totally agreed. I can’t understand why Muslims are interested in building mosques when most of the Muslim immigrants coming to the US want food and shelter. Not praying mats.

  4. Somehow, most discussions about this mosque two blocks from “Ground Zero” (so “Ground Zero mosque”?) seem to mysteriously leave out mentioning Masjid Manhattan, 4 blocks from Ground Zero, and Masjid al-Farah, Imam Rauf’s current mosque, 12 blocks from Ground Zero (both decades old). One could ask: given there are already mosques so nearby, why all the fuss? (Or also, why another mosque?)

  5. So, basically you want to say we should not stop construction of any mosque / temple / church / gurudwara, right?

    Lets us do one thing, let us start a race where we keep on building places of worship.

    And BTW< what is then wrong with the Ram Temple at Ayodhya?

  6. GB, please continue in the vein of your last two posts for some more time…the simplicity of your arguments(without generalizations)and pulling no punches to expose the agenda of the intellectually dishonest is inspiring.

    I know there are people who are huge fans of your wordplay and pop culture references (pop culture that you helped create in most cases!) but I think your strongest suit is REASON.

    I know that you get brickbats (sometimes) for these opinions, but please be assured that everyone does not have a foggy rear-view mirror. We care 🙂

  7. US now finally resembles a real working secular democracy…it has got its own Ram Mandir type “Your Place of Worship on my hallowed turf” issue.

    Kya Mandir Masjid, Kya Ibaadat
    Jo Allah bheje Ram ko Farmaan-e-Daawat,
    Muslim soche pakwaan kya banau,
    Hindu soche kya hai unki Danaat!!!

    interchangeable with any two faiths and their followers

  8. “Their primary rhetorical weapon, besides wordplay (like how it is fashionable to refer to the building as Park51 or Islamic study center instead of a mosque even though their website says it houses a mosque)…” GB, since you start referring to the structure as ‘9/11 mosque’ about a third of the way into the piece, should I count you as one of these cunning linguist liberals also? 🙂

    Btw, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives maybe rich in gin (or vodka), but his last name is Gingrich, with two g’s.

  9. Who was the first to think about such a silly project? What is the relation between Mosque and Ground zero? Why don’t build an amusement park instead or why not a strip club ?

    May be building a mosque is legal right but it is upto the owner of the site to decide what will be built. If the owner which I guess is US government decides to build something else other than Mosque I dont see how it raises any questions pertaining to morality.

  10. To think that problems caused by region (9/11) can be cured by more religion(mosque) is stupid and somehow laughable to me.

    I pity Obama, he loses both the ways mosque or no mosque, still don’t understand why he retracted and said that he does want to comment on the wisdom of building the mosque, it was just lame …….

  11. You are right GB. It is a lose-lose situation for the govt. But where did this idea of a mosque come from? Forget about the rest of the world but wouldn’t this be one of the cruelest jokes on the people who lost their loved ones that day in the attack? After all they are the ones who are still suffering. Just one thought…WTC razed to the ground by Muslim extremists, people are expected to be magnanimous and allow the construction of a mosque..Babri was demolished by Hindu extremists, so why not be magnanimous and build a temple there?…Will that ever happen?Just wanted to put things in perspective.

  12. What a wonderfully balanced article on this complex issue. Well done, GB. Outstanding as always. Please also write about Vedanta, entry of foreign universities, nuclear bill and other such burning issues. Your blog posts invariably bring clarity and balance on any complex matter.

  13. One of the rational arguments that I have read about the opposition towards building a mosque goes something like this:

    “A mosque as much as is a place of worship for Muslims is also a representation of an exclusion zone for non-muslims, an area dedicated solely for muslims. A major gripe of the 9-11 attackers was that Saudi was a muslim only land and the US by basing its troops there was according to them, in violation of this exclusion-zone. Clearly, a mosque in the vicinity of “ground zero”, aims exactly to achieve the exclusion zone for non-muslims as wanted by the attackers”. I agree.

  14. “US and its culture of secular tolerance loses its high moral ground”

    Err… if you didnt realise it already – there is no moral high ground even as it is. US and the Islamists are roughly morally equivalent, like two sides of a coin. If in doubt, read some of the leaks about war crimes committed by NATO in Afghanistan.

    Atleast the American right is being upfront and honest about their feelings. Rather than the centrist bunch who has delusions of moral superiority and a false sense of their humane-ness

  15. Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are not behaving like anti-muslim bigots on this issue. Whatever their actual feelings are, I dont think they have expressed any remotely hate-filled sentiments anywhere ( you could cite a link though). Hannity, of course is a clear crackpot.
    On a different note, some leftists are actually favoring George Bush’s endorsement of the Imam over Obama’s ambivalence on this issue!!!
    http://freedomeden.blogspot.com/2010/08/maureen-dowd-george-w-bush-and-ground.html

  16. On 9/11 America was attacked by Saudi Arabian nationals (and a few Moroccan’s – not very important) opposed to US foreign policy, starting with the American support to Saudi Arabian establishment and keeping forces in the Arabian desert etc. They happened to be Muslims.

    There is no need to equate religion with the motives or make it a Christianity vs Islam confrontation (the mistake of GW Bush – using the word ‘crusade’.)

    The context should be similar to Pearl Harbor attack by Japanese. US fought the Japanese…Christianity was not fighting Buddhism or Shinto.

    Pakistan has supported militants in Punjab, they have supported Kashmir insurgents, and they will support whoever they can. The principle is ‘your enemy’s enemy is your friend.

    We should not frame the issue as Hindu vs Islam…it is what they want.

    And Great Bong, the sources you provide are not of any credibility…one is a Jewish blog/resource and the Folks Magazine article is of sketchy / dubious quality.

    Please do a bit more research.

  17. That ground zero area is a hotspot. The people who lost their loved ones need to overcome the trauma and move on in their life.

    say,If someone gets killed in a car accident. And his family is going to bury him. Now the person who was driving the car goes to the burial ground and tries to convince abt his innocence in a very loud manner..how would you feel ?!

    In near future, america may have to attack failed countries and take control of nuclear weapons, then the image of “america loves islam” may help!

    Every one knows that the king is naked…but have to praise him…LOL.

  18. I think the people of new york should get to decide this- why not hold a referendum like the minaret case in switzerland ? the result will most probably be “no” because most people follow the dictum “when in doubt, say no”.

  19. at this point building mosque does look more to insult the US rather then bridge the divide between US and Muslims. i don’t understand why it is always come to build a mosque or a temple or a church to prove that you are secular.

  20. I agree that the mosque should be built and I do not think I can explain it better than you have already.
    A mosque is place of worship for the Muslims. Muslims represent extremism for Well known reasons. However any `educated’ person should know otherwise.

    Muslims, in general are not responsible for what happened. So, there should not be a problem with the mosque, which symbolises love and respect for god and his creation rather than extremism.

    This issue has been extremely polarised thanks to opportunism among the politicians, ignorance among the masses, the impression that a general person has of Islam and its many abstract implications.

    However as you mentioned, to uphold its image and to have a clear conscience at the end of the day, Americans should allow the mosque to be built. Whether such a decision indicates hypocrisy or something else depends on the perspective of the viewer. However, there can be no `perspective of the viewer’ when one looks at his country’s constitution, respecting which is everyone’s responsibility.

  21. I liked this article. 🙂

    The way its laid out, the structure…

    So, the starting point of this has to be to find out the reasons why the Imam etc. want the mosque built. To “really” find out the intentions of the Imam. Or to find out their “real” intentions. How do we know there is one intention? There could be multiple. What if the Imam etc. are conflicted individuals with multiple voices in their heads.

    The starting point of understanding this article would be to understand the reasons for writing it. Or the intentions of the author.

    If the Imam etc. had a good reason, a noble reason – would that justify the building of the mosque and nullify any consequences? What did they say about the road to hell being paved with?

    If you believe its a needless controversy that will strengthen extremists, then you are against the mosque right? If something is needless and strengthens extremism, one would rather it didn’t happen! What a clever way of not saying such a simple thing.

    How do we know it will strengthen extremists? How do we know it will not act as a softener?

    We don’t. My guess is both will happen. My guess is it is irrelevant what intentions and consequences are. They will be open to interpretation in hindsight.

  22. And should a nationwide discussion happen on every religious building that is being constructed? Surely we are within our rights to have such a discussion. One cannot ask to stop it for fear of being judged a terrorist sympathizer.
    the question that matters to me, of course, is the reason behind this debate.. is it to pander to a particular target audience? is it because we live in a world full of bigots? is it because its considered cool? One can only wonder.. and speculate

  23. In my place (UP), people construct a small hanumanji ka mandir atop any illegal construction so that when PWD comes to demolish the illegal structure, they are forced to backtrack on the idea of disturbing the place of worship.

    How about installing a mosque or the relevant place of worship so that people who want to destroy it may have to think twice ? ….

  24. Next in line,atomic reactors at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor, Nobel peace prize for Pol Pot and so forth…

  25. Although I agree this is a non-issue I don’t see how the construction of the mosque will be a loss for the government. The Islamophobists will continue to remain staunch Islamophobists whether the mosque is built or not. Their rhetoric with or without the mosque will remain devoid of any logic and mostly hyperbole.

  26. The tragedy is that when the project was originally proposed, Laura Ingraham on Fox News interviewed the imam & said “I like what you’re trying to do here.”

    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/08/16/ground_zero_mosque_origins

    Until a couple of people turned it into a huge issue, it really wasn’t.

    The imam is now stuck in a lose-lose situation. Give up & the hatemongers win. Continue & the best you can hope for is that in a few months most people will have forgotten all about it. This whole business is a very scary lesson in how powerful a few dedicated rabble-rousers can be. It all has eerie echoes of 1991 & the Rath Yatra, in some ways.

  27. @wafa : So u have a problem with the rath yatra. If it’s within the rights of muslims to build a mosque anywhere they want, without giving a though to the sensitivity of victims of a terrorist attack, then isn’t it within the rights of a hindu org. to have a yatra in their own country ?

  28. Pingback: A case against ground zero mosque | Chronosynclastic Infundibulum

  29. Once upon a time in 1998, the following conversation between Bush and Osama happened:

    O: We will make america an Islamic country. If not you and your culture will be a bad influence on our children.
    B: That is impossible. I challenge you on that.
    O: Each and Every Church will be converted to a mosque. Every symbols of American freedom will be wiped out and replaced with muslim representations.
    B: LOL
    O(on 911): ROFL

  30. C’mon, don’t you understand? Freedom Tower at ground zero is going to be even taller than WTC. How can you guarantee that those Islamic fundamentalists won’t try to destroy it again? Simple – by building a mosque at the site. Surely Islamic terrorists won’t destroy a house of Allah? It is like an insurance policy against future terrorist attacks. I would suggest they build it at ground zero and not two blocks away from it. 😀

  31. I don’t understand why a mosque has to be created at ground zero. The best thing is to show respect and tolerance to all religion and stop fanatics. To achieve this create some monument there symbolizing peace. I don’t believe a religious worship place can do that.

  32. “When they say “Would the Saudis allow a church near Mecca” they, in a back-handed way express their admiration for the bigotry of Islamic states, by wanting to mirror that intolerance in the US of course in a diametrically opposite way.(In India, we hear analogous arguments as to why we should be more like Pakistan).”

    About this I have one thing to say. It reminds of that dialogue from Lakshya. Hum me aur un mein ek fark hain. Aur woh fark rehni chahiye.

    I have a suggestion. Give the land to Donald Trump.

  33. Five hundred years down the road, the young Muslims of the world will learn in their “history books”, how-
    19 Jihadis took control of flyer horses from the infidels and kafirs and flew them into America’s icons. Then such was the grace of Allah that he built a home of Da’awa at the same site and spread the flag of Islam in America.

    Dont believe me, read the Islamic history as they see it during the past 1000 years, in the areas that they controlled, including INDIA.
    This is what was written about Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer, after the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan.

    So watch history repeat itself.

  34. Simple. If the US Government thinks that there would be a wave of public outrage against the mosque, thereby strengthening the Palins and the Ginriches (which I personally think would be the case), then simply name the 9/11 site as a national monument / protected historical area, etc…If they think that the noble Imam is doing this in the interests of World Peace & to show that not all Muslims are Jehadis, then embrace it and showcase it to the rest of the world as the ultimate example of tolerance.

    But, all I ask is, if the Imam and his unnamed foreign backers were provided an alternative to this land, perhaps much more spacious and even more in the heart of Manhattan, would they shift? Of course, it is their right not to shift, or even not to give a reason why they want to shift, but would they refuse to give a logical reason?

  35. Are you not missing one point? Islamists have a long tradition of building mosques at spots where they have won large battles. Examples are plenty in Asia and Africa (remember Hagia Sophia?). 9/11 is perceived as a great defeat of American system by the wahabbis. So Saudis want to build a mosque there to declare that they won the battle.

    I do not believe that American Administration do not know it. But they are clueless. After 9/11, American administration was check-mated once again. There is really no legal ground for stopping the mosques. The best thing likes of Insanity Hannity can do is to buy nearby land and put a church there. That negates the symbolic victory monument. But insanity of likes of Sara Palin already weakened the argument against the mosque.

    The entire media blitzkrieg surrounding the mosque is a bloody farce. Administration should have seen it (Saudis got the permission from the mayor) and acquired the land to create a friendship center or something like that.

  36. gr8 bong pls write an article on the pak floods. it has been reported that pak has been exggerating the extent of damage

  37. It’s symbol of purported Islamic Victory..It’s no different than Qutub Minar or Babri Masjid..History of Islam is peppered by examples Quran Surah 3:28 says not to befriend with non-believers unless it is necessary to protect yourselves
    Tafsir Ibn Kathir –The greatest Muslim commentator according to many –intrepreted the Surah as showing friendship to non-believers outwardly but non from the heart. Prophet Mohammed’s companion Abu Darda said that they should smile in the face of some people eventhough they curse them with their heart.Muslims built their mosque on the Temple Mount when they captured Jerusalem..When Muslims conquered Damascus the destroyed the church of St John the Baptist and built the mosque on top of it Muslims always want to destroy a place which symbolizes political,economic,cultural, religious power of national or a tribal entity and replace it with their own architecture..Not for nothing Qutub Minar was called The Might of Islam over India as it was built along with the adjoining madrassa from the defaced stones of the scared temple that used to stand there before it ..You know I could have very well said like many others “not my country, not my problem” But it is just one facet of a global phenomenon

    My sources include Story of India by Michael Wood
    and a youtube video titled Of Mosques and Men: Reflections on the Ground Zero Mosque

  38. I don’t see what good its going to serve by finding out the real reason behind building the mosque. It would not change the fact that constitutionally they cannot be stopped.

  39. @ Anirban
    Chamberlain thought that if Hitler is allowed to have Checkozlovakia, then he wont attack france and britain.

    Appeasement never works. Especially with this particular “entity”.

    1400 years of world history is proof enough.

    @GB
    See if this is sanitized enough. for you to allow.

  40. Put a gay bar right next to the proposed mosque near Ground Zero.

    The moment the mosque goers stare at the bar, according to Shariat, they will have to stone themselves to death.

    Problem solved.

    Killing two “birds” with one stone, literally.

  41. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Some nice single malt at night. And reading this wonderfully structured article. I am touched like Tintin too, by essays like this. It is easy to forget what a brilliant social writer GB is, due to the pop culture hits. Love Rishi’s first comment too. And not ashamed to say, quite enjoyed the news of the devastating floods in 10% Zardari’s land.

  42. The argument of Sufis being no different from radical Salafists is based on an article that while factually correct, commits grave errors of omission. The reply to that article of one Mr. Yousuf Saeed clears this and the Folks Magazine team has no defence against these arguments.

  43. A detailed summary of the issue and how it became a political problem.

    http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?266840

    On Sufism:
    I agree with what Ateet has stated above. Your source for criticizing Sufi’s – first in your tweet and then here – is not dependable. It is not well researched and is a shoddy piece of work. Don’t go after things you do not understand very well.

    The Imam promoting this is as much a sufi as Deepak Chopra is a Guru. Don’t damn the entire lot because he identifies himself with the movement.

  44. Very well written. It is definitely an unfortunate lose-lose situation for America. Given this understanding, the motive is highly questionable and if Rauf indeed has pleasant intentions, he should best know not to put America in the spot like this. I suspect that though, since he is not really a moderate as everyone seems to claim he is: http://www.islamicpluralism.org/1609/raufs-radicals
    Then again, I will suspect anyone who condemns South Park!

  45. As many of the readers here are Bengali, let me first focus on the supportive role that Sufi Islam played in the havoc and tragedy brought upon by Jihadis on Bengal.

    What the Sufis did in Bengal can be seen from the writings of two of the most famous Sufis, who were instrumental in converting huge tracts of what is Bangladesh today.

    Shaikh Jalal al –Din Tabrizi
    Shaikh Jalal al-Din Tabrizi (d. 1244–45), was one of the earliest-known Sufis of Bengal. The earliest notice of him appears in the Siyar al-‘arifin, a compendium of Sufi biographies compiled around 1530–36, three centuries after the shaikh’s lifetime. According to this account, after initially studying Sufism in his native Tabriz (in northwestern Iran), Jalal al-Din Tabrizi left around 1228 for Baghdad, where he studied for seven years with the renowned mystic Shaikh Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi. When the latter died in 1235, Jalal al-Din Tabrizi traveled to India and, not finding a warm welcome in the court of Delhi, eventually moved on to Lakhnauti, then the remote provincial capital of Bengal. There he remained until his death ten years later.

    “When he went to Bengal,” the account records, “There was also there a (river) port called Deva Mahal, where an infidel had built a temple at great cost. The shaikh destroyed that temple and in its place constructed a (Sufi) rest-house [takya]. There, he made many infidels into Muslims. Today [i.e., 1530–36 C.E], his tomb is located at the very site of that temple, and half the income of that port is dedicated to the upkeep of the public kitchen there”.

    Shah Jalal Mujarrad
    Shah Jalal Mujarrad (d. 1346 C.E), is Bengal’s best-known Muslim so-called ‘saint’. His biography was first recorded in the mid sixteenth century by a certain Shaikh ‘Ali (1562 C.E), a descendant of one of Shah Jalal’s companions. According to this account, Shah Jalal had been born in Turkestan, where he became a spiritual disciple of Saiyid Ahmad Yasawi, one of the founders of the Central Asian Sufi tradition. The account then casts the shaikh’s expedition to India in the framework of holy war, mentioning both his (lesser) war against the infidel and his (greater) war against the lower self. “One day,” the biographer recorded,
    “Shah Jalal represented to his bright-souled pir [i.e., Ahmad Yasawi] that his ambition was that just as with the guidance of the master he had achieved a certain amount of success in the Higher (spiritual) jihad, similarly with the help of his object-fulfilling courage he should achieve the desire of his heart in the Lesser (material) jihad, and wherever there may be a Dar-ul-harb [i.e., Land of non-Islam], in attempting its conquest he may attain the rank of a ghazi or a shahid [martyr]. The revered pir accepted his request and sent 700 of his senior fortunate disciples…along with him. Wherever they had a fight with the enemies, they unfurled the banner of victory”.

    Another example of how much Muslim conquerors hated Bengal (Even after 400 years of control over the region) can be seen in Riyaz al-Salatin. Written in 1786, the Riyazal-Salatin faithfully reflects the Muslim perspective regarding Bengali culture, and reads almost like a colonial British manual on how to survive “amongst the natives”:And the food of the natives of that kingdom, from the high to the low, are fish, rice, mustard oil and curd and fruits and sweetmeats. They also eat plenty of red chilly and salt. In some parts of this country, salt is scarce. The natives of this country are of shabby tastes, shabby habits and shabby modes of dress. They do not eat breads of wheat and barley at all. Meat of goats and fowls and clarified butter do not agree with their system[s].

  46. I want my Burlington coat factory back ……. that’s where I bought my first London Fog ……unless this place of worship is serving free Haleem during Ramzan ofcourse …….

    Bad jokes apart … this is a minor issue blown out of proportions by the media …. there is already a mosque very close to GZ on Church Street ….I wonder whether this would have been a big deal if the elections were not so close ??????

  47. Dibyo,

    Stop assuming that just because your comment went into moderation, everyone’s does Brother Dibyakalyan. Comments can pass into moderation for various reasons including IP ranges of known spammers….

    As to the opt-repeated there is a mosque very close to GZ…Yes there is. And no one has a problem with that because the aim is *not* to construct an Islam-free zone around Ground Zero. What critics point out is Rauf’s insistence on building another mosque (so close to an existing mosque as you can see) after the 9/11 incident and locating it to the closest address to the WTC.

  48. @AlphaQ,

    “Your source for criticizing Sufi’s – first in your tweet and then here – is not dependable. It is not well researched and is a shoddy piece of work. Don’t go after things you do not understand very well.”

    Since I presume you understand this very well, where is your “research?” Incidentally read Rishi’s comment and try to rebut that research with something other than “shoddy piece of work”.

    Thank you.

  49. @ AphaQ

    Historically speaking, Sufis are the “good cop” in the cliched game of Good Cop/Bad Cop.

    In places of Dar-al-Islam :
    The military arm (Jihad) and the Economic/Social arm (Jazia/Shariat) pummels the target Kafir (mostly Hindus) population into submission.

    Then the Sufis come in and offer the only easy way out, ie, a culturally flexible conversion to Islam.

    In places of Dar-al-Harb :
    The Sufis acted as the Advance Recco Party, by setting up camp inside Kafir territory and creating intelligence networks. Prithviraj Chauhan was done by Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer in this manner.

  50. To Anonymous commenting on “August 25, 2010 at 8:01 pm”,
    Pak is not exaggerating about floods. They are just trying to say that they have a disaster which, for a change, is not the consequence of action of America or ISI or LeT-Taliban groups. And rest of the world (minus the bleeding heart liberals) is not buying it. So until the famous prophet or his clan takes a break from bedding six year old kids and come to the rescue, the damage can not be handled.

  51. @Khujur Rishi: When did I advocate appeasement? Your right-wing madness prevents you from comprehending simple English it seems.

  52. anirban wrote:
    Surely Islamic terrorists won’t destroy a house of Allah? It is like an insurance policy against future terrorist attacks. I would suggest they build it at ground zero and not two blocks away from it.

    Rishi khujur:
    Yes! Yes! it is my right wing “madness”.

    Peace.

  53. *long post*

    Since you are not a prophet follow the Way!
    One day you may come out of this pit and reach a high station.
    Since you are not a captain, take not the helm;
    since you have not become God’s tongue, be an ear.
    – Maulana Rum

    GB,
    I have not done any research. Whatever I have picked up about Sufi’s since childhood from various sources is my combined knowledge. It is largely a matter of faith and not of arguments. I am not even sure if the arguments will be convincing enough but let me try.

    The Folks.com article says:
    “Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Mas’ud Ganjshakar aka Baba Fareed came to Pakpattan (now in Pakistan) and Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya of Dargah Hazarat Nizamuddin came to Delhi accompanying a contingent of the Muslim invaders.”

    I don’t know what to make of this line. Was Baba Fareed a Good Cop (as Rishi mentions it)? To what act of his does he have the honor of finding mention in para 1 of this article?

    In fact he did not even accompany any invading armies. His father (or grandfather) moved to India in search of livelihood but that is a different story. He was born in Multan. While we are at it Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya was born in Badayun, UP. So much for embedded spiritualism. I am sure such liberties with facts are allowed – to some people.

    Fast forward a couple of hundred years. The fifth Guru of Sikhs Guru Arjan Dev compiled the holy book Sri Guru Granth Sahib. He included hymns from the four Gurus preceding him, included his own and left space for the following Gurus to fill in their hymns. He also included the hymns of 36 other saints – both Hindu and Muslim.

    Of the 36 saints whose compositions have been included – Baba Fareed (134) and Kabir (292) happen to be prominent ones. Also remember that the Sikh gurus were under constant pressure from the ruling Mughals and had to suffer a lot at their hands.
    http://www.sikhs.org/granth2.htm

    Why would the Guru included hymns from Baba Fareed if there was any evidence of Baba Fareed having ulterior motives? Or if their message was not the same? In fact Baba Fareed is remembered very fondly as a saint of high learning across Punjab. Even this article does not have anything wrong to say about him other than the fact that he accompanied invading armies, which as mentioned above, is not true.

    Then this article goes on to say:
    “All Sufis are ardent Muslims having absolute faith in the Prophet his traditions, Quran and Shariah.”

    All Sufi’s ? This one size fits all approach is not right. Lets look at a few contrary examples:

    SHAMS TABREZ/ MAULANA RUM
    Shams Tabrez was the guru of Maulana Rum. Maulana Rum / Rumi spoke in glowing terms of his guru. He said something to the effect that Shams Tabrez has made Maulana Rum out of Maulvi Rum. Again does not seem like a person “having absolute faith in the Prophet his traditions, Quran and Shariah”. Mind you he never came to India with any invading army and didn’t need to deceive anyone.

    MANSOOR
    Mansoor a Persian sufi saint – aprrox 900AD – was killed (hacked to pieces) because he said Ana-al-Haq (I am truth / God – can be interpreted both ways). This was/is considered blasphemy. He was given an opportunity to retract and reaffirm his faith in Islam. He refused and was executed.

    His reason was simple. He did not see himself as a separate entity from God. There was no duality for him – Mansoor and God were not two entities. They were one. (BTW, I do not ask anyone to accept or reject his logic. It is not the issue here.)

    Read the last post on this link
    http://www.paklinks.com/gs/religion-and-scripture/121627-who-was-mansoor.html

    I don’t know if it is true or not but even I didn’t know so much about Mansoor. It reads like his case file. What is written does not show any trace of “having absolute faith in the prophet, his traditions, Quran and Shariah”.

    BULLEH-SHAH
    The most famous of the Punjabi Sufi’s. Rabbi Shergill’s ‘Bullah Ki Jana Main Kaun’ is a composition by Bulleh Shah. He was born a Sayyed / Syed (I understand, a direct descendant of the Prophet) and his father was an Imam. Shah Inayat was his Guru *tring tring*.

    Shah Inayat was unhappy with Bulleh Shah once and banished him from his presence. Bulleh Shah desperately wanted to see his murshid / guru. He tried all means but was not accepted. Shah Inayat used to attend an annual mela/urs at some dargah. Bulleh Shah trained with dancers who would perform there and danced before his guru dressed as a woman. While all dancers grew tired and quit Bulleh Shah kept dancing. Shah Inayat knew it was Bulleh Shah, he got up, held him in his arms and said:
    “Tu te Bullah hain” (You are Bullah)
    Bulleh Shah said:
    “Main Bullah nahin Bhulla haan” (Bhulla is derived from the Hindi word Bhool – the rest I guess is clear).

    In fact, one of his kaafi’s (songs) was “tere ishq nachaya kar ke thaiya ve thaiya, jaldi aaja ve tabiba nahin taan main mar gaiyaan”.

    Such devotion to a mere mortal, singing, dancing dressed as a woman is again not “having absolute faith in the prophet, his traditions, Quran and Shariah”.

    If you read his poetry you will see that he has liberally criticized the Islamic clergy.

    I can quote many such examples which do not fit the Islamic stereotype.

    However, I must add that my knowledge is limited to the Sufi saints in the north western part of India. I have no idea of Islam / Sufism in Bengal which Rishi refers to. As a result I am unable to honor your request to answer Rishi. Whatever he writes (and he writes well) may very well be true.

    Ditto on Moinuddin Chisti. Though I feel the article does not provide adequate proof for it’s accusation. Off hand I can not quote much about him but given time I can come up with my own “research”. The answers of Team Folks to one commentator were hint enough that there is much to hide for Mr Prabhu and his team.

    The problem is in the classification of Sufi’s. Anyone who takes up the external trappings of a Sufi goes on to destroy temples, convert or kill people does bring a bad name to the sect.

    My point expressed in the last line of my previous comment was very simple. Just calling oneself a Sufi does not confer on anyone the right to be considered of the same caliber as a Maulana Rum or others. The Imam of NY mosque project is no saint for his interest is hardly spiritual. My objection to this article is the irresponsible manner in which some great names have been clubbed with tyrants and destroyers of temples. Thereby suggesting that they were all the same.

  54. Allowing the mosque to be built may showcase american tolerance or it may be seen as a sign of weakness. But what the “islamic world”, the middle east or arab states read in to this is of much less importance than what this means to Americans.

    The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and expression, and this mosque being built will prove to the many regular law abiding US citizens and residents that that guarantee is not merely academic. There is no point in having a right, and being told that it is bad sport to exercise it.

    Why is it insensitive to build a mosque so close to ground zero ? Because the WTC attacks were carried out in the name of Islam ? Really — that’s a good reason, what the terrorists said ?

    It has been almost a decade now since the attacks. It is far more insensitive to suggest to the whole muslim community that they continue to feel responsible for the acts of an outfit they have no affiliation with. That they should have self-imposed restrictions on their constitutionals rights.

    What if this generalization of the 9/11 terrorists was along the lines of skin color instead of religion ? What if some group starts objecting to Desi restaurants near ground zero ? Would we show the same kind of sensitivity ?

  55. “Simple – by building a mosque at the site. Surely Islamic terrorists won’t destroy a house of Allah? It is like an insurance policy against future terrorist attacks. I would suggest they build it at ground zero and not two blocks away from it. “
    ———-

    Exactly. It’s not as if Muslims never bomb or destroy mosques, and all the bombings done at their rival’s mosques by Sunnis are actually a Zionist plot.

    1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4887856.stm

    2. Golden Dome mosque is bombed again
    Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2007
    BAGHDAD — Insurgent bombers Wednesday destroyed the two minarets of Samarra’s Askariya Shiite shrine, site of a 2006 bombing that shattered its famous Golden Dome and unleashed a wave of retaliatory sectarian violence that still bloodies Iraq. Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda were quickly blamed.

  56. @genmax

    “What if this generalization of the 9/11 terrorists was along the lines of skin color instead of religion ?”

    There can not be such generalization of this magnitude on the lines of skin color,coz any class of similar skin color do not take to streets(sometimes for decades) against rational thought or solution…

    How many examples you guys need before being convinced that its a cult which needs to be faced. Read history…i dont need to tell abt the impact religion of peace had all over the world through out centuries.

  57. Genmax wrote:
    “It is far more insensitive to suggest to the whole muslim community that they continue to feel responsible for the acts of an outfit they have no affiliation with.”

    Response:
    Sorry, but whether intentional or not, this is not a accurate statement.

    Al-Qaeeda and all other Jihadi outfits
    -rely completely on Islam for their ideological sustenance.
    -rely completely on Muslims (born and converted), for logistics, recruitment and execution of their attacks.

    Lets move forward after understanding the realities as they stand.

  58. I dislike the extreme right and I shudder thinking of Palin standing for public office,but I dislike as much the wests tolerance for things they should not be tolerant about.The number of mosques built in Paris,about 1000 and in Brussels and London and Copenhagen have totally changed the cultural fabric of these liberal,free and democratic countries.Extremism is a fashion in London,where its perfectly ok to spit on soldiers returned from Iraq,preach hate and avail all the benefits from the government.I have nothing against any religion,but for goodness sake keep it to yourself and your own personal beliefs.This game of my God is bigger than your God is sick….so please stop it.No more mosques or for that matter temples..we ahve enough!!!!

  59. @ GenMax

    “Why is it insensitive to build a mosque so close to ground zero ? Because the WTC attacks were carried out in the name of Islam ? Really — that’s a good reason, what the terrorists said ?”

    No, that’s not the only reason. The main reason is that the muslims have a history of erecting mosques in places important to other faiths to show their dominance. Also, these ‘places of worship’, eventually, turn out to be breeding grounds of terrorists. Secondly, have u ever wondered what is the NEED to built such a lavish mosque in a largely Christian country and at the spot where the attacks were carried out in the name of the same religion the mosque belongs to. Any sensitive, compassionate human would empathize with the victims but not this Imam and his supporters.

    @ Amit Choudhury

    I agree with u completely and the spreading of muslim fanaticism in the west disappoints me too. I also think that the west is too liberal. Sticking to their constitution and allowing people to express anything doesn’t mean that the western world should make away with common sense. Some quality control should be exercised. But please don’t equate mosques with temples, only Islam and Christianity have ‘holier than thou’ belief.

  60. @ khujur rishi

    Anirban was kidding. Don’t u see a smiley at the end of the sentence.

    @ yourfan2

    Shame on you for rejoicing over pak floods. How can innocents dying make someone happy ?

  61. Paraphrasing Konrad Adenauer-
    An infallible method of conciliating a pack of hyenas is to allow oneself to be devoured.

  62. Shana…its not about equating.While motivations may differ I do find it odd that temples especially in the USA tend to be so over the top.What are we trying to say? That we have arrived? it always pains me that we hindus treat religion as transactional.The massive amounts collected by temples here(and there) could fund so much for good,but its mostly used for bigger temples,gold leafing,marble turrets,diamond crowns,slush funds and so on.Donations to the gods is based on “you do this for me and Ill give you so much”.Sorry if Ive gone off at a slight tangent,but I think hindus too need to look inward while building more and more.And I must correct you that at present the growth of churches worldwide and especially in the west is negative.In the USA about 30% of churches around the country have been flattened for malls and parking lots or to rebuild as mosques!!! The days of building magnificient cathedrals are a part of history.
    In that sense I totally agree with the French secular principle of complete seperation of church and state.

  63. Unlike some other bloggers/readers…who seem to think that this mosque is a simply a constitutional issue,i think is is actually a macro-historical event unfolding before us.

    This is the next in importance to the 9/11 event itself. From this time on this issue can go in two directions. The mosque gets built or it does not. If it is built, then it will act as a constant reminder to the people of the world of the true nature of the religion in question.

    If it is not built then this will be the first instance of the rejection of an islamic place of worship on a global stage.

  64. @ amit Hmm.. I see your point. It made me physically ill when I heard that there was a plan to construct a golden wall around the Tirupathi temple. How can we accuse the likes of Ambani for not being philanthropic enough when we think its ok to waste money on temple buildings?

  65. I am trying to understand what most people here are saying…
    Please tell me if this is it:
    1. Islam is bad at its very core ( and its not really a case of a few bad apples)
    2. The world must somehow get rid of it

  66. Shana….hope u read about the latest expose in Tirupati.Historical jewels are missing,gold coins sold on the sly and tickets black marketed to VIPs.Thats just the tip of the iceberg.I wonder from an annual collection of 500 crores how much actually finds its way to the Lord of the seven hills.

  67. Pingback: Global Voices in English » South Asia: Bloggers On The ‘Ground Zero Mosque’

  68. Pingback: South Asia: Bloggers On The ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ :: Elites TV

  69. Interestingly, if you posit that the imam is an “honest broker” here; there is a prisoner’s dilemna type situation going on here, where both the main stream (liberal) politicians as well as the imam (mosque organizers) liable to lose face if they give in but the other side does not. Does not augur well, unfortunately.

  70. Here is why I don’t like this article.

    check these two paras out

    — For me of course the question that should be the starting point of all debate about the “correctness” of the whole thing has to be— what is the reason behind the Imam and his unnamed foreign backers’ stubborn determination to construct not a mosque or a mosque in Manhattan but a mosque as physically close to Ground zero as possible, even in the face of easily anticipated public dissent? —

    The starting point, according to the blogger guy is “reason behind”.

    Let’s go ahead… “Imam and his unnamed foreign backers” (unnamed foreign backers….. hmm…. why not “Imam and his supporters, who represent the global Islamic community”…. isn’t there something slightly suspicious about “backers”.

    Maybe I am just reading between lines. Let’s go ahead.. .”and his stubborn determination”………… why … why “stubborn determination”…. why not… “firm resolve” or “just “determination”… because only “determination” would be positive.

    Here is the same paragraph, re-written…

    For me of course the question that should be the starting point of all debate about the “correctness” of the whole thing has to be— what is the reason behind the Imam and the global Islamic Community’s firm resolve to construct a mosque near Ground zero, even though, they probably know that it will create opposition.

    See, now it reads different and means different. – though it says exactly the same thing

    — Is it because the symbolism of a mosque in such a location would be perceived as a vindication of the ideals of American secular pluralism and make the green-bandana-ed men in Pakistan and the Middle East bow their heads in shame and introspect as to how they deal with other religions in their own country, thus bringing peace and goodwill? —

    Here is the argument supporting the idea of the mosque and it has to be presented so that the article can look balanced. However, it is ridiculed by exaggerating the impact the mosque is likely to have. The mosque will – to quote “geen-bandana-ed men in Pakistan and the Middle East bow their heads in shame and introspect as to how they deal with other religions in their own country, thus bringing peace and goodwill”.

    — Or is it because the noble Imam wants to create a political lose-lose situation for the US? If the mosque is not constructed in the face of popular opinion, it will be seen as an expression for US intolerance of Islam in the Arab world, and further strengthen the perception of civilizational conflict that Osama is so fond of. And if the mosque is constructed, it will be seen as a triumph of Islam in the Islamic world which in turn would ossify Islamophobia in the US, strengthen the hands of the Christian bigots, splitting the sides even further apart. —

    This is the opposing argument. Notice the adjective “noble” before Imam. There is no need for it. It is added as a mock. “Noble Imam” wants to create a lose-lose situation for the U.S? But that’s not noble – it’s a mock! And there you go – it will strengthen Osama or it will strengthen Islamophobia.

    Here the argument is not exagerrated but the real argument against the mosque is presented.

    For the mosque – the argument is exaggerated and ridiculed.
    Against the mosque – the argument is the real, balanced argument.

    The bloggers mind about this issue was made up long before the mosque or its suggestion came up.

  71. @abhi
    What do YOU think ..why do they want to build a mosque near 9/11 site ?
    What is your opinion on the protests against the mosque ?

  72. Brilliant article, I love the way you describe the “gotcha” moments and what liberal TV sometimes descends to – that since the opponents are obviously insane, it necessarily follows that the construction is a good thing.

  73. People
    What percentage of Hindus living in America are against the building of mosque on the Ground Zero site?

    Any guesses?

  74. Pingback: Global Voices ??? » ?????????????????????????????????

  75. Hey

    Superb article Arnab. Finely balanced.

    Back on ur site after many months . I had left after getting tired of the wierd Bishen Singh Bedi tone in Match ka mujrim and incessant Pak bashing in ur articles at the time.
    Now I am wondering if I even understood ur writings at all.

    Anyway , keep up the good work.

  76. They should build a recreational centre for children of every race, color, creed, age-group, skill, ability. They should build a huge museum at the first floor dedicated to the 911 victims.

    The political debate regarding the mosque should be nipped in the bud. It has disaster written all over it. You are right when you say that its a lose-lose situation for anyone who is not a religious fundamentalist or a conniving marxist who foams at the mouth whenever a soverign nation is destabalized.

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