Sunday, August 29, 2010

Where should Muslims build mosques?

    Sunday, August 29, 2010   No comments
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
The Muslim-American community is growing, and with growth comes the need for community centers, mosques, and a public presence. Every state in the United States contains at least one mosque, according to the multicultural marketing agency Allied Media. However, the plan to construct a large community center in Manhattan has started a heated debate about the "wisdom" of building a mosque two blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood.
Some of those who are protesting the plan claim that they are not against American Muslims' rights to worship, they are merely opposed to the erection of a mosque near Ground Zero.
Hence the obvious questions: Why can't Muslims build a mosque there? Where can they build mosques? And why do Muslims really want to build a mosque there?
While some of those opposed argue that building an Islamic center near Ground Zero is disrespectful to the victims of the 9/11 attacks, many are simply opposed to any public presence of Islam in America.
Representatives of American Muslims in Manhattan contend that they need the center because the current prayer hall is too small. They further add that blocking American Muslims from building a place of worship on private land and in accordance with city ordinances would (1) stoke fear domestically and further marginalize American Muslims and (2) give credence internationally to extremists' claim that America is at war with Islam.
Given these positions, the third position (that the center be built elsewhere) obviously makes no sense — Muslims have mosques elsewhere. And where exactly is "elsewhere?" Ten blocks away? Outside Manhattan? Outside New York City?
To suggest that a mosque should be built away from Ground Zero implies that Islam (all forms and expressions of it) is guilty of killing innocent people in the World Trade Center. If we opposed the building of a religious center near areas (or cities) where innocent people were killed, then there would be no place on Earth to build a synagogue, a church, or a mosque — throughout the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, self-described Jews, Christians, and Muslims (and in many cases, official representatives of these faiths) have committed, encouraged, and/or catalyzed acts that resulted in the killing of thousands of innocent people.
There is, without a doubt, an undercurrent of hate and total rejection of Islam in the West. There are many (beyond the usual fringe elements) who are opposed to building mosques anywhere. Indeed, there are organized groups around the world whose aim is to ban any public manifestation of Islam in the West. Europe's ban on minarets is one example; the bombing and vandalizing of mosques in numerous American cities is another.
Just recently, a self-proclaimed Christian group in Florida applied for a permit to inaugurate the so-called "International Burn a Koran Day," which would coincide with the remembrance of the 9/11 tragedy. Should the trend persists, 9/11 could turn into "International Bomb a Mosque Day" event.
Sadly, 9/11 is being used as a pretext to demonize Islam and Muslims. And that need to be addressed.
At the same time, Muslims should build their mosque if they need it for the community, not use its proximity to Ground Zero as a context for interfaith dialogue. I am of the view that using tragedies such as 9/11 and the loss of civilian lives anywhere for political or religious propaganda purposes is suspect.
And that applies to both sides.
UI Associate Professor Ahmed Souaiaia teaches courses in the College of Law, International Programs, and religious-studies department.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gender Justice Jihad in Ramadan by Adis Duderija

    Monday, August 16, 2010   No comments
On a recent communal breaking of the fast event I witnessed several events that made me think about the real difficulties behind the changing of people’s behaviour in relation to gender justice in Islam.
Before I do the purpose of what I will write below is NOT meant to be an exercise in self-praise although it can come across as such. I am only too aware of my own shortcomings when it comes to gender justice issues in my own household. I am writing this to hopefully raise some awareness and levels of consciousness in Muslim men, including myself, in relation to just one instance of gender injustice.

Let me elaborate. Having arrived at the venue (a local musala ) with some time to spare I greeted and thanked the organiser of the event and asked him if any help was needed with setting up of the tables and the food. With a smile on his face he remarked that there were ‘many women’ around who can / are doing the job. Indeed apart form the man I spoke to (and another one who was setting up the speaker system and opening up toilets) it was indeed all women who were getting things ready while men were happily chatting away .
Few minutes later when it was time to break the fast I realised that ,upon breaking my fast , all the drinks and the dates were on the side of the musala where the men were.

While the men were breaking their fasts women were waiting in the other part of the musala. When I approached one of them that I knew and asked her to come over where the drinks were she was very reluctant like the rest of the other women. I pointed to her and others (including some men who were around) that it was indeed them who not only cooked the food but also prepared setting it all up. I also remarked that it was more just for them to have broken the fast first. Some of the women , younger ones in particular, acknowledged this reasoning, however, none of them were willing to break their fast with drinks and dates whilst men were still at it. However no men seemed to have noticed this despite the fact that the musala is rather small and that several women were also elderly and looked weak.
Don’t get me wrong this congregation that I know reasonably well is by no means conservative and very few of the women (or men for that matter) conform to traditional let also strict puritan norms and standards of behaviour in their ordinary lives.

The same applied later on with the food. While I was trying to protest by telling one of the women ( in the vicinity of other men) that I will not eat the food until at least one or few of the women had taken some first , one of the male leaders of the community who heard what I had said not only remained silent but without being given permission pushed in front of all of the other women who were lined up. The (self-appointed) prayer leader who was symbolically heavily ‘Muslim’ with the turban and all the other paraphiliacs ( whose qur’anic reading, knowledge of Islam, smoking habit as well as personality make him anything but an obvious choice for the function of the prayer leader that he so willingly assumed) was also oblivious to this injustice and insensivity towards women.

Based on anecdotal evidence I am sure that what I briefly described above has happened in many other mosques/musalas.
Why is it that so many Muslim men are so insensitive to gender justice to the extent of branding those few Muslim men and many women who are as agents of “western culture” ? Could this insensitivity in more extreme cases also explain the presence of misogynist thinking among some Muslim men and acts of abuse may that be in the context of marriage or parent- child relationship?
What good does the fasting during the month of Ramadan serve if we are not even sensitive (or choose to be insensitive) to the needs of our sisters in faith? Why do we easily fall for and unquestioningly accept facades and masquerades over essence and what really matters?

My personal goal and wish is to spend the rest of this fasting month improving my own sensitivity to the other gender. I hope you will too.

Adis Duderija has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the University of Western Australia


AL-MAJALLA site is a community repository of digital content relevant to the Islamic civilization since the 7th century.
If interested in publishing with AL-MAJALLA, please read the instructions on Publishers' page.

Copyright ©