Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why are Muslims being scapegoated?

What is happening to my country? One of the things that I was proud of after the 9/11 attacks was that Muslims in this country were not targeted by the U.S. government and that despite an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the following year, there was not generally an upsurge of hatred against Muslims. I am sure that it was uncomfortable for Muslims then - I have certainly heard and read stories that do not shed a good light on the tolerance and acceptance of America for Muslims - but there was nothing like the groundswell of open hatred that has happened this year. No one was threatening to burn Qur'ans in the wake of 9/11. President Bush made a conspicuous point of saying that we should not blame all Muslims for the actions of a few. The Republican Party did not scapegoat Muslims en masse - perhaps because of the President's strongly expressed views.

Now, we have leaders of the Republican Party (for example, Newt Gingrich) openly engaging in anti-Muslim demagoguery that reminds me of the rhetoric historically used against Jews by anti-Semites. The former President Bush has not spoken up to reprove members of his party.

And ordinary Muslims and people from the Middle East are being turned into scapegoats for no reason whatsoever - as if they are to blame for all of the ills in American society.

The New York Times today published a very affecting article about the Muslim prayer room that used to exist at the World Trade Center before the 9/11 attacks: Muslim Prayer Room Was Part of Life at Twin Towers.
Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.

Opponents of the Park51 project say the presence of a Muslim center dishonors the victims of the Islamic extremists who flew two jets into the towers. Yet not only were Muslims peacefully worshiping in the twin towers long before the attacks, but even after the 1993 bombing of one tower by a Muslim radical, Ramzi Yousef, their religious observance generated no opposition

“We weren’t aliens,” Mr. Abdus-Salaam, 60, said in a telephone interview from Florida, where he moved in retirement. “We had a foothold there. You’d walk into the elevator in the morning and say, ‘Salaam aleikum,’ to one construction worker and five more guys in suits would answer, ‘Aleikum salaam.’ ”

One of those men in suits could have been Zafar Sareshwala, a financial executive for the Parsoli Corporation, who went to the prayer room while on business trips from his London office. He was introduced to it, he recently recalled, by a Manhattan investment banker who happened to be Jewish.

“It was so freeing and so calm,” Mr. Sareshwala, 47, said in a phone conversation from Mumbai, where he is now based. “It had the feel of a real mosque. And the best part is that you are in the epicenter of capitalism — New York City, the World Trade Center — and you had this island of spiritualism. I don’t think you could have that combination anywhere in the world.”

Moreover, the prayer room was not the only example of Muslim religious practice in or near the trade center. About three dozen Muslim staff members of Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the north tower, used a stairwell between the 106th and 107th floors for their daily prayers.

Without enough time to walk to the closest mosque — Masjid Manhattan on Warren Street, about four blocks away — the waiters, chefs, banquet managers and others would lay a tablecloth atop the concrete landing in the stairwell and flatten cardboard boxes from food deliveries to serve as prayer mats.

During Ramadan, the Muslim employees brought their favorite foods from home, and at the end of the daylight fast shared their iftar meal in the restaurant’s employee cafeteria.

Iftar was my best memory,” said Sekou Siby, 45, a chef originally from the Ivory Coast. “It was really special.”

Such memories have been overtaken, though, by others. Mr. Siby’s cousin and roommate, a chef named Abdoul-Karim Traoré, died at Windows on the World on Sept. 11, as did at least one other Muslim staff member, a banquet server named Shabir Ahmed from Bangladesh.

Fekkak Mamdouh, an immigrant from Morocco who was head waiter, attended a worship service just weeks after the attacks that honored the estimated 60 Muslims who died. Far from being viewed as objectionable, the service was conducted with formal support from city, state and federal authorities, who arranged for buses to transport imams and mourners to Warren Street.

There, within sight of the ruins, they chanted salat al-Ghaib, the funeral prayer when there is not an intact corpse.

“It is a shame, shame, shame,” Mr. Mamdouh, 49, said of the Park51 dispute. “Sometimes I wake up and think, this is not what I came to America for. I came here to build this country together. People are using this issue for their own agenda. It’s designed to keep the hate going.”

The people quoted in this article are good, honest people who deserve to live as securely as anyone else of any religion in this country. Why can't they?


  1. Rebecca,

    Had the majority of the MSM not been so overwhelmingly PC in its approach, there would be a reasonable outlet for different opinions. In the absence of major papers acting responsibly, we have lunatics who want to burn copies of what is, for many people, a holy book.

    And, the press has even done its best to adopt the very position it refuses to adopt when Muslims commit acts of terrorism - it acts as if there is a large body of opinion in the US which wants to burn Islam's holy books. So, we have the press asserting an intolerance which, in fact, is basically a lie it is making up.

    Instead of acting responsibly, important elements of the press have acted, against all evidence, as if every outrage committed in the name of Islam is a one off event and that the protestations by Islamist lunatics who commit such acts (or attempt to commit them) that they act in the name of their religion are suspicious.

    So, people are being fed BS by the press while the average person hears about atrocity after atrocity and threat after threat. Again, in the absence of the press acting responsibly, people will become more and more resentful and hostile to PC convention. And, that will hurt those Muslims who really are moderate.

    In short, I think you are pointing the gun in the wrong direction.

  2. So I'm correct, N., that you don't think the First Amendment applies to Muslims. Just because there is a murderous jihadist movement is no reason for innocent American Muslims to have their religious freedom threatened. And no, I'm not talking about the freak in Florida. I'm not even talking about Imam Rauf. I'm talking about mosques in other communities that people are now opposing (like in Murfreesboro, TN) simply because they are Muslim places of prayer. You seem to have a signal inability to distinguish between murderous jihadists and innocent Muslims.

    As I have suggested before, try reading through the archives of this blog and you'll learn that the "MSM" has not browbeaten me into being "PC" and not noticing Islamic murderers and calling them out.

  3. Rebecca,

    First, I did not accuse you of anything here. I indicated that you are pointing your arrow in the wrong direction. That did not mean you should point the arrow at yourself.

    Where have I suggested that first amendment rights do not apply to Muslims. That is not what I said, implied and it is not a reasonable inference either.

    I said the press is remiss for eliding facts, the result of which is to cause average people to hold institutions in contempt. And, one result of that is that there are a few lunatics - rather few, as it turns out (a church with 50 members) - who would deny rights to Muslims.

    So far as distinguishing average Muslims from lunatic Islamists, the problem in our country has been that seemingly peaceful Muslims turn out to be Jihadists. There was an example of such a case in Massachusetts, where a kid from a bright family, living in a fancy suburb, hatched a plan to shoot people in malls. No one suspected anything. Not even his parents. Not the others in his clique.

    So, we have a unique problem here. That problem is that the Islamist ideology is difficult to spot. Islamist, including violent Jihadists, reside with peaceful Muslims. One reason - in my view - is that a very large percentage of Imam are simply not moderate, in any normal sense of the word. So, they spread a lot of intolerance.

    But, I have no interest in ending the first amendment or in not providing rights to anyone. That is in your head.