See how many levels of irony you can find in this story:
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the organizer of the planned Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, arrived in Bahrain on Thursday to begin a three-country tour of the Persian Gulf sponsored by the United States State Department. But the United States government refused to divulge details of his schedule of speeches and meetings, which are part of a program to promote interfaith tolerance.
All I can really say is that Imam Abdul Rauf has a level of fortitude and integrity that I can only admire and envy: a testament to his Sufi message of peace and tolerance.
The story is in today’s New York Times, which also has an excellent piece on New York Muslims talking about the controversy over the proposed Islamic cultural center at 51 Park Place in downtown Manhattan. A few quotes:
For many Muslims, nothing since the 2001 attacks has crystallized the difficulties of being both American and Muslim like the fight over the nine-story center on Park Place, which is to be called Park51. Several compared the experience to the years just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when Japanese-Americans were presumed by many to be disloyal.
“It’s been nine years, but it feels like we haven’t moved an inch since then to come to terms with the issues,” said Muntasir Sattar, 30, an anthropology student at Columbia University. “And now it is all coming back,” almost like a symptom of post-traumatic stress, he said.
At the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, Imam Shamsi Ali, the director, said the debate over Park51 was almost a distraction from what he believed was the real concern: “the Islamophobia that is causing the same resistance to the building of mosques in Staten Island and Tennessee and California.”
He added, “I am more worried about the larger issue than about whether this project succeeds or not.”
Moinul Haque, 25, a soft-spoken graduate student in mathematics at the University of Texas, home for the summer in Jackson Heights, winced when asked about the hubbub over the Manhattan center. As a person who guards his privacy, he said, he was a little resentful at having to defend Muslims’ citizenship rights in what he called “a wholly artificial controversy.”
But he felt that the center’s developers should not unilaterally withdraw from the downtown site. “It will solve nothing if the organizers back down now,” he said. “It has to be worked out. There has to be dialogue.”
Misunderstandings only compound themselves unless confronted, he said.
Talking of misunderstandings, it’s good to see that the NYT has finally stopped referring to the Park 51 cultural center as a mosque. Perhaps someone there finally checked a dictionary. A mosque is a building dedicated to Islamic worship. Park 51 is a cultural center, like the YMCA or Manhattan’s YMHA (the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, aka the 92nd Sreet Y), which includes a prayer space. Only question: how come it took the ‘newspaper of record’ so long?
Dialogue is the surest way to build bridges. I don’t begrudge people who have different views, just those who maintain that I’m not allowed to have and practice my own. Ma’asalama.