The Manhattan Mosque

By Yasser Latif Hamdani (Courtesy Daily Times)

The mosque in Manhattan has stirred a hornet’s nest. The issue now threatens to test the very ideals of western secular democracy that we admire and cherish and seek to emulate in the rest of the world. It is important, therefore, to weigh in logically and as reasonable people — though reason is hard to come by these days — on the unnecessary provocation in Manhattan created by Imam Feisal Abdel Raouf and his wife Daisy Khan that they refer to as ‘Cordoba House’ or ‘Park 51’, a $ 100 million Islamic centre in New York City.

I say unnecessary not because I oppose the good imam’s right to profess and propagate his faith as he deems fit, but because at this key juncture of the Obama presidency, this saga has delivered to the Tea Party Movement its biggest stick to beat liberals and civil rights activists with. Those of you who are unfamiliar with the Tea Party Movement, it is a populist right-wing conservative movement that broke out spontaneously against perceived government interference in economic life and backed largely by the libertarian think tanks and organisations like Freedom Works, etc. The name itself comes from the famous Boston Tea Party where Massachusetts’s men had thrown tea sacks into the Boston harbour to protest the British government’s taxes and economic policies. The modern day Tea Party Movement has already made great gains — such as the unseating of Democrats from their traditional power base in Massachusetts from where the late Ted Kennedy used to get elected. It is now set to use the mosque issue to appeal to the right wing religious sentiment. If the Tea Party manages to pull the rug from under the Democrats and moderate Republicans, the consequences for not just the US but the entire world will be extremely grave.

President Obama and his government are now under great stress because of the difficult position the mosque issue has put the Obama administration in. Logically, there should not be a problem with building a place of worship, a right guaranteed under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, but the issue is much larger than one of freedom of faith. Let us be fair. There are several mosques in New York City and no one would have done even a double take had an Islamic centre been built anywhere else. To choose the site of a building wasted by the 9/11 attacks is an act of deliberate provocation, not because Islam was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, because that is not true. It is so because not only have the mosque’s backers, including the two aforementioned protagonists, failed to disclose the source of their funding, but have also failed miserably to win the confidence of a vast majority of New Yorkers and now indeed most Americans. Yet the issue of fundamental and constitutional rights is seldom subject to the whims of the majority.

That question is of course paramount. It is about constitutional rights, freedom of religion and all those big words that Muslims selectively appeal to whenever they are in a minority, but surely Muslims can better understand the feelings of Americans that have been outraged. Who else if not a Muslim, whose faith and religious sensibility can be outraged by something so seemingly benign as an Ahmedi saying Assalam-o-alaikum, can understand why church groups, right wingers and other anti-Muslim groups have reacted so strongly to the idea of having an Islamic community centre so close to the site of the World Trade Centre? Who else if not a Muslim can understand why equality sometimes means equality for all but that some are just inherently more equal, for, after all, constitutionally equal citizens of Pakistan who are from, say, a Christian background are forever barred from becoming president or prime minister of this Islamic republic of ours. Who else if not a Muslim can understand that neither religious freedom nor privacy are absolute concepts, for was it not in the holiest of holy Saudi Arabia, that 40 Pakistani Christians were thrown in jail for worshipping quietly in their own homes?

What about Park 51? Would this be a mosque — the mosque at Park 51 — for just one kind of Muslims or will it be open to all sectarian communities? Will it open its doors to the Shias or perhaps the Nation of Islam, which believes in the last prophethood of Elijah Muhammad aka Elijah Poole? Will Amina Wudud or Asra Nomani be allowed to lead prayers in this mosque? Will Ismailis, Bohris, Druze or the Ahmedis be allowed to worship in this centre? These are central questions that should be answered for the imam has pitched this as the great project for American Islam. It is a defining moment.

The truth is that Islam in the US is practised openly and freely, without any fear — or at least till there was a backlash by the Tea Party against the proposed project. That much is clear from the latest work of Dr Akbar S Ahmed, who not long ago travelled the length and breadth of the US visiting hundreds of mosques and communities, along with his team of enthusiastic students from American University. When asked about the Manhattan fiasco, his response was: “Here is a thought — Imam Rauf should say ‘enough of creating bricks and mortar’ and move for compassion. Let me give it [the money for the mosque] to those who need it, who are suffering and pray to the same God’, hand over the capital he plans to raise for the Park 51 project as a cheque in the hands of an interfaith American delegation, fly it to Pakistan, and contribute it to the relief efforts.”

Why not? Is that not what Islam teaches its adherents? Are the rights of people not a greater obligation under Islamic law?

Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer. He also blogs at pakteahouse.wordpress.com and can be reached at yasser.hamdani@gmail.com

142 Comments

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142 responses to “The Manhattan Mosque

  1. Kee Janain mein kaun

    Spot on!

  2. Majumdar

    Ah finally, PTH has decided to publish something on the (in)famous Cordoba House issue. On chowk it has already been discussed to death.

    I have nothing personally against the Cordoba House (mosque or Islamic centre or whatever it is supposed to be) provided the Imam didn’t give creating “a platform for multi-faith dialogue, promotion of inter-community peace, tolerance and understanding” as an excuse for building the House. Becuase that is precisely what it is not.

    Regards

  3. Tilsim

    “unnecessary provocation in Manhattan created by Imam Feisal Abdel Raouf and his wife Daisy Khan that ”

    The fundamental rights are there thanks to the US constitution. This has now been further established by the unanimous decision to give the Islamic centre the official clearance. However, I think the decision to press ahead demonstrates very bad politics and poor judgement by the Imam, his wife and their backers at a time when certain forces are mobilised to widen the gulf between Muslims and the rest of the world. The Muslims stance should be at finding ways to narrow the gulf produced by Osama Bin Laden rather than widening it. It raises doubts in my mind about the intention of the Imam and his supporters in Manhattan.

    The American politicians who are supporting him , even if they are well intentioned, cannot have a good idea of what it’s like to be a Muslim when hatred towards Muslims is rapidly becoming part of mainstream thinking thanks to 9/11. This belligerent attitude by the Imam et al defeats the nobel objective of the promotion of interfaith understanding and harmony.

  4. Tilsim

    typo.. noble objective.

  5. This is the right cause and the wrong time, the wrong place. Sentiment and emotion has a value. Of all people, we in South Asia should empathise with this. Among us, those who have pointed out to majority communities that they have been insensitive to intangibles should empathise the most.

    The good Imam and his wife, who seem to be genuine people a little out of their depth, have nothing to lose and everything to gain by displaying a little, a very little magnanimity, and giving up their technically correct position to embrace others who fear symbolism.

    Giving any advantage to the Tea Party set will be a grievous tactical error.

  6. Pingback: The Ground-zero mosque, continued - Page 21

  7. AA Khalid

    The bottom line is that America has its bouts of obscene irrationality such as 20-25% of citizens believing Obama is a ”secret Muslim”. How can one reason with such dogmatism? There is a rising tide of irrational right wing xenophobia brewing within the American political discourse, and American citizens of the Muslim faith will bear the brunt of this unfortunately.

    What on earth do American citizens of the Muslim faith have to do with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or any other country for that matter? The one thing Muslims in Europe and America, especially the new generation who have no real links with Muslim majority countries, are sick and tired of is being constantly questioned about the actions of their hopeless co-religionists abroad, because they have nothing to do with it!

    It is dangerous to suggest that the Tea Party can be won over if these American citizens do not establish their cultural centre. That’s just bonkers, since the Tea Party works on the premise that ”Islam=terrorism” and there is no such thing as a ”moderate Muslim” hence Muslims need to abandon Islam and embrace Christianity to become American citizens.

    Why should America citizens be asked to explain the actions of foreign states? Why on earth should American Muslims be questioned about the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or Iran, or any Muslim country for that matter. American Muslims are sick and tired of being seen as ”ambassadors” rather than as citizens. Many American Muslims have nothing to do with Muslim majority countries especially the new generation, so YLH’s criticism of Muslim countries’ religious freedom though valid is hopeless when applied to American Muslims, because the simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of American Muslims do not interact or engage in the civic and political fabric of Muslim majority countries because they are American citizens!

    Many American Muslims have nothing to do with Muslim majority countries anymore, and they have no desire to represent these countries beacuse they are forging their own ideas about faith and wish to be good American citizens.

    Bottom line this is a domestic debate, and bringing in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia is pointless and playing to the far right in the US, because it undermines the concept of citizenship and civic identity for Americans of the Muslim faith. It portrays American citizens of the Muslim faith as ”ambassadors” and ”colonisers” rather than as citizens. Like the time when Roman Catholics in America were questioned about their relationship to Rome…..

    To suggest that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is some sort of radical is ridiculous. I have been reading Rauf’s work for years, before this fiasco kicked off, and in my mind his work represented a very spiritual, outward looking, critical and reflexive stance on religion and was always filled with inter-faith references. Now suddenly with this fiasco people who have never even read his work before or even heard of Rauf before feel as if they can authoratively describe his work and outlook? How pathetic…

    Was it not Rauf who wrote his book, ”What’s right with Islam is What’s right with America”, which was endorsed by the likes of Karen Armstrong? That book was one of the most profound and sensible statements by a Muslim religious thinker after 9/11, so those who accuse the Imam of radicalism have really lost the plot.

    Having said all that there some concerns about the project. This is an issue that (bar the lunatic Tea Party movement’s so called ”concerns” which is really out and out bigotry and prejudice) has divided so many people. I have seen Rabbis, Catholic priests and even Muslim thinkers fiercely divided by this project. I think more than Rauf’s views which are totally fine, its the issue of emotion.

    I think Akbar Ahmed had it right when he said:

    ”I don’t think the Muslim leadership has fully appreciated the impact of 9/11 on America. They assume Americans have forgotten 9/11 and even, in a profound way, forgiven 9/11, and that has not happened. The wounds remain largely open […] and when wounds are raw, an episode like constructing a house of worship—even one protected by the Constitution, protected by law—becomes like salt in the wounds”.

    I think Rauf’s very idealistic spirituality which embraces the concept of active reconcilliation and seeing the best in people has made him blind to the politics of fear being practiced int he US. I do not think he is in anyway at fault but I cannot see how else but by relocating can he fight this inexorable tide of prejudice, emanating from a buoyant far right in America.

    I think Rauf is a very well meaning scholar and indeed has spent years promoting inter-faith harmony pioneering the concept, but has misunderstood the emotional and psychological dimensions of this project.

    The fact is that no matter how liberal a cultural centre a Muslim wishes to open near Ground Zero it will always be perceived as a threat. The fact that such a substantial Muslim presence is allowed near such a site will always be a problem no matter what purpose said centre will have.

    That’s the bottom line unfortunately. The fact is Vajra has it spot on, this cause that Rauf seeks to promote is extremely noble unfortunately the timing and place is wrong, because it gives an excuse to bigots to use this issue to beat liberals and Muslims.

  8. AA Khalid

    The one sort of straw man argument we must avoid is the one that somehow the constitutionally-protected religious rights of American citizens is dependent nay contingent on the actions of a foreign government, because that really does erode the premise of citizenship and equality.

  9. androidguy

    “..What on earth do American citizens of the Muslim faith have to do with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or any other country for that matter?…”

    The same thing that Pakistani citizens of the suicide belt variety have to do with Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine, Moro Islands, Gujarat but not Darfur, Xinjiang, Uzbekistan or Western Sahara.

  10. YLH

    “What on earth do American citizens of the Muslim faith have to do with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or any other country for that matter?…”

    Constitutionally nothing. But I had asked for understanding …

    American Muslims support, condone and defend exclusion in many countries. So the issue is not one of constitutional rights which I have dealt with earlier… but of American Muslims realizing that they too would have to exercise moral pressure on Muslim majority countries…. if they wish to plead constitutional rights.

    Pleading equality of citizenship- which is not being questioned- based on nation state and laws of nation state after claiming a supra-national Ummah identity is a rather odd argument but then Muslims excel at making this ridiculous argument.

  11. androidguy

    YLH, thanks for articulating the point much better than I did!🙂

  12. AA khalid

    @YLH

    Please YLH, do you have any empirical evidence to suggest your ridiculous statement, that American Muslims condone these abuses?

    The fact is that American Muslims are more wealthy, more affluent, in better position economically and socially than their co-religionists elsewhere in the world so why should they bother themselves in getting involved in the affairs of foreign nations? Those are the facts.

    You are inventing reality, the Pew Research Forum conducted amongst American Muslims concludes that, ”The first-ever, nationwide, random sample survey of Muslim Americans finds them to be largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world”. (Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream).

    Gallup also conducted a comprehensive study, ”Muslim Americans: A National Portrait”, which does not indicate any of the things you are claiming. I suggest you consult these sociological and empirical resources rather than invent reality as you see fit.

    The new generation of American (and European) Muslims do not care about Muslim majority countries as much as their fellow citizens, because they have their own lives.

    This thing about the Ummah being a political construct is ridiculous and has little support (see the Gallup Poll), only groups like Hibz ut Tahrir the loony fanatic fringe group plug this concept. Historically, speaking the ”Ummah” as a political concept has never materialised.

  13. YLH

    Well my own personal experience is that a vast majority of American Muslims does condone Saudi Arabia’s religious laws and also believe in a supra-national conception of global Ummah…. But I do not have access to “gallup” to prove it.

    I will however drop my point if you answer the following question in the affirmative:

    Are you honestly suggesting that if a referendum of American Muslim public opinion was held on the issue of building a Church a block from the Khana Kaaba, the American Muslim public opinion will favor it?

  14. AA khalid

    ”Are you honestly suggesting that if a referendum of American Muslim public opinion was held on the issue of building a Church a block from the Khana Kaaba, the American Muslim public opinion will favor it?”

    No, but there will be no problem anywhere else in the world, that much can be safely assumed. Even prominent American Muslim personalities like Akbar Ahmed would not agree with such a proposal, the reasons for which are not the normative of their convicitions and principles.

    You will find little sympathy for Saudi in the West YLH, among Muslim communities, they are very unpopular…

    I am not suggesting that at all, but to suggest that Saudi is somehow a litmus test to be used is erroneous.

  15. YLH

    Well if you are not suggesting that at all, then you are accepting that the issue of citizenship is not as clear cut as you wish to make it… out of convenience.

    If Muslims can understand and condone -in the name of conviction- why it is alright for Non-Muslims to be forbidden from even coming within a 100 miles of Mecca and Medina let alone build something there…. then Muslims can also understand and condone why – despite constitutional rights- American outrage is justified.

  16. AJ

    Excellent analysis.
    When Danish cartoonists or South Park writers make fun of Muslim icons under their right to freedom of speech, they are justifiably vilified by the Muslim world for their insensitivity. In a similar vein shouldn’t the Muslim world be more sensitive on the Manhattan Mosque issue and not blindly quote their freedom of religion rights?

  17. @A. A. Khalid

    You are surely aware of the deep respect in which we all hold you, and that we know that you cut away inessentials with a razor’s edge, leaving the bare fact clear for examination. In this case, too, it looks as if you will turn out to be perfectly, precisely accurate.

    Sometimes, however, it seems to be better to be approximately right than to be precisely wrong. This seems to be such an issue.

    Please consider that this is an emotive issue, not a rational one. These require not immediate analysis, but the healing touch of time. I hope you will accept that I speak in good faith in urging that we acknowledge the rightness, also the innate innocence and naivete of Imam Rauf, and, speaking as an outsider, purely as a matter of political expediency, this initiative should be withdrawn for the moment. Even permanently withdrawn.

    Regarding Yasser’s points, you have already discarded the idea that a supra-state identity is being sought by the Ummah; the other half is one you will yourself freely endorse (I do not recall if you have already argued this, for which I may be excused): that urging human rights for non-Muslims in Muslim lands is a good thing. Quite without connection to the immediate matter, this is surely in itself a desirable thing.

    It seems that you are in effect in agreement, except that he finds a causal relationship between the transcendental urges of the Ummah, and you find no contradiction between an individual’s or a group’s religious identity and its human rights.

    That is a subtle difference.

    Yasser’s point about the transcendental urges of the Ummah may not necessarily be capable of being wholly disproved by pointing to the existence of evidence that proves that the opposite.

    This is a moment for wise compromise, a generous sacrifice.

    Was it Henry IV who said,”Paris is worth a mass”?

  18. Humanity

    Muslims will pass a great opportunity for Islam to prevail its mission of peace through a practical act of reconciliation! It will be a field day for the opponents of Islam.

    I urge the reader to reflect on the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, which is a practical model for peace building and tolerance among communities. The wisdom taught by the Holy Prophet (SAW) through the remarkable treaty is far reaching.

    The events leading to the treaty are starkly similar to the issue of Cordoba House. Unfortunately, the exemplary lessons of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah are being lost in the raucous created by insisting to build Cordoba House near Ground Zero. A hand of reconciliation should be extended to promote good will and harmony by voluntarily relocating the center elsewhere. The result of this gesture of peace building would far out weight the point to be made by adamantly sticking to need to exercise the constitutional right. It is child like, immature, and a out right determental to the local and global Muslim community It defeats the stated objective of the Cordoba project.

    The Treaty of Hudaibiyah emphasizes that:

    a. The well being and long term benefits of the people must be is a priority for Muslim leadership.
    b. Peace must always be an objective and preferred over unjustified confrontations and provocations which lead to ill will, hate and loss of life and property. Promotion of peace must not be ended casually, or without just cause.
    c. At times it may be necessary to temporarily limit rights and freedoms hoping to achieve the build the path for the bigger cause.

    Muslims will be ill served if they disregard and discount the precedence set in the magnanimous treaty. Muslims must choose reconciliation and long term benefits over the need to exercise a constitutional right.

  19. AA khalid

    @ Vajra and YLH

    I accept the premise that the issue involved is emotive and not rational. That is a very serious point, which I think I may have under-estimated somewhat. For this I accept your point Vajra and take on board your critique.

    Barring my disagreements with YLH, I stick by the concept of citizenship as something Western Muslims have embraced wholeheartedly as evidenced in studies by Gallup and Poll.

    The issue of Mecca and Medina is not and should not be normative practice for religious freedoms (though I would argue that the Hanafi school of law, the school of law which is in the majority in Pakistan and many Muslim countries, does have a different take on the issue, and its stance is perhaps worthy of further investigation), which is why I feel it should not be a litmus test as such.

    Though YLH I do agree with you that amongst some in Muslim societies there is an incredible hypocrisy which you rightly point out.

    Perhaps your piece is best read in a Pakistani context, i.e. exclusively in the context of Muslim majority countries.

    In that sense its an admirable attempt to confront hypocrisy when religious leaders in Muslim countries talk about ”rights” and ”freedoms” and deny these very same notions to their own citizens.

    I still stick by the point that the concept of the Ummah in a political sense is all but dead, it is utterly finished and I might argue historically it was never a political reality contrary to the utopian distortions of the religious right. The Ummah as some sort of ”Islamic political theory” is absolute nonsense, and is rightly dispelled by many scholars such as Raziq, An Naim, Affendi and others.

    I agree with the basic premise of the article that we must allow for time and empathetic understanding on this issue. That much we can fully agree upon I think.

  20. Gorki

    I admire YLH and his courage of convictions.
    However there are two sides to this debate.

    I speak as an American citizen and tax payer.

    Someday American children will read about this episode in the history books the same way they read about the internment of the Japanese Americans during WWII. This time we want to get it right and remain on the right side of history.

    For that purpose, and for the sake of my country, I personally oppose the Tea Party rightwing fear mongrers and their campaign against the mosque.
    Imam Raouf alone should be the one to decide where he thinks the mosque should be located.

    Regards.

  21. Tilsim

    @ Humanity

    Well said. I hope American muslims (who can hopefully influence the good Imam) are listening. It may be that the Saudi government and their funders can also be persuaded to withdraw their backing. The rest of us are unfortunately mere spectators who don’t really have a locus standi but are likely to be negatively impacted by the ill will and suspicion generated to a certain extent.

    Who represents American muslims and what are the majority of them saying? I don’t know the stance of their leadership and I have not read any commentary on it.

    The Tea party cannot be reconciled but it’s recruitment effort should not be helped through the midsguided decision of the good Imam and his backers.

  22. Raju Brother

    All this is hum-bug! Is Allah not everywhere, so why can’t a Muslim pray everywhere he wants? Manhattan is just as much bequeathed upon Muslims by Allah’s mercy as Multan, Mecca or Medina.

    It is grave injustice by the Americans, to not allow a mosque at Ground Zero. By not allowing the mosque there, the Americans are showing their Islamophobia and contending that Islam is the same as Terrorism.

    All those here who are of the opinion, that it is correct to withdraw the plans for building a mosque, are to be condemned. By withdrawing their right to the mosque, the land for which has been purchased according to the law of the land, the so-called Pakistani Liberals are confirming the stand of the Tea Party. Islam is a great religion, a religion of Peace, and there is no reason why this equating with Terrorism should be allowed and tolerated.

    The American Muslims should stand up for their rights as equal citizens of America, and they should not give in. I fully support President Barack H. Obama’s stand on this.

    Shame on the Muslims here who are willing to compromise on their just stand and try to appease the White Supremacist Tea Party.

  23. sai aravindh

    @YLH
    A very courageous and dispassionate analysis – really appreciate it. As a matter of principle, there should have been no objection to building the mosque; therefore it is quite shocking that one should see this level of opposition to the idea in supposedly one of the most enlightened societies in the world.

    However, for the liberals, it is a question of choosing their battles. And on that front, not just the issue, but the timing also could not have been any worse. Note that the US is currently in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And these are times when otherwise sane people become more susceptible to extremist propaganda. The Tea Party has already surprised most observers with its dramatic rise as a political power within such a short period of time. I think American Muslims are doing a grave disservice to themselves by providing further momentum to TP through this highly emotive issue.

  24. DAsghar

    Yasser Bhai,

    This issue has been beaten to death. I think AA Khalid Bhai has made a very valid argument about American Muslims and their preferences. Comparing Ground Zero to the site of Holy Kaaba is not comparing apples to apples. Ground Zero was not a place of worship for Christians or any other religion for that matter. Secondly, how can American Muslims decide, what is permissible in Saudi Arabia. It is up to Saudi citizens/Saudi government to decide.

    Yes it is a test for the US, but like many others it will come out with flying colors. Much like it did in the 60’s with the African American civil rights issue. Muslims have been here for 100’s of years and part and parcel of this nation. BTW, the people who caused the destruction in question were not American Muslims. In the end the underlying principles of this country will always supersede. This is the reason why this place is so unique and the reason for envy of rest of the world.

  25. Sol

    I really don’t understand why the fearless Liberals here are all for bowing before the redneck evangelical fundamentalists. This will only strengthen them and prove to them that Muslim=Terrorist. Don’t give them this opportunity. If today the Am. Muslims bow down, then tomorrow there will be many such restrictions imposed on them.

    Already one sees that a lot of anti-Muslim propaganda is being circulated in so called Secular America. Indeed evangelical fundamentalists are gathering their troops to protest against construction of other mosques all over the country.

    Liberals should encourage American Muslims to stick to their guns and fight for their rights. Another Civil Rights movement needs to be launched !

  26. YLH

    Sardar khan mian … You probably haven’t understood A A Khalid at all.

    He favors a constitutional separation of citizenship and identity (as I do) and equality of citizenship as I do. He is one sense of the word a secularist.

  27. Sol

    @Vajra

    You, who have single handedly taken out hordes of fascist Hindu fundamentalists, are capitulating before this rag-tag crowd of Christian fundamentalists !

    Amazing !!

  28. simply61

    By far the most sensible piece on Cordoba House issue.
    The good Imam Rouf has been on a whirlwind tour of the Gulf to generate ‘awareness’ about the issue and has had glowing coverage in local(one sided)newspapers…the same papers that never question Saudi Arabia’s refusal to allow a single church on its soil.

  29. @Sol

    No, that happens when you can’t see beyond your nose.

    This is exactly the kind of issue that will soon descend to the gutter, and where redneck evangelical fundamentalists (nicely said, btw) will be opposed by Islamist fundamentalists. So an intelligent withdrawal by the Imam, who from all accounts seems to be a thoughtful, sensitive man, will stop this face-off developing. Of course, the decision is entirely within the USA. However, if there should be a confrontation between two sets of fundamentalists, what is sure is that liberals and liberal causes will gain nothing from all this.

  30. Tilsim

    @ D Asghar

    I would caution drawing a parallel with the African American civil rights issue.

    @ Sol

    You see, using terms such as bowing down etc do not help us to understand the situation. It makes no sense to me for American Muslims to give the Tea Party and others a bone. Look at how they are using it to drum up support amongst frightened and ill informed Americans who would not otherwise have anything in common with the Tea Party. Is this in the best interests of American Muslims?

    The belligerence of the Ground Zero Mosque may infact lead to American muslims not being able to build mosques in their own backyards as a result of a loss of public sympathy. The ultimate ‘judge’ so to speak is American public opinion. The evidence is that American public opinion is hardening against the Ground Zero Mosque. An own goal, no?

  31. Ali Abbas

    YLH,

    An excellent article and an analysis that is sorely missing. The funding sources, the issue of Park51/mosque/interfaith center/islamic cultural center as a wedge issue and challenging the current muslim mindset are issues that need to be discussed but are not.

  32. AA khalid

    I would add that this notion of ”transcendental urges” in terms of the Ummah and how Muslims cannot be citizens whilst believing in such a concept is utterly wrong.

    It smacks of the prejudice against Roman Catholics in the US and across some European countries, when they were questioned by the far right at the time of stating where their alliegances lie, i.e. towards Rome and the Pope, hence at that time there was also this prejudice against Roman Catholics in terms of whether they were really ”loyal” or ”enemies within”.

    This same sort of obsession is raising its head again against another religious minority in American and European societies.

    I would finally add to actually read this Imam’s work before commenting on his outlook and philosophy. His work is very profound and sensible. His book, ”What’s Right With Islam is What’s Right With America” is worth a read and one of the most important works in the American religious discourse.

    And yes as YLH has said already I am a secularist in one sense of the word, a political-constitutional sense, for example in terms of absolute separation between political and religious authority, and equal citizenship.

  33. Sudip Minhas

    I have only one thing to add; a lot of people give examples of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia as a representation of Muslims to hone in the point that because this does not happen there it should not be allowed in the US. Well India has more Muslims than either of the two aforementioned countries and it has allowed churches, mosques and temples to be built as well as allow equal rights to any one irrespective of their faith. Learn something…

  34. no-communal

    @Sudip
    Before we teach others anything let’s first solve our Ram Janmobhoomi – Babri Masjid tangle.

  35. Parvez

    Ground zero Islamic Center controversy is a manufactured political issue to help republican party. This is to divert attention from serious unemployment problem. It is an issue which neither party is willing to take up head-on. Democrat being wimpy as usual are trying to split the difference on purely legal issue. Imam Rouf is a political player and he will play his assigned role. There is an effort in the media to play Islam terror card for upcoming elections.
    Americans in general vote pocket book and they don’t see clarity, so I expect very low turnout which helps those groups which are better organized.
    YLH, the position you are taking is detrimental to absolute equal rights in Pakistan you fight for.

  36. Nasir

    wonderful article

  37. SS

    Excellent. This time the young man has argued well and its not just an emotional outburst as often is the case.
    I recall someone suggesting that such enlightening articles are needed more for the Urdu press. Should you want to be published in our vernacular press then let me know. I will put you in touch with the right people. Yes, they will take care of the translation themselves.
    Raza Rumi also ought to be appearing in that section of the press.
    You talented young men here are converting the already converted. Besides, Daily Times sells barely a few dozen copies. Move over to The News if you do not want to be read by the man-in-the-street for some fear or a reason that you know best.

  38. AZW

    I understand the sensibilities part. Ground Zero is hallowed grounds; where a crazed militant ideology attacked and killed civilians by design. Thousands of innocents died as the offshoots of Syed Qutub and Moudoudi went ahead by striking at the financial heart of the US.

    But at the end of the day:

    1) Park 51 is a private property, and the owner has every right to build what he wants to build, without any compunction whatsoever on what kind of Islamic community center would that be.

    2) The American constitution gives every Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, everyone, a perfect right to religious worship; two, one, or zero blocks away from Ground Zero.

    3) Unnecessary provocation from what? Every democracy that allows its citizens free speech and complete freedom to worship invokes some provocation with someone. A mosque in Tennessee was partially set on fire as it provoked the local residents. While a mosque right next to Ground Zero may be provoking to many, that doesn’t mean it is constitutionally wrong to build that mosque here.

    4) By catering to sensibilities of population by gently denying Muslims the constitutional right, America will go against the very principle of freedom that it cherishes. And who says this freedom is always a walk in the park?

    5) In my humble opinion, as distasteful as it may sound to many Americans, stopping someone from doing something that he or she is completely entitled to do sets a dangerous precedent and a slippery slope. This selective witch hunt against this mosque is spearheaded by the patriotic crowd in the US. But this is a shallow patriotism; one that tries to subvert the very idea that makes America so much special. Patriotism is not equal to the long term national interest in most cases. And by catering to these right wingers, we are not doing either ourselves or the US any fovour.

    6) I have seen enough in Pakistan (at a much larger, worse scale) where constitutional guarantees were trampled in the name of national interest. This mosque episode is a watered down version of the practical-considerations-thinking, which in my opinion does a lot more damage to a society in the long run.

    7) There is a vast number of people who realize that Muslims, and the US will be better off by having a mosque where they are entitled to build it, even if it is right next to the Ground Zero. It is an affirmation of America standing up to its constitution, and a tolerant Islam standing up to its militant counterpart.

  39. Quantum_Singularty

    @ AA Khalid

    “I would add that this notion of ”transcendental urges” in terms of the Ummah and how Muslims cannot be citizens whilst believing in such a concept is utterly wrong.

    It smacks of the prejudice against Roman Catholics in the US and across some European countries, when they were questioned by the far right at the time of stating where their alliegances lie, i.e. towards Rome and the Pope, hence at that time there was also this prejudice against Roman Catholics in terms of whether they were really ”loyal” or ”enemies within”.”

    Pretty much off the mark, it is true that such assertions by some in the past, however, there was little truth to them. There is no such thing as a Catholic “Ummah”. The Pope is not some political leader you swear loyalty to. This can be contrasted to Muslims, who often expressly state that their first loyalty to and first community is the Muslim Ummah.

    “This same sort of obsession is raising its head again against another religious minority in American and European societies.”

    I know of no other major religion in the West that espouses some kind of pan-religious nationalism.

    “I would finally add to actually read this Imam’s work before commenting on his outlook and philosophy. ”

    Rauf maybe viewed as moderate among American Muslims, but among most Americans he is an extremist who refuses to condemn Hamas and calls American an accessory to 9/11.

  40. no-communal

    Okay, so basically the consensus is “peaceful muslims, please refudiate”.

  41. YLH

    India does not have more Muslims than Pakistan. Check the census numbers. I don’t why Indians love repeating this lie. Pakistan has always had 10 million or so more Muslims than India.

  42. YLH

    “YLH, the position you are taking is detrimental to absolute equal rights in Pakistan you fight for.”

    That is a hopeless cause anyway.

    I would rather Western nations deploy the hostage theory to ensure equal rights for religious minorities in Muslim majority nations.

  43. Majumdar

    I would rather Western nations deploy the hostage theory to ensure equal rights for religious minorities in Muslim majority nations.

    The first time I heard of the hostage theory was in the context of the Partition where MAJ (pbuh) was alleged to have propounded this theory to ensure protection of minorities on both sides of the border- at any rate many people did believe in this story. I find this theory appalling and indefensible- why shud Pak Hindoos have to be held responsible for India’s acts and why shud IMs be held responsible for Pakistan’s acts. And why shud minorities be disadvantaged in one country becuase their correligionists are oppressing minorities where they happen to be a majority.

    Coming back to Cordoba House, I agree with Adnan bhai and Khalid mian that the constt shud be allowed to go on and those who are opposing it are doing it for mischief. But at the same time, people who support this constt shud stop pretending that the constt of the Cordoba House is being done to foster intercommunal harmony or some such shyte.

    Regards

  44. Gorki

    As always, AZW’s well reasoned yet easy to grasp posts is a pleasure to read. I agree wholeheartedly with his post; well most of it. I only have a problem with the following: ‘Patriotism is not equal to the long term national interest in most cases…..’

    On the contrary, true patriotism means understanding the long term national interest and acting accordingly inmost cases even if it goes against the public opinion of the moment.
    America did not become what it is today in a day or by pandering to the popular opinion; but because generation after generation it produced a few good men stood their ground and did the right thing. Each of those few became the heroes and role models for the next generation because by their determination they helped the nation kept faith with its own ideals.

    Whether it was the handful of abolitionist running the underground railroad in the pre civil war era or the de-segregationists of the sixties; they all backed causes that were very unpopular for their periods. Today most Americans understand that we are a better society because of them.

    We also recognize the few shameful episodes of our history. Let me name two of them.

    After the Pearl Harbor attack, the nation was in a fit of hysteria not unlike today. Then, like the American Muslims today, the American Japanese were unfairly accused of dual loyalty it was alleged that they were secretly planning to sabotage the American war effort. The government rounded up thousands of innocent Japanese Americans citizens and locked them up in concentration camps for the duration of the war. The fears were unfounded and in spite of the shameful behavior of their government, the Japanese Americans remained loyal almost to a man; in fact the most decorated American army unit of the WWII was made up entirely of the Japanese Americans. Today, all American school children are taught how such an action was patently unjust and illegal so that it never happens again. The Japanese Americans are held as an example of what an ideal American should be just as the Roosevelt administration’s controversial decision held as an example of shameful behavior.

    Later on at the height of the Cold War there was an American politician named McCarthy played upon the nation’s anxiety about the communist threat and in the guise of hunting communist sympathizers accused many loyal Americans often destroying their careers. For a while he too was very popular and powerful. Today his witch hunts are considered another infamous chapter in our nation’s history that most people feel should never have happened.
    What is happening today in regards to the ground zero mosque is no different than the last two examples quoted above and the Tea partiers are no less shameful.

    The true patriots are those who are standing by the right of the Muslim Americans to build the mosque because that right comes not come from any permission or reciprocal actions of any foreign governments but from the words enshrined in our own declaration of INDEPENDENCE from A FOREIGN GOVERNMENT that began as follows:

    ‘All men are created equal and have an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…..’

    When the future generations of Americans will learn those words in school they will also learn which ones of us stood by those words when the chips were down.

    So I disagree with YLH. What he says may be a good advice for Pakistanis and the Saudis but with due respect, the day we Americans started looking to the Saudis to decide how we will treat our own people will be the beginning of the end of America.

    That day is not here yet because we refuse to surrender our country’s ideals to Osama and his murderers.

    Regards.

  45. YLH

    Majumdar,

    I don’t think that is quite how Jinnah put it but in the context of Muslims in western nations, I wholly support the idea …since non-Muslims are already badly treated in Muslim majority countries.

  46. Majumdar

    I don’t think that is quite how Jinnah put it

    That is why the qualifier “alleged”

    Regards

  47. Gorki

    “…since non-Muslims are already badly treated in Muslim majority countries…”

    The way to deal with it is not to mistreat our own people but to protest in front of their embassies and their dignitaries when they visit Washington.
    Also ask all Western Govts. for sanctions against the offending governments.

    Even if the US Govt. may not relent immediately (in the interest of short term interests), highlighting such abuses is the way to go; like we did against the US allied South Africans even during the Cold War.

  48. YLH

    gorki sb, azw,

    The dilemma this particular mosque issue puts up is one where every solution leads to heart break.

    Scenario one: Mosque project is stopped. Right wing and Tea Party wins. Constitution loses.

    Scenario two: Mosque project goes through. Orthodoxy is promoted and mainstreamed. Tomorrow Hamza Yusuf’s little college for Islamic law in Berkeley will get accredited as well. Over all result – marginalization of dissenting voices within the Muslim community.

    I am not sure what either of you imagined my advice to be…. it certainly isn’t retreat. Instead I feel that the mosque project should be subjected to greater scrutiny and forced to moderate stances.

    Another problem and confusion is about this term “Sufi”. For people in the subcontinent Sufi invokes images of Amir Khusro, Bulley Shah and what not… this Sufi creed- that these Imams such as Raouf and Hamza Yusuf follow- from Fez is actually a very straitjacket bigoted variety.

    Over all… an unnecessary provocation by forces of orthodoxy within the Muslim community which will ultimately only be counter-productive.

    The Japanese analogy is wrong on so many levels but I too have to live amongst the faithful so I dare not enumerate the reasons at this time.

  49. Dreamer

    YLH

    Indian Muslims estimate: As per India’s last census (2001), Muslim population was 13.8 crore. In every decade it has increased by over 32-33%. If you take just 30% decennial increase even then, it would mean 18 crore Muslims in 2010.

    Pakistan Muslims estimate: The entire population of Pakistan is 17 crore in 2010. Naturally Muslims are less than that. It’s common for Muslims in either countries to brag about population, but does that serve anybody.

    Still, if you want to believe then believe it.

  50. Humanity

    The Cordoba Center near Ground Zero would be a no different than the Church built right into the heart of the Grand Cordoba Masjid, in Spain. The ugly ramnifications of the ill-spirited move are felt to this day.

    The cycle of spite must stop!

  51. YLH

    32 percent? Wow! And we thought we had the population explosion bad. Pakistani population – despite being subject to one of the highest population explosions- has grown by only 25 percent over the last 12 years..

    Somehow your 30 percent in 10 years seems to be a Hindu nationalist fantasy.
    Isn’t the census due this year? We will soon find out.

    The argument is in any event a pointless one … Original Pakistan included Bangladesh…so the Muslim homelands do cater to more than 2/3rds of all South Asian Muslims.

  52. Bade Miya

    This whole mosque thing is another case of barking up the wrong tree. The Muslim world is facing bigger issues and how do some enlightened people in west deal with it: wade into something that even a 4 yr old would have told you that it will provoke uncomfortable reactions. How does building/non-building of a mosque change the fundamental problems in the Muslim world? Rauf’s gesture would have been much appreciated if he decided to pitch his troops somewhere else.

    I just don’t understand a basic issue here. How can we expect others to behave in a radically different way when we don’t behave like that? Do we expect Americans to be a different species? In a weird way, some of us who are basing this mosque thing as a test of American tolerance, constitution, etc., etc., subconsciously elevate them to a higher level. The need of the hour is to understand their concerns too.

    It would be better too not to just go by the Pew and gallop polls but to hear the voices on the street. Like Ylh, I too have heard similar idiocy about Ummah from even very educated(young) Muslims. It was also quite common before for the calendars issued by the local mosques detailing the atrocities(some very inflated) faced by Muslims all over the world.

  53. Bade Miya

    Majumdar,
    “The first time I heard of the hostage theory was in the context of the Partition where MAJ (pbuh)”

    I wish that while you were at it, you would have gone ahead and added SAW to pbuh. I don’t know what “saw” means but seems like a necessary addendum when people write “pbuh.”

  54. @Bade Miya

    One is the formula in Arabic, the other a loose translation in English.

    I nearly added ‘cretin’, then stopped short; it would have been unfair. You have a genuine problem, which I haven’t figured out yet, but it means you aren’t being deliberately mischievous. These are genuine errors. I won’t abuse you again no matter what the provocation. I hope.

  55. Bade Miya

    Vajra,
    “You have a genuine problem, which I haven’t figured out yet, but it means you aren’t being deliberately mischievous.”

    Told you, subtlety is not your forte.

  56. Bade Miya

    Vajra,
    “I won’t abuse you again no matter what the provocation. I hope.”

    The last time you did that, you came a poor second. That self-restraint is more a case of “discretion is the better part of valor.”
    Of course, if you choose to do so, do remember an old saying,”if you play with cats, expect to be scratched.”😀

  57. karun1

    I think this is more of an internal matter of western/american society rather than any muslim nation.
    the principles of equality/secularism has to be applied ruthlessly in each case for consistency, otherwise there is danger of dilution of constitutional principles.

    Anyway western societies are forming right examples on secular polity for everyone to follow, a comparison with closed islamic nations, tit-for-tat arguments are unfounded.

    what u are missing is the untangible and severe damagae it will cause to the ‘american dream’

    rauf is also entitled to the ‘american dream’ within the law of the land.

  58. Bade Miya

    karun,
    No one disagrees with Rauf’s right to build his place of worship anywhere/everywhere. One just hopes that he could have taken this issue at another time, maybe in another 2-3 years. When someone dies in your neighborhood, common sense dictates that you lower the volume of your music. Of course, it’s your right to play music at the full blast, but it won’t be a decent thing to do so.
    I know this comparison is far fetched but I was just trying to put forward an analogy.

  59. YLH

    Read the article again Karun mian. I have already conceded the constitutional question.

    This is more addressed to Muslims than anything else … a call for consistency. Maybe American Muslims would want to change a thing or two about the actions of the closed Islamic nations they openly condone. Maybe this debate would force the proposed Islamic center -if and when it is built- to be more accepting of intra-communal diversity of opinion and thought within Islam also.

  60. karun1

    Yes ofcourse i understand ur standpoint. you are coming from an internal correction standpoint of (american muslims and other muslim societies). very valid. but i think inherently any such minority community is opprutunistic in nature and am not sure can be expected to take a holier than thou attitude. they are always more likely to play victims than to own up that they were careless and less responsible in a far liberal society. has more to do with identity and insecurity issues. given that i am really not competent to comment on (ahmedis/shias/bohris) being allowed to conduct prayers. perhaps the right set of questions to ask Rauf.(how liberal is liberal?)

    However i am more concerned (like gorki) from the standpoint of mainstream(actually means everyone) U.S citizens. Its a far more important question for them than its for american muslims.

    whether american muslims grow up or not is an important question, but whats far more important whether americans may elect a muslim president in future, just the way they have elected a black.

    The direction of secular evolution has to be one way. No back-tracking.

  61. Zainab Ali

    I have never been to U.S or understand the aspirations of American Muslims about a supranational Ummah, but I agree with YLH that the construction of a Church near Kaabah would never be agreed upon by the Muslims at large. But then again the ground zero site doesn’t hold any religious significance for the Americans.

  62. karun1

    @bademiyan

    no..no.. its not the right example….i am sure rauf would not have advertised too much…it rather actually wud have been a very clandestine thing…its the tea party people/irresponsible media who have blown it out of proportion and making a mountain out of a molehill.

  63. ramesh

    muslims world over take up citizenship,in the residing country,for convenience sake only.look at the u.k. muslims their loyalty is with the greater ‘umma’.muslim countries require religion’s backing to earn the patriotism of their people.yankee muslims are taking advantage of the citezenship bestowed upon them,to further their umma’s agenda without a concern for the plural society,which allows them such great freedom.a clever taqeeya.similar freedom a dream in their country of origin.a.a. khalid can afford this freedom of speech and secular mindset by the vertue of his ”citizenship”,if only he had tried this in his place of origin.

  64. Dreamer

    YLH

    All this is official, available on Govt’s census website. In India, Dalits also have more than 30% decennial increase. Basically, it’s more related to poverty.

    The 1991 census put Muslim population at 12.1% and 2001 census suggested it had gone up to around 13.5%.

    Exercise for 2011 census have begun. Let’s see.

  65. AA khalid

    ”There is no such thing as a Catholic “Ummah”. The Pope is not some political leader you swear loyalty to. This can be contrasted to Muslims, who often expressly state that their first loyalty to and first community is the Muslim Ummah”

    You sir obviously have no clue about Catholic theology. Catholics believe they are a community in the ”body of Christ”, fellowship if you will in the ”body of Christ”, in ”Christ’s body”. So Catholics too have a concept of a transnational religious community, expressed in the concept of ”communion”.

    The Pope was in fact in the past a political leader who could rely on the loyalty of Christendom, this is something not found in Muslim history where one religious leader could hold sway over the whole faithful. Catholics were also accused of being two faced and hidden enemies in the religious history of American society.

    It is only in recent times that the Pope has had to give up pretensions of secular authority and try to consolidate their authority in religious matters, but even that seems to be a lost cause in the modern world.

    So yes the Catholic analogy is perfectly reasonable in the American context, Jose Cassanova a sociologist and historian of religion at Georgetown in America himself used such an analogy.

    Oh yes and Quantum please refer to Rauf’s views directly rather than listening to the Tea Party propaganda machine formally known as Fox News (Glenn Beck is the lastest preacher for this movement who is one of Fox’s headline acts).

    And BM:

    ”It would be better too not to just go by the Pew and gallop polls but to hear the voices on the street”

    Why? Why shun empirical and sociological research? Talk about your experience by all means but give some importance to facts and figures…

  66. AA khalid

    When Catholics started to enter political life in America in the 19th-20th century (some would argue even today) some Americans accused these politicians of taking orders from Rome and the Pope, and that they were working to destroy America from within.

    Replace the religious references, subsitute Catholic references with Islamic references and you have the same sort of rhetoric today against Muslims.

  67. AA khalid

    Funny that those people who wish to assert that Muslims in the West do not value citizenship or are not really ”American”/”European”, can never actually provide evidence in terms of sociological research and polls.

    I have already cited Pew and Gallup in the context of American Muslims. In the Times, there was an excellent piece on the findings of another Gallup Poll: ”Poll reveals Muslims as model citizens” (type in and google).

    Unfortuantely for those who wish to plug the agenda that Muslims in the West are not faithful citizens have little evidence to point to, have no sociological and empirical research and are playing on fear and emotion rather than cold hard reason.

    As to YLH’s point about Hamza Yusuf. I would argue there should be no problem to have independent institutions of religious scholarship or seminaries. What is a problem is when the State gets involved, when coercion and intimidation is used to spread the views of these institutions. Coercion, intimidation and authoratarianism is to be opposed. I see no evidence that this institution will proliferate those type of attitudes and foster a dogmatic mindset. (If you have any evidence I would like to see it).

    Such institutions one can attend or not attend, one can accept their views or leave them, one can debate their views, scrutinise them and be critical of them. They are private institutions you have to pay for the courses to attend them.

    So really this institution is not really a problem, but rather is the first step towards religious scholarship reinventing itself and trying to integrate other disciplnes rather than simply mindlessly repeat medieval religious texts in rote learning fashion. Its trying to reinvent the way we deal with religious tradition in a gradual but critical fashion.

    This institution is trying something different, I do not see how it is trying to stifle dissent in Muslim communities, I cannot see the causal link between the two.

  68. karun1

    @AA Khalid
    btw under MY definition of secularism( i am an avowed secularist): i support burqa ban.
    What are ur views?

  69. AA Khalid

    Secularism is not a monolithic concept, and to pretend that it is monolithic is woefully deluded.
    Secularism initially meant that of a procedural kind, where all citizens are equal, religious identity does not influence citizenship, and that State religion is counter productive and generally coercive. There has to be a separation between religious and political authority.

    Secularism and liberalism are also not one and the same. The Arab world has suffered at the hands of many secular despots aswell who were not particularly religious. For me authoratarianism is authoratarianism whether its of a religious colour or any other colour.

    As to the burqa, I take the burqa has no fixed meaning, it means whatever the person wearing it wants it to mean. I do not think its a religious requirement. I detest the secularism which tries to marginalise religious convicitions from the public sphere [i.e society] (which is separate form the State). I think banning the burqa is pointless , especially when in France about 1000-2000 (even less) women are thought to wear the burqa.

    In fact such legislation is pointless and really is obscene identity politics rather than anything meaningful. For example in the Guardian article, ”Who Really Wears A Burka”?:

    ”In France, where there is an inflamed debate on the matter right now, the first investigation carried out by the police last year found that there were 367 women in France who wore burka or Niqab – 0.015% of the population. This was so low that the secret service was told to count again, and came up with a figure of 2,000; in Holland there seem to be about 400, and in Sweden a respectable guess suggests 100. ”

    This is such a shameful piece of legislation that there are surely better ways of tackling the great problems of gender issues in the Muslim community. Why not spend money on educational centres, or other similar sorts of projects and infrastructure?

    Hence I think this type of legislation is in the pursuit of cultural and ethinc homogenity and is a hopeless cause of shameful identity politics rather than concerned about secularism.

  70. Quantum_Singularty

    @AA Khalid
    “You sir obviously have no clue about Catholic theology. Catholics believe they are a community in the ”body of Christ”, fellowship if you will in the ”body of Christ”, in ”Christ’s body”. So Catholics too have a concept of a transnational religious community, expressed in the concept of ”communion”. “

    Still off the mark. It is true that there is a fellowship in the “body of Christ” (actually what it is really being said is that we are all one with God). A fellowship (virtually all religions have this to some degree), however, hardly compares with the concept of the Muslim Ummah which has significant political contexts. The Church does not view the concept of a Catholic fellowship to be superior to that of a nation state in a political context. Most Catholics view their religion as just that: a religion, not a transnational religious community/nation that is above their identity as Americans.

    “The Pope was in fact in the past a political leader who could rely on the loyalty of Christendom, this is something not found in Muslim history where one religious leader could hold sway over the whole faithful. Catholics were also accused of being two faced and hidden enemies in the religious history of American society. “

    The Pope has not had secular power for a number of centuries. Even during the Middle Ages, the Pope did not rule over large nations, rather he had limited power to interfere in the affairs of the secular rulers. Your reference to Muslim history is inaccurate, the early Caliphates had clear sway over the vast majority of Muslims, not to mention the fact that other theocracies (e.g. the Ottoman Caliphate) existed throughout Muslim history.

    “Oh yes and Quantum please refer to Rauf’s views directly rather than listening to the Tea Party propaganda machine formally known as Fox News (Glenn Beck is the lastest preacher for this movement who is one of Fox’s headline acts). “

    It is not from Fox News. Nineteen days after the [9/11] attacks, [Rauf] told CBS’s 60 Minutes that fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam. Rauch said that the message was mixed, however, because when then asked if the U.S. deserved the attacks, Rauf answered, “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened. But the United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” During an interview on New York WABC radio in June 2010, Rauf declined to say whether he agreed with the U.S. State Department’s designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization.

  71. Quantum_Singularty

    @AA Khalid
    “Funny that those people who wish to assert that Muslims in the West do not value citizenship or are not really ”American”/”European”, can never actually provide evidence in terms of sociological research and polls.
    I have already cited Pew and Gallup in the context of American Muslims. In the Times, there was an excellent piece on the findings of another Gallup Poll: ”Poll reveals Muslims as model citizens” (type in and google).
    Unfortuantely for those who wish to plug the agenda that Muslims in the West are not faithful citizens have little evidence to point to, have no sociological and empirical research and are playing on fear and emotion rather than cold hard reason. “

    Actually what the Pew and Gallup Polls reveal is that American Muslims are less extremist and insular than European Muslims not that the they are less extremist and insular compared to Americans at large. It is pretty self-evident that Muslims are more insular then the rest of America, especially when considering the inability of many American Muslims to marry non-Muslims, some American Muslims who only interact with their own community, etc.

  72. AA Khalid

    Quauntum all your ideas are meaningless because they presume that the concept of the ummah is political in terms of overriding citizenship when really polls such as Gallup and Pew confirm the opposite. I have yet to see you produce any form of sociological and empirical research from reputable organizations.

    Furthermore, you also assume there has always been a central authority of religious reference in Islam, but again historically speaking there never has been. Also as Anthony Black the religious historian documents in his work, ” The History of Islamic Political Thought: From the Prophet to the Present”, that the Caliphate was held as an authority over secular matters. The Caliphate never passed verdicts on religious matters, that was for a separate class of ulema. Hence we read in ”Keeping the State Out: Separation of Law and State in Classical Islamic Law” (Michigan Law Review):

    ”nature of Islamic law .. was traditionally epistemically grounded and contained a variety of equally valid and orthodox viewpoints”, in other words a pluralistic discourse with many competing viewpoints.

    Also as An Naim, Feldman, Affendi and Raziq (and many other scholars of religious law point out) that the Caliph was never a locus of religious interpretation and scholarship, but secular power. Hence why the Caliphs established to set a contrasting set of jurisprudence known as Qanun instead of fiqh. That dichotomy as noted by Professor Sachedina is also noted in his work ”Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights”.

    The Catholic analogy still stands, since Catholics believe they are a religious community but in a spiritual sense. The same thing applies to the Ummah, its a spiritual concept more than anything else.

    Oh yes a theocracy is when clerics rule over the population, what we have in Muslim history is not theocracy but autocrats, monarchs, sultans and kings. Arguably the Islamic Revolution in Iran is the first time that the clergy had full control of political power. In theocracy you need a central religious authority, but in Muslim history religious authority was always decentralised and pluralistic in the sense there were many competing schools of thought.

    You could however strongly argue and I would agree with you that Muslim societies had theonomic aspirations.

    As for the Hamas issue, try visiting Rauf’s website (cordoba initiative):

    ” When Hamas commits atrocious acts of terror, those actions should be condemned. Imam Feisal has forcefully and consistently condemned all forms of terrorism, including those committed by Hamas, as un-Islamic. In his 2004 book [What’s Right With Islam is Right With America], he even went so far as to include a copy of the Fatwa issued after 9/11 by the most respected clerics of Egypt defining the 9/11 attack as an un-Islamic act of terror and giving permission to Muslims in the U.S. armed forces to fight against those Muslims who committed this act of terror. Imam Feisal included this in his book to prove that terrorism must be fought even if Muslims have to fight fellow Muslims to stop it.
 ”

    On the issue of 9/11, most journalists such as Robert Fisk absolutely condemned 9/11, but tried to understand the phenomenon of it in terms of what caused 9/11. In a crime you look for a motive, but as Fisk lectures one thing the American media did not look for was a motive. Fisk delivered a lecture at MIT, ”Ask All You Like about 9/11, But Just Don’t Ask Why?” (its available online just google and watch for yourself) Fisk concludes the question of ”why” is not asked in American media discourse because it raises uncomfortable and troubling questions about American foreign policy in the Middle East such as supporting corrupt regimes in Egypt, propping up monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and questions America’s policies in that region. Rauf’s views hence are mainstream they are not extreme in any sense since many other journalists, intellectuals and scholars would agree with him.

    That’s all Rauf did in a sense, and you said it yourself he condemned the attacks so what’s the issue? The issue is that he raised an uncomfortable question. Even American scholars such as Michael Scheuer, an historian criticises American foreign policy but he does not get labelled as an”extremist” by the right wing press in America because of his creed. If you are a Muslim citizen and question foreign policy that’s equivalent to treason according to some so called media commentators in the US. That’s just pathetic…

    The most Rauf can be is a foreign policy critic, that’s all, you may disagree or agree with his views but his views are not extreme but they are presented as such by the right wing press who manipulate fear and emotion rather than use cold hard reason.

    Even then he takes part in inter-faith initiatives on behalf of the American government…

  73. YLH

    A A you are in denial. This duplicity of claiming citizenship when convenient and global fraternity when convenient (instead of embracing both) is for all to see.

    Every Muslim scholar in America speaks of “lands of Islam”…even converts like Hamza Yusuf. Most American Muslims condone religious bigotry …and if they were in a majority would try to impose a narrowminded view of Islam. Where ever American Muslims get some authority they resort to it. What happened to Asra Nomani in Morgan Town is a case in point.

    *** This Message Has Been Sent Using BlackBerry Internet Service from Mobilink ***

  74. AA Khalid

    ”’Actually what the Pew and Gallup Polls reveal is that American Muslims are less extremist and insular than European Muslims not that the they are less extremist and insular compared to Americans at large. It is pretty self-evident that Muslims are more insular then the rest of America, especially when considering the inability of many American Muslims to marry non-Muslims, some American Muslims who only interact with their own community, etc.”’

    But the poll does conclude American Muslims are quote ”middle class, mainstream and have moderate political views”.

  75. AZW

    Gorki:

    You are correct. I meant to say that “this sort of shallow patriotism is not equal to the long term interests of a nation in most cases”, but skipped writing the complete context. Thanks for correcting me there.

    YLH:

    Scenario one: Mosque project is stopped. Right wing and Tea Party wins. Constitution loses.

    Scenario two: Mosque project goes through. Orthodoxy is promoted and mainstreamed. Tomorrow Hamza Yusuf’s little college for Islamic law in Berkeley will get accredited as well. Over all result – marginalization of dissenting voices within the Muslim community.

    Scenario 1: Tea Party wins the elections. That’s part of democracy. Right wing wins elections everywhere all the time, and part of democracy is to accept it without reservations.

    But if the mosque project is stopped on the pretext of hurt emotions and sentimental values, that would be a grave subversion of constitution. History shows us that small precedents often lead to widespread abuses down the road.

    Scenario 2: There are lot of assumptions here, that Rauf will promote orthodoxy and segregation. I do not agree with Rauf’s views on 9/11 and Hamas. And I will oppose him on these issues wholeheartedly. But I will not take away his constitutional rights just because I am ideologically opposed to him or the mosque/cultural center builders.

    I don’t think ideological leanings is the issue here; it is the issue of suppressing someone’s right to worship and preach in a property legally owned by that person or a group. It is the freedom to preach that is enshrined in the constitution and that is being subverted by the Republicans in the guise of shallow patriotism.

    Wall Street Journal has published an interesting collection of views by Anwar Ibrahim (Malaysian opposition leader), Dr. Bernard Lewis, Akbar S. Ahmad and others about what constitutes a moderate Muslim. This is with regards to the Cordoba Center controversy. I think we ought not to subject Imam Rauf to a moderation test. This tactic is employed by the Tea Party and the Republican right wing and completely takes the attention away from the legality aspect of the Cordoba Center.

  76. Luq

    >President Obama and his government are now
    >under great stress because of the difficult position
    >the mosque issue has put the Obama admin in

    So by tactfully retreating, the muslims can support the democrats against the right wingers ? Right? Wrong!

    The Republicans will be back with some other manufactured grievance. What do you do then? More retreats?

    Lets say the republicans are back in power. Where does that leave the American muslims?

    Try this for another point of view….

    http: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZpT2Muxoo0

    Luq

  77. AA Khalid

    ”A A you are in denial. This duplicity of claiming citizenship when convenient and global fraternity when convenient (instead of embracing both) is for all to see”

    You sound like a neo con now, ”those pesky two faced Moooslems, using that taaaqiyaah, being closet radicals, being ”stealth Islamists” (what a joke Daniel Pipes should be writing comedy..)”. This sort of Pipesian, Spencerian discourse about Muslims being hopelessly disloyal and eternally insincere would be quiet funny but unfortunately this tripe is actually taken seriously….

    The Nomani case was sad. I think Eteraz’s article, ”The death of “progressive Islam” is quiet pertinent:

    ” The flagship organization of the movement Progressive Muslim Union of North America has lost almost 90% of its board members. MuslimWakeUp!, the primary organ of the movement, is neither frequented nor active, often going weeks without publishing new content.”

    I think Eteraz summed it well when he said, ”At the end of the day, all practicing Muslims turn to some kind of juridical authority. The fact that the Progressives did not have one to offer was a great cause of concern for me.”

    The fact is until the foundations of fiqh are not addressed nothing can change or will change, you need to address the underlying hermeneutic, ethical, juridicial and philosophical underpinnings of religious interpretation, which the likes of Nomani and others don’t do. There is something utilitarian about such discourse that it just doesn’t engage. In Christianity, it was the effort of the German theologians using new hermeneutic techniques in interpreting religious scripture which was a real change, and before that the work of religious humanists like Erasmus. Liberal theologians in Christianity built up a tradition of deep and solid philosophical, ethical and spiritual knowledge, and henc offered a genuine alternative. It takes time, since all religions are tradition based in one sense or the other. The key is to deal with the tradition and work within it for reform, otherwise it will end in abject failure.

    Unfortunately, Nomani and others like her though have a well meaning message, have no intellectual tools to fight the good fight. And the act of intra community reasoning (which is so crucial) seems alien and almost backward to such well meaning thinkers.

    Also and this point is serious is that:

    ” Progressive Muslims allowed themselves to be identified with Neo-conservatives in DC, and because they seemed more interested in publicity stunts than hands-on work with communities. ”

  78. AA Khalid

    Yusuf’s initiative is the first step to actually wrestly and shift religious authority from traditional Muslim majority societies to American Muslims who have been born and bred and the US.

    What on earth does a Pakistani cleric have to say to an American Muslim teenager who plays XBOX on the weekends? There is a massive gap, and Yusuf’s work (which is private since one has to pay to attend his institution) is trying to address that.

    The College’s purpose as I understand it is:

    ”The ultimate purpose of Zaytuna College is to become the bulwark for a wholly new construction of Islam, one firmly rooted in traditional Islamic teachings, yet uniquely and unapologetically American. ”

    Let’s see. I want to see the type of syllabus they will teach, the texts they use, the teaching style and the quality of the graduates they will produce and their mindsets and how the graduates end up thinking. Only then can I actually judge, otherwise its just bigoted of me to presume and assume.

    I hate to judge things without having some sort of evidence to go on. Anyone who does that must be psychic or something…

  79. Quantum_Singularty

    @AA Khalid

    “Quauntum all your ideas are meaningless because they presume that the concept of the ummah is political in terms of overriding citizenship when really polls such as Gallup and Pew confirm the opposite. I have yet to see you produce any form of sociological and empirical research from reputable organizations. “

    Huh? Your own Pew Article/Publication (http://pewresearch.org/assets/pdf/muslim-americans.pdf) on page 12 states that 60% of young Muslim Americans think of themselves as Muslim first, American second, while only 25% think the opposite.

    “Furthermore, you also assume there has always been a central authority of religious reference in Islam, but again historically speaking there never has been.”

    Mohammed himself was a fused political/religious supreme leader, followed by Abu Bakr as was Umar, the first caliph, the Ummayad’s also had fused political/religious leaders.

    “The Caliphate was held as an authority over secular matters. The Caliphate never passed verdicts on religious matters, that was for a separate class of ulema… Also as An Naim, Feldman, Affendi and Raziq (and many other scholars of religious law point out) that the Caliph was never a locus of religious interpretation and scholarship, but secular power”

    The very essence of a Caliphate is that it is based upon religious law, if you want to argue that certain individuals, such as the Caliph, wielded power in different spheres that is fine.
    “Oh yes a theocracy is when clerics rule over the population, what we have in Muslim history is not theocracy but autocrats, monarchs, sultans and kings. Arguably the Islamic Revolution in Iran is the first time that the clergy had full control of political power. In theocracy you need a central religious authority, but in Muslim history religious authority was always decentralised and pluralistic in the sense there were many competing schools of thought. “

    That is a bit rich, so Saudi Arabia is not a theocracy because it is ruled by a King instead of the Ulema? BTW a theocracy does not have to be ruled by the clerics, by definition a Theocracy is a form of government in which a god or deity is recognized as the state’s supreme civil ruler.

    “That’s all Rauf did in a sense, and you said it yourself he condemned the attacks so what’s the issue? The issue is that he raised an uncomfortable question. Even American scholars such as Michael Scheuer, an historian criticises American foreign policy but he does not get labelled as an”extremist” by the right wing press in America because of his creed. If you are a Muslim citizen and question foreign policy that’s equivalent to treason according to some so called media commentators in the US. That’s just pathetic…”

    Disagreeing with foreign policy is one thing, however, condemning the attack only to later say that you had it coming makes him nothing more than an apologist.

  80. Quantum_Singularty

    “But the poll does conclude American Muslims are quote ”middle class, mainstream and have moderate political views””

    That was in comparison with European Muslims.

  81. ramesh

    muslim 2nd and 3rd generation youngsters , ”citizens” of western lands going to far muslim lands to do jihad[ fight] for the greater umma is proof enough of the deep rooted devotion tothe umma in the muslim psyche,galup polls are not needed to see this fact.it is a requirement for the hard fast.apologism will not alter facts

  82. AA Khalid

    QS, the report states that there are some glaring problems and issues with the youngsters in the American Muslim community however, since the community overall has moderate views and is easily integrated into American life it can be very easy said there are other causal factors for this phenomenon.

    Furthermore, the question itself is counter productive, since many Muslims think themselves as both Muslims and citizens, but if you force them to choose they will choose their religious identity because that is existential. A person’s existential position is always going to be more important. The reason why one may say they are a Muslim first is not because of political reasons but because of existential reasons. So that statistic itself does lend itself to any solid conclusions based on causal links. One’s identity is not monolithic, like Amartya Sen argues our identity is a composite entity made up of different dimensions. From personal experience, Muslims feel the existential dimension of their identity is more important than the civic one, but that does not mean they have split political loyalties or are bad citizens at all.

    When we are deliberating in politics for instance we are citizens, but when we are faced with death we forget our civic identity and focus on our existential identity. Its like arguing that one cannot be a poet and a vegetarian at the same time. Its nonsense, to suggest that being a Muslim and a citizen are conflicting identities is rubbish and symptomatic of a deep seated prejudice. ”Muslim” is not a political identity.

    In the technical sense a theocracy is always contingent on a ruling religious class of scholars in terms of a priesthood. That’s the standard model of theocratic rule. Rule by a community of religious scholars. I have already accepted that Muslim societies in the past were theonomic rather than theocratic. There is a difference.

    As Affendi and Raziq have pointed out political theory was never divinely ordained but the models the Prophet and the Caliphs afterwards adopted were borne out of historical considerations. As Professor Zubaida points out in his paper ”Islam and Secularization” (just google and download):

    ”Government was distinct from religion in that it did not proceed in accordance with religious precepts (Shariha, church doctrine) but accord-
    ing to raison d’etats and the dominant interests. Religious institutions and personnel were separate from the government or subordinate to it. ”

  83. AA Khalid

    ”That was in comparison with European Muslims”

    No the Pew Report does not make comparisons with European Muslims.

    Its key findings, and one which is very important is:

    ”Overall, Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of the larger society. Most say their communities are excellent or good places to live.”

    And:

    ”The survey shows that although many Muslims are relative newcomers to the U.S., they are highly assimilated into American society. On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the U.S. should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society”

  84. AA Khalid

    ” So that statistic itself does lend itself to any solid conclusions based on causal links.”

    should read:

    So that statistic itself does NOT lend itself to any solid conclusions based on causal links.

  85. AA Khalid

    In the Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought (pg 702):

    Theocracy:

    ” in common usage, ‘government by priests, The term was coined by the Greek-speaking Jewish historian Josephus, to denote the Jewish concep-
    tion of government as embodied in the Torah, where divine laws are treated as creating both religious and civil obligations”

    Furthermore under the entry ”Caliphate” (pg 74):

    ”His [the Caliph] role was compared at the time to that of the Pope in Christendom; the comparison is misleading, however, since the office of Caliph was without specific priestly duties, nor did the Caliph have the kind of universal responsibil-
    ity for the souls of the faithful that was vested in the Pope. ”

  86. AA Khalid

    ”concept of the ummah is political”

    That assumption is still not proven that the concept of Ummah is a form of political alleigance to an authority competing with the nation state. Since there is no central religious or political authority in Islam (there never has been historically) the connotation of the word Ummah in a political dimension is meaningless. Hence being a Muslim does not conflict with being a citizen, its just the difference in existential and civic spheres of identity as I have mentioned which have been jumbled up.

  87. AA Khalid

    ”only to later say that you had it coming makes him nothing more than an apologist”

    He did not say that, he said POLICIES, you know as in American foreign policy which Fisk and Scheurer and others have pointed out as a big flaw could be one of the reasons that created the antecedent conditions for such terrorist movements.

    Rauf only cites policies, he never said the American people ”had it coming”. That is a neo-con distortion which is being peddled around with no one bothering to scrutinise it.

    How about actually letting Rauf speak instead of putting words in his mouth [from his website the Corodoba Initiative]:

    ”The ‘60 Minutes’ piece was completely incorrect as the statement was edited out of context. In the full interview, Imam Feisal describes the mistake the CIA made in the 1980s by financing Osama Bin Laden and strengthening the Taliban. This view is widely shared today by journalists, foreign policy experts and the US government [which I have in my posts pointed out so far]. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf underlines the importance of not supporting “friends of convenience” who may later become our enemies. This is common sense.

    Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is an American who takes his role as a citizen-ambassador very seriously. He is frequently requested by the US State Department to tour Muslim majority and western countries to speak about the merits of American ideals and Muslim integration into Western society. At the request of the FBI after 9/11, he provided cultural training to hundreds of FBI agents.”’

  88. no-communal

    A.A. Khalid
    “Furthermore, the question itself is counter productive, since many Muslims think themselves as both Muslims and citizens, but if you force them to choose they will choose their religious identity because that is existential. A person’s existential position is always going to be more important.”

    Khalid Sb, I have a Pakistani Muslim friend from Morgantown, West Virginia. He is well educated and articulate. However, he never ever talks to my wife. Consequently, I have also never spoken to his. Now, I am not saying that all Muslims behave so strangely; they don’t. However, they do take their religion a little too seriously than others. That is where most of the other issues follow from. And it is not strongly correlated with the education level.

    To me, religion is a set of rules (usually frozen in time) societies developed in the absence of better knowledge about the universe. It still holds currency, mostly because we still do not know how life is created, and what happens to it after death. For example, if we suddenly discover that, after death, everyone moves to a remote part of Australia, religion will disappear. People will then try to book a good piece of real estate in that corner of Australia to be used after death. This little bit of irreverence, which I have seen in most people at least in usual drawing room conversations, I haven’t seen in my Muslim friends (of course there are exceptions, but they remain hidden). To many of them, it means complete subjugation, without question, even if it means continuing with many traditions of 7th century.

    Now, I did not want to write a critique on religion, Muslims, or American Muslims. But from all your eloquent writings, it seems like Muslims do not have any assimilation issue whatsoever. However, the ground reality is otherwise, at least in my experience, although I agree that it is only anecdotal evidence. I guess the point I am trying to make is that all religions create a firewall around most, because qualitative, non-terrestrial issues, which cannot be proven or disproven, are involved. And if taken without a grain of salt, it creates assimilation issues in other spheres of life as well.

  89. @no-communal

    You will not mind my pointing out that this is characteristic of individuals, not of masses in general; it happens that many individuals in a mass happen to think alike, but they never lose their individuality.

    You will also not take it personally, or anyone else take it personall if I point out that Christians, too, have been seen to be conservative, particularly those in the South of Europe.

    The point being that societies and cultures change. They don’t change the way metals do, or chemicals do; they change one individual at a time. So your anecdotal evidence is quite accurate as its influence and utility as information for your innate inner beliefs is concerned. In like manner, it is terribly wrong, or rather, inaccurate, as far as predicting the general trend in society is concerned.

    I will stop here, to stop labouring the point.

  90. no-communal

    @Vajra.
    I agree with you. The point is well taken. Thanks.

  91. bciv

    if the good imam is as wise as we hope, he would take akbar ahmed’s advice (in essence) and make a gesture even more genuinely symbolic than the proposed building is seen to be by the Tea Party-ists. if he is not that wise, then we have YLH’s view or suspicions of him which takes the argument into an entirely different area.

    liberal muslims cannot ask the US to fight their fight for them to such an extent that she even compromises her own laws. the US has her own fundamentalists to fight, and as a state, the law is all she has to fight them with. the principles of america cannot be sacrificed just so the muslims – as given examples of by YLH – can hope to have some.

  92. AZW

    BCiv:

    Aboslutely agree. Well said.

  93. lecia tally

    all religions are based on belief (without logic and argument). thus all religions are irrational. so it is not surprising that a debate based on an irrational subject will also be irrational.

    opponents – what kind of building would the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the world trade center build on the site of the building they destroyed? if your answer is ‘a mosque’ then you have the reason why this mosque should not be built
    supporters – if this mosque is stopped then it will become a powerful recruiting tool for al qaeda

    neither realizing that they are using the same argument, that al qaeda should be allowed the power to influence our decisions….
    yes this community center not mosque not at ground zero is just like the civil rights movement as there are not already hundreds of mosques in new york and thousands across america and muslims do not have the same rights under the law as every other american citizen. i have also heard that they are the new jews which i’m sure the jews will be glad to hear since, according to the fbi, 67% of hate crimes are against jews. and now they are the new japanese during world war two? so they are every minority that has ever struggled for equal rights all because this one mosque is being questioned.
    there are a handful of mosque being opposed across the country, how many are being built with no opposition? this one mosque holds such great importance that if it is not built it will mean the end to ameircan democracy….wow that’s one powerful building….as the teaparty is one powerful organization in that it can sway over half of the american populace opinion…they should sweep the elections in november with ease with that kind of power of persuasion.

    and oh yeah this imam is a moderate.. yes of course he is a moderate who’s “conviction” is that america has misinterpreted its constitution for over 200 years on separation of church and state , what the founding fathers meant to say is that all religions should have an equal say in how a country is run…you know like the ottoman empire (his example not mine). yep, ignorant american infidels not only do we need this mosque to teach us the “true” face of islam we also need to be taught the “true” meaning our constitution. “

    feisal rauf on sharia – “The recent and controversial call by Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, primate of the Church of England and spiritual leader of 80 million Anglicans, for incorporation of Sharia law into British law will not be the last utterance in favor of Islamic law. Nor should it be. The addition of Sharia law to “the law of the land”, in this case British law, complements, rather than undermines, existing legal frameworks. The Archbishop was right. It is time for Britain to integrate aspects of Islamic law.”

    hmmmm…..and just how long will it be before he makes the pronouncement that it is time for america to “integrate aspects of islamic law”?

    i’ve never had a problem with muslims, islam or mosque….but i do have a problem with this guy and if he speaks for all the “moderate” muslim americans then i think i need to rethink my thoughts on islam

  94. YLH

    Actually there is no constitutional right that can be interpretted as giving the Imam absolute right to build the mosque at that very place. So let us just put that out of the way.

    Eteraz is a friend of mine. I’ll have to ask him what his views are. But anyone who thinks of Hamza Yusuf as anything but the retrogressive Islamo-fascist bigot that he is, is delusional.

  95. Gorki

    Dear lecia tally:

    ‘there are a handful of mosque being opposed across the country, how many are being built with no opposition? this one mosque holds such great importance that if it is not built it will mean the end to American democracy….’

    Then let me ask you another question; how many mosque need to be opposed to threaten the American democracy?
    Fifteen?
    Fifty?
    Five hundred?

    Remind me of the much used and abused joke:

    Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
    Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…
    Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
    Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
    Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price…’

    I am afraid that those who are making this issue sound as if it is about religious beliefs or about Mr. Rauf’s controversial views do not seem to understand America and its appeal for those of us who call it home.

    The issue is not the number or the size of the Mosque or its distance from ground zero; it is about the principal of fairness.
    Ironically this fairness principal was first hammered into the American consciousness by the original Boston tea partiers when they revolted against a mere token of a tea tax.

    You and many well meaning folks here, (including those like YLH and BC who normally stand steadfast on principals) don’t seem to understand that while American Muslims may well need some introspection for other reaasons, this here is not a Muslim issue and it is not the Muslims of America who are being judged here.
    It is America and its principles.

    Three things need to be clearly understood.
    1. By accepting a link between the 9/11 and Islam we risk accepting the claim made by those murderers that they were acting on the behalf of Islam. I reject that claim.
    2. By forbidding someone to build something just because of his views is unfair; and un-American.
    3. By selectively forbidding the building of a house of worship belonging to one particular faith is offensive to us because it discriminates not against one particular person but against an entire faith; guilt by association!
    That too is un-American.

    Once we surrender our principals then we would have become at least a little bit less like our former selves and a tiny bit more like the Saudis we love to criticize….

    Regards

  96. Bade Miya

    Khalid,
    “It would be better too not to just go by the Pew and gallop polls but to hear the voices on the street”

    Why? Why shun empirical and sociological research? Talk about your experience by all means but give some importance to facts and figures…”

    I guess you didn’t read my statement properly. I was not advocating shunning empirical research. My issue with such polls is, as you said it, that they are empirical studies. With no further information as to how the study was conducted, how the sample was chosen, what was the list of questions asked, it becomes a little difficult to put one’s faith completely in such “scientific” studies. Frequently, it has been observed that when the questions are a little controversial, people generally tend to give the “acceptable” answers, which defeats the whole purpose of such studies. Also, for every conclusion drawn from the polls, it’s rather easy to find a different set of polls coming to contradictory conclusions. I can give you an example that shows the limitations of polls:
    (1) Gallup polls regularly goof up election results in India.
    Plus, I am also not too sure about the Pew study that claims the reach of fundamentalism in Pakistan to fantastical proportions.

  97. Bade Miya

    Gorki,
    Actually, the issue is a little more delicate than that. People, including Americans, don’t exist in vacuum.

  98. YLH

    Gorki sb,

    Constitutional rights are never as black or white as folks seem to think they are.

    If for example Manhattan city council or some other state/government authority were to intervene and stop this project from going through… if the Imam would plead the first amendment, he would have to prove that by not making this complex his right to free exercise of faith is being impeded. For kicks, when I get some time, I will dig through the American Juris and see the case law on 1st Amendment and the religious question but if principles of English jurisprudence are in effect… well then that would be a task for the Imam.

    Come September 11 … and boys will be separated from men when it comes to pleading the first amendment and how that right applies to a little Church in Florida.

    What about building a mosque the size of National Cathedral in Washington DC? I’d like all ne0-Americans – with due respect- to answer this one after having the investigating the matter thoroughly.

  99. no-communal

    Gorki,
    My comment above is strictly about the assimilation question. It has no relation with the said mosque, with which I have no problem. However, I see that the whole debate is causing a lot of friction in the American public sentiment, to the detriment of millions of average Muslims whose only concern is un unconstrained peaceful life.

    I do not particularly buy this argument that America is this exceptionally fair place where justice always prevails. Like all big countries with a big population, it has all kinds of people, some just, some unjust, some liberal and humane, some bigoted and one-dimensional. And if you are talking about institutional injustice, think war in Iraq.

  100. karun1

    muslims speak against their own ilk = liberal

    others do the same = rightwinger

  101. AA Khalid

    ”But anyone who thinks of Hamza Yusuf as anything but the retrogressive Islamo-fascist bigot that he is, is delusional”.

    No not really, just read his writings. I read his work, ”The State We Are In: Identity, Terror, and the Law of Jihad”, and so nothing to suggest his views are beyond the pale.

    Of course you can have some strong disagreements with him particularly in his fiqh, but ”Islamo-fascist”? (Another neo-conservative construct, like ”stealth Islamist”, got to give it to the neo-cons they may talk absolute drivel but they have an expansive imagination when it comes to vocabularly construction…)…

    Was it this sort of rhetoric and wholesale uncritical adoption of neo-conservative ideas by the ”Progressive” Muslim movement in America post 9/11 which single handedly alienated alot of the community in what was otherwise a movement with some great ideas? Yes.

    My impression of Yusuf has come by reading his work. If you YLH have anything to suggest that he is what you say he is then I would like some proof, rather than constructing straw man arguments.

    I usually draw my judgement on thinkers,scholars and intellectuals on the basis of their work. And so far the work I have read has nothing to suggest what you are saying YLH, if you have something to say or post that is indicative of what you are saying then I would be more than happy to read it.

  102. bciv

    if the building is denied permission, instead of the proposers deciding to withdraw, it will of course be done according to the law. to have a building, even a religious building, at a particular location can hardly be a constitutional right. agreed. just like having minarets on their mosques is no fundamental right for swiss muslims. the denial would be on rather distasteful (and inciting) grounds though, such as repeatedly articulated by the opponents. what it will say about the present state of american society and how it views islam and american muslims will then become even clearer. this is why many supporters see the opposition on such grounds as un-American and undermining that country’s most cherished principles.

    however, if the permission to build is not denied, it is for the developers to realise that while they are refusing to accept the negative view of islam and muslims within american society by pressing ahead, this is hardly the way to refute that view. there are better ways of doing that than insisting on a building.

  103. YLH

    I have met Mr. Yusuf and have heard him describe United States of America as the “Dajjal” as well. He also described pokemon as “shayateen” but I will let that one pass.

    There is documentary evidence of this and if one listen to pre-9-11 tapes of Mr. Yusuf one will hear this clearly.
    *** This Message Has Been Sent Using BlackBerry Internet Service from Mobilink ***

  104. ramesh

    the jekyll and hyde personality does not work on covenience,the deep rooted intolerance surfaces unexpectedly and without knowing.

  105. ramesh

    when religion or the ‘existetial identity is prefered what happens is what is going on in pakistan,the intolerance witin the common religion and no sense of nationality or civic duty.even the aid in this bad time is distributed on sectarian basis.citizens of convenience are always worried about their own rights and oblivious to others.

  106. AA Khalid

    Yusuf’s story is a success story, because it shows that he changed his mindset, reformed his thinking and is now trying to produce a new type of discourse. It shows that he accepted his mistakes and is learning from them.

    Judging people by their past (which they have confronted and accepted as wrong), is pathetic. We should look at Yusuf’s work now without forever subjecting him to his past. As I said we can disagree strongly with this fiqh but to brand him wholesale like a typical neo-con is dangerous.

    His Guardian article is particularly illuminating. (”’If you hate the west, emigrate to a Muslim country”’). This is what I have been judging him on. His recent work is thought provoking and sensible.

  107. YLH

    Well I just read the said piece and I wasn’t aware of this. Good to know Hamza Yusuf has transformed.

    I might look at his college in a new light now.

  108. Tilsim

    @ AA Khalid

    I agree. If more traditionalist muslims took their queue from Hamza Yusuf, a lot of our problems would lessen considerably. He is a good bridge between communities and his approach is learned and well reasoned.

  109. stuka

    This is America and allowing the mosque would be the AMERICAN thing to do. I was kind of pissed off at the idea of the mosque being built there to be honest, but at the end of it, upholding American principles is more important than sentiment.

  110. stuka

    Agree with Gorki – Muslim, Non Muslim aside, we have to be judged by history. Lest we be ashamed of our actions 50 years hence (civil rights, japanese americans etc.) one should do the right thing to begin with.

  111. Gorki

    Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. ~Mark Twain

    Dear YLH,

    ‘Constitutional rights are never as black or white as folks seem to think they are..’

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    I also admire your article above as a very clearly reasoned position statement. If you wonder why then I took a position that is seemingly the exact opposite of yours it is because the ground zero Mosque controversy does not have only one correct answer.
    It is an ethical Rorschach test for all of us and the correct response to is depends as much on who is asking the question as to whom the answer is directed to.

    I can see your argument and believe that it is the most ethical one for a Muslim and a liberal speaking to and on the behalf of the other Muslims. Obama’s response too is understandable, being the President representing both the American Muslims as well as the 9/11 victims. Similarly, my own response, as an average American citizen, can not be otherwise either.

    Let me try to explain why.

    First of all, this is not at all an issue of constitutional rights because it is not a legal battle. Secondly, while the whole world is watching, it is 100% an American political battle; being fought in the American political landscape and at stake is what it means to be an American.

    When we Americans look into the mirror we pretend we see a nation of Jeffersonian democrats; fair-minded and just, unfettered by the petty bigotry of the old world beyond. That is in fact the image on which our right-wingers often make a case for American exceptionalism. Above all we like to believe that being an American means to never accept a second class status anywhere, neither in private or in public. We stand for the rights of the unborn children and the handicapped in workplaces. We advocate the rights of the gays to serve in the military and that of the conscious resisters to not do so.

    While many of us do not buy the part about American exceptionalism; most of us fiercely believe that ‘all men are indeed created equal’ and above all, being American means to be beholden to no other man.

    Your swipe about the ‘neo-Americans’ is duly noted.

    The equality part is especially dear to us ‘neo Americans’ because many of us came from societies ridden if not by a caste structure then at least a class structure. The American meritocracy gave us the opportunity to build our lives on a rare level playing ground and it is the dearest part of the American dream for many of us. We earned our stake in the system through long hours and hard work; most of us came here with only a suitcase full of clothes and yet most of us contribute more to its civic life and its coffers than the average Joe.

    It is in our interest now to keep America the way we found it. To do so, we have to add our voice to those who are fighting the good fight.
    I personally have voted more times for the losing side than the winning one. Even when the opinion polls suggest that my candidate has not chance of winning; I still vote to register my opinion. It is because I believe that even my voice of dissent (with the majority) makes my democracy stronger.

    Even if Imam Raouf decides to do what you argue, it is important that Americans demonstrate to the Muslim community (and the World at large) that the Tea party demagogues are not unopposed in this great nation.

    I believe by doing so, we strengthen the hands of the liberals like you in the Muslim World; just as you, by writing the above article, strengthened ours inside America; for which BTW, I must thank you from the bottom of my heart….

    Regards.

  112. no-communal

    @Gorki,
    I respect your idealistic stance based on a firm belief in American Exceptionalism. Although your comment is not addressed to me, with your permission I still wanted to write the following lines.

    I believe you have defined American Exceptionalism in terms of principles such as equality of all human beings etc., and not in terms of the minor irritants such as the original Puritan or the more modern Judeo-Christian values as one often hears on the Fox News channel, which actually makes a case against the proposed mosque.

    I just wanted to point out that the country being 3 times the size of another large country, say India, while less than 1/3 in terms of population, it enjoys a natural edge over others to distribue its resources in a more organized manner. Even then, the divisions that you speak of, that is class-based etc., are everywhere to be found. Since my realm is academics, let me just give you one example. The following lines are from a recent Boston Globe editorial (Feb., 2010) on freshmen class admissions in the Ivy League Colleges:

    “SAT SCORES aren’t everything. But they can tell some fascinating stories.

    Take 1,623, for instance. That’s the average score of Asian-Americans, a group that Daniel Golden – editor at large of Bloomberg News and author of “The Price of Admission’’ – has labeled “The New Jews.’’ After all, much like Jews a century ago, Asian-Americans tend to earn good grades and high scores. And now they too face serious discrimination in the college admissions process.

    Notably, 1,623 – out of a possible 2,400 – not only separates Asians from other minorities (Hispanics and blacks average 1,364 and 1,276 on the SAT, respectively). The score also puts them ahead of Caucasians, who average 1,581. And the consequences of this are stark.

    Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade, who reviewed data from 10 elite colleges, writes in “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal’’ that Asian applicants typically need an extra 140 points to compete with white students. In fact, according to Princeton lecturer Russell Nieli, there may be an “Asian ceiling’’ at Princeton, a number above which the admissions office refuses to venture.”

    You must also be aware of the hugely preferential treatment the children of the alumni (who are usually filthy rich) receive during admissions in most elite colleges in America. In comparison, I haven’t seen such preferential treatment given to anyone in the Indian Institute of Technologies, one of which is my alma mater.

    Now, I am not saying that there aren’t many opportunities available in America, some of which hard working immigrants can take advantage of. But that is perhaps more a reflection of the actual availibility of these opportunities, rather than some sort of higher moral principles. In fact the Tea Party demagogue types that you want not to go unoppossed are presently way more than half the population. In fact, in NY itself (which is the bluest of blue cities), more than 50% is now opposed to the mosque and only 34% support it according to a poll released today in NY Times (the rest is not aware of the issue).

  113. AZW

    What is striking in the whole American right wing attacks on the proposed mosque (a very large Muslim community center by the way, with a mosque in there) is that they do not contest the constitutionality of a person’s right to build a mosque there. But they call brand this mosque as “insensitive” towards the memory of those fallen in the attacks. In other words, one has the constitutional right to build a mosque, but just don’t build it here.

    NY Times has run a survey on those who live in the boroughs of New York City. I am struck by the results here. “full 72 percent agreed that people had every right to build a “house of worship” near the site. But only 62 percent acknowledged that right when “house of worship” was changed to “mosque and Islamic community center.” Sixty-seven percent thought the mosque planners should find “a less controversial location.” While only 21 percent of respondents confessed to having “negative feelings” toward Muslims because of the attack on the World Trade Center, 59 percent said they knew people who did.”

    This argument smacks of the so called wearing-it-on-my-sleeves patriotism that is nothing but a subtle expression of hatred towards a religious minority. Thankfully, for all the Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins out there, there are voices like the New York Times, Micheal Bloombergs and Barack Obamas who recognize that all of American prosperity and meteoric rise on the world stage can be attributed to the dictum of every man born free and equal. It is the constitution that enshrines this principle and ensures that every one of the American, whether he is politically correct or incorrect, whether he is liked or hated, is afforded that freedom. At the end of the day, as BCiv pointed out, this constitution and this dictum is all America has. And to worry about unnecessarily provoking the American, we risk the sole defence that America, or any liberal society, would offer against intolerance.

    I will repeat the NY Times editorial today that comments on the findings of the survey:

    The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are two pinnacles of American openness to the outsider. New Yorkers like to think they are a perfect fit with their city.

    Tolerance, however, isn’t the same as understanding, so it is appalling to see New Yorkers who could lead us all away from mosque madness, who should know better, playing to people’s worst instincts…….

    As the site of America’s bloodiest terrorist attack, New York had a great chance to lead by example. Too bad other places are ahead of us. Muslims hold daily prayer services in a chapel in the Pentagon, a place also hallowed by 9/11 dead. The country often has had the wisdom to choose graciousness and reconciliation over triumphalism, as is plain from the many monuments to Confederate soldiers in northern states, including the battlefield at Gettysburg.

    New Yorkers, like other Americans, have a way to go. We stand with the poll’s minority: the 27 percent who say the mosque should be built in Lower Manhattan because moving it would compromise American values. Building it would be a gesture to Muslim-Americans who, of course, live here, pray here and died here, along with so many of their fellow Americans, on that awful September morning. But it’s all of us who will benefit.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/03/opinion/03fri1.html?hp

  114. Sol

    L0L ..

    I was missing your pearls of wisdom, rationalist.

  115. Haahaakaar

    We can perhaps weaken Muslim liberals. We cannot strengthen them. Their strength will derive from their following in the Muslim world. If we support them more than their Muslim brethren, then all that will happen is that Muslim liberals will be branded as our stooges and dismissed as such.

  116. Hira

    I don’t understand why Muslim people want to make the mosque there.they know such a big tragedy happened in that area..can’t they build the mosque somewhere else?why Muslims want to get into drama..never know somebody might blast the mosque there..saying oh Muslims did the same to the twin towers! I also think its the government that has lost it. I mean, here they were playing the drama of muslims carrying out the whole thing and now, a mosque! Near that very area??!!! Its absurd!
    the problem with the muslim world is do things which doesnt even makes any sense… y do such things, esp in countries like USA, which wud provoke them against the muslims even more…! v muslims shud start respecting the laws and regulations of those countries in which they r livng…i mean, jus look at saudi arabia, they want all their women population to wear the abayas all the time and respect the countries rules, fair enough..so the foreigners try their best not to upset the saudi ppl by not doing anything which would upet them… similarly, v muslims should not act like crazy fanatics in their countries as well, n do those things which r senstive to them… n if muslims cant do that then they should go bak to their own countries n practice freely rathr thn complaining tht v dnt hv rights in such countires… if the ppl dont like the idea of building a mosque over there, thn the muslims shud not and respect that… i donno y muslims like to bring problms to the other muslims with unreasonabe issues n cry over thm… thats y countries like Pakistan is suffering from such things… because of the fanatic muslims living in non-muslim countries… they do such things in those countries n then these countries destroy the muslim countries , like Pakistan

  117. Tilsim

    @ AZW

    Your and Gorki’s arguments are of course laudable and totally valid from a right’s and fairness perspective. However, I think the issue is much broader than that. It’s about the relationship that American Muslims have with American non-Muslims. American non-Muslims post 9/11 have become very wary of muslims in general (unfairly in a sense). Emotions and misinformation are driving the relationship and perceptions. More work still has been done to change this damaged relationship by Muslims and liberals. There needs to be much more confidence building and the onus falls mainly on the American muslim community to not get stuck in a cul de sac either by Muslim zealots or the hate Islam crowd whilst the relationship is fragile. It’s a very tough position to be in.

  118. Gorki

    Dear no communal:

    “Even then, the divisions that you speak of, that is class-based etc., are everywhere to be found……”

    I think you are mistaken.

    The discrepancy between the SAT scores and the admission rate of Asians mentioned in the Boston Globe editorial is not based on class. Notice that the same editorial goes on to say that while the Asians make up less than 5% of the US population; they make up 15% of the kids in Ivy League schools. In California, the Asians make up a similar small percentage of the population yet at the prestigious campuses like the UC Berkeley they make up to 40% of the students; and this is a state funded University system!

    So clearly it is not class based discrimination at play. The reason why the Asians need higher scores for a similar university admission is two fold.
    First, most Universities strive for diversity; there is some evidence that most new applicants; including the Asians feel that going to a campus with a diversified student body is a more enriching experience. Thus while a hasty comparison of the SAT scores may suggest that the Asians are being discriminated against, it is not in favor of the Caucasians who in fact are in the middle; the Hispanics and Blacks on average score lower on the SATs but many of them still get in the same grad schools because the schools strive for diversity. Is it fair? I don’t know. Is it deliberate ‘class based’ or racial discrimination? I don’t think so.

    There is another reason for the Asians needing higher SAT scores to get into the same grad schools. As the editorial stated:
    “SAT SCORES aren’t everything…” The STAT scores are not the only criteria. Asians as a group score lower than some of the others categories such as sports etc. Also the schools look at criteria such as obstacles overcome. Most Asians come from more stable back grounds than the Hispanics and Blacks etc. and thus need to make up by higher SAT scores. The reservations for the wards of past Alumni are a minuscule number and the second generation Asians too stand to gain from that policy.

    In short, there is no evidence that there is any class or race based discrimination against the Asians in the grad schools.

    You mentioned IITs. There is a question that has been bugging me a lot and I wonder if you can answer that.

    There is no doubt that the IITs have produced some notable alumni yet it has been implied that the reason the IIT graduates do so well is merely because its rigorous selection criteria is good at recognizing high achievers and those people would do well anyway regardless of the IIT education. In support of such a claim it has been pointed out that in spite of billions of rupees spent by the Indian tax payer over the years the IIT system has a mediocre track record at basic research and it has yet to produce any Nobel Prize winning discoveries.
    Is that true?

    What is your take on this?

    Regards.

  119. Bade Miya

    Gorki,
    Research requires a different climate. The fall of pure scientific research in India is well documented, and it is mostly due to changing perceptions of our society. When everything you do or accomplish is attached to being some sort of “officer” or “manager”, it is hardly surprising that research loses so many good people. In such an environment, IITs can hardly be expected to stay unaffected. There is, sadly, little or no prestige attached to pure research. I can vouch for this from my personal experience. Besides, politics, as always, destroys any inclination to do serious research. I do feel hopeful, though. There is a small but perceptible shift towards research. Curiously, in bio-tech, India is doing pretty well in research.

  120. no-communal

    @Gorki

    “Thus while a hasty comparison of the SAT scores may suggest that the Asians are being discriminated against, it is not in favor of the Caucasians who in fact are in the middle; the Hispanics and Blacks on average score lower on the SATs but many of them still get in the same grad schools because the schools strive for diversity.”

    All of these schools maintain Affirmative action. So admission to blacks and hispanics is hardly the issue. The issue is precisely what you choose to ignore, namely, caucasians. The boards do not look at it too kindly when the white American students become a minority. That’s really the reason. And I meant undergraduate education, not grad school. In grad schools Asians (usually first generation) are in the majority because of other reasons (one being lack of interest among Americans).

    “Notice that the same editorial goes on to say that while the Asians make up less than 5% of the US population; they make up 15% of the kids in Ivy League schools.”

    Yes, but if the admissions were really fair to all, the population of Asians would go past 40%.

    “In California, the Asians make up a similar small percentage of the population yet at the prestigious campuses like the UC Berkeley they make up to 40% of the students; and this is a state funded University system!”

    CA is the only state that made its admission criteria fair to all. And look what happened, the Asians are at 40%. Needless to say that under pressure from various quarters they are now forced to tweak their admission criteria to bring down the percentage of the deserving population.

    “SAT SCORES aren’t everything… The STAT scores are not the only criteria. Asians as a group score lower than some of the others categories such as sports etc. Also the schools look at criteria such as obstacles overcome. Most Asians come from more stable back grounds than the Hispanics and Blacks etc. and thus need to make up by higher SAT scores.”

    I will just quote another passage from the same Boston Globe editorial:

    A few years ago, however, when I worked as a reader for Yale’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, it became immediately clear to me that Asians – who constitute 5 percent of the US population – faced an uphill slog. They tended to get excellent scores, take advantage of AP offerings, and shine in extracurricular activities. Frequently, they also had hard-knock stories: families that had immigrated to America under difficult circumstances, parents working as kitchen assistants and store clerks, and households in which no English was spoken.

    “In short, there is no evidence that there is any class or race based discrimination against the Asians in the grad schools.”

    I think you are grossly mistaken here. As I said, the boards do not look at it kindly….

    “There is no doubt that the IITs have produced some notable alumni…”

    It will be a formidable list of tech entrepreneurs -entrepreneurs, not followers – in both Silicon Valley and Bangalore. This is not something from a still predominantly poor country that can be brushed aside…

    “..yet it has been implied that the reason the IIT graduates do so well is merely because its rigorous selection criteria is good at recognizing high achievers and those people would do well anyway regardless of the IIT education.”

    That’s a funny question. You mean they would do well anyway even if they went to say, for lack of a better example, North West Bengal university (it doesn’t exist), with all the student agitation, class bunking, faculty politics, tests that ask “write an essay on Maxwell’s equations” etc..

    It’s true that the students are good. But the teachers are, generally speaking, very good too. There are regular classes, well-stocked libraries, no politics, rigorous syllabi easily comparable to top places worldwide, and emphasis on analytics in tests. Can they be made even better? Sure. Especially in the field of hands-on experiments.

    “In support of such a claim it has been pointed out that in spite of billions of rupees spent by the Indian tax payer over the years the IIT system has a mediocre track record at basic research and it has yet to produce any Nobel Prize winning discoveries.”

    Yours and many others’ confusion about this is basically due to two reasons:

    First, IIT’s are technological institutes, with the emphasis on technology, not basic science. Although some of the basic sciences are pretty good too, the departments tend to be far smaller. That is why you see a lot of technology entrepreneurs, not basic scientists, coming out of the system.

    Second, IIT’s are predominantly teaching institutes. For research work in India, there are TIFR, Mumbai, IISc, Bangalore, SINP, Kolkata etc. Some of these places, at least in select disciplines, are world class. But obviously they are not Harvard or Princeton. This is because the best basic science students that the IIT’s and other places in India produce, who become some of the best researchers, get absorbed in institutes abroad. This is a statement on the difference of the quality of living between India and abroad, not on these institutes. About Nobel prizes, did anyone really expect that from among the tiny fraction of the very good scientists that go back to India from abroad, there would already be Nobel prize winners? Winning Nobel prizes will take a lot of good people coming through the system over a far longer period. And they have to be lured back to India. Even no chinese from the mainland China has won it yet. However, some of the top science professors in the US are from China or India (I know one top guy from Pakistan and another from Bangladesh). In the case of India, many of them are products of IIT’s. Anyway, I do not want to prolong this discussion on the IIT’s because it’s irrelevant to this forum.

    Coming back to American exceptionalism, Obama had it right when he said that he believed in American exceptionalism just like the Brits believed in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believed in Greek exceptionalism. That, I think, says it all.

  121. no-communal

    Correction:
    When I said I know one top guy from Pakistan and one from Bangladesh, I meant people I personally know. There are many others too.

  122. Gorki

    If you want to believe that we Asians are being discriminated against in the academic circles in the US that is entirely up to you; it is not the opinion of the majority of us here. (I am sure there must be a desperate enough class action attorney somewhere who would be willing to look into the whole thing)

    In fact the problem faced lately by many has been trying to decide which grad school (and scholarship grant) to pick out of the many available for good students.

    Any way this is a wrong forum to debate this point……

    Regards.

  123. lal

    @ gorki
    I don’t know where you did your UG,but if it is in India i am sure you have your answer to the IIT question.Neither has AIIMS produced anything original although they have the best crop of Indian under 18s entering there campus.From my personal view point,it is because all these wonderful institutions,started in the Nehruvian era, is more focussed on undergraduate training more than research per se.

  124. no-communal

    @lal
    You are exactly right. That’s what I meant when I said that these are primarily teaching institutes.

  125. Gorki

    Dear no-communal,

    My question about the IIT was not rhetorical or a criticism of the fine institutions.
    I have written elswhere on the PTH about the phenomenal impact and the achievements of the IITs and the IITians and hold them and their alumni in extremely high regard. (Far higher than any product of our medical schools😉 )
    Ditto about our founding father; Nehru.

    The question was a sincere one; in part arising from the challenge posed by a resurgent China that has been prodicing an exponentially increasing number of basic science research papers every year.

    I believe Bade Miyan may have partly answered the question as a matter of culture; hopefully as the nation and society matures, it will change.

    Regards.

  126. Gorki

    Dear Lal,

    I am sorry, didn’t mean to ignore you; my last post was addressed to both of you gentlemen. I am unsure what you mean by ‘more focused on undergraduate training’. Research and research methods are an integral part of good training.
    Internationally speaking, no ‘teaching hospital’ is accorded any recognition without having good investigators or producing any original research.
    There is a reason; teaching medical texts or any texts by rote is easy; what is harder to teach is the analytical skills and independent thinking.
    I believe the problem is not the quality of the entrants who as you pointed out are among the best that in India; but the institutional inflexibility; a cultural; deference to authority and titles which stunts independence.

    Regards.

  127. no-communal

    @Gorki
    “The question was a sincere one; in part arising from the challenge posed by a resurgent China that has been prodicing an exponentially increasing number of basic science research papers every year.”

    That is a fact. That has almost entirely to do with many able Chinese researchers staying in China itself. Also, there are many more scientific institutes in China. These, in turn, have to do with the much better standard of living in China compared with India. Some would say India is now where China was in the early or mid 90’s.

    There is another important factor. The authorities in the Chinese institutes, from the central autocratic govt. as they are, can unilaterally decide very large pay packets to lure researchers from abroad. A Romanian friend of mine, who did his Ph.D from the US, was recently given a phenomenally large start-up fund and pay packet to move to China. And he is moving to China. Something like that is impossible in India’s democratic set up. If you compare the research outputs from Indians and Chinese living aborad, they are comparable.

    Bade Miyan may also have a point. Many bright Indians opt for software, finance etc. because of the pay differential. I do not know how that phenomenon has affected China, so I am not sure.

  128. no-communal

    @Gorki
    “I believe the problem is not the quality of the entrants who as you pointed out are among the best that in India; but the institutional inflexibility; a cultural; deference to authority and titles which stunts independence.”

    Gorki,
    These are vague, generalized, statements which are not that true anymore. At the end of the day, the problem lies elsewhere.

    Suppose there is a very good student really interested in basic sciences. After his/her undergraduate from an IIT or elsewhere, he would, provided he is in the know, almost invariably go to US, UK etc.. Once he is there and does worthwhile research, he would be recruited by a university abroad. So what India gets, generally speaking, are good students at the undergraduate level. This situation is slowly changing and there are now more good graduate students available in India. Let me comment on that in the next para.

    Teaching and research are treated differently in India than in the US (perhaps, you are more familiar with the latter set up). For research, India has dedicated research institutes, such as the ones I mentioned earlier. But yes, it is not entirely black and white, not any more. IIT’s are increasingly putting emphasis on research and places like IISc. etc. are venturing more and more into teaching. This has brought about some noticeable changes of late. For example, there are now many more good graduate students available in India. But what about after Ph.D? They again move abroad as post-doctoral fellows and then stay there as faculty.

    To give you a personal viewpoint, I am, for some time now, thinking about moving to India. I am finding out the real obstacles – pay differential, living standard (which applies to everybody), and general non-availability (of course there are exceptions) of good post-doctoral fellows, who, by the way, really do the bulk of the research and have mostly all moved abroad.

    “institutional inflexibility; a cultural; deference to authority and titles which stunts independence”
    have not figured in this list.

  129. Sol

    Ha ha, this article was about Manhattan Mosque and now there are two “Indians” discussing virtues/flaws of Indian education system.

  130. no-communal

    I agree with Sol. We should stop this discussion, which I intended to do much earlier.

  131. Sonia Butt

    What a bunch of spineless cowards; those who would rather appease the op posers of the Mosque or Islamic center ? These are the same gutless wonders that have let the Taliban slaughter their kinfolk than stand up to them !
    Lets get the facts correct the American constitution allows for place of worship for ALL faiths to be built.
    The site is more than 2 blocks away from ground zero it is a commercial area which has XXX rated video stores, massage parlors and other commercial entities.
    This has nothing to do with the Imam, it is a diverse plot by the Republicans to demean President Obama by a group of angry white people who cannot believe that a black man is their President.
    These same protesters did not blink when President Bush invited the Imam after 911 to represent to the world that the war on terror was just that a war on extreme terrorist.
    Since the Republicans lost the war on Mexicans on the immigration issue; they have discovered a new minority to harass and young American Muslims as lawyers and spokespeople have recently started appearing on the media screens to discuss this issue with dignity & respect.
    This is not an Indian issue so you guys need to butt out if this conversation go to another forum and dudes get a life.
    To the Muslim posters who want to be apologists for wrong principles and cow down to the bullies; go get a dose of testosterone; we are proud Muslim Americans with the constitution behind us. The majority of Americans may oppose this but they are not always right a similar majority opposed inter-racial marriage too at one time.

  132. Octavian

    A) Its not a mosque but an interfaith center. To paint it as a mosque is being disingenuous. One would think Rauf was constructing a huge domed structure with a golden statue of Osama bin Laden giving the Middle Finger to the rest of America. NO.

    B) There was a Muslim mosque / prayer room in the original WTC towers i.e an actual mosque on ground zero.

    C) To equate the jihalat of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as representative of all Muslims is disgusting. Look at Turkey, you’ve got Mosques, Synagogues and Churches co-existing everywhere in peace. Or, look at Bali in Indonesia, or look at Lebanon, or look at … etc etc

    D) The sentiments of the American people are shaped by the, now, populist bigotry of the likes of Fox News and their radicalized right wing acolytes. It is surprising that those who counseled Muslims to take a chill pill on the cartoon issue are now asking them to be sensitive to the sentiments of others (EVEN when, in this case, there is no real provocation).

    Hypocrisy compounded?

  133. YLH

    Octavian,

    1. It is not an interfaith center. If Rauf is now changing his plans …good.

    2. That is irrelevant to the argument.

    3. Pakistan probably has more Churches than Turkey does… And Turkey’s record with Greek Orthodox is as bad as Pakistan’s record with Ahmadis … but in any event Turkish secularism is not accepted by American Muslims as representative of Islam. I mean that would be a self defeating argument because Turkish secularists who have ensured sanity in that country have a track record of limiting and controlling mosque-building and even dismantling mosques. Ask any Kemalist in Turkey and he would be completely opposed to the ground zero mosque. Ofcourse Erdogan’s supporters would have a different view but then the secularism you refer to is not Erdogan’s doing. If Islamists in Turkey are not kept on a tight leash they’ll turn Turkey into a dystopia worse than Saudi Arabia. As for Indonesia …the recent violence against Christians in Jakarta tells a different story. Even earlier Christians and other groups have felt marginalized in that country. After all East Timor seceded because of Muslim oppression.

    4. That is cart before the horse. Muslims didn’t take a chill pill on the cartoon issue.

  134. Tilsim

    @ YLH said

    “That is cart before the horse. Muslims didn’t take a chill pill on the cartoon issue.”

    Octavian said:

    “It is surprising that those who counseled Muslims to take a chill pill on the cartoon issue are now asking them to be sensitive to the sentiments of others (EVEN when, in this case, there is no real provocation). ”

    YLH, Octavian is commenting on the advice of counselors (not clear whether he means Muslim or non-Muslim) and you are commenting of the stance of Muslims (in general?).

  135. YLH

    Both are interconnected. Common sense prevailed this weekend … Terry Jones has backed down. Now what? You still want to go ahead with the provocation?

  136. YLH

    Btw the Turkish example is very intriguing. I just recalled reading that this one time Kemal Ataturk was listening to music …when the music had to be stopped for the near by Azaan. Ataturk showed his displeasure and said that places of worship should not be this close. The next day the mosque was demolished.

  137. Tilsim

    @YLH
    “You still want to go ahead with the provocation?”

    I have argued that it does not make sense for American muslims to go ahead with the building of the Manhatten mosque close to ground zero. My argument is based on judging the politics of the issue in post 9/11 America as an outsider rather than the specific legal rights which are clear. You will see this from my earlier posts.

    Frankly, if people think that burning of sacred texts is somehow a legitimate response to the original ‘provocation’ then they are mistaken. Even Sarah Palin did not think this form of opposition was appropriate.

    “Btw the Turkish example is very intriguing. I just recalled reading that this one time Kemal Ataturk was listening to music …when the music had to be stopped for the near by Azaan. Ataturk showed his displeasure and said that places of worship should not be this close. The next day the mosque was demolished.”

    This is a different matter; in my view it’s not appropriate that a mosque be demolished by dictat or the law because one person in authority deems the call to prayer to be offensive to his sensibility.

  138. Octavian

    YLH,

    Why are you building “a mosque near Ground zero?”
    Strictly speaking, it will not be a “mosque,” although it would have a prayer space on one of its 15 floors.

    http://www.cordobainitiative.org/?q=content/frequently-asked-questions

    I would invite you to read the FAQ. Its not a mosque. Its a community center with a prayer space and was always such, Rauf did not “change” his mind. Its a frigging Muslim YMCA.

    Funding? Unfunded as of yet. 1/15th of the space is a prayer area, yet people are having a coronary. Of course, this will still not satisfy those whose instant reaction to anything Islamic is that it must somehow, and inevitably be linked to a regressive bedouin hand chopping mindset strapped with C4.

    How can anyone in all seriousness condone the mala fide logic of those who oppose the centre? To glorify opposition to the building as a stringent defense of secular ideals is wrong. To defend it using the supposed “hurt” feelings of the right wing, is worse still. Should the law not be devoid of emotion? I would, in fact, counter and say that OPPOSITION to the mosque is against the very ethos of a secular country.

    To lump Muslims, their diverse views, different outlooks etc etc and dismissing them into a monolith entity is unbelievable. It’s as quixotic as talking of the view of Western Christendom in this day and age. To subscribe to such a Huntington point of view: “secular westernization” defending the free world against those bad Islamo-fascists will only lead to more destruction.

    Finally, I pointed out the Turkish, Indonesian and Lebanese examples to highlight the fact that there are Muslim majority states that allow religious places to be opened to cater for minorities, without it becoming a major issue, where Muslims do not “jail” people for worshiping in their own way a la Saudi or the Ahmadiyya.

    It is interesting that you equate the East Timor issue with Muslim oppression, when the government which annexed and looted it was run by a secular general. East Timor was granted independence by the mildly Islamic government of Habibie – so, really, Muslim oppression?

    It seems that au courant line of thinking these days is that if you have the remotest connection to Islam, no matter what you do, your actions will always be condemned as Muslim oppression and equated with the worst excesses of that religion.

    Great lesson guys.

  139. YLH

    Turkey was cited as an example of Islamic tolerance by dear Octavian. I was just pointing out the pitfalls of that argument.

  140. Tilsim

    @ Octavian

    “It seems that au courant line of thinking these days is that if you have the remotest connection to Islam, no matter what you do, your actions will always be condemned as Muslim oppression and equated with the worst excesses of that religion.”

    Whether in the East or West, for people who have become anti-religion, all religious symbols, beliefs and people are ludicrous, not just those in Islam. This basic bias can result in the application of different standards, principles and worth to religious people. It is the case that biases that can colour or preclude the impartial observation of religiously minded people can similarly affect people who are anti-religion too. Such folks don’t have any immunity to intolerance. Their biases can crowd out balanced judgement too. Hence impoliteness, sweeping statements and false analogies may become acceptable lines of argument when the same people will abhor such attitudes elsewhere. If you think someone is ludicrous, you may not give him equal treatment.

    It seems to me that many atheists are not anti-religion per se but many do experience real difficulty when religious beliefs take on a political dimension – it’s a position that is as strongly held as some religious tenets. Muslims demanding religious laws or special rights, by the very nature of these type of demands have become a particular target.

  141. YLH

    What if the Turkish example was to be used as a valid Muslim example? Wouldn’t that mean forcibly moving the mosque away?

    Lebanon mind you is not a Muslim majority country or was not till recently and has a rather bloody history of Muslim-Christian and Shia-sunni conflict.

    I suggest you think again as to how East Timor won its freedom.

    Your points about the mosque have been addressed in my second article : Hostages.

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  142. Pinchus

    As a representative of a minority, that was (and is) a minority in most of the parts of the world I want to make some suggestion.
    It is important to learn, how to use your rights, not loose your pride and values and not to violate the very basics and sensitivity of a majority. Moreover, it is always important to show a true understanding to those, who have created a state, that you live in. Don’t teach the founders how to exercise their values. Instead try to understand how they have planned their countries and help or turn around completely.
    Not only the law rules the country. Every state has it’s own mentality and – weather we like it or not – it is determent by the founders and the majority. In fact you can have the cultural autonomy in the USA, you can also expose your feelings and believes (unlike most of the Mid East countries) on others, but there is an unspoken rule of tolerance, that should be clear for all of us – care for the feelings of the others, they do have exactly the same right of the religious and cultural autonomy as you do.
    Tolerance is not a one way street and is never ended by the dry fact of a law. Tolerance can be built ONLY on the understanding of the sensitivity of the others.
    In fact I am not a Muslim and I don’t agree with Muslim doctrine (otherwise I’d be one), I don’t agree with everything America believes in, I don’t necessarily agree with all my close friends, but I do strongly respect their sensitivity and therefore I stick my nose in their business only to the extend that they will still be at least not enemies.

    My English is poor unfortunately, but I really hope I made that point clear