American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?

American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?

Mark Lyons for The New York Times

Dr. Ferhan Asghar at a Muslim center in West Chester, Ohio, with his wife, Pakeeza, and daughters Zara, left, and Emaan.

For nine years after the attacks of Sept. 11, many American Muslims made concerted efforts to build relationships with non-Muslims, to make it clear they abhor terrorism, to educate people about Islam and to participate in interfaith service projects. They took satisfaction in the observations by many scholars that Muslims in America were more successful and assimilated than Muslims in Europe.

Carlos Ortiz for The New York Times

Eboo Patel, the director of an interfaith youth group, said some politicians were whipping up fear and hatred of Muslims.

Now, many of those same Muslims say that all of those years of work are being rapidly undone by the fierce opposition to a Muslim cultural center near ground zero that has unleashed a torrent of anti-Muslim sentiments and a spate of vandalism. The knifing of a Muslim cab driver in New York City has also alarmed many American Muslims.

“We worry: Will we ever be really completely accepted in American society?” said Dr. Ferhan Asghar, an orthopedic spine surgeon in Cincinnati and the father of two young girls. “In no other country could we have such freedoms — that’s why so many Muslims choose to make this country their own. But we do wonder whether it will get to the point where people don’t want Muslims here anymore.”

Eboo Patel, a founder and director of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based community service program that tries to reduce religious conflict, said, “I am more scared than I’ve ever been — more scared than I was after Sept. 11.”

That was a refrain echoed by many American Muslims in interviews last week. They said they were scared not as much for their safety as to learn that the suspicion, ignorance and even hatred of Muslims is so widespread. This is not the trajectory toward integration and acceptance that Muslims thought they were on.

Some American Muslims said they were especially on edge as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches. The pastor of a small church in Florida has promised to burn a pile of Korans that day. Muslim leaders are telling their followers that the stunt has been widely condemned by Christian and other religious groups and should be ignored. But they said some young American Muslims were questioning how they could simply sit by and watch the promised desecration.

They liken their situation to that of other scapegoats in American history: Irish Roman Catholics before the nativist riots in the 1800s, the Japanese before they were put in internment camps during World War II.

Muslims sit in their living rooms, aghast as pundits assert over and over that Islam is not a religion at all but a political cult, that Muslims cannot be good Americans and that mosques are fronts for extremist jihadis. To address what it calls a “growing tide of fear and intolerance,” the Islamic Society of North America plans to convene a summit of Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in Washington on Tuesday.

Young American Muslims who are trying to figure out their place and their goals in life are particularly troubled, said Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, the Muslim chaplain at Duke University.

“People are discussing what is the alternative if we don’t belong here,” he said. “There are jokes: When are we moving to Canada, when are we moving to Sydney? Nobody will go anywhere, but there is hopelessness, there is helplessness, there is real grief.”

Mr. Antepli just returned from a trip last month with a rabbi and other American Muslim leaders to Poland and Germany, where they studied the Holocaust and the events that led up to it (the group issued a denunciation of Holocaust denial on its return).

“Some of what people are saying in this mosque controversy is very similar to what German media was saying about Jews in the 1920s and 1930s,” he said. “It’s really scary.”

American Muslims were anticipating a particularly joyful Ramadan this year. For the first time in decades, the monthlong holiday fell mostly during summer vacation, allowing children to stay up late each night for the celebratory iftar dinner, breaking the fast, with family and friends.

But the season turned sour.

The great mosque debate seems to have unleashed a flurry of vandalism and harassment directed at mosques: construction equipment set afire at a mosque site in Murfreesboro, Tenn; a plastic pig with graffiti thrown into a mosque in Madera, Calif.; teenagers shooting outside a mosque in upstate New York during Ramadan prayers. It is too soon to tell whether hate crimes against Muslims are rising or are on pace with previous years, experts said. But it is possible that other episodes are going unreported right now.

“Victims are reluctant to go public with these kinds of hate incidents because they fear further harassment or attack,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “They’re hoping all this will just blow over.”

Some Muslims said their situation felt more precarious now — under a president who is perceived as not only friendly to Muslims but is wrongly believed by many Americans to be Muslim himself — than it was under President George W. Bush.

Mr. Patel explained, “After Sept. 11, we had a Republican president who had the confidence and trust of red America, who went to a mosque and said, ‘Islam means peace,’ and who said ‘Muslims are our neighbors and friends,’ and who distinguished between terrorism and Islam.”

Now, unlike Mr. Bush then, the politicians with sway in red state America are the ones whipping up fear and hatred of Muslims, Mr. Patel said.

“There is simply the desire to paint an entire religion as the enemy,” he said. Referring to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the founder of the proposed Muslim center near ground zero, “What they did to Imam Feisal was highly strategic. The signal was, we can Swift Boat your most moderate leaders.”

Several American Muslims said in interviews that they were stunned that what provoked the anti-Muslim backlash was not even another terrorist attack but a plan by an imam known for his work with leaders of other faiths to build a Muslim community center.

This year, Sept. 11 coincides with the celebration of Eid, the finale to Ramadan, which usually lasts three days (most Muslims will begin observing Eid this year on Sept. 10). But Muslim leaders, in this climate, said they wanted to avoid appearing to be celebrating on the anniversary of 9/11. Several major Muslim organizations have urged mosques to use the day to participate in commemoration events and community service.

Ingrid Mattson, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, said many American Muslims were still hoping to salvage the spirit of Ramadan.

“In Ramadan, you’re really not supposed to be focused on yourself,” she said. “It’s about looking out for the suffering of other people. Somehow it feels bad to be so worried about our own situation and our own security, when it should be about empathy towards others.”

If the ‘Mosque’ Isn’t Built, This Is No Longer America

Michael Moore

Michael Moore is an Academy-Award winning filmmaker and best-selling author

September 11th, 2010 9:40 AM

If the ‘Mosque’ Isn’t Built, This Is No Longer America

Muslims in Iran hold vigil to honor those killed on 9/11 and to support America (September, 2001 – back when the world supported us)

OpenMike 9/11/10
Michael Moore’s daily blog

I am opposed to the building of the “mosque” two blocks from Ground Zero.

I want it built on Ground Zero.

Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.

There’s been so much that’s been said about this manufactured controversy, I really don’t want to waste any time on this day of remembrance talking about it. But I hate bigotry and I hate liars, and so in case you missed any of the truth that’s been lost in this, let me point out a few facts:

1. I love the Burlington Coat Factory. I’ve gotten some great winter coats there at a very reasonable price. Muslims have been holding their daily prayers there since 2009. No one ever complained about that. This is not going to be a “mosque,” it’s going to be a community center. It will have the same prayer room in it that’s already there. But to even have to assure people that “it’s not going to be mosque” is so offensive, I now wish they would just build a 111-story mosque there. That would be better than the lame and disgusting way the developer has left Ground Zero an empty hole until recently. The remains of over 1,100 people still haven’t been found. That site is a sacred graveyard, and to be building another monument to commerce on it is a sacrilege. Why wasn’t the entire site turned into a memorial peace park? People died there, and many of their remains are still strewn about, all these years later.

2. Guess who has helped the Muslims organize their plans for this community center? The JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER of Manhattan! Their rabbi has been advising them since the beginning. It’s been a picture-perfect example of the kind of world we all want to live in. Peter Stuyvessant, New York’s “founder,” tried to expel the first Jews who arrived in Manhattan. Then the Dutch said, no, that’s a bit much. So then Stuyvessant said ok, you can stay, but you cannot build a synagogue anywhere in Manhattan. Do your stupid Friday night thing at home. The first Jewish temple was not allowed to be built until 1730. Then there was a revolution, and the founding fathers said this country has to be secular — no religious nuts or state religions. George Washington (inaugurated around the corner from Ground Zero) wanted to make a statement about this his very first year in office, and wrote this to American Jews:

“The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. … 

“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens … 

“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

3. The Imam in charge of this project is the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. Read about his past here.

4. Around five dozen Muslims died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Hundreds of members of their families still grieve and suffer. The 19 killers did not care what religion anyone belonged to when they took those lives.

5. I’ve never read a sadder headline in the New York Times than the one on the front page this past Monday: “American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?” That should make all of us so ashamed that even a single one of our fellow citizens should ever have to worry about if they “belong” here.

6. There is a McDonald’s two blocks from Ground Zero. Trust me, McDonald’s has killed far more people than the terrorists.

7. During an economic depression or a time of war, fascists are extremely skilled at whipping up fear and hate and getting the working class to blame “the other” for their troubles. Lincoln’s enemies told poor Southern whites that he was “a Catholic.” FDR’s opponents said he was Jewish and called him “Jewsevelt.” One in five Americans now believe Obama is a Muslim and 41% of Republicans don’t believe he was born here.

8. Blaming a whole group for the actions of just one of that group is anti-American. Timothy McVeigh was Catholic. Should Oklahoma City prohibit the building of a Catholic Church near the site of the former federal building that McVeigh blew up?

9. Let’s face it, all religions have their whackos. Catholics have O’Reilly, Gingrich, Hannity and Clarence Thomas (in fact all five conservatives who dominate the Supreme Court are Catholic). Protestants have Pat Robertson and too many to list here. The Mormons have Glenn Beck. Jews have Crazy Eddie. But we don’t judge whole religions on just the actions of their whackos. Unless they’re Methodists.

10. If I should ever, God forbid, perish in a terrorist incident, and you or some nutty group uses my death as your justification to attack or discriminate against anyone in my name, I will come back and haunt you worse than Linda Blair marrying Freddy Krueger and moving into your bedroom to spawn Chucky. John Lennon was right when he asked us to imagine a world with “nothing to kill or die for and no religion, too.” I heard Deepak Chopra this week say that “God gave humans the truth, and the devil came and he said, ‘Let’s give it a name and call it religion.’ ” But John Adams said it best when he wrote a sort of letter to the future (which he called “Posterity”): “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.” I’m guessing ol’ John Adams is up there repenting nonstop right now.

Friends, we all have a responsibility NOW to make sure that Muslim community center gets built. Once again, 70% of the country (the same number that initially supported the Iraq War) is on the wrong side and want the “mosque” moved. Enormous pressure has been put on the Imam to stop his project. We have to turn this thing around. Are we going to let the bullies and thugs win another one? Aren’t you fed up by now? When would be a good time to take our country back from the haters?

I say right now. Let’s each of us make a statement by donating to the building of this community center! It’s a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and you can donate a dollar or ten dollars (or more) right now through a secure pay pal account by clicking here. I will personally match the first $10,000 raised (forward your PayPal receipt If each one of you reading this blog/email donated just a couple of dollars, that would give the center over $6 million, more than what Donald Trump has offered to buy the Imam out. C’mon everyone, let’s pitch in and help those who are being debased for simply wanting to do something good. We could all make a huge statement of love on this solemn day.

I lost a co-worker on 9/11. I write this today in his memory.

“The man who speaks of the enemy / Is the enemy himself.”
                                                                        — Bertolt Brecht

Posted September 14th, 2010 9:42 PM

I don’t understand how this issue, that should be a non issue got hijacked by the neo conservative “we hate everyone who’s not us” party. I think of my self as all American, my mother is from OK , father from Mexico, and I married a Muslim, a wonderful husband and father, who worships devoutly and is kind, generous and well loved man in our community, I am catholic and have agreed to raise my children Muslim, because I studied Islam, and think it’s a beautiful religion, full of love, forgiveness and actually extremely democratic. It never occurred to be after attending Mosque with my husband all these years that he or any of his family or friends were ‘anti-democratic” terrorists or fell they will “have won” by having a mosque built were dozens of fellow Muslims dies that day. It makes me scared to see people hate so much something they know absolutely nothing about. It makes me sick to think that’s one more thing I have to protect my children from, is all this misguided hate fueled by the neo conservative media. A mosque was in the twin towers, a mosque has existed 2 blocks closer than the proposed one for over 30 years, Islam is not the enemy, Al-Queda is, and I have never meet a Muslim in any country that agrees with their rhetoric. Why do these people want to punish my children for some sick act 19 screwed men committed? My children are American, I am an American, her Mexican father, grandfather and Dutch grandmother are all American, that’s the beauty of America, were supposed to be able to live as different as we are in harmony, not persecuted, not judged ,not in fear of worshiping openly. I want to believe that my children can wear a hijab to school and not get beat up, that they can tell people they are Muslim with pride and not be blamed for such a horrific tragedy as occurred on 9/11. When you spew hate about Islam, you are spewing hate about my children, forgiveness is the heart of Islam, as it is for Christians, if you don’t feel you’re wrong, study, seek truth, learn about something BEFORE you judge it, don’t let the news make your mind up for you, remember they are trying to sell a product, they don’t really care about you. If you really love America like I do then remember my kids are American too, and Muslim, and they have right NOT be scared to be who they are, and the Constitutional right to worship freely in America.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 7:57 PM

I’ll be quite honest. I’m not your biggest fan. That said, I fully agree with you on this one. I’ve been watching this situation evolve from Toronto, and I can hardly believe that the far right believes Obama is a bigger threat to the constitution than they themselves are. They worship the founders, then spit on their ideals. 

I want to be part of the statement. Discrimination is not acceptable. I’ve just donated to the “Ground Zero Mosque.” 

An atheist donates to a “mosque”. There’s a joke in there somewhere.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 6:26 PM

Mr. Moore is in his usual mode of distorting the truths and beliefs that our founding fathers put forth that made this great nation a place where people from all over the world want to live and pursue happiness with religious freedom. The founding fathers NEVER said “this county has to be secular” Judeo/Christian concepts are the cornerstone of our republic. Mr. Moore needs a refresher course on article one of the Constitution. His like thinking friends always get this wrong. It state’s clearly there will be no state supported church but the individual will have unrestricted freedom to pursue the religion of their choice.

Mr. Moore claims that anyone who disagrees with his thoughts on the mosque are bigots, liars, whacko’s,
bullies, thugs and the list of name calling goes on and on. If an opposing viewpoint is aired, vitriolic name calling is his first defense rather than a mature substantive discourse on the matter. This leaves the opposing person spending all their time trying to defend the name calling rather than talking about the issue at hand. This is a strategy is used quite commonly by Mr. Moore and friends.

The issue regarding the mosque is not about religious intolerance at all. It’s about RESPECT for the 3,000 AMERICAN citizens who lost their lives in a cowardly attack by religious zealots who have a high intolerance for anyone not of the same beliefs. 
Mr. Moore, I implore you as a American citizen to show your respect for the innocent victims of 9 – 11 and join the MAJORITY of Americans who feel that the mosque should be built elsewhere. 
Most Americans do not want religious persecution of Muslims. No decent person has called for any kind of restrictions for them. 
Yet, I’m stunned at the overall silence of the Muslim community on the issue of respecting the slain Americans and their still grieving families. Lets turn the tables around here for a moment. Nineteen Christian’s and Jews crash a plane into a mosque and kill many innocent people. So the next step is to build a Church or a Synagogue next to where the mosque once stood? Of course not! Christian that I am, I would be mortified to see this happen. 
Wouldn’t a better Muslim outreach be for them to build a few Churches and Synagogues in area’s that are predominately Muslim? We all know the answer to that. If they find a bible it is burned. Christan missionaries are slaughtered. 

I have yet to see a Baptist suicide bomber or a Jewish Jehadist. Yet time and time again, in the name of Allah. Innocent people are slaughtered. Not to mention the barbaric treatment of women and homosexuals.
Yes, I see intolerance. I wonder how Mr. Moore would like living under strict Shariah law? He claims he’s ashamed of American because of a headline in the paper reading “”American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?”
The shame should be of the Muslim’s who refuse to assimilate into America if they choose to live here. 
Mr. Moore is fed up? Well so am I. 
I’m fed up with people who become successful in this great country of ours and want to trash it every chance they get.
I’m fed up with people who think America should be like the lyrics in a J. Lennon song about how to live life like a communist.
I’m fed up with people who are afraid to speak up for fear of offending someone or some group of people.
I’m fed up with people in this country who can’t appreciate all who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we
can all pursue our lives in how we see fit. 
I’m fed up with people who think it’s un-cool to be a patriotic American. I thank our school systems for this who no longer teach history about all the great things people have accomplished because of our opportunities given by the Constitution.

Go ahead and build your mosque, just don’t do it on or around GROUND ZERO!

“Proud to be an AmericanReply

Posted September 14th, 2010 5:21 PM


Posted September 14th, 2010 5:04 PM

I agree with so much you have to say, but am especially grateful to have you state what I believe–that ground zero is a sacred graveyard. I could not agree more that a peace garden is the only thing that should go on that spot. I am disgusted and gravely disappointed that instead new monuments to greed will rise instead.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 2:41 PM

“. . . I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.” Mr Moore, you have always struck me as a person who shows no favoritism. Each person is to be valued. That includes all the victims of 9/11. How about the people of St Nicholas Greek Orthodox church whose place of worship was stolen from them on 9/11? Their church at ground zero was destroyed. They have been denied a permit to rebuild – not to build anew, but to re-build, on the place where they were. Will you stick up for them? Will you really put your words into practice?Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 1:11 PM

In my younger days, when I had a lot more energy and hope, I thought if people were educated about the dangers and expense of nuclear proliferation, they would agree that the Trident missle system and “Star Wars” was not a good idea and would convince their federal representatives to vote accordingly. What an idiot I was!
The system has now become so corrupt that the proposed mosque, which is located two and a half blocks from Ground Zero, is a political issue. The fact that politicians and media whores are manipulating the public (once again) for their own personal/financial gain is one more example of the rank stupidity of a growing portion of the American public. 
I believe a great number of Americans shun introspection in favor of hate, which requires less reflection, fires up the insides, and somehow introduces purpose into formerly mundane lives. The fact that we still have measurable percentages of our population believing that President Obama is a foreign-born Muslim, that Sarah Palin is intelligent enough to be president, that Glen Beck is sane, that evolution is false, that global warming is a hoax, that taxes and unions are bad…need I go on…is testiment to our fragile grasp on reality. 
My hope now comes from Martin Luther King, Jr. who said a lie can’t live forever. Let this be our mantra.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 12:56 PM


I think you are the only celebrity …correction a TRUE American that looks out for our (The Citizens at very least) Rights! Keep up the good work!
May God be with you!Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 11:55 AM

Don’t forget about terrorist #1, John Lennon, hes said he was more better than Jesus! I’m going to host a giant burning in my backyard. Bring your white sheets to wear, and we will burn Beatles Records, some Qurans, and a 1000 year old Mayan Text that explains Astronomy. Other things you can bring include, any old books on Alchemy, anything not written in English, books on Evolution, Heavy Metal shirts and records, smutty magazines, old furniture, Barbie Dolls, flat tires, etc. Remember “When someone strikes you on the right cheek, you kick him in the balls and then burn all his shit.”-Jesus Christ from Mathew 5:38

Posted September 14th, 2010 11:52 AM

St. NIcholas Greek Orthodox Church was destroyed on 9/11 by the falling Trade Center Towers. This church has been refused a permit to rebuild. Mr Moore’s comments will be worthy of consideration when he acknowledges this Christian group’s right to rebuild at Ground Zero. Or is if freedom of religion for everyone but Christians now?Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 11:13 AM

Thank you Mr. Moore. Donating to the Cordoba Initiative felt really, really good. It’s a small thing, but I have to believe that if enough of us do a small thing, it will become a big thing.Reply
Posted September 14th, 2010 10:19 AM

I am a foreigner and thus appologize to comment on whats strictly USA’s internal matter. However, i have only one question to those who oppose this mosque/ cultural center etc? Would you mind a church being built next to a holocaust memorial? Hitler claimed himself to be catholic right? Does that make a church symbolize nazi-ism?

Alqaeda is to Islam, what Nazis are to christianity. Muslims world over reject terrorists just like christians reject Nazis. Infact terrorists have now killed four times more muslims in Pakistan then 9/11 casualties. A mosque represents muslims, but your rejection makes it represent alqaeda – not differentiating between two is so worryingly dangerous because it means you believe 1.3 billions muslims to be your enemy.

I hope sense prevails and we can fail the plans of extremists on both sides trying to create this clash of civilizations.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 11:49 AM

The Catholic church did approach the German people about that and respectfully decided against building near a concentration camp. There is a true peace in Christianty that is not found in Islam. And that is what the American people are trying to say: the isuue is not with the Mulsim but with an ideology that stands against freedom and peace.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 8:56 AM

In a letter to the Buffalo News daily in New York state McVeigh said he was an agnostic.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 7:37 AM

I have always supported you…….even when a lot of people were calling YOU a whacko ! 
But this time I think you are way off base. 
And I take offense to your referring to Glen Beck, or any of the others on your list, as a “whacko”. 
As someone who has been painted with that brush himself, I would think you would know more than most people how hurtful that is and you would not label others. Shame on you Michael !

As for the mosque, or community center, at or near ground zero ; 
I absolutely support the building of mosques, or community centers with prayer rooms, by peace loving Muslims who just want to practice their religion. 
I love the fact that everyone in this country this country is allowed freedom of religion, and the right to practice their faith anywhere they choose.
But having a mosque or Muslim community center with a prayer room on or near the site where thousands of people were murdered by Muslim jihadists is an extreme insult to the people who died there, and the families and friends who mourn them. 
That would be like building a memorial to Adolf Hitler on the grounds of Auschwitz, or like building a memorial to Timothy McVeigh on the site of the federal building he blew up ! 
It is insensitive to say the very least.
There is a huge city, and in fact a huge country, in which Muslims can build their mosques and community centers. They don’t have to pour salt into the wounds of the families of the people murdered on 9/11. 
I agree with you that no commerce center should ever be built on the grounds where the remains of the victims lie and I think the building of a memorial park there is the right idea.

Dianna EllisReply

Posted September 14th, 2010 2:07 PM

Diana, you say, that building the community center “would be like building a memorial to Adolf Hitler on the grounds of Auschwitz, or like building a memorial to Timothy McVeigh on the site of the federal building he blew up !” That is simply ridiculous. Building a memorial to the hijackers would be like that; building a community center for Muslims is nothing of the sort. I am sick and tired of people being unable to distinguish between Muslims and terrorists.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 12:43 PM

Hi Dianna, You have not provided any reasonable argument on this subject to ncontest what Michael Moore has stated, which happens to be very accurate. A few members of my family lived next to WTC and were impacted by the WTC tragedy, but none of us share your views. First and foremost, it would be helpful for you to familiarize yourself with all the facts. One of these facts is that a lot of muslims died in the WTC. You don’t seem to worried about the insensitivity on that matter. IRA, a catholic outfit has killed a lot of innocent people, but I do not recall any such outcry. In fact USA was where they got majority of their funding!. Catholics are decent people as are christians, jews and rest of the other religions. No religion teaches people to commit crimes or hurt other human beings. However terrorist who perpetrate their crimes regardless of their religion, do it it to further their own twisted agendas and motives and certainhly use the name of religion, and it is very dangerous to get confused between the two. We have killed more innocent Iraqi people than umpteen 9/11. This issue is bringing to the forefront a lot of racist, biased and bigoted views that probably were dormant in some people. You might want to sit down and calmly reflect on the dangerous turn we are taking as Americans, and once we have lost our ethics, integrity, honesty and sense of fairness, there will not be much to lose. Everyday we are losing the moral right to speak to the rest of the world becuase we are now demonstrating that we are no different than the terrorists (the bad guys), not muslims who did this.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 11:33 AM

An Islamic community center is nowhere near the same thing as a memorial to Adolph Hitler or Timothy McVeigh. A memorial to those two, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, would be an insult. Just as a memorial to Mohammed Atta would be an insult to every New Yorker and sympathetic person who cried over the attacks. There’s no salt being poured on a wound here. Only if you lack an understanding of the New York grid could this building be seen as an insult. Otherwise it’s just another building in an overcrowded city that is packed tight with buildings. If they don’t build this, and I don’t see how they can be stopped anyway, then the Islamic services in the Pentagon should be canceled. For me, the greater insult to AMERICANS is that nut job in Florida.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 11:03 AM

Hey Nurse Whacko, American Christians are responsible for the 911 attack, we have footage of their confessions!

Larry Silverstein WTC building owner describes in plain English that they detonated building 7

This is 1 minute from mainstream news broadcast, Bush lies about seeing the first plain crash into the world trade center on T.V.- problem it wasn’t on T.V. yet

Mayor Giuliani admits he was told the towers were going to collapse, and then tries to take it back.

WCT Engineers describe how buildings are designed to withstand the impact of multiple plane crashes, and how planes have crashed into buildings before including Empire State Building.

Retired General of U.S. Special Intelligence warns 911 is a hoax

Footage of an actor pretending to be Bin Laden-ie. The reason we are at war.

Footage of Bush admitting he lies to the press only sometimes.

Donald Rumsfield admits flight 93 was shot down

This is a report about the important 911 who not only sacrificed their careers but their lives to try and bring out the truth.

Posted September 14th, 2010 6:09 AM

Today Shirley Phelps (or should I say Westboro baptist church?) has forfilled promise she gave few days ago, she burnt Qur’an and nobody stopped her. Why? Mr. Obama is clearly not doing anything to stop this despite his ‘I-love-everybody’ attidute. I am confident that such act is not act of real Christianity (or Christian), just as attack that happened on 9/11 is not act of real Islam (or Muslim or any sane person) but it is what spreads much faster and harder than anything said or done by normal people. Burning Holy Books is act of stupidity that is gonna have huge consequences unless it is stopped. It is act of stupidity, just as burning flags, drawing prophets etc.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 11:42 AM

There is no “stopping” the book-burnings without a shift to even greater oppression, so I’ll take the lesser of two evils on this one. Moreover, there is no stopping the hate-driven media juggernaut, which all but ignores the fact that there was a Muslim prayer center AT the Trade Center site! The media could focus its lens on the many interfaith peace initiatives that are making progress toward peace and tolerance between Christians, Muslims and Jews, but for the most part it runs stories which convey an image of humankind as inherently hateful and divisive. 

The media’s obsession with people fighting one another is a manufactured self-fulfilling prophecy. I say “manufactured” because it plays into the hands of elites whose agenda of centralized control hinges on portraying the general populace as a irresponsible, reactionary, and dangerously unstable. The more they can convince us that this is who we are as a people, the more they will be able to play stern parent to a bunch of ignorant children who are always acting out (it’s no surprise that one of their foremost goals is to undermine education for all but the nation’s most privileged citizens). They want to convince us that a small cabal of ultra-wealthy people obsessed with power are the only ones with the focus, knowledge and resources needed to dictate sensible rules which everyone must follow. Every victory on their part is a loss for democracy, equal opportunity, and other Constitutional principles.Reply

Posted September 14th, 2010 3:50 PM

Problem is of course, that today it is Islam under fire, tomorrow it already could be Christianity, maybe Judaism or some other religion. Oppression is merely a tool that should be used to stop whatever this mess could turn into. It’s better to close this closet before too many idiots get out of it and start smothering us with their filth and hatred. For as long as we have to discuss this matter (actually for as long as we have to discuss any matter of any religion), there is no real democracy, not here not today. In my book, democracy is defined by freedom and equality, tolerance. My strong belief is that this media frenzy on Islam will eventually die-off but only God (whatever his name is) knows when.Reply

Coffee and Cigarettes for your brain?

From the September 2010 Scientific American Mind | 17 comments

Prescription for a Healthier Brain: Coffee and Cigarettes?

Discovering why even bad habits can protect the brain

By Michele Solis   


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More from this issue of Mind

Inspired by human studies showing that avid coffee drinkers and smokers have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, scientists at the University of Washington decided to see what java and cigarettes do to fruit flies. The tremors and other movement impairments of Parkinson’s are triggered by the death of dopamine-producing cells in the brain, so the investigators used flies that had been genetically engineered to have their dopamine cells die off as they age. When Leo Pallanck and his colleagues fed coffee and tobacco extracts to these flies, they found that the animals’ dopamine cells survived and their life span increased. The scientists ruled out caffeine and nicotine as the protective substances, but there are other promising compounds in coffee and tobacco, which the researchers intend to test in these short-lived creatures. “Flies are a great system for quickly trying to zero in on the chemicals that are responsible,” Pallanck says.

Islamic Influence in Spain

A-Z | Adhan | Arabic | Bookstores | Clothing | Etiquette | Food | Glossary | History | Islam | Living | Newspapers | Pearls | Ramadan | Ruling Family | Sadhew

Part 1 – The Great Mosque of Córdoba.

by John

Tariq surveyed the bleak landscape from his ship as he approached the shore. He was surrounded by a Muslim army, which had swept across North Africa, conquering all before it. Now he was crossing the Straits of Gibraltar. Little did he know, but he was the start of a movement that would dominate Spain for the next seven centuries and change its architecture, people and language forever.

A painting of Tariq, sword about to be drawn.

Tariq: the general who lead the Muslim armies into Spain.

The Arabic/Islamic influence in Andalucía is undisputed and unavoidable and indeed is one of the main draws for tourists. The very name comes from the Arabic “al-Andalus” and there can be little doubting the origin of the name Algeciras.

A Little History

After the death of Muhammad, the Muslim armies, under the rule of the Rashidoun, drove the Sassawd Persians out of Mesopotamia and then conquered the Byzantine provinces before sweeping on through North Africa.

In 711, a Muslim army landed at Algeciras under the Muslim general Tariq who, according to one historian, burned his ships behind him, stating:

Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy.

The Visigoth king of “Corduba”, Rodrigo, sent forces to Cádiz but they were routed by the Muslims and Tariq occupied Córdoba shortly afterwards.

Capital of al-Andalus.

Five years later, Córdoba, or “Qurtuba”, became capital of al-Andalus. In 755, Abd ar-Rahman, supposedly the only survivor of the Umayyid dynasty after their defeat by the Abbasids, arrived in Córdoba after fleeing Damascus, united the various discontented factions and defeated the Abbasid governor, who was weakened from 15 years of civil wars. He then proclaimed himself “Emir of al-Andalus”. As well as gaining control of all but the north of Spain, he started the building of the “Mezquita” – the Grand Mosque.

The Córdoban Emirate

The Córdoban Emirate declared itself independent of the Caliphate of Baghdad (to where power transferred from Damascus following the Abbasids victory over the Umayyads) and began to rival it in culture and power. Successive Emirs completed and extended the mosque, increased agricultural production by installing irrigation and promoted culture and learning.

The Height of Islamic Power

The zenith of Islamic power was reached under ar-Rahman III. This very self confident gentleman declared himself Caliph, meaning “supreme leader of Islam” thus not just declaring independence from Baghdad but challenging its supremacy.

Under his rule, Córdoba became the largest, richest and most culturally advanced city in Europe and yet he decided that he needed a new and finer city to rule from and so built Medina Azahara 8 km west of Córdoba.

The Great Mosque

From the outside the building looks more like a fort than a religious building. It’s Islamic origins are obvious in the design of the arches and the decoration around the many doors. When it was in use as a Mosque, all these doors would have been open and the building would have been light and airy.

The walls of the great mosque: seemingly built more for protection than for decoration

Forbidding walls line the exterior.

You enter the Mosque via “el Patio de los Naranjos” – the patio of the orange trees. Originally this was the place for ritual cleansing prior to praying in the Mosque. The “Moors” planted it with palm trees to provide shade but these were replaced with orange trees by the Christians. (Ironically, naranjo is a word of Arabic origin).

The patio still has an ambiance of peace and restfulness, in spite of the fact that there were a very large number of tourists sitting and standing around and the fact it is not crowded is a testament to the vast amount of space within it.

It is dominated by the tower, which was built over the minaret of Abd-ar-Rahman III and which is crowned by a sculpture of St. Raphael, the patron saint of Córdoba.

A tower juts into the blue Spanish sky.

The tower built over Rahman’s minaret.

Inside the Mosque

The first thing that strikes you when you enter the Mosque is the huge number of red and white striped arches and their supporting columns. These have been variously described as seeming like a continuation of the orange trees in the patio or as palm trees in the desert. Practically, they were needed to support the roof.

The red and white arches that support the roof.

The interior of the mosque: lined by red and white arches

The columns came from a variety of sources, many from Roman buildings in Córdoba but also from existing Visigoth and other buildings, which accounts for their different colours and materials. To gain further height, the famous red and white striped arches were built on top of the pillars, the effect being achieved by alternating brick and stone: a new and unique feature of the time.

The Maksura

The maksura was the space reserved for the Caliph, his family and senior members of court to pray. It contains the mihrab, which indicates the direction in which the faithful should face to pray.It also served to amplify the voice of the prayer leader. As might be expected, this is the most beautifully decorated part of the building. There are three bays, each with a dome with skylights, making it bright and emphasising the floral motive mosaics and the inscriptions from the Qur’an in gold, purple, green , blue and red.

An Anomaly Within an Enigma

The building is often described nowadays as the Mosque-Cathedral, for the simple reason that the Catholic hierarchy could not resist stamping their authority on the building after the reconquista and not only built a cathedral in the middle of the Mosque but covered the outside walls with dozens of chapels.

Cathedral interior, with a huge wall decorated with Christian paintings.

The interior of the Cathedral.

I have no intention of getting involved in religious arguments here but I can say that architecturally and aesthetically it is absolutely wrong. It also changes the atmosphere of the building from the original light and airy one to a gloomy half light.

The scale is also wrong, the “cathedral” part is much higher than the Mosque and looks even more out of place outside than it does inside. The lavish Catholic adornments clash with the subtle restraint of the Mosque. Entering the Cathedral part is like going through a space warp as there is an abrupt change of style, design and atmosphere.

Even Kings Get It Wrong

As stated, the Catholic Church was itching to “convert” the Mosque into a Cathedral and eventually, 3 centuries after the Christian take over, King Carlos V gave permission for the construction to take place, much against the will of the town council.

However, when he saw the results, he realised his error and said:

“I didn’t know that it was like this or I would not have permitted this. You have built what you and others might have built anywhere but you have destroyed something that was unique in the world.”

Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of this in the leaflet produced by the diocese – in fact, their leaflet is a blatant piece of propaganda. Their leaflet talks about “an ingenious integration,” but to me it is an idiosyncratic intrusion.

The Cathedral

The great mosque/cathedral as viewed from across river.

The Mosque/Cathedral at Cordoba

In spite of it being in the wrong place, the Cathedral has its own merits.

Both the main alter and those of the side chapels are, to my taste at least, over adorned and garish but the carving on the choir stalls is undoubtedly a work of art, if surprisingly dark and gloomy, although the main part is much lighter and brighter than the surrounding mosque has been made by it and by the chapels. The masonry and stone carving is also impressive.

A Place of Pilgrimage and Learning

Under the rule of Abd ar-Rahman III, Córdoba became a place of pilgrimage for Muslims as well as a centre of learning and culture with a University, famous for its library. It was an open society with Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars welcomed.

At this time, Islamic culture, learning and medical knowledge were vastly superior to that of the Christian’s but they were also open to other cultures and ideas. Indeed, the subsequent withdrawal of Islam and the Arab nations and their cultural stagnation over a long period has been blamed on the crusades called for by Pope Urban II.

Visiting Córdoba

I found Córdoba a warm (at times literally) and friendly place to visit. (It’s a good idea to avoid summer if planning a trip as temperatures are not that much lower than Doha’s, often in excess of 40 degrees celsius.)

Although the Mosque is perhaps the main target for visitors, there is much more to see. It is famous for its Festival of Patios in May, when some of the Islamic inspired patios, covered in flowers, are open to the public. Leaflets giving three different routes to follow are available. Many of the “hostales” and hotels have their own patios, some very beautiful. Most of the hostales are modernised, clean and comfortable and quite reasonably priced.

There are also the impressive excavations of the site of Medina Azahara, the largest in Europe and the subject of another article on Islamic Influence in Andalucía.

A Roman bridge marches across the river perched on solid brick columms.

The Roman Road

Before the Muslims arrived Córdoba was Roman and then Visigoth. The pillars of a Roman temple remain, and the site of the Mosque was originally a Visigoth temple. City walls also remain, some Roman, some Muslim, some reconstructed.

The old part of the city is very attractive and there is an interesting “Juderia” showing that that religion was present too before they were driven out or forced to convert by Fernando, Isabel and the Inquisition, the crown seizing all unsold Jewish property.

Many activities and cultural events take place throughout the year and a good jazz cafe (jam sessions on Tuesdays, concerts on Wednesdays and Thursdays). Cordoba is a surprisingly green city and you can walk all the way from the railway station to the Mosque area through a park. The greenness of the surrounding countryside shows that the area has retained or restored much of the fertile agricultural land that first made the area the place of choice for the various civilisations that settled there.

A multitude of eateries add to the attraction of the area. Generally speaking, the further from the Mosque, the cheaper and in some cases better, but there did not seem to be a huge difference in price. Other areas are well worth exploring, though, and just walk around this city is like walking though history.

Part II – Madinat Al-Zahra – The “Shining City”.

Also see Islamic Influence in Andalucia: Part 1

by John Dunworth

Abd ar-Rhaman III surveyed the rich, fertile land of the Guadalquivir valley. He had just left the Great Mosque founded by his ancestor, Abd ar-Rahman I, having given thanks to God for blessing him and his subjects with this land and what they had achieved here. Here, they had founded the Mosque, which he was even now extending further, they had established the University – a seat of great learning – and built beautiful houses and palaces with shady patios against the summer heat.

Even so, he was not satisfied. This is a great city, he thought, and it suited my ancestors well as Emirs of al-Andalus but now I have made myself Caliph of all Islam I need something finer still. As he gazed across the valley, his eyes strayed to the hills opposite. There would be the place, in the foothills, protected from the north by the hills and giving fine views over the river and valley back towards Córdoba, which would give an early warning of any enemy attack.

The sky shines above the remains of the shining city.

Image by FR Antunes

The founding of Madinat al-Zahra.

So it was, in 936, that construction started in the foothills of the Sierra Morena, from which the stone was also extracted. Roads were built to carry the stone from the quarries and to connect the new city to Cordoba. Aquaducts to supply fresh water from springs in the hills and bridges to cross the rivers were constructed. With a recorded 10,000 labourers working on the project, the Caliph and his retinue were able to move there in 946, although construction continued for a further fifteen years until the death of Abd ar-Rahman III.

Madinat al-Zahra was a magnificent city. In addition to the local stone, marble was brought in from Almeria, as well as ivory, ebony and metals, including iron, gold and silver. The best architects were brought from Bagdad and Constantinople. The columns and red and white striped arches echoed the Grand Mosque of Cordoba. There were gardens and fish ponds, areas to hold court and accommodation for guards, court officials and ministers, as well as the Caliph’s palace.

Use was made of the natural slope of the foothills, which was terraced into three levels so that the Alcazar, containing the Royal suite, was built at the highest level, then the areas for holding court and government, at the middle level, the gardens and fish ponds, which can be seen towards the top right of the picture, taken from the upper level. The lowest level held the Mosque. This extensive excavation is one of the most important mediaeval archaeological sites in Europe and one of the largest although only about ten per cent of the total site has so far been uncovered.

The Upper Area – The Alcázar.

Islam in Spain.

Here was the Palace of the Caliph, with the rooms arranged around courtyards. To one side was the guardhouse, from where the soldiers could protect the Caliph and control access to the private rooms. Nearby was the residence of a high ranking official, the “House of Ya’far”. This is relatively well preserved and it can be seen that it was divided into private, service and official areas. To the left of the area shown in the foreground of the picture (the east, geographically) were the servants quarters and kitchen with a preserved oven.

Further east, was the entrance to the Alcázar, a row of arches which gave onto the parade ground. From a balcony, the Caliph could watch his troops parade below or carry out formal ceremonies.

The Central level – the Salón Califal and Gardens.

Throne room

The Salón de Abd ar-Rahman III is one of the most impressive buildings on the site, albeit much restored. This was the Throne Room of the Caliph, and where he would have carried out the affairs of state. The decorations here were lavish to impress the visitors. Only the finest materials were used in its construction and here again were the marble pillars, the characteristic horseshoe shaped arches, the walls covered with stone carved with Islamic designs. (When the other materials were robbed from the site, the thieves obviously had no use for this decoration, for tons of these facing blocks can be find all round the site, as well as in the site Museum.) In the centre of the hall stood a huge bowl of mercury, which, when rocked by a slave, would send reflections flashing around the walls and arches (obviously no H&S officials there then!) This magnificent hall opened up onto the gardens, arranged in the form of a cross. In the centre was another building, described as a pavilion, and around this were the four ponds.

The Lower Level – The Mezquita Aljama.

This was located on the lowest level and was outside the city walls. The Caliph had his own private, covered passageway to access it from within the walls. Its design echoed that of the Great Mosque of Córdoba, complete with red and white striped arches, although unlike its “big sister” it faced Mecca. Sadly, all that remains are the foundations and the lower part of the outer walls, the rest having been stolen to construct other buildings, including the nearby monastery.

Construction on the cheap!

This was the fate of all of Madinat al-Zahra. Its glory was short-lived. The destruction started in 1010 when the berber troops of Sulayman al-Mustain attacked and burnt the city. From then on, it was a ready source of building materials for anyone and everyone and the columns and ashlars were spread far and wide, used in the construction of churches and palaces. This sorry state of affairs was finally put to an end in 1911 when excavation of the site was begun. This still carries on now and there is a vast amount still to do.

Visits to the site

A visit is very much recommended if you are in the area. There are buses to the site from the centre of Córdoba which you book at the tourist information. The visitor centre is excellent and equipped with a cinema and museum. The cinema shows a half hour film in which virtual reality is used to show how the city would have looked. You see the site as it is today and then the walls are extended upwards to show how the building would have looked, even populated with soldiers and other people.

In the excellent museum are some of the better examples of the bas relief decoration and in here is the connection to Doha. A bronze deer is exhibited here – and its twin is in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.

I remembered seeing this in Doha and asked the curator how that had come about. He was very interested to hear I had seen it in Doha but could not tell me how it had come to be there.

Incidentally the visitor centre won the Aga Khan prize for architecture and was opened by the King and Queen of Spain. It is half buried and so does not intrude on the site.

The “Shining City” may not be gleaming any more, but you can still get an idea of how magnificent it once was and some idea of the artistry of the Islamic craftsmen.

The Islamic Museum in Doha

John found a surprising connection with another Islamic building – the Museum Islamic Arts in Qatar. Image by Ammar.


Cordoba attractions map

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