Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Ground Zero Mosque Was Never an Issue | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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On the one occasion I commented on the issue of the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’, I conveyed the general opinion that Muslims [globally] in this instance are not concerned with the issue, since they did ask for it, pay for it, and moreover are not concerned with every issue. Some have written rejecting my opinion, which is their right of course, but the numerous facts in front of us give the same impression. The lack of a unified stance throughout the Islamic world should be seen as response to the current attempt by some to ‘fabricate’ a conflict, claiming that Muslims are angry with the refusal to build a mosque in such a controversial setting.

The Muslims here are burdened, as usual, with the political opinions adopted by some Muslim radicals, and their Jihadist attitudes, declared in the name of each Muslim individual in the U.S. and around the world. This is deception and we must dismiss it. I read an article in which the writer claimed that the Islamic world is brimming with anger because of the attempt to prevent the mosque’s construction, adding that Muslims view what has happened as being directed against them, and subsequently this will have adverse consequences.

In order not to enter into a debate about how to interpret these bold statements, the most important question is also the simplest: Are Muslims indeed in a state of anger because the mosque will not be built near the site of the [September 11th] attacks? My conclusion is no, and there is a great deal of evidence [to support this].

Let us examine various public opinions in our specific region, the Arab world, which although only represents a quarter of the global Muslim population, remains the heart and mind which drives Muslims everywhere, from Indonesia to America. Usually when a crisis occurs it is followed by an immediate and expanding echo that can be heard across the Arab world. We lived through, for example, the Danish cartoon crisis, where popular sentiments reverberated in the mosques, the streets and the media. Did we see a repeat of this with the ground zero mosque crisis in America? The answer is not at all. The issue was only in the minds of a handful of Muslims, and this was not due to ignorance since the media has reported on all details of the issue directly from the base of the crisis in New York City. However, we have not seen a public reaction similar to what has been witnessed in dozens of previous cases that have provoked Muslims. There was not a single demonstration on any Arab street. We did not hear mosque imams addressing the Ground Zero mosque saga, and making it their Friday prayer sermon. Likewise, the issue was not adopted by intellectual or even religious institutions. Nothing was written against it except a handful of articles, and it has not become a contentious issue in various media. This is how we can measure public opinion regarding certain events.

A friend wrote to me explaining the dimensions of the crisis, and its risks to Muslims in America, moreover stating that the negative ramifications of this were on par with the September 11 attacks itself. In the United States the mosque takes several political dimensions, ranging from racial to personal to political opportunism. But for many Muslims, to build a mosque near the same land upon which three thousand people were killed by Muslims is not a necessity. Most comments from readers rejected the idea of building the mosque for fear of it turning into a symbol of hatred against Muslims. They are right, for the mosque, even before its construction, has raised the proportion of hatred towards Muslims from 40 percent to over 70 percent within the U.S, because Americans believe that Muslims want to build a mosque on the bodies of their loved ones and kin, as an act of provocation.

This is both unjust and a misconception, because the owners of the project are representing themselves only, and I think they have good intentions. They are acting on the grounds that the centre will be a hub bringing together Muslims and other Americans, albeit without taking into account the serious nature of [constructing] a mosque at such a particularly sensitive time and place. It’s like a Jewish group to build a temple in Tahrir Square in Cairo today; can you imagine the public reaction in Egypt?