Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Imam, the Pastor and the Prisoner | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It’s shameful that an inmate in Egypt’s Tora prison was only one of a few to have issued a statement condemning the construction of the ‘Ground Zero’ mosque, whilst others, who have been released from prison, have contented themselves with observing the damage caused to Islam, at the hands of Muslims in New York. Dr. Fadl, the founder and leader of the Egyptian Jihad group, courageously stated that he was against the construction of a mosque in that particular location, for it would be a target for civil unrest, would hurt the feelings of the 3000 victims’ families, and would stir up hatred against Muslims. The statement of the imprisoned Jihadist leader will neither increase his popularity, nor will it lessen his prison sentence, for the mosque is an issue far away from his Arab or Egyptian surroundings. However, Dr. Fadl issued the statement because he is aware of the nature of terrorists – his ex-fellows – who aim to ignite a riot, and hence carry out their attacks and target civilians in the name of Islam.

As for other leaders, religious and intellectual institutions, and various Muslim elites, they all preferred to remain silent. This allowed advocates of the Ground Zero mosque project to fabricate lies, and claim that Muslims worldwide would be furious if the mosque was built elsewhere, which is certainly not true.

We are now faced with an embarrassing scene. After the American pastor provoked Muslims sentiments by vowing to burn copies of the Holy Quran, the elites of American society, and the country’s most prominent symbols, namely President Barack Obama, the Secretary of State, senior jurists, authors, media representatives, economists and clergymen all stood up against him. They condemned and denounced his actions, and called upon the pastor to reconsider his stance, in a manner that clearly defended the feelings of Muslims. This is despite the fact that the fundamentals of U.S. law allow an individual to express himself in any manner in which he chooses, including burning or tearing flags, or religious books. Indeed, [in condemning the pastor] the American elite took a moral regard for the feelings of Muslims.

But when the Imam Feisal Abdul-Raouf insisted on his project to build the mosque in question in the vicinity of the location of the destruction that still represents a shrine for the 11 September massacre perpetrated by people in the name of Islam, only a minority of Muslims objected and voiced opposition to the project in consideration for the feelings of the Americans. There should be one ethical position concerning both the humiliation of Muslims by burning copies of their holy book and the humiliation of the Americans with the construction of a mosque near the site of the crime committed by Muslims against others.

Many of those objecting to the construction of the mosque said that they were against the location only. They said that Muslims had the right to build their mosques and worship as they wish, but this must not clash with the majority of residents.

The mosque Imam, who unfortunately was not short of rhetoric, went too far in his position, and insisted on his project to the extent that the pastor began to seem almost credible, when he retracted his intention to burn copies of the Quran. Unfortunately, it seems the pastor became more benevolent than the Imam! Moreover, the Imam claimed in the US media that moving the mosque location would further ignite extremism in the Islamic world and would put the lives of the American people at risk. The claim is not true, as the mosque was never an issue [for Muslims] at all, as I highlighted in one of my previous articles. Whether the mosque was built in Manhattan, Brooklyn or elsewhere in New York, Muslims would not be irritated, rather they would be pleased. The funny thing is that the Imam said that his project – which would cost 100 million US dollars and has already caused great unrest in the U.S. – aims to enhance understanding and dialogue between Muslims and other faiths. Is this a joke?