At the Met, a New Vision for Islam in Hostile Times: A Cosmopolitan Trove of Exotic Beauty

Over the past decade, many Americans have based their thoughts and feelings about Islam in large part on a single place: the blasted patch of ground where the World Trade Center once stood. But a rival space has slowly and silently taken shape over those same years, about six miles to the north. It is a vast, palacelike suite of rooms on the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where some of the world’s most precious Islamic artifacts sit sequestered behind locked doors.

When the Met’s Islamic galleries first opened in 1975, they were presented as a cultural monolith, where nations and cultures were subsumed under one broad banner, as if Islam were another planet. Haidar and her colleagues have tried to emphasize the diversity of Islamic cultures across time and space. One result of that altered emphasis was the gallery’s new name. The “Islamic Wing” is gone, replaced by the “Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia.” It is a mouthful, but it makes a point.

Islamic center near ground zero opens its doors; developer acknowledges ‘incredible mistakes’

A year after controversy engulfed plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan, the project’s developers are quietly moving ahead: In recent months they have hired a paid staff, started fund-raising drives and continued holding prayers and cultural events in their existing building two blocks from ground zero.

The developer of an Islamic cultural center that opened Wednesday evening near the site of the terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center says the biggest error on the project was not involving the families of 9/11 victims from the start.

El-Gamal said the overall center is modeled after the Jewish Community Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where he lives. The center is open to all faiths and will include a 9/11 memorial, El-Gamal said. He called opposition to the center — which prompted one of the most virulent national discussions about Islam and freedom of speech and religion since Sept. 11 — part of a “campaign against Muslims.”

Last year, street clashes in view of the trade center site pitted supporters against opponents of the center.

El-Gamal told the AP that fundraising is under way to complete a 15-story building that will also include an auditorium, educational programs, a pool, a restaurant and culinary school, child care services, a sports facility, a wellness center and artist studios. The mosque is especially needed in lower Manhattan, he said, because thousands of Muslims either work or live in the neighborhood, “and in our religion, we must pray five times a day.”

At the opening, an ebullient El-Gamal told reporters the project had been framed by others throughout the debate over its existence.

“Today, for the first time, everyone gets a little bit of a glimpse into the future of what Park51 is going to offer New York,” he said.

Program examines Japanese and Muslim wartime experiences

The Bridging Communities program was created three years ago by the Los Angeles chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League out of concern that Muslims were struggling with some of the same burdens Japanese faced in the years after the Pearl Harbor bombing.

While organizers acknowledge the Japanese experience during WWII – when more than 100,000 were forced into camps – was much more intense than what Muslims have faced in a post-9/11 world, they say there are similarities in the fear and suspicion aimed at a specific group during wartime.

“Following 9/11, all three (organizing) groups noticed a parallel between how Japanese Americans were treated after World War II and how American Muslims were treated after 9/11,” said Alex Margolin, a program associate with the Japanese American Citizens League in LA.

After angry protesters hurled insults at Muslim families attending an Orange County charity event in March, the Japanese American Citizens League and Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, among others groups, showed up at city council meetings and press conferences to condemn the incident. (Note: The linked YouTube video was edited by the Council on American Islamic Relations. Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly, who appears in the clip, has said her comments at an earlier protest were taken out of context and she was not at the evening rally in which protesters yelled slurs outside the charity event.)

The Japanese American Citizens League was also among the first to issue a statement warning against intolerance toward Muslims immediately after the World Trade Center attacks, said Patty Wada, the league’s regional director.

 

Justice Stevens voices support for NYC mosque

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said Thursday that Americans should be tolerant of plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the World Trade Center in New York. The 90-year-old Stevens said it is wrong to lump all Muslims with the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks that killed 3,000 people. “Guilt by association is unfair,” he told the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation in Washington.

Stevens, a World War II veteran, compared the criticism of the mosque to the emotion he said he initially felt when he saw Japanese tourists at Pearl Harbor. Among the thoughts that he said flashed through his mind during a 1994 visit to the memorial to the Japanese attack that brought the U.S. into World War II was, “These people don’t really belong here.”

He said many New Yorkers might have had a similar reaction to news about the mosque in lower Manhattan. But Stevens said he realized he was drawing conclusions about a group of people that did not necessarily fit any one of the tourists he saw at Pearl Harbor.

French police arrest man over Qur’an-burning video

News Agencies – October 3, 2010

French police have questioned a man over an online video which features someone burning a page of the Qur’an and urinating on its ashes, a French judicial officer says. The video which has since been removed from YouTube and Dailymotion shows a man tearing off a page of the Qur’an, making a paper plane and throwing it onto two glasses representing the World Trade Center. The man then burns the page and urinates onto its ashes. He shows his face to the camera at the beginning of the video, gives his name and says he lives in Bishheim, on the outskirts of Strasbourg.
The Muslim community in Strasbourg has been deeply angered by the online video. An official at the Strasbourg Mosque Abdeaziz Choukri says he discovered the video and called the authorities after discussing the footage with its alleged author.

Poll Suggests Canadians Don’t Share Values With Muslims

The National Post – September 9, 2010
Nine years after the devastating 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, a majority of Canadians don’t believe Muslims share their values, according to a new public opinion poll released exclusively to Postmedia. The poll, conducted earlier this week by Leger Marketing in Canada and Caravan in the United States, found that 55% of Canadian respondents and 50.3% of Americans disagreed when asked whether “Muslims share our values.”
However, the poll reveals there are also significant regional differences in the way Muslims are viewed in Canada. While 72% of Quebecers said Muslims didn’t share their values, compared to 19% who said they do, that rate dropped to 35.5% in British Columbia where 40.8% saw shared values with Muslims. Ontario and Alberta were closer to the national average. In Ontario, 54.5% said Muslims don’t share their values, compared to 34.9% who said they do, while in Alberta 57.9% of Albertans said values weren’t shared, compared to 32.4% who said they were. Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, which commissioned the poll along with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, said the opinion Canadians have of Muslims has been deteriorating over the past few years. Ayman Al Yassini, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, agreed the situation is getting worse and suggested Canada’s Muslim community reach out more to other Canadians. Jedwab said controversies and media reports in Quebec over the past few years on questions such as the reasonable accommodation of ethnic minorities or Muslim women wearing the niqab face veil likely contributed to the attitudes among Quebecers and francophones.
The surveys were conducted via the web during the week of Sept. 6 with 1,700 respondents in Canada and 1,000 in the U.S. The Canadian survey is considered accurate to within 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, while the American survey is considered accurate to within 3.5 percentage points.

Quran Burning Advocate, Geert Wilders, Europe’s Anti-Islamist Heads to Ground Zero

On September 11, Geert Wilders, the contentious Dutch politician who likened the Koran to Mein Kampf, spoke in New York on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. He delivered a message, forewarning about the dangers of Islam and the building of a “ground-zero mega-mosque.”

Under the threat of death from radical Islamists, Geert, stated; “We who have come to speak today, object to this mosque project because its promoter and his wealthy sponsors have never suggested building a center to promote tolerance and interfaith understanding where it is really needed: In Mecca – a town where non-Muslims are not even allowed to enter, let alone build churches, synagogues, temples or community centers. So why should we do that?”

Islamic Center Near Ground Zero Sparks Anger

By MARGOT ADLER

A proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from the site of the destroyed World Trade Center has become a flash point of controversy. The Islamic center is supported by most politicians in Manhattan and by religious leaders of many faiths. It is opposed by some Sept. 11 families, by conservative politicians, bloggers and Tea Party activists. In the last weeks, meetings have been raucous, tensions growing and emotions raw.

9/11 trial is met with protest in Manhattan

The trial of self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) is being protested by NYC residents, some of whom are family and friends of 9/11 victims.

Demonstrators held signs that read “no constitutional rights for enemy combatants”. Some booed the names of Attorney General Eric Holden and President Obama.

The trial has divided the families of victims. Some say the trial is an opportunity to face the perpetrators of 9/11, while others fear the former site of the World Trade Center will become a jihadist recruitment center and that KSM should be treated like a war criminal in a military tribunal.

Muslims to Hold Interfaith 9/11 Vigil Outside White House

On September 11, 2009, the American Muslim Voice Foundation, along with interfaith groups and community organizations, will host a “Light the Night for Peace and Friendship” candle-light vigil and Ramadan fast-breaking meal (iftar) outside the White House in memory of the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.

A press conference announcing the vigil and iftar will be held 11 a.m. September 10 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.

Speakers: Rev. Dr. David Ensign, pastor, Clarendon Presbyterian Church, Arlington, Va., and Christian Peace Witness, Medea Benjamin, Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Co-Founder of Code Pink, Rabbi David Shneyer. Bill Galvin, National Committee of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. (His children lost their uncle on Sept. 11-He worked in the World Trade Center.) Samina Sundas, Founding Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice

More information available here.