Posts Tagged ‘ 9-11 ’

‘Islam in a Nutshell’ Explained at Episcopal Church

By Mitchell Landsberg for The Los Angeles Times

The Rev. J. Edwin Bacon, rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, had just returned from vacation when he heard about a Florida pastor who was threatening to burn copies of the Koran, Islam’s holy book.

“I was disgusted,” said Bacon, whose Episcopal church is known for its progressive stance on many issues, interfaith relations among them. He said he thought: “Rather than burning Korans, we should be studying them.”

The Koran burning never took place. But from Bacon’s reaction was born “Islam 101,” a speaker series that ended Saturday with a lecture by Dr. Maher Hathout, senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council and a leading voice of Muslims in Southern California.

About 75 people went to the church to hear Hathout give a brief overview of “Islam in a nutshell,” then answer questions from a friendly audience that seemed concerned about both Muslim extremism and American hostility toward Islam.

Hathout told the audience that as the “new kid on the block” among the three Abrahamic faiths, which include Judaism and Christianity, Islam has had two options: “to be accepted by other religions or to fight with them.”

He continued: “We are now discovering … that we can be different without fighting, or it will be a miserable life. And it is a miserable life right now, if you ask me.”

Hathout expressed horror at the discovery of explosives bound from Yemen to the United States, part of a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist plot. He said terrorism violates Islamic theology and could ultimately destroy Islam. By using it “to defend Islam, you sacrifice Islam,” he said.

At the same time, Hathout complained about the use of the term “Muslim terrorist.” No one ever says a “Christian terrorist” bombed an abortion clinic, he said, adding, “They will not give the religious adjective to that person.”

And he said he is angered by people who say that moderate Muslims have been too reluctant to denounce extremism.

“If I shout and you don’t hear me, it means you are deaf,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I didn’t shout.”

All Saints is not alone in reaching out to the Muslim community in an attempt to better understand Islam. In the years since Sept. 11, 2001, numerous churches and synagogues, generally those associated with the progressive or liberal wings of their faiths, have invited Muslim speakers or partnered with Islamic organizations on interfaith events.

During the question-and-answer session, one member of the audience observed that if Hathout were to attend a “Christianity 101” lecture at All Saints, it would be different than a similar lecture at an evangelical church. She wondered if the same were true of Islam. Hathout said there is diversity within Islam, but also boundaries that cannot be crossed.

The question also spoke to another point: To a large degree, Saturday’s event was a meeting of like-minded sensibilities. There probably weren’t any prospective Koran burners in the audience. Hathout wasn’t changing minds so much as informing them.

Bacon acknowledged as much afterward. “I’ve always thought that preaching to the choir is a very important thing,” he said, “because the choir needs to be radicalized. On one level, you want to get the message taught. But on another level, you want them to be equipped and empowered to go out and courageously act.”

Those who attended the three-lecture series, he said, will be better able to explain to others that “most of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world view their religion as a religion of peace, not as a religion of terrorism.”

“This is the real Islam,” he said.

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Mosque Near Ground Zero Divides Sept. 11 Relatives

By Samantha Gross for The Associated Press

Talat Hamdani traveled to Mecca to pray that her missing son, an EMT, was safe in the days after 9/11. She held out hope that his Muslim background had led to his detention as a suspect, considering it better than the alternative.

When part of his body was returned to her — his lower half shattered into 34 pieces — it was final proof he had indeed been killed when Islamic extremists brought down the World Trade Center. As Americans take sides over plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque blocks away, Hamdani says it feels personal.

“Why are we paying the price? Why are we being ostracized? Our loved ones died,” she said at her Lake Grove, N.Y., home. “America was founded on the grounds of religious freedom,” and opposition to the cultural center “is un-American. It’s unethical. And it is wrong.”

The thousands of relatives of the 2,976 victims have no single representative and no unified voice, even as another 9/11 anniversary approaches. The conflict is dividing a group that in many ways has never been united, with some saying the cultural center would reopen old wounds too close to hallowed ground and others saying that opposing it is tantamount to bigotry.
And some, like Vandna Jain, walk a middle ground.

“It is unfair to persecute the group, however, in turn, there should be some respect for the feelings of the people that are forever attached to this site due to their losses,” the New City, N.Y., resident, whose father, Yudh, died in the north tower, wrote in an e-mail. “I think people have a right to be upset about it, just as much as people have a right to build a mosque.” Jim Riches, a former New York Fire Department deputy chief whose son, Jimmy, was killed at the trade center, believes the dispute has nothing to do with religious freedom.

“We’re not telling them not to practice their religion. … It’s about location, location, location,” he said, asking why the mosque couldn’t be built farther away from the land that he still considers a cemetery. “It’s disrespectful. You wouldn’t put a Japanese cultural center at Pearl Harbor.”

Liza Murphy feels differently. Her brother, Charlie, died at ground zero, but she says she doesn’t lay claim to the sprawling, 16-acre site. “It’s a place where a terrible tragedy took place, but I don’t see what makes it sacred,” said the Brooklyn resident. “Nine years later, that now belongs to the public. And my brother and his death are private and belong to me.” Murphy says she has no objection to the planned mosque and wouldn’t want to judge one group of Muslims based on the actions of another.

But Peter Gadiel says he owes no apologies for singling one group out. Since his son, James, was killed at the trade center, Gadiel has argued publicly that all Muslims should share some collective guilt for what happened on 9/11.

“The fact is that Islam does not coexist well with other religions, and you can’t separate that from Islam,” the Kent, Conn., resident said, explaining his stand against the mosque. “If that sounds intolerant on my part, that’s too bad.” The families’ impassioned responses to the prospect of the mosque have influenced the public debate.

Gov. David Paterson has suggested moving the project further away from the trade center site out of respect for opponents’ feelings, while Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out in support of the mosque, calling it a test of the separation of church and state.
President Barack Obama has said he believes Muslims have the right to build the Islamic center as a matter of religious freedom, though he’s also said he won’t take a position on whether they should actually build it.

The imam leading plans for the center on Friday called extremism a security threat in both the West and the Muslim world. Feisal Abdul Rauf made his comments to Associated Press Television News in Bahrain during a Mideast tour funded by the U.S. State Department, but he wouldn’t discuss the uproar over the Islamic center.

Relatives of those slain on Sept. 11 have made their diverging voices heard on a number of issues over the years — from whether to try the suspects in a civilian court to the location of a proposed freedom museum at ground zero that is no longer planned for the site.

Charles Wolf, who lost his wife, Katherine, at the trade center, says emotions among family members are especially raw right now.
“This is anniversary season. It’s really, really hard,” the Manhattanite said. “Passions are up and this is bringing up a lot of hurt in people.”

He says he worries that any decision to respond to public pressure and move the mosque would be used by extremists to paint Americans as intolerant.

“The powers of evil were piloting those airplanes,” he said of the Sept. 11 attackers. Now, with the mosque dispute, “here is where we’re falling into the terrorists’ trap … trying to tear each other apart. Good people fighting other good people — does that sound like evil at work?”

Keith Olbermann – Special Comment, Muslim Community Center

“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
-Martin Niemöller

“This is America damn it! And in America when somebody comes for your neighbor, or his Bible, or his Torah, or his Athiest Manifesto, or his Koran, you and I do what our fathers did and our grandmothers did, and our founders did, you and I SPEAK UP!”
– Keith Olbermann

NYC Mosque Should Be Seen As a Reconciliation Not a Provocation

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

A New York City panel cleared the way Tuesday for an Islamic Center and mosque to be built several blocks from Ground Zero and the tragedy of September 11, 2001. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to deny historic status to a 19th century building near Ground Zero. By doing so, it paves the way for the old building’s demolition and the construction of a 15 story Muslim community center, a mere two blocks from the World Trade Center site. The controversy has brewed for months over the creation of a mosque and an Islamic center so close to the site of the World Trade Centers where nearly 3,000 Americans died in terrorist attacks blamed on Muslim terrorists affiliated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

Opponents of the mosque have argued that the creation of it so close to the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks disrespects the memory of those killed. They also question who is behind the funding and bankrolling of the proposed structure, Cordoba House, which is estimated to cost nearly $100 million. Many prominent members of the Republican Party such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have come out strongly against the building of the mosque and Muslim center so close to the site of the attacks. Gingrich argued that “that the Ground Zero mosque is all about conquest and thus an assertion of Islamist triumphalism which we should not tolerate.”

Seemingly directed at peace seekers such as myself, Sarah Palin posted the following message on her Twitter page “Peace-seeking Muslims, please understand. Ground Zero Mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Please reject it in the interest of healing.”

Some of the relatives of the victims of the 9/11 attacks have come out and said that the mosque and Islamic center would amount to a monument for terrorists as the extremists would see it as a celebration of their destruction of an American monument and lives lost. According to them, the building of the Muslim structure gives an impression that the Islamic extremists won and we Americans lost, not just in terms of lives lost but also in terms of lost and lowered morale.

The proponents of the Cordoba House have advocated the building of the structure especially since they see the center as an organization that promoted tolerance and inter faith dialogue, reflecting the rich diversity of New York City. They say that the “center will be community-driven, serving as a platform for inter-community gatherings and cooperation at all levels, providing a space for all New Yorkers to enjoy.”

Their website further states that the Cordoba House project is “about promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture. Cordoba House will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by Islamic values in their truest form – compassion, generosity, and respect for all.”

In fact the name Cordoba House, takes its name from the medieval Spanish city where Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in peace and harmony under the Moors of Spain for over 800 years. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was right in supporting the construction of the Cordoba House not just on the basis that religious freedom is enshrined in our constitution, but because it was the right thing to do. Denying the building of this structure would have been a blatant admission on the part of the city and indeed the entire country that there is absolutely no difference in the twisted misinterpretation of Islam practiced by the hijackers and the Taliban and the one practiced by the rest of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. As if a mere 19 deranged, misguided, yet determined adolescent men could change the fact that the vast majority of the adherents of Islam are peaceful, hardworking, average people like you and me who want nothing more than to live a good life, raise their kids, and worship their creator.

No, the opponents of the Cordoba House and their hate wagering backers and right wing politicians like Palin and Gingrich want nothing more than to incite people into believing that Islam in general is bad and evil and to suspect anything that goes on in a mosque. Oddly enough, it seems that much like their enemy, the Taliban and Muslim fundamentalists, the right wing politicians in the GOP want nothing more than “Clash of Civilizations” to come about between Islam and the West. Preachers like the Pastor Terry Jones in Gainesville, Florida who is organizing an “Everybody burn a Quran Day” as well as mainstream evangelicals like Pat Robertson also condone this view and treatment of Islam and Muslims.

Little do these so called “leaders” realize that scores of Muslim Americans also perished that day on September 11, 2001. The hate and fear mongers will not want you to know the story of Salman Hamdani, a NYPD police cadet, who was a part time ambulance driver, an incoming medical student, and devout Muslim whose remains were found at the North Tower, with his EMT medical bag beside him, presumably trying his best to help those at the site of the attacks. Or the Muslim waiter at the Windows of the World restaurant, who never got to see his wife give birth to their son two days after the attacks. I wonder if Gingrich, Palin or any of the others could look US Army Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan’s mother in the eye and tell her that although her son died in an American uniform fighting in Iraq under the American flag, his religion and his beliefs system are evil and have no place in American life. The deceased Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient would turn in his grave at Arlington National Cemetery if he knew how his faith was being disrespected and marginalized by politicians and right wing blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, individuals who never served this country or risked their life as had Specialist Khan.

It is heartening to see that good sense prevailed by the New York City panel that had the tough job of deciding on this issue and this heavily watched story. Although there promises to be a further fight and appeal by the opponents of the Islamic center, one hopes that the ruling would stand as denying it would clearly violate the freedom of religion that all faiths should get in America, regardless of the actions of some of their members. After all, one should not punish and ostracize the many for the actions of a few.

-Manzer Munir, founder of Pakistanis for Peace, is a freelance journalist who writes for PakistanisforPeace.com and other online journals.

American Arrested in Pakistan was on Solo Mission to Hunt Bin Laden

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Gary Brooks Faulkner, a 51 year old construction worker from California was arrested by Pakistani police Monday night with a pistol, night vision goggles, and a 40 inch sword and apparently on a mission to kill Osama Bin Laden in revenge for the September 11 attacks on the US.

Faulkner was captured by the Pakistani police in the city of Chitral in the northwestern region of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. According to a senior police officer, Faulkner was carrying religious Christian books and was reportedly on a mission to avenge the victims of the 9-11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

According to Pakistani officials, Faulkner arrived in Pakistan on June 3 and stayed in a local hotel in an area of Pakistan known for its spring festivals and frequented by foreign tourists also. Apparently this was Mr. Faulkner’s sixth trip to Pakistan since 2002. At a press conference in his present state of Colorado, Faulkner’s brother Scott Faulkner, a physician, stated that his brother Gary was “on a mission.”

“He’s not crazy,” Dr. Faulkner said of his brother. “He’s not a psychopath. He’s not a sociopath.” Because of Osama Bin Laden’s security and Gary Faulkner’s kidney condition, Dr Faulkner did not believe he would see his brother again as he dropped him off at the airport prior to his flight to Pakistan this month. “I did not think I was going to see my brother again,” Dr. Faulkner said. “That’s the nature of going to Pakistan and hunting a wanted man who is surrounded by people with automatic weapons.”

Dr Faulkner stated that his brother underwent kidney dialysis three times a week and that if he killed or capture Bin Laden, he would use the reward money to live the rest of his life in Nicaragua helping build houses for the homeless.

According to Pakistani police, Mr Faulkner disappeared from his hotel Sunday night and away from the posted police guards, who are customarily there for the security of foreigners. When he checked out without informing police, officers began looking for him, according to the top police officer in the Chitral region, Mumtaz Ahmad Khan. He was in custody after a 10 hour search in a forest area in a high security zone close to the border with Afghanistan. He surrendered without any resistance and was flown to Peshawar where members of the United States embassy were notified of the arrest of an American.

“We initially laughed when he told us that he wanted to kill Osama bin Laden,” Khan said. But when officers seized the weapons and night-vision equipment, “our suspicion grew.” He said the American was trying to cross into the nearby Afghan region of Nuristan.

Chitral and Nuristan are among several rumored hiding places for bin Laden along the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is currently being questioned by members of Pakistan’s intelligence officials according to reports and is in Peshawar where at present he has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Whether Faulkner was there on a half baked suicidal, Rambo style mission or he truly believed he could be successful in finding and infiltrating Osama’s inner circle in order to capture or kill him remains to be seen. Nonetheless, it is a testament to the American “Can-do” spirit that a patriotic yet perhaps disillusioned and aging construction worker could take it upon himself to go to dangerous areas of Pakistan in order to avenge the victims of September 11. Whether he is simply crazy or foolish, one can not deny his desire to capture one of the most wanted man in history. We can only dream of the possibilities of real capture or death of Bin Laden if the majority of people in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region wanted to capture Osama and the terrorist Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar and others who shelter him.

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