Posts Tagged ‘ New York City ’

Boxer Amir Khan and Faryal Makhdoom getting engaged on January 29th, 2012

By Ahmed Babar for News Pakistan

Amir Iqbal Khan is undoubtedly one of the top sports face of the current decade. The lightweight division champ although represents Britain in the ring but his Pakistani ethnicity is the main reason behind his immense popularity in this region.

The former unified WBA and IBF light welterweight champion has finally decided to settle down with his to be fiancee, Faryal Makhdoom. The couple are planning to get engaged on January 29th, 2012 as the boxer revealed that he has spent an amount
of £100,000 on a diamond-studded ring for Faryal.

The 25-year-old who is quite active through his twitter page has also briefed that almost a thousand guests are expected on the wedding. Some of the top names on the guest lists read, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Ricky Hatton and David Haye.

Khan commented on Faryal “A lot of girls back home have said to me, ‘Your girl is beautiful’ — and that’s great because people can be so jealous. But Faryal is so humble. Anybody who meets her is going to fall in love with her. She’s
got no edge; she’s just a terrific person”.

Faryal, 20, on the other hand also holds high traditional values, ” I’m very family oriented even though I was born and raised in New York but my grandparents are in Pakistan – and a lot of my dad’s family are there”, she briefed.

She will be flying to England on Friday for the engagement party and will also spend a week with her husband-to-be and Amir will be more than happy to show her around Bolton.

He quoted, “I’m going to introduce her to a pasty barm, fish and chips – maybe even an ice cream if she’s lucky! I might also try to squeeze in a Bolton match just so that she cans see the venue before the big day – and make sure she likes it”.

Faryal revealed that the relationship went through the toughest phase in the beginning as she found it very hard to understand Amir’s Bolton accent.

She cited, “In the beginning I really couldn’t understand him. I was used to London accents and thought that’s how everyone spoke in Britain. But when Amir opened his mouth it was as if he was speaking a foreign tongue – so I just used to nod, agree with
whatever he was talking about and say, ‘Yeah’. “

She also briefed that Amir used the words like ‘daft’ and ‘innit’ and she had no idea what they meant. The gap between the two broke when Faryal visited Amir’s family in Bolton and spent time with his cousins.

One little difficulty that Khan might face is that Faryal does not like him inside the ring, “I never want to watch him fight live. I just couldn’t because I wouldn’t want to see him get hurt. After his last fight I started crying when I saw him. I just
can’t bear to see him like that and I don’t think I ever will”, she explained.

The couple are planning to settle down in Bolton and Faryal has no problem in leaving New York to spend the rest of her life with the youngest British World Champion ever.

By Ahmed Babar for News Pakistan

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– Marriage is a huge undertaking that requires a lifelong commitment and bond. When the love and understanding between two people is such that they become one, then it is truly one of the most rewarding relationships that a person can have with another human being. We wish Amir and Faryal much happiness in this new journey as a soon to be married couple and joined together as husband and wife in sacred matrimony.

Advertisements

NY Jets, NY Mets and Pakistan

By Dr Sayed Mansoor Hussain for The Daily Times

Just as most Mets and Jets fans never gave up on their teams, it is necessary that Pakistanis must not give up on Pakistan. And if the Jets can win the big one this year and the Mets do it later this year, Pakistan also has a chance

By the time this column is printed, the New York Jets (an American Football team) will either have qualified to play in the ‘Super Bowl’ or else will have been eliminated in the Sunday evening game by the Pittsburgh Steelers. For most of my adult life I have been a fan of the NY Jets and the NY Mets. Of the New York metropolitan area teams, these two probably have the longest history of losing persistently. The Jets have not won a Super Bowl since 1969 and the Mets have won the World Series (of baseball) only twice, in 1969 and then in 1986. The NY Yankees (baseball) and the NY Giants (football team that plays in New Jersey) have a much better winning record and yet I do not consider myself a fan of either one of them.

Why then did a foreigner ‘fresh off the boat’ like me become a fan of two teams with such a dismal record? Probably it is all about timing. I arrived in the US in 1971 and spent my first six years living and working in New York State barely 20 miles away from New York City. And for the next 30 years I lived just across the river from NYC. When I arrived in NY these two teams had just won the championships a couple of years ago and for the Jets, their quarterback Joe Namath (Broadway Joe) was a household name as was the star pitcher for the Mets, Tom Seaver also known as ‘Tom Terrific’.

For many years people like me waited for either of these two teams to hit the big time once again but then got used to the idea that they would not win another championship any time soon. Frankly, seeing your favourite team lose again and again builds character, brings a sense of fortitude and above all teaches patience. The Jets never did come back after their first win but the Mets did have a brief resurgence when they won the World Series in 1986 and for a couple of years were a dominant baseball team. This time around it seems that the Jets have finally got their act together and even if they do not win the ultimate prize, they will have established themselves as ‘contenders’.

Why these thoughts at just this time? Two reasons. First, if the Jets win the big one all the years of waiting will have finally paid off. And only a diehard Jet fan can really and truly understand and empathise with how I feel about this. Second, when I think of my favourite NY teams that keep losing and I keep hoping, praying and waiting for them to win I just cannot help comparing them to my other favourite team and that is Pakistan. And yes I am still waiting for Pakistan to get its act together and win the big one or at least become a contender.

About the baseball Mets, their brief and meteoric rise in the middle 80s was epitomised by two young and brilliant players, Dwight Gooden the pitcher and Darrel Strawberry the long ball hitter. Both of them within a couple of years literally flamed out and with their fall from favour of the gods of baseball, so did their team. Here I must admit that when the Mets won the World Series in 1986, it was indeed a truly ‘shining moment’ for Mets fans like me. And the sixth game of that World Series will always be etched in my memory as one of the great moments in sports history.

When I think of these two teams during those early years of my life in the US, I cannot help but compare Broadway Joe (Namath) with Jinnah. Namath put the NY Jets and the young American Football League on the sports map of the US just as Jinnah put Pakistan on the map of the world. Tom Terrific (Seaver), the star pitcher of the NY Mets, on the other hand was a person of perseverance and little flamboyance who kept the Mets going for a few more years after their win in 1969. Perhaps he could be compared to Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan.

As far as the Mets duo of the 80s, Gooden and Strawberry are concerned, they do make me think of ZAB and his rise and fall, mediated by his own personal failings rather than by adverse circumstances surrounding his brief but brilliant career as a politician. The point is that being a fan of these two NY teams taught me the perseverance to wait for a possible resurgence. This sense of patience combined with hope has allowed me as writer for these pages over the last many years to be much more optimistic about the future of Pakistan than many in the ‘commentariat’.

Just as I have faith in my favourite teams, I have faith in Pakistan. I realise that many ‘observers’ insist that Pakistan has reached the end of its tether or its rope or whatever apocalyptic metaphor one might wish to use, but it still survives and like the players on those teams the people of this country go to work every day and more often than not do the best they can. Yes, they will benefit from better leadership and with a few ‘star’ players that actually act as role models for the rest. And I am not willing to accept the proposition that Pakistan is devoid of such ‘star’ players.

Just as most Mets and Jets fans never gave up on their teams, it is necessary that Pakistanis must not give up on Pakistan. And if the Jets can win the big one this year and the Mets do it later this year, Pakistan also has a chance. What then about the prospects of the Pakistani cricket team? Let’s not get carried away here!

The writer has practised and taught medicine in the US.  He is expressing his own opinions in this article and not connected to this website. He can be reached at smhmbbs70@yahoo.com

Sufi Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Spirituality

By Fahad Faruqui for The Huffington Post

After two bombs recently claimed dozens of innocent lives at the shrine of esteemed Sufi Ali Hajviri, fingers were pointed at the al-Qaeda-linked militants who see Sufism as the work of heretics. The New York Sufi Music Festival was brought to U.S. to showcase the spiritual dimension of Islam and the rich heritage of Pakistan, counteracting a view that Pakistan is predominantly a country known for its terror factories. Sadly, the image of militants waging war is overwhelming and hard to supersede.

Hearing Abida Parveen sing Bulleh Shah’s ecstatic poetry, which enriched the centuries-old Sufi tradition of the Indus valley, made me realize how the Islamists have stripped away spirituality from the religion and left believers with rituals, sketchy interpretations of the divine laws and fear of God’s wrath. Sufi Muslims of the subcontinent, who converted to Islam in the pre-partition era, were drawn to the Sufi path of knowledge that has been hijacked by the al-Qaeda ideology of violence.

The rapturous quality of Sufi poetry continues to fascinate me, but the very idea of loving and seeking God while listening to radical mullahs (like the clerics of Red Mosque) is deeply troubling. Prostration to God devoid of spirituality is no different from doing sit-ups. Surely, the label Sufi is not necessary. What’s important is the sentiment. It helps the cause of clarity to call those on the path “Sufis” rather than “mystics,” which will more likely conjure images of Aladdin on his flying carpet.

Islam is the fastest-growing religion but has too few religious scholars with requisite understanding to link rituals and divine laws to creative spiritual ascension. I reached a level of comfort with my faith through good guidance from prominent Muslim thinkers such as Hamza Yusuf, Faraz Rabbani and Zaid Shakir, who drink deeply of the Quran’s spring of wisdom.

Faith is ineffable; so is our search for God. Ecstatic poetry and Sufi treatises speaking of “annihilation of self” and “Oneness with the Creator” are merely tools to evoke the Sufi sentiment, which is not peculiar to Islam. Teresa of Avila’s “Libro de la Vida,” Bulleh Shah’s ecstatic poetry, Allama Iqbal’s intimate conversation with God in “Shikwa” (complaint) and Mansoor Al-Hallaj’s proclamation “Anal-Haq” (I am the Truth) are all expressions of the acquired wisdom gleaned from deep introspection.

Though unsuccessful, Iqbal tried to revive the true spirit of Islam. He was quick in identifying that the hardline mullah was a hopeless case. But the Sufis were either consumed in “other worldliness” or digressing from the core of Sufism. For Iqbal, a profound religious experience is one that benefits humanity, which is most unlikely if the seeker retreats to constant seclusion.

Saudi Arabia’s government is often accused of demolishing tombs of the companions of the prophet, fearing veneration of graves, and of discouraging Muslims from praying at prominent sites like the Cave of Hira (where Muhammed received his first revelation). Why they discourage is another column, but one thing is certain: visiting graves and sites mentioned in the Quran will not miraculously lead to divine illumination. The essence of Sufism is to dig into the depths of your soul to seek the One. In the shrines of Sufi masters in the subcontinent, one can expect to find numerous vagabonds pretending to be Sufis, who earn a living by giving false hopes to troubled wives, jobless men and childless couples. This defeats the premise of Sufism — absolute reliance on Almighty.

In a phone conversation, a prominent Sufi scholar, William Chittick, said, “The core of Sufism is to strive for nearness to God.” Even though God is absolutely Other, he presupposes a direct relationship with the seeker. No doubt. Allah says in the Quran (50:16): “I am closer to you than your jugular vein.”

It is our egos that have created boundaries between sects within Islam and ensuring rivalries with non-Muslims. Reviving the spiritual dimension of Islam may be the only way to fight intolerant radical elements internally.

Pakistani Peace Builders Turn Cultural Diplomacy to Flood Relief

By Carrie Loewenthal Massey for America.gov

When Pakistani Americans Mahnaz Fancy and Zeyba Rahman launched Pakistani Peace Builders ( PPB ) in May, they did so to bring Pakistani music and heritage to American audiences. An independent cultural diplomacy campaign, PPB aimed to counteract stereotypes and misperceptions of Pakistanis that Fancy and Rahman saw becoming more prominent.

“The only way we know how to make a difference is to show the other face of Pakistan,” she added. “We as Pakistani Americans are very concerned about being misread and misconstrued.”

Exposing Pakistan’s rich cultural roots “is a really important way of explaining that the fundamentalists are a minority,” Fancy said.

In July, New York City delighted in a celebration of one aspect of Pakistani tradition at PPB’s first event, a hugely successful festival of Sufi music. Nearly 25 musicians representing different regions of Pakistan performed a free, outdoor show in Union Square, one of the most popular public spaces in Manhattan.

“It was an unbelievable experience. … People needed some way to feel good about themselves as Pakistani Americans,” Fancy said.

And then the floods came.

PPB immediately added a humanitarian angle to its cultural mission following the devastating floods that struck Pakistan in late July, killing 1,800 people, affecting more than 20 million others and destroying crops across the country. Building on the momentum generated by the Sufi festival, the PPB partnered with ML Social Vision, the venture philanthropy arm of Washington-based ML Resources, to start Relief4Pakistan, a grass-roots effort to mobilize funds for relief in the flood affected areas.

“As we were wrapping up the concert and the floods hit, I just kept getting phone calls from people all over [the United States] saying, ‘What do we do? How do we respond?’” said Fancy. “People had ideas of packing food and sending it. [The pace] was insane in that initial moment.”

To give donors some direction, Relief4Pakistan sends donations to Mercy Corps, a Seattle, Washington-based nongovernment organization. Mercy Corps has an established reputation and experience on the ground in Pakistan, according to Fancy. Some of Mercy Corps’ efforts include providing safe drinking water, setting up water filtration units and distributing food and relief materials.

Using Facebook and personal networks to encourage support and raise money, Relief4Pakistan has raised nearly $150,000 in aid since August.

“We’ve had donors from all over the place. We’ve had friends hosting events and sending the proceeds,” Fancy said.

Celebrity endorsements have helped bring in funds as well. Aasif Mandvi, an Indian-born, British-raised comedian and cast member of the popular U.S. television program The Daily Show, hosted a stand-up comedy night to benefit Relief4Pakistan, and Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir — whose credits include Iron Man ( 2008 ) and Star Trek ( 2009 ) — has also joined the campaign.

Relief4Pakistan’s second phase of flood assistance launches in November with a major reconstruction project. The effort will focus on Bangla Ichha Union Council, a four-village area in the Rojhan subdistrict of the Rajanpur district in southern Punjab. According to Fancy, 95 percent of the 40,000 people living in the villages depend on their own crops for sustenance, and their fields remain ravaged by the floods.

“Our first goal is to plant at least 1,000 acres of wheat by the end of November. We want to raise money to get seeds and fertilizer for some of the most vulnerable people, those that own less than five acres of land,” Fancy said.

To complete the project, Relief4Pakistan is partnering with Operation USA, a Los Angeles–based relief agency that “shares our philosophy that development ought to be done by empowering the local community to learn skills and develop a sustainable strategy to take care of themselves,” explained Fancy. Relief4Pakistan and Operation USA are reaching out to local Pakistani organizations to tap their resources and train the community members in necessary skills.

Relief4Pakistan will raise funds through Facebook again, but has also already engaged a wider circle of American philanthropists, Fancy said. Their goal is to build a sort of global village, a network of people worldwide coming together to help, and Fancy hopes the model of “the power of a global village” will set a precedent for other successful relief efforts.

“We’re really riffing off of [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton’s ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ … Our overarching goal is to appeal to the humanity of the wider donor public,” said Fancy. “It takes effort from Pakistani Americans and Pakistanis in other countries … it’s the responsibility of each member of this global village.”

At the height of its flood relief efforts, PPB has not forgotten its mission of cultural diplomacy. In fact, much fundraising continues to come from film screenings, art exhibitions and comedy performances showcasing the talents of Pakistani artists.

“Part of our cultural mission is using culture to humanize [Pakistan] and at the same time putting it into action through these much needed flood relief efforts,” Fancy said.

PPB plans to hold more cultural events beyond those dedicated to flood relief. The organization would like to hold the Sufi music festival annually, expanding it to include artists from other South Asian countries.

“[We want] to show what Sufism is in other parts of the world. Pakistan is a microcosm of a larger issue, which is the whole Muslim world,” Fancy said. “Muslims in [South Asia] have been remarkably liberal and secular in comparison to what people think they are.”

Through PPB, Fancy, who is 41 years old, will keep working to transform the younger Pakistani-American generation’s misconceptions of the Muslim world.

“I find it so distressing that people of our parents’ generation know much more about Pakistan than our generation,” she said.

And she worries that the knowledge the younger generation has gained from the media has left it grossly misled about Pakistani and Muslim identities.

“This sense of being primitive and tribal is not the true modern history of this part of the world,” Fancy said. “It’s only true of the minority that has taken the loudspeaker and is misbroadcasting lots of things they think are collective traits [of Muslims], but they’re not.”

( This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov )

Obama Calls For Religious Tolerance

By Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau

In a news conference on the eve of Sept. 11, he speaks of his own Christianity, the economy, and asks Americans to remember they’re not at war with Islam, but with terrorists that distort the faith.

President Obama spoke of his own Christianity on Friday while calling on Americans to turn away from religious divisions and join together as “one nation, under God.” It was a rare personal reference from the president, coming in a news conference that sounded more like a homily to the nation before a somber anniversary.

“As somebody who relies heavily on my Christian faith in my job, I understand the passions that religious faith can raise,” Obama said. “But I’m also respectful that people of different faiths can practice their religion, even if they don’t subscribe to the exact same notions that I do, and that they are still good people, and they are my neighbors and they are my friends, and they are fighting alongside us in our battles.”

In his first news conference in several months, Obama talked up his plans for stimulating economic growth and complained about Republican obstruction to his proposals. He said people should remember that there is still a terrorist threat to Americans nine years after Sept. 11, even though U.S. troops overseas are successfully compromising the ability of extremists to carry out new plots.

Capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, is a high priority, he said, though it “doesn’t solve all our problems.”

But as a Florida preacher held out the possibility of a Koran-burning demonstration on Saturday, tying it to plans for the development of a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center attacks, even Obama’s messages about the economy and overseas conflict were interwoven with a larger message about religious tolerance.

If there is an increase in suspicion and resentment of Islam in this country, Obama said, it arises during trying times when the country is feeling a sense of general anxiety. He said he worries that the threat of a Koran burning could endanger American troops and cause others around the country to think it’s a good way to get attention.

The proposed New York City mosque has run up against the “extraordinary sensitivities around 9/11,” he said. “But I go back to what I said earlier: We are not at war against Islam,” Obama said. “We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts.”

Americans, he said, must cling to the shared belief in religious tolerance. “We’ve got millions of Muslim Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country,” he said. “They’re going to school with our kids. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. They’re our co-workers. And when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?”

Obama devoted a substantial portion of his Friday remarks to the economy, beginning with the announcement that he is naming Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee to head his Council of Economic Advisors. Goolsbee is an economist with expertise in tax policy.

The president refused to characterize his proposal to spend money on infrastructure as a “second stimulus” plan, despite one reporter’s prodding and even though he said he has “no problem with people saying the president is trying to stimulate growth and hiring.”

“I would assume that’s what the Republicans think we should do, to stimulate growth and jobs,” Obama said. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky fired off a speedy critique, saying Americans are more interested in lower taxes and reductions in federal spending.

“The president spent a lot of time blaming others and talking about more government spending,” McConnell said. “But Americans want to know that Washington is going to stop the reckless spending and debt, the burdensome red-tape and job-killing taxes.”

But McConnell and others hastened to echo the president’s words about who, exactly, the U.S. is targeting with its war effort. “I agree wholeheartedly with the president that we need to do everything we can to fight Al Qaeda, while being clear who the enemy is,” McConnell said. “This war on terror goes on,” McConnell said. “We are confident in the strength and goodness of our cause and our country.”

Why The Mosque Needs To Be Built At Ground Zero

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

This is already my third article on the NYC Mosque controversy. When I started my Facebook group and website Pakistanis for Peace by the same name nearly two years ago, I did it in response to the tragic and callous terrorist attacks in Mumbai India in 2008 and my desire to see peace in that region and beyond. As a firm believer in God, but not a particularly religious person, I never would have imagined that I would end up making a big part of my focus not just peace between India and Pakistan, but also peace and understanding between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds as well. Heaven knows I have my own questions and issues with certain Muslim laws and practices and I of all people am the least suitable to be one of its defenders. However, I am a strict constitutionalist and as mentioned in my previous articles on this subject, I have advocated the building of the mosque simply on First Amendment religious freedom grounds.

Now here I am in less than one month, I find myself already writing a third article on the mosque controversy. Much has been written already by others on this topic also, but I wanted to give a few more opinions from a rational, moderate and patriotic American Muslim perspective, one which is missing in the current dialogue.

We know that many people who are opposed to the building of the mosque in lower Manhattan simply ask “Why there?” “Why would “they” possibly want to build it there of all places? It is seen as an affront by them that Muslims should want to build an inter-faith mosque, community center and a planned outreach ministry in the heart of Manhattan two city blocks from the site of the World Trade Center and the attacks of September 11, nine year ago. In fact, last night, while watching CNN, I saw Rick Sanchez ask former Governor George Pataki of New York about the Ground Zero Mosque controversy and his views on the subject. “Why there of all places would you build a mosque?” asked Gov. Pataki.  Why there?  As if he had fully bought into a favorite point of right wing groups that “Muslims build mosques at places they conquer” and that this is somehow a celebration of their “victory” over us because of the deaths of so many of our fellow countrymen on 9/11. That statement is wrong on so many levels that normally I would not even waste energy answering a clearly misguided assumption, but I will make an exception to clear the air as that is precisely what this article aims to do.

First of all, the 9/11 attacks were not a result of the actions of mainstream Muslims or the collective billion plus adherents of the religion but instead by members of a terror group known as Al-Qaeda, whose leader, Osama Bin Laden, we were very familiar and friendly with during the Soviet Afghan War of the 1980’s as he had assisted us in stopping the Red Army from conquering Afghanistan at the height of the Cold War between the two superpowers. Also a mosque is a place of worship. It is not a place where bombs are made and terrorists are trained either in ideology or practical training. To equate the building of a mosque to a direct link to terrorism or some other nefarious activity is in itself a deeply offensive argument to any Muslim, if one must speak of insensitivities.

So are we at war with Islam? This really is the only question we must ask ourselves to understand the debate over the mosque controversy. Debra Burlingame, the co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, issued a statement saying that “Building a 15-story mosque at Ground Zero is a deliberately provocative act.” This is simply not true as it is not exclusively just a mosque, but rather a multi layered structure that will house an auditorium, restaurant, gymnasium, library, conference rooms and multi-faith prayer halls devoted to allowing non-Muslim visitors the chance to come explore the center and at the same time take time to meditate and pray according to their own customs.

The center, as its leader Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf pointed out recently, “will establish this community as the place where the moderate Muslim voice condemns terrorism and works for new, peaceful, and harmonious relationships with all New Yorkers and indeed all Americans.” Just the fact that this center will have a restaurant, conference rooms, a library and multi-faith dialogue and prayer rooms, already makes this proposed building the most uniquely American mosque in the world. Nowhere else will one find a mosque so devoted to understanding and bridge building between Islam and other religions and no other place and location will it be more sorely needed in the years to come than in New York City! Too often, many non-Muslims complain about the self segregation practices of Muslims and indeed a characteristic of all minority communities to be in their own bubble and for not having a lot of interaction between other communities or faiths.

Many times my own non-Muslim friends have been curious and inquired on how Muslims pray and what they believe in and what exactly goes on in a typical mosque. But typically a small, regular mosque does not have the sort of access and resources to satisfy this curiosity and neither the infrastructure nor the logistics to handle curious visitors of other faiths. Primarily mosques in this country have been built with Muslims as its sole audience and occupants. This is the first time a mosque and cultural center is being proposed that will eliminate the barriers that many non-Muslims feel when it comes to understanding Islam and Muslims and actually takes into considerations its non-Muslim visitors when planning the structure. For many years to come, many Americans and indeed tourists from around the world will be coming to the proposed complex now under construction at the site of the World Trade Centers that will house the 9/11 Memorial. What better place  will there be than a few blocks away from the 9/11 Memorial where visitors can be told about the Islam of the great boxer Muhammed Ali and hall of fame basketball player Kareem Abdul Jabbar and not that of evil individuals such as Mohammed Atta and Osama Bin Laden? Where else should they be told of the difference between the Islam that is practiced by comedian Dave Chappelle and Oprah’s Dr Mehemt Oz versus the one practiced by the backward barbarian murderers known as the Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan? Where else can they come to know of the type of Islam practiced by patriotic Bronze Star and Purple Heart decorated deceased US soldier Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan or the one practiced by the deranged Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused perpetrator of the Fort Hood Army base who sadly killed 13 fellow soldiers almost 1 year ago?

Now in order to satisfy the opponents and critics of the center, I also believe that all the funding needs to be transparent, there needs to be a multi-faith board of directors, and the Muslim leadership needs to be cognizant that this is indeed a very special place for all Americans and a place of national mourning. This mosque needs to therefore address the attacks of 9/11 and also needs to be a reminder not just to non-Muslims of the tragedy that was 9/11 but more importantly it needs to  serve as a constant reminder to the rest of the Muslim world of the terrible actions some have committed in the name of Islam.

Why build it here of all places you may still ask? Why not here? What other place in America, nay, what other place in the world did Islam take the biggest blow to its reputation and image? It is Ground Zero and lower Manhattan itself where this religion of over a billion people got literally hijacked and its message of peace and tolerance got forever destroyed in the eyes of the world’s non-Muslims by events of 9/11 and the actions of a handful of radical extremists who were terrorists and part of a network known as Al-Qaeda. So, why not build a monument to tolerance and understanding for the very religion that took the biggest hit to its global credibility by events that happened in this area?  I believe that it is not out of any provocation or insensitivities that Muslims want to build a community center near Ground Zero, but rather because this is the one place in the world where truth about the religion needs to be told and the need to showcase the real Islam of the world’s Muslims rather than allow the story of the hatred and violence perpetrated by the terrorists to be the only story one hears when discussing the religion of Islam. This center needs to be a part of the healing process we must go through as a nation and will be a testament for the rest of the Muslim world outside our shores of the grandeur of our nation and for our acceptance of Muslims and for not allowing the stereotyping of a religion of hundreds of millions of people over the actions of 19 evildoers. 

Trust me, the terrorists will triumph if this mosque does not get built.  We must not forget who we’re fighting against, and what we are indeed fighting for. The Taliban, the terrorists and other radical Islamists do not respect religious freedom or tolerance. Their distorted and narrowly interpreted Wahhabi views of Islam leave no room for dissent, debate or disagreements. These terrorists are responsible for more deaths of dissenting and or differing Muslims than of any other religion at their hands. These terrorists are Islam’s biggest enemy and threat and we must remember that this is not a war between us and the Muslim world. It is a war between us and Al-Qaeda. And to prevent moderate, peace seeking, bridge building, and patriotic American Muslims from building a structure that will help ease the pain and misunderstanding of the events of that dark day 9 years ago in September will only play into the hands of those who hate us for our freedoms. To have Muslim Americans potentially lose these very freedoms due to all the pressure, in this land built on freedom and liberty, will only strengthen the hands of the terrorists and bolster their claims that this is truly a war on Islam and that they are second class citizens who do not even have the fundamental rights to worship that is afforded to all Americans. This is a battle for Islam itself, one where the forces of evil are attempting to commandeer the entire religion towards their narrow minded interpretation of the sacred texts. We must hold steadfast to our principles and ideals and support moderate Islam in taking back the religion from the extremists and allowing this mosque to be built will go a long ways in turning the tide of radicalism, and ensuring that we stand for our time tested principles, no matter how unpopular they may be in the current climate.

-Manzer Munir, founder of Pakistanis for Peace, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is a freelance journalist that writes for PakistanisforPeace.com and other publications.

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.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: