Learning From The “Ground Zero” Mosque Situation

It’s a good day Alhamdu lillah.  Justice prevailed!  The NYC Landmarks Commission decided that the site in lower Manhattan was not worth landmark preservation, and that the masjid can continue with its proposed project.  Insha Allah I am hoping and praying that much good comes out of it – namely that some of the ignorance we’ve seen over the past few months can be alleviated, even if just a tad bit.  The hope is that it will be a source of knowledge and good that will benefit future generations, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

What shook me most about this whole experience was the “hysterical bigotry” as one news source stated (sorry don’t remember which article off the top of my head) and the intense hatred.  It’s scary and hurtful and it makes me realize that these people have made up their minds about Muslims and Islam and any attempt to dissuade them or engage them in thoughtful discourse is lost as background noise.

But there are many others out there, who we should be mindful of – whose hearts we should work to win, not just with words but through our actions.  There are  many who are on the fence.  Many good people who may not know Muslims or have never had a good (or bad) experience with one, but just listen to the media and assume that what is being project might actually be true.  And there are others who are champions of the cause, Muslim and non-Muslim, who believe in justice and human rights, and equality for all.  These are the people we owe our efforts to.

I hate to say it, but Muslims (and I am speaking as one) tend to make it hard for other people to like us.  Not just because of the terrorists out there who give Islam and the vast majority of Muslims a bad name, or because of the way we’re portrayed in the media (which doesn’t help to be quite honest).  But let’s face it – WE are not good examples of what a Muslim should be, on so many levels.  Ultimately, in our efforts to be true Muslims, to serve Allah (swt) we should be working to bring good and justice and beauty and mercy to ALL humanity. Everyone – Muslim and non-Muslim. 

Think of the typical scene at any Jum’aa prayer, nation wide.  Aside from when we’re ACTUALLY praying (and have no choice but to stand in straight lines next to one another), we’re pretty disorganized – and loud.  The area where we make wudu is a mess, each person leaving their mess and assuming someone else will magically clean it up.  You might say, well this only affects us, internally as a community.  I say, no…this stinky attitude gets carried outside the masjid doors as well.  In a city setting at least, after Jum’aa you may have people crowding the sidewalks – loud, loitering, blocking traffic to local businesses, and themselves often not even giving these businesses their own patronage.  Double parking, or all forms of illegal parking really, are a common occurence.  Forget about common courtesy and disrupting decorum, but when you disrupt other people’s livelihood – people can’t get in and out of a store, trucks have no where to park and unload their goods, etc. you become a nuisance, and certainly won’t be winning anyone’s favor.

Many times there is use of a facility with numerous violations, making it potentially hazardous (from a building safety or fire safety standpoint) to those occupying the premises, and no one seems to care.  When called out on it, they take on the form of victims “Oh every time these officials see us they give us more violations,” as if  citing legitimate building , health and fire violations is a form of discrimination.  There are many instances where we are legitimately the victim, but there are also times when we are completely oblivious to our shortcomings as a community.   We’re not winning any points with the city officials here and again, you become a nuisance.  “Those annoying Muslims who don’t fix their violations and keep ignoring the rules.”

The fact of the matter is, a lot of times, the rules, both implicit and explicit, are circumvented.  People act like it doesn’t apply to them.  When you don’t follow the rules, and then get upset when it’s noticed that you don’t follow the rules, you become disliked…a nuisance really, and to a number of people out there, that’s what Muslims are…a nusiance. 

So let’s try to make a good impression, and not bring shame to the people who have worked so  hard to defend us and our rights.  Let’s try to be the kind of Muslims the Prophet (pbuh) would be proud to call His people.  As individuals and as a community, respect the rules of whatever town, city, country you reside.  Uphold the rights of others the same way you’d expect your own right to be upheld.  Right any wrongs that have been made in a timely and polite manner – an apologize when it’s called for.  And be respectful and courteous of others, be they people, or businesses.  It’s all really basic, and it’s all stuff we know.  And there are many Muslims out there who already walk through life this way, but it has to be a community effort, made by all, that both individuals and institutions reflect.  MAYBE then, we’ll win the hearts of our neighbors, and the next time we want to open a Mosque somewhere and come under some sort of scrutiny, we’ll have more supporters than naysayers.

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