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August 10th, 2010
11:04 AM ET

Opinion: Make New York mosque an interfaith center

Editor's note: Akbar Ahmed is professor and Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington. He is author of "Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam," Brookings Press 2010.

By Akbar Ahmed, Special to CNN

The United States must resolve what I call the Great American Conundrum by clarifying its policy toward Muslims. It cannot treat its Muslim citizens as second-class citizens at home and hope to win them over abroad.

American Muslims complain of their second-class status by pointing out that their religion and houses of worship can be attacked with near impunity. When they do object, they are told that this kind of abuse is a small price to pay for living in a free society. Yet it is blatantly clear that only Islam is being attacked in such a crass fashion. It is virtually unimaginable to hear of any other ethnic or religious group being so targeted without an uproar.

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • Muslim

soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. rtyecript

    I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

    August 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  2. Kristen

    If this community center for Muslims MUST be an "interfaith" center then all the YMCAs and Jewish Community Centers in the city must change too. There is no acceptable reason for Americans to require only one religion to abstain from gathering as a community. That smacks of violating the Constitution. Why should we stop Muslims from getting together to talk, swim and maybe share a meal? As Americans we accept an awful lot in the name of religous freedom: cults that rape little girls as standard practice, polygamy and other practices that directly violate the laws of the US, extortion and welfare fraud. Heaven forbid that a group wants to hang out together.

    August 16, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  3. Erick Kile

    Islam is the out of control crazy side of being a muslim. If they could cut your head off they would. All of you out there that think that being Islamic is so great, well you should just go back to your homeland and join in the festivities by putting on your best bomb-lined coat and enjoy raking in all of the benefits. See how that turns out for you.

    August 15, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  4. Acmed Shams

    We should be wary of overt islamophobia, and be careful to single out extremists, such as the Taliban.
    You absolutely MUST see this:

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9aw6Cnw0hY&w=640&h=360]

    August 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  5. Gary

    Americano thats why all organized religion is worthless.

    August 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  6. Mark from Middle River

    "3. That Sunnis are superior to Shiites in all aspects of life. And Shiites think the same way about Sunnis. "

    And Reality thinks that he or she is superior to people of faith and people of faith believe that we are superior to Reality.

    I really do think you are truthfully getting paid for these cut and paste post Reality. ....yep on and on and on and on.... ๐Ÿ™‚

    August 11, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
    • Americano

      Mark,
      don't worry about Reality he forget, that Catholic think they are better than Evangelist, or protestants or make fun of AMISH and QUAKER....

      Amish women WOULD DRESS FROM HEAD TO TOE in black and dark blue covering evertyhing except their face.
      THEY must walk behind their man and abuse their children by using forced labor in fileds by the age of "7".

      But nobody can talk about it because they are christians...hmmmmmmmmmmmm

      Double standards, hypocrisy and ignorance at its best....

      August 11, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  7. Reality

    Again, the larger issues are the flaws in all religions. Quoting single passages from the hallucination and myth-based koran has no meaning with respect to the major flaws and errors of Islam. Once again, some examples of the Three F's of Islam:

    1. Belief in "pretty/ugly wingie thingies".

    2. Belief that an hall-ucinating, illiterate Arab did actually talk to the "pretty Gabriel" in the hot "Gabe" cave and therein received the warmongering and anti-fe-male words and resultant laws now listed in the koran.

    3. That Sunnis are superior to Shiites in all aspects of life. And Shiites think the same way about Sunnis.

    4. That Islam is perfect and the koran inherently condones no sin even though the 24/7, 800 year-old blood feud between Sunnis and Shiites gives significant credence that greed, h- ate, su-icides, assass-inations, ma-iming, and mu-rder are condoned by the koran. Having multiple wives also gives significant credence to the sins of r–ape, ad–ultery, -l-ust and poly–gamy. The condoned treatment of these wives gives credence that the koran allows the sins of ha-tred, an-ger and gre-ed.

    August 11, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Americano

      REALITY,

      Ignorance can kill you faster than a bullet.

      All of you white trash trailer park ignorant keep bringing the issue of multiple wives, discrimination etc....

      In Islam, you have to show that you can support your wives and kids before the Imam allows second and third etc. marriage.

      But in our society, good example the "Maury Show", white, black christians and jews... keep having babies left and right, some women don't even knows who's the daddy because they slept with dozen of men in the same week.
      Then getting bastards after bastards kids... and they are proud of it and they applaud them...
      what about women abuse, beating, raping etc...
      We are ranked NUMBER ONE... and they are inflicted by white, blacks, jews and christians...

      Discrimination against women it is still a live and kicking at work, church and synagogues. Simple example for simple minded white trash trailer park:
      Banks:
      thousands of banks branch with the majority of workers are women but 99% of managers are MEN???

      Jesus said don't throw stone if your house is made of glassssssssssssss

      but the issue is we are talking about AMERICAN CITIZENS WHO HAVE THE RIGHT TO WORSHIP, LIVE, BUILD WHOMEVER,WHEREVER THEY WANT
      WITHOUT ANY FEAR AND INTIMIDATION.

      IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT... TAKE YOUR WHITE TRASH TRAILER PARK AND GO BACK TO VILLAGE IN EUROPA....

      This is AMERICA THE COUNTRY OF THE PROUD AND THE FREEEEEEEEE
      FOR ALL

      not only white trash, or Jews, or... BUT FOR EVERYONEEEEEEEEEEEEE

      August 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  8. Pepe

    ISLAM IS NOT A RELIGION! IT IS A VERY DANGEROUS, MILITANT AND BARBARIC CULT, WHOSE CORE PRINCIPLES ARE IN DIRECT CONFLICT WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF THE UNITED STATES. MOSQUES ARE MILITARY CENTERS AND SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ANYWHERE.

    August 11, 2010 at 3:30 am |
    • Americano

      PEPE,

      OH You so smart... I mean intelligence is ooooozing of your brain...
      Such inspiration and wisdom SECOND TO NONE...

      Your white trash mama and your hillbilly inbred dad or so PROUD OF YOU.

      Keep watching "KING OF THE HILL" AND Pat Robertson "700 CLUB"

      Amazinnnnnng

      August 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
  9. Renfwaah

    The whole problem with the mosque at ground zero is that Imam who has openly stated he blames Americans for 9-11 and he also has stated in two books he wrote that he wants to implement Sharia (islamic law); which calls for cutting people's hands off, honor killings, and wife beating! THAT IS HATEFUL and VIOLENT ideology!

    August 11, 2010 at 3:27 am |
  10. HonorRestored

    THE MESSAGE:

    GOD LOVES YOU!

    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned."

    There is no reason for honor killings; because your honor has already been restored through Jesus Christ.

    August 11, 2010 at 3:20 am |
  11. SR

    An Open Letter to Professor Ahmed:
    Dear Sir

    I was happy to read the rarest of all headlines about a Muslim advocating an Interfaith Center inlight of what I and fellow Americans know about The Islamic faith which forbids believing in other religions and considers itself the "Only" way to reach God.

    I say "Rare" since as you have already hear from your fellow Muslims on this forum and elsewhere, an Interfaith Center would be unacceptable yp your fellow Muslims. See comments by Messrs. Osama, Toby and Caravansa above.

    Since building an Interfaith Center would be considered Forbidden under a strict interpretation of The Qur'an, i would assume that your article here is a mere Red Herring. Can you please clarify us on this matter by stating your agreement or disagreement to the following basic tenent of an Interfaith Center: "Islam is tolerant of all religions and considers them to be equal and legitimate ways of reaching God".

    You complain of pervasive and persistent hate towards Muslims that is not found against any other religion. Would you please document that statement with evidence? I am sure that hate crimes stats against any minority are available.

    Can you please also read the comment by Tamim above. Especially can you respond to the many claims he made against your article about second class citizenry here and abroad.

    Can you please comment also on the status of Hindus and Christians in Muslm majority countires such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Gulf. I am sure we are all eager to know how Muslims are treating us non-believers in their own lands.

    My challenge to you and other "moderates" in Islam is this and it's simple:

    Before you ask for tolerance and sensitivity from other countries and religions, look into your own religion first. Would you call Islam tolerant of other religions? Would you call your own Muslim majority countries tolerant of other peoples who are not Muslim?

    My request to you is to ponder these ideas first and work tirelessly to rectify them before you rush to judgment on those of us, Americans, who undertand and approve of your right to build a mosque there.

    Thanks
    SR

    August 10, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  12. kafir

    Proud to be an infidel.

    August 10, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
  13. Toby

    I think the idea of an "inter faith" dialogue is just nonsense. Why on earth should those who do not believe in the unjustified claims of other religions pretend that they all have some common agenda? It was religious ideas that brought us 9/11, and for my part, I do not wish to encourage the spread of hateful, bigoted, misogynistic, archaic, and violent ideas of any monotheistic religion. Let them build what they wish, but do not ask taxpayers to subsidize (read: tax exempt status for religious organization, thus I and everyone else PAYS for your center) the perpetuation of a life-destroying myth.

    August 10, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • Stay on Target

      So the nearly two billion Christians and one billion Muslims globally all share the same metaphysical (a patriarchal, homophobic, et al Deity) schematics?

      I don't think you could get away with making the same gross over generalizations about ANY other group in the world.

      August 11, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  14. (B)iraq Hussein Osama

    The idea of an interfaith center is sort of against the whole spirit of Islam. Islam claims to be the ultimate truth about God and religion. As such, all other religions are corrupted or outright falsehoods. Had they not been so, there would be no need for God to send Islam. The whole point of God sending Islam was because His other attempts had ended in failure. And there was an urgent need to have an official monotheistic religion to guide people to the right path.

    To now turn around and promote these very same religions via an interfaith apparatus would be tantamount to Islam acting out of "bad faith". Sort of a hypocrisy, two facedness, which is not encouraged in Islam. There is room for dialogue and debate in Islam, but no room for interfaith style" joint promotion".

    ultimately, muslims are encouraged to be sympathetic and tolerant of other faiths. afterall most people simply inherit their forefathers faiths, most muslims included, and as such they should not be judged too harshly. that being said, that in itself is not an allowance in islam to then help promote their faiths thru an interfaith vehicle.

    August 10, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
    • Caravans

      I agree with (B)iraq. Interfaith makes muslims look two-faced. you are smiling at the christians and jews, while believing their faith to be corrupted and/or false. its good to meet with people of other religions and discuss and work together too on initiatives to make society better. but interfaith is really a false premise. no one likes a two faced person. in the long run, you are more likely to be respected for your straight-talk and open prejudices than for your slimy political correctedness.

      August 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
    • Reality

      Hussein,

      Your heart and soul reeks from the stench of the biggest con job ever pulled on humankind. Islamic tenets are nothing but the fairy tales of an hallucinating, contriving, warmongering, womanizing Arab named Mohammed. And that my friends is the message said learning center to teach. That along with the messages about the other oozing stench-filled con jobs pulled by the likes of Paul et al and the scribes of Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

      August 10, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
    • SR

      Biraq and Caravansa

      You both blew me away with that vile hate about other religions.

      All of us Americans have to read the above comments by Biraq over and over again to understand the level of intolerance embedded in a Muslim's mind. This is sick.

      Yo Liberals: this is your average Muslim mind in action. If you still think Islam is a religion of "peace" and will co-exist with you all, then you are all deluded.

      August 10, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
    • Phillipa

      @SR
      If I were you, I would keep away from that hate-stuff. Reading it over and over is not likely to be healthy for you.
      As for your "vile hate", there is a saying we have around these parts that refers to cooking utensils that can talk, but I won't repeat it here. Tedium, not "te diem" is what I feel when I read your post.

      August 10, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • HonorRestored

      Er, Islam does not allow for religious "tolerance." It is very INTOLERANT.

      August 11, 2010 at 3:23 am |
    • Stay on Target

      Actually, you were much safer being a religious minority under an Islamic Caliphate than you were living under a Christian kingdom for a long time. That only started to change during the Enlightenment, and Islam didn't really militarize until colonialism.

      August 11, 2010 at 11:14 am |
    • Stay on Target

      ...militarize in the way we understand it, and I shouldn't have said Caliphate...it was after the Caliphate that the Muslim world became a relatively safer place, I meant a Muslim kingdom.

      But I recommend you do some reading on the Moorish occupation of Spain compared to how the Christians in the North were ruling their portion, I'm not being a Muslim cheer-leader...but I do think the historical picture is more complex than one billion people are bigoted war-mongers.

      August 11, 2010 at 11:15 am |
  15. yonas

    "Escape From Darkness" by a former Muslim Radical says it all – You build a Mosque and Muslims "own" you; Ignorance is a better part of valor or just plain stupidity.

    August 10, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  16. Tamim

    As a Muslim-American, I have to say the author of this article is a moron.

    You complain that in the West, you are treated as second-class citizens. In our homelands, we won't even be treated as citizens.

    In Saudi Arabia, the flagship nation of the Islamic world, unless you can prove your lineage as a native, you will never be eligible for citizenship. EVEN if you have been living there for several generations. That's just one example among several.

    My message to my fellow Muslim-Americans is this: appreciate what the West is giving you, because they are giving you far more than your own countries have ever given you. I have lived in this country my entire life, and so has my entire family, and we have never... NEVER ... been treated as second-class citizens. Rather, we have been treated with respect, and we have been afforded all the equal citizenship, and equal rights, and even preferred/protected minority status (which a Muslim nation would never offer).

    August 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      Here is some other gifts the West is giving to the Muslim nations, I bet you are not aware of them at all!

      NEW YORK TIMES (July 28, 2007)
      The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq. The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels ....

      Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are likely to receive equipment and weaponry from the arms sales under consideration, officials said. In general, the United States is interested in upgrading the countriesโ€™ air and missile defense systems, improving their navies and making modest improvements in their air forces, administration officials said, though not all the packages would be the same. Along with the announcement of formal talks with Persian Gulf allies on the arms package, Ms. Rice is planning to outline the new agreement to provide military aid to Israel, as well as a similar accord with Egypt.

      The $30.4 billion being promised to Israel is $9.1 billion more than Israel has received over the past decade, an increase of nearly 43 percent.

      August 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  17. Reality

    If the moderators are going to continue "to beat this subject to death" then it is only fitting that we continue to note religions' follies:

    Recognizing the flaws and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "bowers" (like Akbar Ahmed), "kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No clerics, imams, rabbis, professors of religion and priests needed or desired. Ditto for their houses and classes of "worthless worship". It will be called the great "Pink Slipping" of religion and its leaders.

    As per James Somerville, Philosophy professor emeritus from Xavier University, Cincinnati,

    "The faith of the vast majority of believers (and non-believers) depends upon where they were born and when."

    It is very disturbing that such religious violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of it all.

    August 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
    • Stay on Target

      Lol, do you get paid to make that post in every article?

      August 10, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
    • Reality

      Obviously, "Stay on Target" missed the first sentence of said important reiteration.

      August 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
    • Reality

      Apparently, "Stay on Target" missed the first sentence of said important reiteration.

      August 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • Stay on Target

      What? That religions are different?

      ...because they are...

      August 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • TammyB

      It must be reiterated, then, that this is Belief Blog, which implies that it's about different "beliefs" therefore a story about the coming together of "beliefs" is not really that "unbelievable" (LOL), so I can understand the comment that maybe you get paid to just throw the same sentences out there, over and over and over and...oops, I know I could just keep going on and on and on....well, you get my point? You need some new material, perhaps.

      August 10, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • fillmore

      And what's with the "Pink Slipping" thing? ew.

      August 10, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
    • Reality

      pink slip – A notice of termination of employment.

      August 10, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Reality

      Are you cauin' trouble again...? ๐Ÿ™‚

      August 10, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
    • Stay on Target

      If bycausing trouble you mean recycling the same ideas ad infinitum, then yes.

      August 11, 2010 at 11:12 am |
    • Reality

      Again, the larger issues are the flaws, follies and frauds in all religions. For example, quoting single passages from the hallucination and myth-based koran has no meaning with respect to the major flaws and errors of Islam. Once again, just some of the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam:

      1. Belief in "pretty/ugly wingie thingies".

      2. Belief that an hallucinating, illiterate Arab did actually talk to the "pretty Gabriel" in the hot "Gabe" cave and therein received the warmongering and anti-female words and resultant laws now listed in the koran.

      3. That Sunnis are superior to Shiites in all aspects of life. And Shiites think the same way about Sunnis.

      4. That Islam is perfect and the koran inherently condones no sin even though the 24/7, 800 year-old blood feud between Sunnis and Shiites gives significant credence that greed, hate, suicides, assassinations, maiming, and murder are condoned by the koran. Having multiple wives also gives significant credence to the sins of rape, adultery, lust and polygamy. The condoned treatment of these wives gives credence that the koran allows the sins of hatred, anger and greed.

      August 11, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
    • Reality

      Stay on Target,

      Reiteration of the truth is essential especially after 1400 years of continuous Islamic lies, 2000 years of Christian mumbo jumbo and 6000 years of continuous Jewish myths.

      August 12, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  18. Bob

    There is no "conundrum". Islam in the United States is protected under the first amendment. No different then Christianity, Hinduism or any other religious belief.

    The problem lies with people who feel that Islam as a whole is responsible for the attacks during 9/11. What's worse is these same people feel justified in denying innocent people their rights simply because they feel a certain way.

    The Mosque should go up near the ruins of the twin towers to show people that America values the rights laid out in the constitution, even when it's not comfortable to do so.

    August 10, 2010 at 11:19 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.