Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mosque has no door

Byline by M J Akbar: Mosque has no door

Can there be any rational reason for such subliminal fear of a house without a door? A mosque has no door; it is always open to anyone. Submission is the guiding force of its spirit and simplicity is its objective. There is equality in the lines of prayer. Servant stands beside master to bow, at the same moment, before the Lord. Divisions and pretensions dissipate. The whole world, as the great Indian theologian and mass leader Maulana Abul Kalam Azad used to say, is God’s mosque. Nations may claim to act in the name of God, but God does not need nations. A mosque is neither factory nor fortress: why should it arouse either envy or fear?

The opposition of some sections of the American right, led by politicians like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, to a mosque at the site of the 9/11 tragedy is bewildering, at the very least.

A war memorial is not built to perpetuate war. Its relevance lies in the promise of peace. It honours heroes who have given their lives, but this sacrifice, in the words of a famous testament, is ennobled by the promise that they gave their today so the living might have a better tomorrow. A war memorial is a symbol of conflict resolution, not conflict enhancement. A mosque near the World Trade Center will epitomize the partnership necessary for a common struggle against the horror of terrorism and its evil masterminds, wherever they might live.

Is ignorance a reason for the right-wing campaign against the mosque? I was at the East-West Center in Hawaii a few years ago for a faith-media seminar. On Friday, our very considerate hosts offered Muslim participants a chance to join a local congregation for noon prayers in a small room where the minute local community gathered regularly for namaaz and fraternity. Some non-Muslim colleagues came along because they had never seen a Friday prayer. We are all convivial, but I daresay at least one or two of them were relieved that the Imam had not declared war on the West and we had not unsheathed scimitars as part of ritual.

Ignorance is too generous an alibi for Gingrich and Palin. They have been candidates for the most powerful job in the world. It is foolish to dismiss them as fools.

A mosque at Ground Zero will interfere with their politics, in which the Muslim must be etched as an irredeemable zealot with manic eyes and foaming mouth; the mosque must be distorted into a fountainhead of hatred; and every Muslim be blamed for the sins of the few bigots and terrorists who perpetrated 9/11. A range of political forces has a vested interest in the myth of the mad Muslim as the last evil standing between civilisation and chaos.

The irony is that Palin and Gingrich do not represent the idealism and philosophy of America, a nation that is liberal, open, democratic and secular. Gingrich is a false American; Palin is a falsetto American.

The true American patriot is Michael Rubens Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, who has supported the idea of a mosque. I use his full name deliberately: he is of the Jewish faith, from a family of Russian émigrés. Bloomberg reflects the idealism of America as well as the anguish and wisdom of his own heritage, of a people who have suffered the trauma of bigotry and threat of extinction for two millennia. He knows prejudice when he sees it; he understands the poison it injects into the human psyche; and he is willing to set aside the prospect of political advantage from hysteria in order to stand on the side of justice. Those who gave Barack Obama a Nobel Peace Prize without much reason might want to consider Bloomberg for much better reasons. He has, in the process, also exposed organisations like the Anti Defamation League, who seem to have sold their principles for politics. Fareed Zakaria deserves our respect for returning the honorarium and First Amendment award given by the League.

Bigotry is not the exclusive property of any denomination; Muslims offer their share in the long list of self-appointed leaders who spawn the culture that leads to terrorism from pulpits which desecrate the meaning of a mosque. But it is utterly self-defeating to blame Islam, or the vast majority of peaceful Muslims, for the sins of a few. Terms like “Islamo-fascism”, George Bush’s intellectual contribution to this debate, are meaningless gibberish. Islam is 1,400 years old; fascism entered the dialectic only with Benito Mussolini. So whatever else Islam might be it cannot be fascist. True, there are some Muslims who are fascist, but why blame Islam for the tyranny of despots? No one blames the Roman Catholic Church for Mussolini.

Terrorists conspire. A conspiracy is hatched behind closed doors. A mosque has no door.


murali said...

It is indeed incorrect to stereotype an entire community for the wrong doings of a few but what one should compliment the fact that America which is a victim of Islamist fanatics atleast debates about building a mosque at ground zero.

Can a similar discourse happen in any of the islamic nation.
The media berates france on the veil and critices americas politicos but hardly speak about freedom of minorities in muslim majority countries.

In america , west and india there has been numerous instances of celebrities and normal people converting to a faith of their choice. One can see preachers from all faiths trying to propogate and win fresh harvests. Julia Roberts,Mike Tyson , Cassius Clay, Richard Gere could convert in USA and Dilip Shekar could the same in India with out any societal or governmental boycott(On the contrary they achieved remarkable success in their chosen profession).

Can the same ever happen in a muslim majority country. In malaysia( supposedly a modern muslim country)a muslim woman could not convert to hinduism.

Unless islamic countries get rid of blasphemy, apostacy and laws which only favours and protects islam they will always be accused of double standards.

The onus is on muslims to prove they are secular,the west and india is far ahead in the secular race.

Piyush said...

Dear MJ:

As usual you are right in pointing out US attitude towards a mposque in Manhattan.

However, Saudi Arabia, which usually finances such centers, never permits any non-muslim religion to buiold their place of worship. We, however, never hear much on Saudi bigotry. Should only non-muslim countries practice secularism ? Piyush

Anonymous said...

Mr piush ur totally wrong if ur saying about Saudi Arabia ok it true but u dint know dat there is no any nonmuslim if it w'll be then obviously it w'll happen but in any other country lots of Muslim population if Muslim are living there so where he/she w'll go to Pray just think man . i dont hav time other wise i w'll tell u how ur wrong ? by the way u can connect me or comment me by