بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِِ
الَّذِينَ يُبَلِّغُونَ رِسَالاَتِ اللهِ وَيَخْشَوْنَهُ وَلاَ يَخْشَوْنَ أَحَدًا إِلاَّ اللهَ وَكَفَى بِاللهِ حَسِيبًا

Jumaat, September 24, 2010

Lessons from the whole Quran episode

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/

The planned burning of Qurans by Terry Jones, pastor of a small Florida church, sparked international condemnation

(CNN) -- When Terry Jones, a Florida pastor, announced his plan to burn Qurans on 9/11 with a tweet and an "International Burn a Koran Day" page on Facebook, he ignited an international conflagration of outrage.

As news spread, worldwide condemnation and anxiety mounted. At least two people died in a demonstration in Afghanistan. It seemed this obscure self-proclaimed pastor in Gainesville, Florida, was determined to carry out an action of catastrophic global consequences.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates even called him. Jones finally changed his mind.

Now that the crisis is over, CNN asked contributors to write their observations of what happened, and what lessons the pastor's threat and the events that followed can teach us.

Bob Steele, director of the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University and the Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at the Poynter Institute.

Journalism is a powerful tool with very sharp edges. Used wisely and skillfully this tool can craft solid, substantive stories that meaningfully inform citizens. When used irresponsibly and incompetently, the journalism tool causes great harm.

Regrettably, the saga of the Rev. Terry Jones and his Quran-burning threat proves that many journalists and news organizations too easily abandon news judgment, professionalism and ethical standards in a zealous quest for a controversial story.

Journalists could not and should not have ignored Jones and his threats, no matter how inane and injurious they were. Journalists have an obligation to shine the light of scrutiny on those who threaten others, and that is what Jones and his disciples were doing. They were preaching intolerance and hate with the potential for real harm. However, the coverage of this small band of publicity seekers was vastly out of proportion to the value of the news story.

The intensity and tone of the reporting seriously skewed its significance. The flawed journalism fueled the fervor of many TV and radio talking heads and online commenters producing much more diatribe than dialogue. The journalistic power tool is a force for good, but only when used wisely and well. That didn't happen in this case.

Akbar Ahmed is professor and Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington and the former high commissioner from Pakistan to the United Kingdom. He is author of "Journey Into America: The Challenge of Islam" (Brookings Press).

While the desire to humiliate or hurt those who are not like us may be played out on a local level, we learned in the case of Pastor Terry Jones how quickly it could be transported onto the global stage, dragging in the entire world in confrontation. Unfortunately, although Jones canceled his plans, we learned that the very idea was so offensive that it will continue to percolate all over the Muslim world. Several people have already lost their lives in demonstrations.

We learned how a great country, founded in some of the noblest ideals of human civilization embodied by its Founding Fathers -- civility and respect for knowledge -- could have its image abroad tarnished by the actions of an individual. And it was confirmed for us that the actions of small groups of people will continue to exacerbate the already complicated and often tense relationship between the United States and the Muslim world.

Finally, we also learned how Jews, Christians and people of other or no faiths all categorically rejected the idea of burning the Quran as disrespectful and even harmful. In that sense, Jones' story had a happy ending, showing that there is such a thing as reason and compassion in the hearts of the high and mighty and the ordinary folk, which trumped hatred and bigotry.

Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy and legal fellow for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington.

Usually in America, when a lone crackpot of any political or religious persuasion threatens to commit a publicity stunt that will needlessly enrage millions of other innocent people, our basic common sense tells us that our national media should not even give that person the time of day.

Sadly, not only did Terry Jones successfully receive media attention, but because of the overexposure of this one man, we are beginning to see other "copycat" Quran burnings around the country.

The consequences of the widespread media coverage of this possible event were so serious that both President Obama and Gen. David Petraeus warned that burning copies of the Quran would endanger the lives and well-being of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. There have already been other copycat Quran burnings at mosques in Tennessee, Michigan and other states.

Sadly, because of our media's overexposure of Jones and his stupid anti-Muslim publicity stunt, we may have only seen the beginning of what might turn into a national trend of Quran burnings around the country.

Brian Fishman is a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation, a think tank focused on innovative ideas across the political spectrum.

The statement from Asaib Ahl al-Haqq, a Shiite militant group in Iraq with ties to Iran, was typical of militant Islamist responses to the would-be Quran-burning in Florida: "The enemy should know that we are serious about this matter and that, God willing, we are capable of setting the Iraqi land on which they stand on fire; turning it to a volcano that never calms and a fire that never dies, regardless of the sacrifice."

Propaganda to be sure, but Asaib Ahl al-Haqq specializes in rocket attacks on American facilities and has the capability to increase violence. Its capability cannot be wished away.

The Florida church's decision to stand down will mitigate the radicalization and violence that might have occurred had it gone forward. But there were serious strategic costs to the U.S. from the entire sordid episode, including a missed opportunity to remind the world, and ourselves, what 9/11 and the response to it is all about. That matters when we have enemies like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Afghanistan, who explain the Quran burning as "part of the American war against Muslims" that "they started ... 60 years ago by occupying Palestine, and then invaded Iraq and Afghanistan."

President Obama, Gen. David Petraeus and others were right to condemn the Quran burning, even if their comments increased domestic media coverage. Jihadis were already capitalizing on the situation, and official silence would be easily manipulated by jihadi groups as support. It was a lose-lose situation.

In a world of global communications, crackpots such as the would-be Quran-burners in Florida can disrupt the U.S. war on terror. In the future, Americans might take some wisdom about the responsibilities that come with the right to free speech from Petraeus' guidance to his troops upon taking command in Afghanistan: "Live our values. Stay true to the values we hold dear. This is what distinguishes us from our enemies. We are engaged in a tough endeavor. ... All of us experience moments of anger, but we must not give in to dark impulses or tolerate unacceptable actions by others."

Ed Rollins, a senior political contributor for CNN, is senior presidential fellow at the Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University. He was White House political director for President Reagan and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

If a tree fell in a forest and hit Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, on the head on September 11, would anyone other than the 50 poor souls who turn to this misguided preacher for spiritual guidance each Sunday care? Would the falling tree make any sound other than thump?

Before the last few weeks, nobody would even know the pastor existed. Then why did his reckless and self-serving threats to burn hundreds of copies of the Quran become a national and international story that, according to Google news, was in more than 12,000 articles? The secretary of state, defense secretary and many other serious people put aside their real work to placate this man's ego.

We were told that his actions would lead to serious threats against the mightiest military in the world and put our soldiers in jeopardy. Have we all lost our minds? Unfortunately, it's the age we live in. Instant communication becomes instant celebrity. We live in a society where "yelling fire in a theater" when there is none won't get you arrested -- but will get you a slot on the morning shows. As never before in our history, instant news stories, regardless of whether they're relevant or not, are just that: "instant news stories."

"Who cares?" and "Does this really matter?" should be the guiding principles of our news organizations. We all know there are consequences when someone irresponsibly uses the media for his message of hate. We will be the poorer if the slogan "All the news that's fit to print," which has appeared on the front page of The New York Times since 1896, is replaced with "Send us anything that's a little sensational to fill our blogs and 24-hour air space." The First Amendment guarantees that we can say anything, but it doesn't guarantee that news organizations need to broadcast or print it.

Farah Akbar is a New York-based writer who has contributed to Gotham Gazette, Islamonline.net, Al-Ahram Weekly and Salon.com.

The world is full of attention-hungry individuals willing to do just about anything for fame. Terry Jones got it, and frankly, he did not even have to do much. A provocative threat from him wrapped the media around his finger for days.

His distasteful plan to burn Qurans on the ninth anniversary of September 11 at an obscure church had the media obsessed about him, as teenyboppers are about Justin Bieber.

Jones, a radical, fringe Christian with less than 50 followers, wound up having a change of heart. His only claim to fame before this was a hateful book he wrote that has only six reviews on Amazon.com, most of which are negative. And besides his title of pastor, what authority or influence does he have when it comes to matters of religion?

But if Jones had followed through on his pledge to burn Islam's holy book, the results could have been disastrous. Many Muslims perceive any insult toward their revered book as an attack on their faith. The Daily Star, an English-language paper in Lebanon, said that if the event were to have taken place, it was "likely to ignite a fire of rage that could consume swaths of the globe." Demonstrations against the burning took place in Pakistan, Gaza, Indonesia and Afghanistan.

His cheap attempt at getting attention trumped important news, such as the devastating floods that have ravaged much of Pakistan. Aren't there individuals on the planet who are actually making a positive difference in the lives of others who would have been more worthy of that attention?

How could this situation, with the potential to have had very damaging effects here and elsewhere been avoided? Simple -- don't let obscure people, whose actions have the potential to incite violence, dominate the news cycle.

Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

In the Quran burning that wasn't, seven lessons can be learned.

1. There are extremists in every religion. Islam has them. Christianity has them. We shouldn't let our perceptions of Christianity be determined by Terry Jones, or our perceptions of Islam by al Qaeda.

2. Don't let the extremists control the story. When Jones canceled his 9/11 Quran burning and then abruptly uncanceled it, you could almost hear a collective groan from the media: How and why did we end up giving this nut so much airtime? The more important question is whether we are going to let the fringe control the religion conversation. We have done that in U.S. politics to a shocking extent. Are we going to let it happen with Islam?

3. We need stories about interfaith cooperation to balance the stories about religious conflict. Yes, conflict sells newspapers and captures eyeballs. And God knows there is plenty of conflict to cover. But the hard work of religion is being done every day by people like Zeenat Rahman of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core, who challenges her readers in the Chicago Tribune to seek out their Muslim neighbors and ask them what they believe.

4. The religious world is flat, too. We can gaze into the inner workings of a microchurch in Gainesville, Florida, not only from New York and Atlanta, Georgia, but also from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Jakarta, Indonesia.

One reason Gen. David Petraeus felt he had to respond to Jones was that the story was gaining traction in the Muslim world. No religion story is merely local any more.

5. Religion matters. Even if you aren't religious you cannot avoid the power of religion, which continues to refuse to be relegated to the private realm either at home or abroad. Religious beliefs and behaviors may or may not move mountains, but they move people. They turn elections in India and in the United States, and they affect economic behavior in Saudi Arabia and China.

6. Religious illiteracy is rampant, not least about Islam. It is easy to wag a finger at Jones for condemning a book he has by his own admission never read, but Americans as a group admit to being almost ignorant about the world's second largest religion. According to a poll released last month by the Pew Research Center, 30 percent of Americans say they know "not very much" about Islam and 25 percent say they know "nothing at all."

Are we going to continue to get our "information" about Muslims and the Quran from Jones, Franklin Graham and Newt Gingrich? Perhaps it is time we started listening to Muslims themselves -- to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Park51 project, Ingrid Mattson of the Islamic Society of North America and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota.

7. We need to have an informed conversation about Islam. After 9/11, that conversation died aborning, collapsing into uninformed platitudes about how Islam was "a religion of peace" or "a religion of war." We need to get beyond the platitudes by informing ourselves about, among other things, the Quran.

Jocelyne Cesari is director of the Islam in the West Program at Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University. She is a political scientist, specializing in contemporary Islamic societies and Islam in Europe and in the United States. For more, see euro-islam.info and islamopediaonline.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Americans hurried to bookstores to buy the Quran, hoping to understand why 19 Muslim extremists carried out the most devastating terrorist attacks against America ever.

Now, on the ninth anniversary of 9/11, some Americans prefer to desecrate Qurans. Terry Jones created an international media frenzy by threatening to burn 200 Qurans, but didn't, while members of the Westboro Baptist Church made good on their threat, but with hardly any media attention at all. Vandals left burned Qurans at mosques in East Lansing, Michigan, and Knoxville, Tennessee.

While resentment has simmered against Muslims in America since 9/11, not since the attacks has the backlash been so intense. There are several reasons. For starters, America's military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, accompanied by the news media images of al Qaeda and Taliban extremists committing suicide attacks and beheading infidels, has planted a monolithic and evil image of Muslims in Americans' heads.

Second, the persistent and increased threat of radical Islamism across the world, coupled with the rise of homegrown terrorism, from would-be subway bomber Zazi Najibullah and Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal Hasan, to the more recent Times Square bombing attempt, among others. This year, fear and feelings of insecurity are growing among many Americans, exacerbated by economic hard times and perceptions of an America in decline.

What hasn't changed is that the Quran is still perceived by many Americans as the motivating force behind Islamic radicalism. It's not a completely unreasonable conclusion, given that extremists cherry-pick verses of the Quran to justify indiscriminate violence. Yet it's a misinformed conclusion. No Scriptures, especially sacred religious texts, stand on their own.

Taking the Quran out of context to turn it into a political weapon against the West is what radicals do. While the media and public often assume that extremist interpretations of the Quran are classical interpretations, they are in fact new, and very far from Islamic tradition and centuries of religious interpretations and contextualization of message.

Repressive regimes and America's military presence in the Middle East, for example, have led to the creation of a political movement like al Qaeda. Taking these factors into account, rather than cherry-picking Quranic texts for evidence of violent tendencies, as radicals do, would be a much more effective way of countering terrorism.

Ruben Navarrette Jr., a regular contributor to CNN.com, is a nationally syndicated columnist and an NPR commentator.

Terry Jones never made good on his boorish threat to burn a copy of the Quran. But the Florida pastor did manage to ignite an international firestorm.

Of course, Jones had help. The same media that helped fan the flames of this controversy because apparently some readers, viewers and listeners were curious about whether the attention-craved preacher would actually carry out his plan, later turned around and accused Jones of creating unrest and inciting violence around the world.

That theory gives Jones more credit than he's due. It's obvious that he was playing us -- the media, politicians, activists, all of us. Whatever it took to get him the most attention at any given time -- make a threat, try to make a deal, cancel a threat, catch a flight to New York, etc. -- he did it.

Sadly, in the end, according to news accounts, at least three copies of the Quran were burned. And at a counterdemonstration in London, anti-American protesters burned the Stars and Stripes and a copy of the U.S. Constitution. So now we know: It doesn't take much to turn mischief into madness.

The opinions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of the authors.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/

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Rabu, September 22, 2010

Egypt books refer to Ottoman rule as “invasion”

Source: Al Arabiya News Channel
CAIRO (Mustafa Suleiman)

New academic year witnesses drastic changes in school books (file)

As part of an initiative to change school curricula and revolutionize textbooks, Egypt’s Ministry of Education crossed out the word “conquest” in reference to the Ottoman presence in Egypt and replaced it with the term “invasion.”

With the start of the new academic year, the Ministry of Education announced the implementation of radical changes to school textbooks in elementary and junior school stages.

"Ghazw" vs. "Fateh"
“We changed much of the curricula and replaced old textbooks with new ones in order to cater to the mentality of modern students in the 21st century,” a ministry official told Al Arabiya.

According to press reports, the ministry sent confidential reports to education departments all over Egypt that contained the changes. The daily independent al-Dostour obtained a copy of these reports.

One of the most striking and controversial changes, the newspaper reported, was calling the Ottoman advancement into Egypt “ghazw,” meaning invasion, instead of “fateh,” meaning conquest, which was used for decades in all school textbooks in reference to Ottoman and Islamic presence in the country and the rest of the region.

Fateh, which literally means “opening” in Arabic, means annexing a territory to the nation that seized it. It is commonly used to denote a benevolent intention to spread justice in this territory and/or save it from an oppressive occupier.

This term has been used in reference to the Islamic presence outside the Arabian Peninsula. It was usually considered to have taken place in order to spread the then new religion (Islam) and gather people under the banner of Ummah (nation).

In contrast, the word “ghazw” in Arabic denotes a military incursion that primarily aims at occupying a country for plundering its wealth and exploiting its people and usually involves violence and extensive military action.

Turkish influence
This change in particular is seen against the backdrop of the growing Turkish influence in the Middle East, said educational expert Gamal Abdul Hadi.

“Egypt is trying to counter Turkey’s expanding role in the region especially that many observers are linking this current role to the Ottoman Empire, considered by historians the last Islamic caliphate,” he told Al Arabiya.

The new textbook, part of the history course, states that Ottomans invaded Egypt because they wanted to expand their influence to the East and Egypt, as the heart of the Muslim world, was their way to do so.

According to the book, Ottomans used religion only as a means of tightening their grip on the Arab world.

“They took advantage of the fact that the medieval mentality was prevalent in the Arab world,” says the textbook. “It is a mentality that basically depended on taking things at face value and on theoretical rather than practical sciences.”

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).

Source: Al Arabiya News Channel

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Rabu, September 15, 2010

If That 'Mosque' ISN'T Built, This Is No Longer America

Source: Al-Manar TV
Michael Moore - Information Clearing House
September 13, 2010

Al-Manar.com.lb is not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero.

I want it built on Ground Zero.

Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.

There's been so much that's been said about this manufactured controversy, I really don't want to waste any time on this day of remembrance talking about it. But I hate bigotry and I hate liars, and so in case you missed any of the truth that's been lost in this, let me point out a few facts:

1. I love the Burlington Coat Factory. I've gotten some great winter coats there at a very reasonable price. Muslims have been holding their daily prayers there since 2009. No one ever complained about that. This is not going to be a "mosque," it's going to be a community center. It will have the same prayer room in it that's already there. But to even have to assure people that "it's not going to be mosque" is so offensive, I now wish they would just build a 111-story mosque there. That would be better than the lame and disgusting way the developer has left Ground Zero an empty hole until recently. The remains of over 1,100 people still haven't been found. That site is a sacred graveyard, and to be building another monument to commerce on it is a sacrilege. Why wasn't the entire site turned into a memorial peace park? People died there, and many of their remains are still strewn about, all these years later.

2. Guess who has helped the Muslims organize their plans for this community center? The JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER of Manhattan! Their rabbi has been advising them since the beginning. It's been a picture-perfect example of the kind of world we all want to live in. Peter Stuyvessant, New York's "founder," tried to expel the first Jews who arrived in Manhattan. Then the Dutch said, no, that's a bit much. So then Stuyvessant said ok, you can stay, but you cannot build a synagogue anywhere in Manhattan. Do your stupid Friday night thing at home. The first Jewish temple was not allowed to be built until 1730. Then there was a revolution, and the founding fathers said this country has to be secular -- no religious nuts or state religions. George Washington (inaugurated around the corner from Ground Zero) wanted to make a statement about this his very first year in office, and wrote this to American Jews:

"The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy -- a policy worthy of imitation. ...

"It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens ...

"May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants -- while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid."

3. The Imam in charge of this project is the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. Read about his past here.

4. Around five dozen Muslims died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Hundreds of members of their families still grieve and suffer. The 19 killers did not care what religion anyone belonged to when they took those lives.

5. I've never read a sadder headline in the New York Times than the one on the front page this past Monday: "American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?" That should make all of us so ashamed that even a single one of our fellow citizens should ever have to worry about if they "belong" here.

6. There is a McDonald's two blocks from Ground Zero. Trust me, McDonald's has killed far more people than the terrorists.

7. During an economic depression or a time of war, fascists are extremely skilled at whipping up fear and hate and getting the working class to blame "the other" for their troubles. Lincoln's enemies told poor Southern whites that he was "a Catholic." FDR's opponents said he was Jewish and called him "Jewsevelt." One in five Americans now believe Obama is a Muslim and 41% of Republicans don't believe he was born here.

8. Blaming a whole group for the actions of just one of that group is anti-American. Timothy McVeigh was Catholic. Should Oklahoma City prohibit the building of a Catholic Church near the site of the former federal building that McVeigh blew up?

9. Let's face it, all religions have their whackos. Catholics have O'Reilly, Gingrich, Hannity and Clarence Thomas (in fact all five conservatives who dominate the Supreme Court are Catholic). Protestants have Pat Robertson and too many to list here. The Mormons have Glenn Beck. Jews have Crazy Eddie. But we don't judge whole religions on just the actions of their whackos. Unless they're Methodists.

10. If I should ever, God forbid, perish in a terrorist incident, and you or some nutty group uses my death as your justification to attack or discriminate against anyone in my name, I will come back and haunt you worse than Linda Blair marrying Freddy Krueger and moving into your bedroom to spawn Chucky. John Lennon was right when he asked us to imagine a world with "nothing to kill or die for and no religion, too." I heard Deepak Chopra this week say that "God gave humans the truth, and the devil came and he said, 'Let's give it a name and call it religion.' "But John Adams said it best when he wrote a sort of letter to the future (which he called "Posterity"): "Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it." I'm guessing ol' John Adams is up there repenting nonstop right now.

Friends, we all have a responsibility NOW to make sure that Muslim community center gets built. Once again, 70% of the country (the same number that initially supported the Iraq War) is on the wrong side and want the "mosque" moved. Enormous pressure has been put on the Imam to stop his project. We have to turn this thing around. Are we going to let the bullies and thugs win another one? Aren't you fed up by now? When would be a good time to take our country back from the haters?

I say right now. Let's each of us make a statement by donating to the building of this community center! It's a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and you can donate a dollar or ten dollars (or more) right now through a secure pay pal account by clicking here. I will personally match the first $10,000 raised (forward your PayPal receipt to webguy@michaelmoore.com). If each one of you reading this blog/email donated just a couple of dollars, that would give the center over $6 million, more than what Donald Trump has offered to buy the Imam out. C'mon everyone, let's pitch in and help those who are being debased for simply wanting to do something good. We could all make a huge statement of love on this solemn day.

I lost a co-worker on 9/11. I write this today in his memory.

"The man who speaks of the enemy / Is the enemy himself." -- Bertolt Brecht


Source: Al-Manar TV

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Isnin, September 06, 2010

Islamic center's struggle echoes that of African-Americans

Source: CNN | In America
By Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Imam Johari Abdul-Malik was the first Muslim chaplain of Howard University and is the director of outreach for the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center. He is part of a group of national leaders providing strategic guidance to Park51 and other organizations building Islamic centers and mosques in America. He shares why the Islamic community center in New York should be built, connecting it to African-Americans' struggle, in this week's "Black Pulpit," a weekly series that explores faith in the black community. Next week: A view from a woman fighting for the first African-American Catholic saint. CNN's "Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special" premieres October 21.

(CNN) -- My job as an imam and outreach director for the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, located minutes from the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, was created September 11, 2001, to convey a more accurate image of the American Muslim community and to create opportunities for interfaith cooperation and understanding distinct from the stereotypical image of Muslims as intolerant and violent religious anti-American extremists.

On the morning of the 9/11 attack, while I was calling my patients from the waiting room at Howard University Hospital, I saw the plumes of smoke in the distance coming from the Pentagon, and on the TV monitor watched the twin towers of the World Trade Center being destroyed.

I had been volunteering as the Muslim chaplain and imam at Howard University at that time, and the media began calling me for interviews.

By 2002, the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center asked me to be their first outreach director. I left my work as a biomedical researcher, working on my doctorate studying sickle cell disease, and took up this work.

Much like the tradition of the black church, I believe I was "called" to this ministry to bring people back together, to try to heal a lot of the pain, fear and anger that persisted.

The work I do in the greater Washington area is similar to what Daisy Khan and Imam Faisul [Feisal Abdul Rauf] want to do with the Cordoba Initiative at Park51, which is being referred to as the "Ground Zero mosque."

I know how important this work is, since I do it every day, reaching out to Christian, Jewish and other faith groups as well as colleges, universities, government and the media in order to find common ground and understanding.

In March of this year, a group protested my leading an opening prayer for the Virginia General Assembly. I called the delegate who was responsible for the official invitation -- Adam Ebbin, who is white, Jewish, male and gay. He said he looked at the work I had been doing for almost a decade, and said "I will stand by you."

That was a teachable moment. Later, members of the House of Delegates said this was one of the most impressive prayers they had heard, and that they were convinced they were hearing from the type of Muslim that we need in America.

The struggle for equal access, for the right to build mosques in America -- not just in lower Manhattan -- is reminiscent of the pain and struggle of black Americans for churches, housing, employment and, actually, public acceptance.

By the letter of the law, blacks had the right to live or work anywhere, but they were often segregated to certain areas and specific jobs. Similarly, American Muslims have the right to worship anywhere, but some Americans say we're not ready yet for mosques being built in certain areas.

Some years ago I preached in the Holy Land to 70,000 Palestinians at the "Jerusalem Festival." I wondered why they invited me. As I saw their communities and felt a reminiscent pain of being a second-class citizen in my country, then I knew why God made me a black American at this time: to share my hope and faith.

I told them the Quran teaches,"O you who believe! Stand out firmly as a witness before God; and let not the enmity and hatred by others allow you to depart from justice. Be just: that is closer to piety; and fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do." [Al Maaidah 5: 8]

I realized then that as an heir through the civil rights and black power movements, and now as a Muslim, I am building a bridge from one faith tradition and civil rights movement to another faith and new civil rights movement -- from the fight for civil rights for black Americans, to the fight to secure the right for American Muslims to overcome and live beyond the "terrorist" stigma in a post-9/11 world, to make a better America for everybody.

The spiritual says, "I come too far from where I started from, nobody told me the road would be easy." Establishing Park51 is another step on the road to equality for all people.

It must succeed for all of us. These Muslims who respect America want to continue to pray, live and work in their community in lower Manhattan. While honoring our fallen citizens, we must continue to uphold the banner of freedom -- not guilt by association.

Although I thrive off the passion of Malcolm X, I engage in struggle with the compassion of Dr. King.

"We shall overcome" once again. America eventually gets it right. That America will once again choose the road toward freedom, justice and equality for all people, and that is the America that I believe in.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Imam Johari Abdul-Malik.

Source: CNN | In America

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