Islam And Americans One And Same In Madison


I have been perplexed and aghast at the amount of bile that some are creating over the proposed Islamic cultural center in New York, not far from ground zero.  I have a lack of adjectives to adequately describe those who fear the plan, and spread fear to create hate in the nation.  So I was very pleased to read a column by Chris Rickert in the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal.  The article lets me know that some people still have sanity over this matter.  But then I am lucky enough to live in Madison where there is no patience for the Sarah Palin spin.

 I went to Dawa Friday, the 10th day of the holy month of Ramadan, for its regular weekly service, or Jumah.

Amir Salih Erschen spoke before a packed room of mostly West African congregants for about a half hour. There was a short sermon, or Khutba, some call-and-response, some kneeling and standing and kneeling again, a “passing of the peace” exercise and, of course, a collection.

It wasn’t all that different from the weekly church service I attend. It certainly wasn’t anything like the fiery Muqtada al-Sadr clips cable news was fond of airing.

Afterward, I spoke with a few of those there, including Mustapha Touray, 37, a Gambian immigrant who said he was a U.S. army veteran who had served 16 months in Iraq.

“They should build (the mosque near ground zero). I don’t think there should be a big deal about it,” he said. Americans opposed to it “are not aware of the Islamic religion. … Terrorists are not Muslims.”

Naser Farooqui, 32, who is originally from India, sees the controversy as a political football put into play by Republicans hoping to make hay in the November elections.

“Every religion has bad people,” he said, echoing Hartwig. “Is the whole religion going to be bad? No.”

Earlier in the week, Champeon told me that most of the Muslims at Dawa believe that “one way or another, the government’s not going to let (the mosque) happen,” probably on a technicality, such as a zoning or a tax problem. It won’t come right out and ban it out of bald-faced bigotry, he said.

Considering the polls and the xenophobic posturing by both political parties, that seems like a reasonable conclusion to come to.

Erschen doesn’t see it that way.

He empathizes with those who object to the ground zero-area mosque. Sept. 11, 2001, was “devastating to the American spirit,” he said, and “what’s attached to that is the myth of some negative stereotype of Islam.”

But in the end the mosque will become a reality, he said, because “the law’s already there. They’re not going to throw a law up to stop this thing.”

My goodness – respect for the rule of law and for viewpoints different from one’s own. How American is that?

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