Stifling Tolerance: Protests Against Mosque Projects

Time and again, movies, bestsellers and articles about the holocaust have lead me to contemplate about the national and economic situation in Germany, during the 1930s, that had favored Adolf Hitler and his party to take over the reigns of nations at the time. An ingrained frustration against the Jewish intellectuals, traders, businessmen and other professionals, combined with the fanaticism against the race, were borne by most Germans at the moment. It was a virtual pile of gunpowder that just needed the burning wick to explode.

Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers party (the Nazi Party) was the burning wick, whose explosion resulted in the holocaust. However, things did not end there. To the bewilderment of most Germans and the glee of others, who adhered to the Aryan race’s supremacy over everything else, the power hungry regime went on to wage a vicious war with the rest of the world. Despite gaining some allies, Hitler was finally defeated. However, the folly of the Germans resulted in the loss of millions of lives over these 15 years or so.

While almost everybody does not want such an incident to occur anywhere on the face of the planet again, it could very well happen in the USA, where the Tea party movement can pave the way for similar racial segregation and backlash to occur. Although initiated with the noble motive to protest against illogical government moves, the causes of the movement seems to have been hijacked by the top leaders of the varying wings while being fueled and, thus supported, by the underlying public phobia against Muslims.

A New York Times report, published on August 7, reflects the current situation of mosque projects across the USA. The projects are currently facing opposition from the various associations and the general public as they are being deemed as “places where war is started, where commandments to do jihad start, where incitements against non-Muslims occur and a place where ammunition was stored.”

The volatile sentiments and comments can be traced back to earlier comments from former Tea Party Express chairman and journalist, Mark Williams, Republicans Sarah Palin, Rick Lazio and Newt Gingrich, organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and others regarding Islam and the Cordoba Center’s establishment near Ground Zero.

Although the Cordoba Centre and the Park51 complex crossed its final obstacle on August 3 of this year, through the support of NYC authorities and most of the general public, who considered the complex a symbol of tolerance, the initial campaign against the proposed establishment initiated uproars against all such mosque projects in other parts of the US.

While barring the set up of such establishments is in total violation of the first amendment of the US constitution, what really needs to be considered is that the individual protests are standing on the mass unawareness and, therefore, public phobia against Muslims, which are being aggravated by organizations like Arabs for Israel, Former Muslims United and tea party activists.

However, members of the general public need to realize that if Islam was based on the “violence” that Williams, Palin, Lazio and these groups are talking about, then it would not have even persisted over the last 1500 years and would not have crossed as many borders.

Rather than taking somebody else’s word for it, its better to research individually and find out what the Quran and the Hadith (sayings of the prophet Muhammad), the basis of Islamic practices, has to say about everyday life, issues including Jihad, behavior toward non-Muslims and so on.

Jihad does not necessarily mean a war against non-Muslims. It is a war against evil, even the particular Muslim’s inner and base desires. The greater Jihad is always against oppression and injustice in society. Under such circumstances, a Muslim is bound to get into a Jihad when he witnesses or sees that a non-Muslim is being tortured or being ill-treated right before his/her very eyes by other Muslims even.

If you look through history, even a few hundred years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the Arabs lived peacefully in communities along with Jews, Christians, and Hindus. Prior to the Crusades, science, philosophy and mathematics flourished in the region due to the harmony between these faiths.

Unfortunately, the term ‘Jihad’ has been labeled on Muslim causes in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, Afghanistan and other parts simply because the populations, in these regions, feel that they are being oppressed and need to stand against it. Interestingly, these populaces, stricken by war, poverty, despair and helplessness, do not do their research, owing to the lack of literacy and education. They trust the words of fanatic priests and end up becoming members of extremist groups like Al Qaeda and others.

It’s quite interesting that the extremist leaders and fanatic priests are placing forward the same singular verse, from the Quran, to mislead these youths, that is being used by organizations in the West to amass their strength against the religion. However, the verse should be read along with the verses before and after it, in order to realize the context it was addressing.

Also, the extremist Muslims are mundane to the Hadith that says that killing an innocent man/woman is like killing the entire mankind. This basically implies the stance against arbitrary killing in Islam. Also, there are numerous Hadiths that say that people who commit suicide will go directly to hell, thus restricting Muslims and non-Muslims from committing suicides despite the hardship and struggle. However, suicide bombings occur every week in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world.

Such acts signify the lack of proper knowledge about Islam, even among Muslims, which can be propagated through responsible and scholarly Imams (one who leads the prayers in the mosques). In Islam, mosques are not only just places of worship, but also the centers from where knowledge is spread and community work is initiated.

However, movements against such mosque projects will just create tensions and isolate Muslims. Such situations will make the minds of the Muslim youth more susceptible to the points raised by extremist religious scholars, gradually influencing them to the wrong cause.

Despite the protests and irresponsible and, somewhat racist, comments against the religion, there is a light of hope that the situation is still not too bad, as many non-Muslims and most of the American media have been speaking out against the campaign. The activities and concerns from these Americans still portray the fact that religious tolerance still stands a fighting chance in the USA.