All the attention that the proposed Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan has received has also drawn the interest of the Muslim community. Many of which feel that their religion is being attacked as well as them as a whole. Hence, the frustrations have caused many to hold a summit over the matter. Many Muslims who in the beginning were indifferent on the subject are now beginning to embrace the proposed center. That change in feeling can be linked to their faith and the need to unite against those who are attacking it.
Thus, yesterday and today U.S. Muslim organizations are gathering for a summit in New York City to address an apparent rising of anti-Muslim sentiment and rhetoric in the New York City area as well as nationwide; miles away from this local issue. Additionally, the group of Muslims will debate the proposed Islamic Center. Between discussing both topics, the Muslim organizations hope to emerge from the summit with ideas and stances to fight against religious hatred directed towards their faith.
One representative in attendance, Shaik Ubaid of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, can sense a growing sense support for the plan after initial worries about speaking about the matter. As Ubaid says, “Once it became a rallying cry for extremists, we had no choice but to stand with Feisal (Abdul) Rauf.” Rauf, of course, is the imam behind the driving force of this building.
Besides Ubaid’s Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York; the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Alliance of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations are also supposed to be in New York City.
There has been some mixed feelings from the Muslim community on this Islamic Center and thus making it rare to see a unified voice that most likely will emerge from this summit; at least.
This summit might have been brought on by the recent actions of Pastor Terry Jones, who had planned to burn copies of Quran on September 11th. Luckily, he had a change of heart, but his convictions and thoughts on Islam is pretty clear and many Muslims were certainly watching and following his actions and words. Pastor Jones was not entirely speaking out against the Islamic Center, but the Muslim faith. Those actions have been monitored by individuals like Shahed Amanullah. The editor-in-chief of the website altmuslim.com, who senses that “most Muslims outside New York City are more concerned about the backlash than the actual center, which most of them will never directly benefit from.” Thus, one can see that this summit is much bigger than just another Islamic center.
Amanullah can see a growing “grass-roots support” building as the environment against Muslims becomes heated and hostile.
The critics have voiced opposition largely on its location despite those building this complex are not extremists like the individuals who brought down the World Trade Center. Rauf has discussed having the center being open to multi-faiths while Sharif El-Gamal, another major individual behind the building’s construction, has promoted all the other features of the center besides just the mosque.
Julie Menin, the chairwoman of the Manhattan community board who endorsed the Islamic center, thinks that the center should explore an interfaith option and will reach out to Rauf to discuss that matter. Menin is not alone as other supporters of the center want to see it viewed positively and having multiple faiths using the center; there could be less criticism. If critics see this building as more than a shrine of Islam or not even that, they will have to redirect their feelings towards it if they truly do not have a problem with the Muslim faith. She also referenced the interfaith chapel in the Pentagon that has not drawn criticism and is located directly on the site of one of the terrorist attacks of September 11th.
Ubaid thinks that Rauf did not do enough to speak to Muslims about the center. If he would have “round[ed] up support for the center before going public with his plans”, there might have been a different approach by Rauf. Muslims, according to Ubaid, might have very well told Rauf to rethink the whole planning to prevent Muslim backlash. However, that did not happen and put many Muslims and various Muslim groups in a tricky place; where they were tentative to completely embrace the proposed center.
Initially, perspectives were fairly limited, but the more national attention this issue received; the more supporters and opponents began to voice their opinions. It is a divisive issue and despite some apprehension to the building of the center; when they feel like their faith is under attack; Muslims now have a common point to agree upon. The Islamic Center was meant to promote Islam as a faith that is far different from what extremist terrorists project the faith to be. However, either general dislike for the location of the center, dislike for the imam and others, or dislike for the religion and faith of Islam; those views and opinions seemed to have reached a boiling point for these Muslim groups causing a summit to be held. What these groups take away from the summit could shape the discussion moving forward.