Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Islamic Center in New York:
A Contrived Controversy
By Mirza A. Beg
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 13, 2010
Almost everyone except a miniscule minority is born to their
religion and adheres to the social traditions of their culture. Religions
may preach unity to their flock but give-in to sectarianism. The sects
roughly fall into two cerebral groups.
At the upper end a
thoughtful and introspective minority that considers humility and service
to humanity as the essence of their being and the calling of their
religion. At the other end the narrow-minded who consider their creed to
have been chosen by God for domination and use selected passages from
their scripture in zealous pursuit of political power.
middle lives a large majority of usually kind and decent people too busy
in the chores of living to think critically the morality of their social
setting. They follow religious rituals and usually admire the first group,
but succumb to the propaganda of the second in traumatic times.
dictatorial or feudal regimes the first group is persecuted and the second
latches on to power and thrives. In democracies, the first group may draw
people to a higher vision, but suffers the onslaught of unethical
propaganda by the second, especially during elections in stressful times.
After eight long years of mismanagement, two wars of hubris and a
complete economic collapse, the US electorate in the elections of 2006 and
08 threw the Republicans out of power. In the last year and a half the
economy has been stabilized, but the jobless rate is still very high, the
electorate is not happy. With this backdrop and the trauma of 9/11, the
drummed up controversy and misinformation about the Islamic community
center two blocks from ground zero in New York follows this pattern.
In the last two months opposition politicians with the help of pundits on
the anything, but “fair and balanced” FOX news and talk radio have kept up
the drum beat of misinformation and half truths about the Islamic Center.
Unsurprisingly, there has been a gradual rise in anti Islamic Center
opinion along with anti Muslim feeling in the ephemeral public opinion
polls. Many local right wing groups have latched on in opposing Islamic
centers many smaller communities as well.
The fear mongers have
found a more potent propaganda, better than the perennial illegal
immigration that simmers on the back burner to be resurrected in
elections. Even better than the invented new twist of a few months ago,
“the Anchor Babies”, implying that people come to US to deliver babies to
cash in years later, the eventual right of citizenship under the US
Muslims should not be disheartened at this turn of
events. Immigrants in the past have been subjected to much worse. It is
part of the endemic struggle between the idea of the great democracy that
the founding fathers envisioned and the drag of the baser human
The United States of America came into being as a
democracy drawing on the high ideals of enlightenment. Yet the full
implementation of the ideals in the constitution took another two
centuries to unfold. The genius of the US constitution is that it guides
and allows progress, evolving with the needs of times.
of the baser part of our history is well known, the massacre of Natives,
the horrible legacy of slavery, the ethno-religious persecution of Jewish,
Catholic - Irish and Italian immigrants, and the indigenous Mormon. The
exploitation and persecution of imported Chinese and Japanese laborers in
the 19th century is also a part of the same exploitative fabric.
The nation gradually evolved to reject these, once accepted practices. In
hard economic times and in times of war it often regresses, but eventually
it re-discovers its moorings. It takes time, often a long time. Blacks
were forced to immigrate in chains and were kept in political chains up to
the 1960s, until the passage of the Civil Rights legislations. During the
hysterical fear of the “new age religions” of 1970s and 80s, charlatan
“deprogrammers” made a lot of money preying on the fears of the parents
whose children opted to experiment with new trends in thoughts. The
current anti Muslim propaganda too shall pass.
So the present
anti Muslim propaganda is not surprising. What should be celebrated is
that in the wake of 9/11 the administration arrested about 1,200 innocent
Muslims; justice prevailed and none of them were found guilty. However in
the last three years some Muslims have indulged in reprehensible acts and
are legitimately being brought to justice. There have been many attacks on
Islamic centers and Mosques by the cowardly religious miscreants, but the
law has brought them to justice.
Though right wing propagandists
have succeeded in corrupting the public mind to gain about sixty percent
support, it is a great tribute to the US democracy that about thirty to
forty percent have not succumbed to the knee jerk reaction. Many Pastors,
Rabbis and most editorials in the newspapers and commentary sections have
decried this assault on the first amendment. It is a very high index of
sanity in difficult times in any country. The founding fathers took
special care to check the tyranny of the insidious emotional gullible
majority by requiring two thirds majority and ratification by
three-fourths of the states to change the constitution.
important to realize that bigots on all sides are equally reprehensible.
Each side considers the nameless, faceless bigots on the other side to be
despicable propaganda figures. While the bigots on their side to be human
beings who love their children and are good neighbors, therefore are more
easily swayed by their rhetoric. In wars of supremacy each side succumbs
to those who misuse religion and yields leadership to the most despicable
charlatans among them.
The soul of the US resides in its strong
and just constitution. Those with baser attitudes are a blight that
infects all societies. Unlike many other countries, the US democracy has
weathered them for more than two centuries, and has consistently been on
an upward humane trajectory, respecting and celebrating the diversity and
aspirations of all its citizens. Muslims in the United States know it and
they have a lot to learn and contribute to this great nation of
immigrants. When things are going well it is easy to be good, the real
test of character is to be just and balanced when one’s own ox is being
Mirza A. Beg can be contacted at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or at his blog