Muslim notes for early September

Some interesting Islam-related notes:

1. The Islamic Center of Peekskill will hold a public celebration tomorrow or Friday of Eid ul-Fitr, one of the two great Muslim festivals.

It will be at Pugsley Park (at Main Street and Bank Street) from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. We don’t have a date yet because the Eid won’t be set until a sighting of the new moon.

A press release promises “an opportunity to meet your Muslim neighbors and learn how we would like to continue to serve the community.”

2. Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains will hold an interfaith panel on Saturday, Sept 18. (Yom Kippur) from 3 to 4:30 p.m.: “Visions of a Tolerant America: Jewish, Muslim and Christian voices discuss an Islamic Center near Ground Zero.”

Panelists will include three parents who lost children on 9/11, Ann Schaffer of the American Jewish Committee and Rabbi Shira Milgrom of Kol Ami.

3. The pastor of a small evangelical church in Florida still plans to burn some Qurans on Sept. 11. What will the fall-out be?

He doesn’t care that Gen. David Petraeus has warned that “images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”

Numerous groups are coming out against the church, including the World Union for Progressive Judaism, which says: “We join with the sane voices from the highest offices of the American government, and religious and civic leaders around the world, to stand up against this seeming Inquisition on American soil and call for Terry Jones to call off this attack on religious freedom in a land of liberty.”

4. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is finally back on American soil and is finally speaking out about what the deal is with the proposed Islamic center.

He writes in the NY Daily News:

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The project has been mischaracterized, so I want to explain clearly what it would be. Our planned 13-story community center is intended for Park Place between Church St. and West Broadway. It is not a mosque, although it will include a space for Muslim prayer services. It will have a swimming pool, basketball court, meeting rooms, a 500-seat auditorium, banquet facilities and many other things a community needs to be healthy. The center will offer theatrical programming, art exhibitions and cooking classes. These are amenities missing now from this part of the city.

And, yes, the center will have a public memorial to the victims of 9/11 as well as a meditation room where all will be welcome for quiet reflection. The center will support soul and body.

The center will be open to all regardless of religion. Like a YMCA, the 92nd St. Y or the Jewish Community Center uptown, it will admit everyone. It will be a center for all New Yorkers.

What grieves me most is the false reporting that leads some families of 9/11 victims to think this project somehow is designed by Muslims to gloat over the attack.

That could not be further from the truth.

‘There can be no place for religious bias of any kind…’

I just walked in after a long weekend and a morning assignment and one of the first things I see is a new statement about the proposed downtown Islamic center from a group of New York’s religious leaders.

It’s basically a call for civility.

I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing about this (and so am I), but here is the statement:

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JOINT STATEMENT FROM NEW YORK RELIGIOUS LEADERS

New York has a long and proud history of dialogue and respect among the various faith groups that live together in this magnificent city. It is especially troubling, then, whenever religion is seen as a source of misunderstanding and disagreement. As religious people, Muslims, Jews and Christians know that at the heart of each of our faiths is the promotion of peace and understanding among all God’s children. Consequently, there can be no place for religious bias of any kind – including anti-Semitism, anti-Christianity, or anti-Islam — in any of our communities.

Public discussions about the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero have recently become an unfortunate source of tension and animosity here in New York City. As leaders in our religious communities, we join together to voice our shared concern for the way in which New Yorkers have become polarized on this issue. All of us must ensure that our conversations on this matter remain civil, that our approaches to each other are marked with respect, and that our hearts stay free of bitterness.

As religious leaders, we stand ready to assist in facilitating a dialogue that will not only lead to a resolution of the current dispute, but also lay the foundation for a new and deeper understanding among us all.

Imam Shamsi Ali
Director, Jamaica Muslim Center, New York

Rev. Dr. A. R. Bernard
President, The Council of Churches of the City of New York

The Most Reverend Nicholas A. DiMarzio,
Bishop of Brooklyn
Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn

The Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York

Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier
President, New York Board of Rabbis

Imam Izak-EL M. Pasha
Masjid Malcolm Shabazz, New York

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik
Executive Vice President, New York Board of Rabbis

Most NYers oppose Islamic center — but defend the right to build it

New Yorkers have very mixed impulses about the proposed Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero.

According to a new poll from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., New Yorkers agreed — by a 54% to 40% margin — with this statement: “that because of American freedom of religion, Muslims have the right to build the mosque near Ground Zero…”

At the same time, though, respondents agreed — by a 53% to 39% margin — with this statement: “that because of the sensitivities of 9/11 relatives, Muslims should not be allowed to build the mosque near Ground Zero.”

In the end, poll respondents prefer that the developers CHOOSE to move the site, which makes sense if you consider the above results.

By a large 71% to 21% percent majority, voters agree “that because of the opposition of Ground Zero relatives, the Muslim group should voluntarily build the mosque somewhere else. (italics mine)”

Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, explains: “The heated, sometimes angry, debate over the proposal to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has New York State voters twisted in knots, with some of them taking contradictory positions depending on how the question is asked.”

He also says: “Overwhelmingly, across all party and regional lines, New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location.”

According to the poll, New Yorkers  (meaning across the state) agree that Islam is a peaceful religion, by a 54-21 margin (with 24% undecided).

The “peaceful” numbers vary across the state: 62-21 in NYC; 51-25 in the Burbs; and 49-28 upstate.

Finally, respondents overwhelmingly said — 71  to 22 percent — that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo should investigate the financing of the proposed Islamic center.

Talking to 9/11 survivors about the Islamic center proposal

Anger. Pain. Frustration. Confusion.

I’m feeling all of it while talking to 9/11 survivors from these parts about the Great Mosque Controversy.

Several people I’ve reached did not want to talk about it.

Many others, to be honest, did not return my calls. Most of them, I assume, also did not want to talk about it.

But those survivors who have talked to me have very strong feelings.

Mostly against the proposed Islamic center.

Some in favor.

Several people have had no interest in separating the 19 lunatics who carried out the attacks from any or all other Muslims.

I’m more convinced than I was a few days ago that this controversy will get nastier if plans are not changed.

My article should be on LoHud/Journal News on Sunday.