Friday, September 5, 2008

AFP: US mega-mosques: Muslim tradition with US convenience

WASHINGTON (AFP, 9/04/2008) — As Islam makes inroads in the United States, American Muslims are setting up mega-mosques that combine religious tradition with typical American convenience.

Modelled on the huge, non-Catholic churches that offer their congregations of at least 2,000 members several different sites for worship, US mega-mosques have become a necessity in some places.

"Frequently, we have buildings designed for the Friday prayer, which is the largest, for 1,000 people and you have 2,000 to 3,000 show up," said Corey Saylor of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

To accommodate the overflow, which also results in traffic jams when prayer is over, US Muslim congregations have set up satellite places of worship, again following the lead of the Christian mega-churches.

That is just one way in which US mega-mosques are decidedly American.

They also offer worshippers a progressive form of Islam, in line with the profile and desires of many Muslim Americans.

While more than two-thirds of Muslim Americans are immigrants, mainly from the Middle East, they are also "decidedly mainstream in their outlook, values and attitudes," a report published last year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said.

They have embraced what is often called the Protestant work ethic and believe, as do many Americans, that hard work pays off.

And Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in western European countries, the Pew report said.
One mega-mosque in Virginia even rents space from a synagogue.

"This mosque, this branch, is part of a synagogue. Where have you seen that, a synagogue and a mosque? It's a completely American experience," Muslim prayer leader Mohamed Magid said.

That "completely American experience" is particularly attractive to young Muslim Americans, who like the way religious traditions and US efficiency and convenience are married in their places of worship.

In a message to Muslims around the world on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan, US President George W. Bush singled out for praise "the men and women of the Muslim community for their contributions to America."

"Your love of family, and gratitude to God have strengthened the moral fabric of our country," Bush said.

"Our nation is stronger and more hopeful because of the generosity, talents, and compassion of our Muslim citizens," he said.

During Ramadan, which in the United States started on September 1, according to calculations by the Islamic Society of North America, observant Muslims eat a light pre-dawn meal and fast until sunset, a practice aimed at fostering self-discipline, sacrifice and empathy for the poor.

Mosques tend to be heavily frequented during Ramadan, with some remaining open 24 hours a day.

Stupid is as Stupid Believes Hysterical Internet Rumor

["Stupid is as Stupid Does" is yet another anti-Muslim e-mail circulating the internet. It pushes a vision of sterotyping, profiling and Obama is a Muslim. You can find it with you nearest search engine. Normally, I disregard such message, but this was was forwarded to me, with concern, by a family member so I felt obligated to write a response.]

The kind of casual stereotyping in the “Stupid Is As Stupid Does” is troubling at best, bigoted at worst.

If I were to base even an iota of my vote on “Stupid Is As Stupid Does” then maybe I should report to the nearest government office and insist that they revoke the privilege due to my intellectual apathy, indifference and undernourishment. (See why Thomas Jefferson agrees with me below.)

Basic American values reject profiling. In America, the idea of profiling people based on race, religion or ethnicity got thrown out when the clause “…three fifths of all other Persons." (a reference to slaves) was sliced from the U.S. Constitution in 1865.

If our basic values and the Constitution are not enough for you, the Department of Justice, President Bush and former Attorney General John Ashcroft also reject profiling.

Unfortunately, it is easy to assemble a list of violent radicals from almost any background.

Not one of us would conclude that Americans are somehow more inclined to violence and terrorism than others because of the relatively recent acts of the following individuals:
*Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City, 1995)
*Terry Nichols (Oklahoma City, 1995)
*Eric Rudolf (Olympic Park bomber, Atlanta 1996, grew up in the Christian Identity movement)
*Ted Kaczynski (The Unabomber)
*Sean Gillespie (convicted in 2005 for firebombing an Oklahoma synagogue)
*Buford Furrow “went on a shooting rampage at a Jewish day-care center in Southern California.” (Washington Post, 6/05/2005)

The post-9/11 anthrax case that recently garnered a new flurry of media coverage does not point to a Muslim. We all, regrettably, know the name of the town of Columbine. The rape camps where primarily Bosnian Muslim women--at least 20,000 of them-- were violated in the early 1990’s were crafted by Serbians.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in its “Terrorism 2002-2005” report concludes, “Eight of the 14 recorded terrorist preventions stemmed from right-wing extremism, and included disruptions to plot­ting by individuals involved with the militia, white supremacist, constitutionalist and tax protestor, and anti-abortion movements.”

Voting for or against any candidate for public office must be a matter of objective study of character, positions and experience.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote, "A democratic society depends upon an informed and educated citizenry."

“Stupid is as Stupid Does” fails the “informed and educated” test, rather it fits Jefferson’s more dire concern: "The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment."