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Anushay Hossain Headshot

Park 51: The Ground Zero Mosque Is Not a Mosque

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I tried to stay quite and hoped that if I closed my eyes long enough, this whole "Ground-Zero Mosque" controversy would blow over. It hasn't. In fact, all the fuss and controversy over this "mosque" has risen to such ridiculous and offensive levels that I can no longer endure this breed of Islamaphobia gone wild.

First of all, everyone, especially the media and journalists who repeat the description, must stop calling and referring to this building as the "Ground Zero Mosque." There is no Ground Zero Mosque! As Keith Olbermann very eloquently and passionately articulated on his show the other night, a mosque is "a place built for the purpose of gathering for prayer and worship in Islam," whereas the building that is going to be built near (not on) Ground Zero is an Islamic Community Center called, "Park 51," no longer to be called "Cordoba House" for fear of triggering even more misunderstood controversy.

This Community Center plans to house a culinary school, an auditorium, a swimming pool, a basketball court, and yes, space for prayer. But it is not a mosque, so we all need to stop calling it that. Calling this Center the "Ground Zero Mosque" not only makes people think up dramatic images of an actual mosque right on the site of Ground Zero, but it also misconstrues the entire debate.

With an emotional and racially charged debate such as this, it is critical we keep our facts straight and that starts with the words we choose. It starts with our language. Anyone that begins their debate or discussion by calling this Islamic Community Center a mosque must immediately be discredited because they do not know what they are talking about.

Aside from having had enough of Glen Beck declaring a "war with Islam," and Tea Partying protesters holding up signs that say ludicrous things like, "You can build a mosque on Ground Zero when we can build a synagogue in Mecca," or "Building a mosque on Ground Zero is like building a Nazi memorial next to a Holocaust Museum," my tipping point came when I read this article from The Daily Beast entitled, "Ground Zero Mosque Hurts Islam."

In this article, or work of fiction I should say, complete with a media gallery of the "America's Top 30 Most Muslim Cities" to ensure you remain scared to death of Muslims, the author Douglas Murray describes himself as "pretty much color blind and religion blind." But his entire article is about how Muslims are whiny, double-standard, hypocritical and violent people who want what they want where and when they want it, even if it means "destroying the landscape of Switzerland," or "stepping on people's emotional wounds" by demanding this mosque on Ground Zero. He even goes so far as to chide Muslims (cause we're all one and the same!) as children who do not know "how to behave."

As if all this was not offensive enough, Murray goes on to state:

"Islam itself is screwed. For all leading Islamic scholars the whole world belongs to Islam. Non-Muslims don't have a say in it."

I don't know what Murray is smoking, but after reading the first line of that quote I had had enough. The level of racist and ignorant banter this Islamic Center debate has stirred up has reached such intolerable levels that a blog as respected as The Daily Beast would run a piece as factually incorrect as this, (though they did make up for it in my opinion by running this brilliant post).

While it is great that Keith Olbermann, Mayor Bloomberg (whose speech should be mandatory reading for all), and President Obama himself (kind of?!) all voice support for the Islamic Community Center, and gave passionate accounts on the right, the pure, basic, simple right for this Center to be built, us Muslims need to speak up.

We need to speak up and do an excellent job of differentiating ourselves from the people who flew those planes into those towers.

Although we are the majority in our religion and we know Islam is not about violence, moderate Muslims need to speak up because we have been muddled and lumped together with the terrorists for long enough. We are the ones that pay the price by getting stuck in airport security and extra screening lines, get denied visas, and become marginalized in our societies.

It could not be more clear that around the world we are viewed as the same as those terrorists who kill and plunder in the name of our faith while we remain silent.

We need to stipulate that those men who brought down the Twin Towers were not Muslims. People who park their cars packed with explosives and abandon them in Times Square in the name of Islam are not Muslim. They are terrorists and they terrorize Muslims just as much as anyone else. They are not us and we are not them. And there is no better time for moderate Muslims to reclaim their faith from the terrorists than now, during Ramadan.

And while we go around stipulating and articulating this point, we must make sure that we start calling the Park 51 Community Center what it is: Not a mosque but an Islamic Community Center.

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