Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
By: Danial Shahbaz
The Muslim community center being built in New York has sparked debate around the world, including within my own home.
I first learned of the controversial plan just before my mother traveled to Pakistan to visit our extended family. While I was there, I lightweight started discussing the issue of the community center with my mom. When I first heard about Park51, I thought it was supposed to be a mosque, which I fully supported because Islam promotes peace. But later, when I discovered it was planned as an entire community center where Muslims and non-Muslims could gather, my support went rock solid.
It basically sounded like a YMCA and a church built together, which was very appealing to me because a rec center implies a da'wa - an invitation for non-Muslims to attend as well. We need community centers like this all over the country, where people can talk together about their issues, their fears, and what problems they're having. And if this community center is built in New York, I believe you'll see a push for similar projects in many cities across the US.
When I brought the Park51 issue up with my mom, she came right out and said it was a bad idea. She said it gives the non-Muslims whose families had died on 9/11 another reason to be enraged. She said they may believe that the Muslims are trying to say, "Look, we attacked your land, and now we are building upon it."
She argued that Ground Zero is sacred land for Americans, where those so-called Muslims had attacked. But my parents have always taught us that we're American first, and then Pakistani. So I found my mom's statement hypocritical. They've always told me I'm American, but when it comes to this issue, they're treating me as if I'm not an American?
She thinks the center being built will give the people more justification to criticize Muslims. Jalti pay tayal dalna. In Urdu, that basically means, adding fuel to the fire. That pretty much sums up my mom's agreement with people who oppose Park51.
When I got involved with the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and started teaching at Islamic school, my mom was always supportive. She was very pro-activism. But this issue is too touchy for her. My generation has grown up here with the ideas of freedom of speech, and freedom to practice our religion. In Pakistan, where my mom spent her youth, they haven't grown up with equality, especially for women, and that's probably why our parents and elders disagree with us on some political issues like Park 51.
For now, within my household, I will have to disagree with my mother. But Inshallah when this project gets pushed through, I hope people like her may realize that every single right granted to individuals in America is granted to Muslims too.
Danial Shahbaz is the Muslim Student Association President at San Francisco State as well as the MSA West events co-coordinator.
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