Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:12 am (KSA) 21:12 pm (GMT)

A House of Worship or a Symbol of Destruction?

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed

US President Barack Obama adopted a difficult position when he supported the building of a mosque near ground zero, where 3,000 US citizens died at the hands of Al-Qaeda terrorists on 11 September 2001.

Despite the fact that the president adopted the correct stance in principle, i.e. the principle of freedom of worship, in my opinion he adopted an unnecessary and unimportant stance, even as far as Muslims are concerned. The mosque is not an issue for Muslims, and they are not bothered by its construction.

 Muslims do not aspire for a mosque next to the 11 September cemetery, and are not bothered with Bin Ladin's cook being put on trial in a civilian court. Muslims have issues that encroach upon the destinies of nations; these issues are the cause of isolation and calamity, such as the establishment of the State of Palestine 

This reminds us of another principled stance Obama took when he insisted on putting the Guantanamo prisoners accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda on trial before civilian courts, and on closing down the military prison. It is true that this stance deserves appreciation. However, the fact is that he fought a battle that does not concern Muslims across the world, because there are tens of thousands of Muslims - similar to those accused of extremism - who are imprisoned in worse conditions in Muslim countries.

Muslims do not aspire for a mosque next to the 11 September cemetery, and are not bothered with Bin Ladin's cook being put on trial in a civilian court. Muslims have issues that encroach upon the destinies of nations; these issues are the cause of isolation and calamity, such as the establishment of the State of Palestine. For Obama to focus his energy and efforts, and fight for the establishment of peace in the Middle East is more important and more valuable than a mosque in New York.

The fact is that building a mosque next to the site of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, which were destroyed during the 11 September attacks, is a strange story. This is because the mosque is not an issue for Muslims, and they have not heard of it until the shouting became loud between the supporters and the objectors, which is mostly an argument between non-Muslim US citizens!

Neither did the Muslims ask for a single building, nor do the angry Muslims want the mosque. This is one of the few times when the two opposing sides are in agreement. Nevertheless, the dispute has escalated, and has reached the front pages of the press and the major television programs, demonstrations have been staged in the streets, and large posters have been hung on buses roaming the streets of New York calling for preventing the building of the mosque and reminding the people of the 11 September crime. It really is a strange battle!

I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime. At the same time, there are no practicing Muslims in the district who need a place of worship, because it is indeed a commercial district. Is there a side that is committed to this mosque? The fact is that in the news reports there are names linked to this project that costs 100 million dollars!

The sides enthusiastic for building the mosque might be building companies, architect houses, or politicized groups that want suitable investments?! I do not know whether the building applicant wants a mosque whose aim is reconciliation, or he is an investor who wants quick profits. This is because the idea of the mosque specifically next to the destruction is not at all a clever deed. The last thing Muslims want today is to build just a religious center out of defiance to the others, or a symbolic mosque that people visit as a museum next to a cemetery.

What the US citizens do not understand is that the battle against the 11 September terrorists is a Muslim battle, and not theirs, and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam. This is what has started to happen now; they claim that there is a mosque being built over the corpses of 3,000 killed US citizens, who were buried alive by people chanting God is great, which is the same call that will be heard from the mosque.

It is the wrong battle, because originally there was no mosque in order to rebuild it, and there are no practicing Muslims who want a place in which to worship.



* Published in the London-based ASHARQ ALAWSAT on Aug. 16. Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed is the general manager of Al Arabiya television.

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