Why All Americans Should Want a Mosque in their Neighborhood


896771802_d69cdf6f72_oEvery few weeks, it seems that another newspaper article appears with the frightful headline, “Community X Protests New Mosque, Council Grants Building Approval.” It seems that fear has gripped even the most sensible of us. A masjid (literally the “place of prostration” in Arabic, or “mosque” as they are known in English), has unjustifiably become a symbol of fear and worry in American communities, many of whom have begun to protest against their development, afraid that they will become hotbeds of extremist activity.  Muslim communities are almost afraid to request the right to build a masjid for their growing populations, afraid that uneducated (and some educated) township members will raise threats, protests, or rally against them with hate crimes and other acts of hostility.

When one examines the actual content of sermons, Sunday school classes, and ideas emanating from major masajid around the United States, it becomes clear that there is nothing more harmful to the fight against extremism than the rejection of masajid in this country. Why?  Because masajid are founded when an American Muslim community reaches a critical mass and needs a central place to worship, provide social services, facilitate community outreach, and offer spiritual and moral guidance. When Muslims have rooted themselves deep into American soil for decades and have added the prefix “American” to their cultural identity, a masjid NEEDS to be raised. A masjid is a place of peace and tranquility for the Muslim faithful, and is without doubt the most valued institution of the American Muslim community.

This is why the American Muslim masjid is the extremists’ worst enemy. We build masjids with tender, loving care; we build them to give our children moral and spiritual direction and keep them away from those things that all Americans fear for their children. We build them to provide one reliable place for husbands and wives to unload and resolve their family problems. We build them to celebrate weddings, share happiness from the birth of our children, and ask for forgiveness and mercy from Allah for our deceased. Therefore we would hate nothing more than to watch our own masjids be taken over by people who would use them to destroy everything we have worked for as a community.

We do not tolerate extremism in our masjids. We don’t want it, need it, or care for it. We hate extremism because we are striving to practice our religion and get closer to Allah through the acts truly prescribed by Islam – charity, prayer, justice, remembrance of God, and service to humanity. We are repulsed by the disgrace that extremists bring our name, the name of our beautiful religion, and we detest the scrutiny of our religion that they cause.

The roots of extremism are stomped out at our masjids as our leaders insist we pray for the oppressed, but warn us never to commit the crimes of the oppressors. The roots of terrorism are weeded out as we are taught from the Qur’an itself that to kill an innocent person is as if we have “killed all of mankind.” (5:32)

The masjid is where our hearts are connected to Allah by loving Him and all of His creation. From this beacon Muslim Americans are given light and guidance to be fully American, and fully Muslim; able to contribute to and celebrate the freedom and beauty of America, and adhere fully to Islamic personal conduct and acts of worship.

But to my neighbors who fear my masjid, I ask: What do you think will happen when this central beacon is not allowed to thrive in our communities for us all? Our masjids allow us to hold fast to our qualified traditional scholars, who can tell you from 1,425 years of scholarship that taking the lives of innocent people is strictly forbidden. Our masjids allow us to insulate our communities from the hate-filled voices of rhetoric because we do not allow those voices to penetrate inside. We preach against them actively outside, just as we did on the Friday after 9/11. No cry rang louder against the terrorists of 9/11 than at the American masjids; but unfortunately, only the Muslims who came for prayer at the masjid heard that cry, leading us to the situation of fear and mistrust we have today.

Without masajid, others will meet the need for congregational prayer in their basements, but there will be no central source of guidance and wisdom for the community. And this lack of guidance is a potential source of religious misinterpretation of many sorts in communities of all faiths. Masajid keep our communities healthy and family-oriented, and they attach our hearts to the neighborhoods in which we live, just as churches, synagogues, and temples do.

The builders of masajid are your lawyers, doctors, teachers, and students. We are your neighbors, cab drivers, and shop owners. Our children play with your children, and ride the same trains, planes, and buses as your children. Our lives and communities are intertwined, woven together into a colorful mosaic of beliefs and backgrounds. We – American Muslims - have everything to lose if we lose our masjids to extremism.

That is why we we will not allow it to happen.

That is why the teachings from a major American masjid have never been the source of violence.

That is why our elders and scholars have made it a priority to keep violence and extremism OUT of all our lives.

And that is why every American should want a masjid in their neighborhood.

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20 Comments

  1. Sherifa Elkayty says:

    Jazk allah Khirin. I always make dooa for you! may Allah bless you and your family! you becomes like a family member to me and my family! please keep doing what you are doing …

  2. Abu Omar alMisry says:

    Assallamu Alykum…Brother, have you considered sending this piece to the NY Times or similar publications? It may kindle some understanding in enough people to help facilitate the building of some masaajid insha’ Allah.

  3. TL says:

    Salaam,
    Jazakullahu Khairan for this article. I completely agree with Abu Omar’s post above, this should most certainly be sent into a widely read publication such as NY times. I think it would prove to be of great benefit to both Muslims and Non Muslims to read an article from this point of view.

  4. Jeremiah says:

    To the author, JazakAllahu khairan. This is a good article on the direct benefits for Muslims. However, I don’t think this approach would be that effective because the benefit for non-Muslims should be the main part of the argument. The groups or individuals that are opposed to building of masajid need to see direct benefits to the non-Muslim community like what the brothers and sisters are doing with IMAN and other activities across the country. They would dismiss this type of article as empty rhetoric and probably point to alleged instances of youths being ‘radicalized’ in various masajid across the country.

    For example, when I converted to Islam my dad asked me what type of Islam. When I replied, “the real Islam” (i.e. not Nation of Islam), he said let me know when I see you guys on 55th and Dan Ryan (major intersection in Chicago) because the Nation was already there and had been for decades.

    wassalam,
    Jeremiah

  5. mamun says:

    Awesome read!

    Let’s link this post on everyone’s tweeter and facebook and reroute the nonmuslims to this article :)

  6. Zahid says:

    Thank you for an enlightening article.

    Ground Zero Mosque is actually going to be a community center, similar to MCA in Santa Clara, CA.

    The issue has been politicized because of Islamophobia and there is nothing to stop people from fearing Islam except education.

  7. MentalMuslim says:

    Great article. Please do try and send it to a major US publication, like the NYTimes or similar.

  8. Ibraheem says:

    Muslims are being targeted everywhere in the world. For the purpose of introducing true Islam to Non-Muslims and providing a great educational resource for Muslims, i have made a blog. Its called: http://quranicperspective.blogspot.com
    Do visit it. You’ll find all ur questions about Islam, Quran, Muslims, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), women, war and many other topics answered on my blog. Plus lots of helpful links to other useful websites on the internet.
    May Peace be upon all the people of the world! :) Peace within and peace without.

  9. Jehan Eltalbwa says:

    Assalamu ‘Alaykoom Mashallah brother this is a very well composed essay serving as a rebuttal towards the opposing view. I believe you should publish this some way and some how so that this reaches a non-muslim crowd rather than individuals that share and feel the same way you do. I appreciate your tone and the way you approached the issue with a very calm tone. Instead of bashing the opposing side you rather explained the Muslim American needs. Jazak Allahu Khair and I will make a means to forward this article to as many individuals as possible.

  10. California Muslim says:

    Well said Ust. Abdul Sattar. I love how you explain everything very clearly.

    This reminds me that the city of Glendale, CA (pop. 850,000) is in the process of buying and converting a Korean church into a masjid.

    As your article mentioned, this will bring a sense of community for the Muslims of the city Glendale inshallah.

  11. Talibah says:

    Great article! mashAllah

  12. Kenton says:

    I am an non practicing Lutheran from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. (An area that sadly does not convey a lot of tolerance for other people’s ideas or beliefs.) I just wanted you to know that I have spent months trying to tell my neighbors that the building of a Mosque or Islamic Civic Center near ground zero in New York is not a bad thing, or even a scary one. It’s unfortunate that many of the locals here don’t understand the difference between devout people of faith and extremist terrorists, they simply lump both of the above as “Muslim” and leave it at that. I was very interested in the article about the Quran requiring that visitors in foreign lands obey the laws of that land. I have used it in my arguements and referenced it in my blog. I have enjoyed and learned from the articles on this web site and wanted to thank you for your efforts to enlighten those of us who have little knowledge of your faith. Keep up the good works.

  13. rootus says:

    You can not blame the people who fear Islam that they do so.
    You can only blame yourself.
    I assume that you are not an extremist but did you once actively demonstrate against the atrocities moslims committed?
    That “moderate” moslims, do the really resent the hideous acts of Osama bin Laden?
    I saw that “moderates” dance and shout with joy at 09-11.
    Was Mohamed not a man like Osma?
    The Islam is spread by fear, violence and betrayal and the first thing the Islamic conquerers did is building mosques on places of worship of other religions.
    The building of a mosque at ground zero resembles this fact.
    More reason not to build mosques is that muslims meet there and is is the most likely place to recruit for the Jihad. Plenty examples for that.
    Spreading Islam seems to be the first priority for muslims.
    In my opinion the reformation of Islam is the first priority.

    • Eva says:

      Whether Muslims come up to say that they do not agree with these actions you will still have the same thoughts.

      Yours is not an issue of desire to understand but rather inherently Media-founded beliefs.

  14. Justin says:

    Very good article. Keep them coming.

  15. Salam says:

    As-salamu Alaykum,
    Back in 1995, I used to live next to a newly established masjid in California. It was a crime-ridden area that was filled with drugs and other problems. Within the course of 5 or 6 years, Muslims started moving in the neighborhood, while the drug dealers and others started moving out. The Muslims bought numerous businesses, restaurants, apartments and stores in the area, shutting down a bar and some other undesirable businesses. It became a “Muslim” neighborhood and was transformed into safe/clean place compared to how it started out prior to 1995. The Muslims were actually thanked by the city for cleaning the place up. I have not been there in a long time, but this Muslim neighborhood continues to thrive, and people now feel safe going there. Non-Muslims should know that Muslims building a mosque in a specific area often means increased safety as the area will attract families and people who do not want drugs and crimes around the mosque. Muslims will often strive to build a safe community and not tolerate the bad elements.

  16. Salam says:

    “I saw that “moderates” dance and shout with joy at 09-11.”

    Rootus, I was in the Middle East at the time of 9/11 and did not see anything like this. I have heard that some Palestinian Arabs were filmed celebrating at weddings or were tricked into dancing on camera so it would appear they were celebrating the attacks in New York.

  17. Lisa says:

    Amen brother! This is a beautifully written article and very true!

  18. dhimmi says:

    I’m not a Muslim, but of course you are correct. It would be funny if it were not both sad and dangerous that the reason so many bring up as to why they don’t want to see mosques built is, “Where are all the moderate Muslims?” Well, they’re in the mosque that you have prevented from existing, for one.

    As for those who are so against the “Ground Zero Mosque”, it’s obvious that most of them would basically oppose any mosque being built anywhere in America. Before 9/11, most of their great spokespeople were on record for their hatred of New York City and everything it stood for, including its tolerance of “unAmerican” cultures and religions. Now they have somehow become the guardians of New Yorkers’ delicate feelings? No thank you, definitely no thank you.

    It’s ignorance, mostly, fed by the fear pandering of the media, in search of ratings in the search for revenue. Of course, meeting individual Muslims is a great antidote to hatred, but like most Americans I grew up in an area where Islam was nonexistent, and my first encounters were learning about the Sufi mystics, and listening recordings of the music, and that alone was enough to inoculate me against the virus of bigotry.

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