Why All Americans Should Want a Mosque in His/Her Neighborhood
Every few weeks, it seems that another article appears in the newspaper with the headline, “Community X Protests New Mosque, Council Reluctantly 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 “mosques” 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 construction, afraid that they will become hotbeds of extremist activity. Muslim communities are almost afraid to request the right to build a mosque 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.
Being an active member of the Muslim community who has visited every major mosque in Chicago, I see nothing more harmful for the fight against extremism than the rejection of mosques in this country. Why?Because mosques 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 mosque NEEDS to be raised. A mosque 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 mosque is the extremists’ worst enemy. We build mosques 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 come with their family problems. We build them to celebrate weddings, share happiness from the birth of our children, and ask for Forgiveness and Mercy from God for our dead. We would hate nothing more than to watch our own mosques be taken over by people who would use them to destroy everything we’ve worked for.
We don’t tolerate extremism in our mosques. 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 God 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 mosques as our leaders insist that we pray for the oppressed and speak out on their behalf, but warn us never to commit the crimes of the oppressors.The roots of terrorism are weeded out as we are taught from the Quran itself that to kill an innocent person is as if we have “killed all of Mankind.”
The mosque is where our hearts are connected to God by loving Him and all of His creation. From this beacon are Muslim Americans 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 mosque, I ask: What do you think will happen when this central beacon is not allowed to thrive in our communities? Our mosques 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 mosques 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, just as we did on the Friday after 9/11.No cry rang louder against the terrorists of 9/11 than at the American mosques; but unfortunately, only the American Muslims who came for prayer heard that cry, leading us to the situation of fear and mistrust we have today.
Without mosques, the need for congregational prayer will be met by others in their basements, but there will be no central source of guidance and wisdom for the community.And this lack of guidance is precisely the source for potential extremism of many sorts in communities of all faiths. Mosques 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 and worshippers of American mosques 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.When our children leave the house, we feel the same way as you do about yours, until they safely return home.Our lives and communities are intertwined, woven together into a colorful mosaic of beliefs and backgrounds.We have everything to lose if we lose our mosques to extremism.
That is why we won’t allow it to happen.
That is why the teachings from a major American mosque have never been the source of violence. In fact, mosque members have either been among the first to intervene with any such ideas by challenging individuals directly, or by calling law enforcement.
That is why our elders and scholars have made it a priority to keep violence and extremism OUT.
And that is why every American should want a mosque in his or her neighborhood.