Promoting unity among people of faith (or no particular faith) in the 21st Century.

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We paused to pray in the Park51 prayer space….

September 12th · No Comments · America, Islam, Muslim

… the other day, before leaving The Mosque Cares 2010 Annual Muslim Convention & Ramadan Session at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset NJ. And like passersby and other New Yorkers with whom we spoke, we wondered again why all the hate from folks as far afield as the candidate who’s not running for president from Alaska, and points between.

It's about unity, humanity.

Standing with my better half, Aneesha, with rear of prayer space in the background.

The prayer area inside the former Burlington Coat factory was what one might expect of an old New York warehouse room that has been refurbished just enough to provide overflow space for the real mosque just a few blocks away. That mosque and another nearby have served the hundreds of thousands of Muslim New Yorkers — law enforcement and emergency officers, doctors, lawyers, cab drivers, teachers, students, businessmen — for decades.

Photos were discouraged in the prayer space given the congregants drifting through for their own devotionals, but we were obliged a couple. Outside, as shown below, I tried to capture as many angles of the scene as my pocket Nikon could grab.

Although we prayed at the site of the Cordoba Initiative’s proposed Islamic cultural center, and talked with a few folks nearby, I can provide no more telling testimony than that of Christina Page, who lives a block away:

One block south of my apartment, on Park Place, which is one block north of Ground Zero the white noise is already deafening. Park51, the proposed Muslim Community Center, has police stationed in front today. It’s an empty shell of a building now on a block that was abandoned well before the devastation that happened one block below it nine years ago. The white noise about Park 51 masks important truths: the Muslim community that wishes to build there has been apart of our neighborhood for years and well before the attacks of September 11. Until 2009, they gathered on Warren Street, two blocks north of the current proposed location until their lease was lost as the building owners opted to change it to residential condos. Those who wish to prohibit our Muslim neighbors from finding a new place of worship locally didn’t seem to have a problem when they were in the our neighborhood on September 11, 2001 and were traumatized and evacuated like the rest of us who live and work and worship here. That they wish to invest 200 million dollars back into the neighborhood, revive a deserted block, and join with the community that they have always been apart of gets little push back from those of us who live here. What better way to thumb our noses at terrorists than to show that Muslims stand united with us against terrorism committed in their name and will even help in our rebuilding?

Barely visible, remnants of the "Burlington Coat Factory" lettering.

Astonishingly (somebody, please tell me this report appeared earlier and I missed it) only now is The New York Times reporting that, for years, Muslim workers worshiped peacefully and without controversy in a room on the 17th floor of the south tower:

…Not only were Muslims peacefully worshiping in the twin towers long before the attacks, but even after the 1993 bombing of one tower by a Muslim radical, Ramzi Yousef, their religious observance generated no opposition…

Moreover, the prayer room was not the only example of Muslim religious practice in or near the trade center. About three dozen Muslim staff members of Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the north tower, used a stairwell between the 106th and 107th floors for their daily prayers.

Without enough time to walk to the closest mosque — Masjid Manhattan on Warren Street, about four blocks away — the waiters, chefs, banquet managers and others would lay a tablecloth atop the concrete landing in the stairwell and flatten cardboard boxes from food deliveries to serve as prayer mats.

Sadly, the same news organizations that stampeded a fearful nation into supporting the invasion of a country that did nothing to us (other than tolerate the dictator we propped up), have facilitated many Americans’ lack of familiarity with their fellow Muslim citizens and neighbors, to the point where, contrary to logic, our Constitution or our shared human values, the Sept. 11 attacks — in which hundreds of innocent Muslims also were murdered — have become an excuse for barely disguised bigotry .

— C.B. Hanif

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