04 October, 2010
By Anwaar Hussain
Someone needed to say this, so there.
We huff and puff, in a self-righteous rage, over the refusal of a few in the US of A to allow the building of a mosque near ground zero. For the bigots on either side especially, the issue has become so consuming that its is hard to distinguish their collective voice from one continuous, high-pitched, piercing blare.
Quite a few on my mailing list enthusiastically forwarded to me the amazing article written by Michael Moore (yes..of Fahrenheit 9/11 fame) titled as, “If This Mosque isn’t Built, This is no Longer America”. In the stunning piece, Michael Moore wants the mosque built ‘not two blocks away from ground zero but on ground zero’. He goes on to give a long list of his reasons for that. What really stumped me in Michael’s write-up was that, according to him, it was the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan whose rabbi has been helping the New York Muslim community in their quest since the beginning.
And I thought Jews were our worst enemies.
Bang in the midst of this controversy, another dazzling news almost drowned out. According to this Christian Science Monitor report, the hundred thousand strong Muslim community of the Italian city of Milan are pushing for building the first ever mosque in the city. And who happens to be their steadfast ally in their quest? Lo and behold; none other than the Vatican itself. Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Catholic church’s highest authority in town, says, “Milan civil institution must guarantee everyone religious freedom” and that, “Muslims have the right to practice their faith”.
All power to the Muslim communities in New York and Milan and to Michael Moore and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi but where does that leave an ordinary Muslim like me? I am all confused now. I thought these people could never be friends with Muslims. That, as a matter fact, is an article of faith with us Muslims. I appeal to the paragons of moral consistency to now come to my aid. And pronto please. What is happening? Someone please reassure me that these friendly gestures are actually some more ‘Judeo-Christian conspiracies’ against us Muslims. And if these are, what exactly are we going to do about these? Refuse the help or refuse building the mosques?
But that is not all I am puzzled about. I need also to understand why in our holy land, a country that is a role model for the Muslim world, a kind of apartheid is practiced against non-Muslims? Christians, and other non-Muslims, are prohibited from even entering the two holy cities with signs indicating that Muslims must go to certain areas and non-Muslims to others. There are more than a million Roman Catholics in that country with not a single church for any denomination. Not allowed to practice their faith openly, these Christians are forced to worship in secret within private homes. Even articles and symbols such as Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious icons etc. are prohibited. The government does not permit non-Muslim clergy to enter the country for the purpose of conducting religious services. The blood money in that country payable for accidental death of a Christian male is half as much as that for a Muslim male (lucky, one would say, because all others i.e. Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs etc. are valued at 1/16th).
But above all what really boggles my mind is when I think that were some Christians supposedly involved in a terror attack on our holy cities, would we ever, ever contemplate allowing Christians to build a Church next to the attack sites? Not that there are any even without such attacks. Whether Muslims were or weren’t involved in the 9/11 attacks is beside the point. Rightly or wrongly, they are perceived to have been.
Not just that, people are actually killed for having different beliefs. In a country like Pakistan, Christians, along with other minorities of course, are routinely persecuted, their churches burnt, their homes and communities vandalized while we stand as helpless bystanders. Even ancient Bamyan statues, an international heritage, were not spared in Afghanistan. Yet when we go and reside in the West we foam righteous at our mouths demanding equal rights in matters of worship and daily living. We are the rowdiest, loudest and most violent protesters when we protest a seeming injustice.
Why we all forget the aforesaid facts when we cry out for equal rights and freedom of speech, thought and action in the West? Why don’t we demand the same in our own countries? Why do we lapse into collective silence at the persecution of minorities in our countries? Why don’t we believe in giving to others what we claim for ourselves? Why don’t we see the heart rending injustice of it all?
Why are we inure to these basic human values? When will we understand that fear freezes the mind keeping it forever at the mercy of ignorance? That superstition is a dagger that slaughters the intellect?
And if it is not the case of a callous indifference to basic human values or of fear or of superstition, what is it then?
Is it ignorance? Is it duplicity? Or is it dread of the unknown? Or is it the lethal mix of all three that keeps us from being honest?
Or is it plain old hypocrisy?