by: Saadia Faruqi on June 28th, 2013 | 7 Comments »
Human beings are resilient, there’s no doubt about it. Since the dawn of time, we have stood up together to fight injustice, intolerance, hatred, and bias in ways that make us more united. In this great nation of ours, while Muslims have been discriminated against by some, they have been assisted by many. While some have vilified them, many more have praised them. And when a few have attempted to demonize an entire religious group, countless others have stood by their Muslim brothers and sisters. Because that’s what Americans do. For this reason, I was excited to read an article in the LA Times this week about the recent growth of mosques in this country. Despite efforts to intimidate mosque goers through surveillance and harassment, it seems that Muslims remain optimistic about their public life.
After all, the mosque is the center of Islamic community. Religious requirements for men to pray in congregation five times a day, Sunday schools for children, women’s discussion sessions, breaking fasts together in Ramadan – all lead to the mosque being an essential and beloved part of a Muslim’s daily life. Even the less devout drive hundreds of miles to join religious celebrations like Eid if the closest mosque is not too close. A 2012 media project called 30 Mosques highlighted this centralized part of Muslim life by visiting a different mosque each day during the month of Ramadan. Emphasis was not only on worship but also cuisine and culture.
This critical role of the mosque aside, or perhaps in spite of it, there has been vocal and insistent opposition to the building of new mosques in America. The Ground Zero mosque was undeniably the most high-profile of these protests, but it wasn’t the only one by any means. In the last few years, according to the Pew Forum, controversies over building new mosques have flooded almost every state of the nation. For a faith that can hardly function without the close proximity of a worship center, these obstacles loom as death tolls for the American Muslim way of life.
Of course, protests against the construction of new mosques aren’t the only time American Muslims feel targeted for their faith. Typically, many Muslim communities face backlash whenever a terrorist attack occurs anywhere in the world. The ACLU has recorded incidents of these hate crimes, euphemistically termed anti-mosque activity in most cities that Muslims call home.
Yet the LA Times reports a new surge of mosque construction… which takes me back to my original point. Human beings in general and Americans in particular tend to be generous in their help and support of each other despite religious, ethnic, or racial differences. Leaders of other faith communities speak out whenever a mosque is vandalized, because together we can give the message that extremists of any religion don’t speak for the rest of us. So the changing tide of mosque growth is not just interesting, it’s in fact hopeful and indicative of better things to come.