A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

the midwest melting pot ii: more on the mother mosque

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 25, 2006

The Wall Street Journal has posted several online reader responses to Michael Judge’s “Mother Mosque” article. Some reflect an attitude that is … exactly what I would (stereotypically) expect of WSJ readers, such as the following:

Not Enough for Me
Kelly Lofton – Kennewick, Wash.

I applaud Imam Tawil on his efforts to educate his fellow citizens on Islam. However, until I see more of these Muslim Americans take the stance that they are not so much Muslim Americans as “just Americans” and begin to seriously and forcefully condemn the attacks by their terrorist “other brother,” I will continue to view them with skepticism and suspicion. If they are truly Americans, they should hold no allegiance to any other government or people than this country and the rest of their fellow American citizens. I am sure that there are many “Americans” of Muslim descent or the Islamic faith that feel exactly as I have described. The problem is that we never hear from them. They remain silent, and as long as they do so, they will continue to be viewed as either on the opposing side or at least sympathizing with the enemy.

Flowery articles like this do nothing to convince me that anything has changed. The only thing we hear is that Islam is misunderstood and that Muslims are the victims. Well, I see something completely different every time I turn on the TV or read a paper. There are “Islamic” people around the world committing genocide and murder in the name of their faith, and on no small scale I might add. It is organized and it is coordinated. I see no convincing condemnation of those actions from the American Muslim.

If they wish to be viewed as Americans they should indicate forcefully that they do not agree with organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, stop trying to change our culture to suit their design, adapt to our way of life, learn the language, and speak out against the violence and destruction being perpetrated on the innocent people of other faiths by Islamic militants and terrorist around the globe.

The people who have hijacked their faith are the ones responsible for most of the killing in the world today. We will help them retake their faith if they will step up and lead as Americans. Otherwise we will continue to assume that they may be “one of the enemy” and treat them accordingly.

Well, this is one view. I do not agree that Muslims are ‘responsible for most of the killing in the world today’, nor that American Muslims are putting any greater pressure on American culture today than American Latinos, or American Irish, Italians (whom we might alternatively term American Catholics) have in the past.

An equally reactionary if somewhat loopier view is the following:

Is Diversity Worth It?
Walter Kasun – Visalia, Calif.

Besides the United States where the heritage of Islam can be counted in tens of years, where else in the world has Islam peacefully cohabited with other religions?

Yes, the United States can make this kind of diversity work: But will the marginal cost of these endeavors exceed the marginal benefit? Is it any kind of benefit to us or the rest of the world to have a country where all cultures are allowed to prosper and grow?

Someone, somewhere needs to do the hard analytical work. We need less flowery language on the “benefits of diversity” from conservatives and liberals and bit more analytical thought on the issue.

I do find it strange that both these responses managed to use the term “flowery”, one which rarely makes it into my own vocabulary set. What I find utterly bizarre is his question: “is it any kind of benefit to us or to the rest of the world to have a country where all cultures are allowed to prosper and grow?” Perhaps we should consider the converse: a country where only one culture and one sect is allowed. I can think of at least one example of this – can you?

And finally, a response more in line with my own:

Joining the American Gothic
Michael D. McCaffrey – Yarmouthport, Mass.

When the word mosque becomes as much a part of our vocabulary as church or temple, we will be well down the road toward understanding our religious diversity as bedrock Americana instead of a red flag to argue that America is really a Christian country or that politicians should be sworn in on the Bible only. Hats off to the Cedar Rapids imam and the Journal for highlighting this story. Maybe, with enough pieces like this, the simple white clapboards of an Iowa mosque can be integrated into the background as American Gothic.

American Gothic was not only painted in Iowa, but also continues to inform Iowan culture, as a badge of Iowan-ness. My parents live in a Des Moines suburb that sports its own larger-than-life-size wrought iron rendition of the painting; it sits in the front yard of the neighbors who commissioned it and is decorated according to the season.

This past summer, the Iowa State Fair replaced its traditional Lego and/or sand sculpture with one made from … balloons. The ‘sculpture’ filled the atrium of the fairgrounds’ Cultural Center – a massive, air-filled recreation of … American Gothic:

american-gothic.JPG

I like the idea of a clapboard mosque, and I like even more the idea that my fellow Iowans welcome it.

In closing, I must correct Mr. Kasun’s statement that in the United States, the “heritage of Islam can be counted in tens of years”. The Mother Mosque may be the oldest functioning mosque in the country, but our Muslim presence vastly pre-dates the twentieth century. American historians believe that the earliest American Muslims were brought to the United States when we were still a British colony – as early as the late 1600s, and certainly by the 18th century. While Muslims ‘arrived’ to this continent later than Christians or Jews, they are certainly no Johnny-come-latelies. (Richard Brent Turner’s Islam in the African-American Experience covers this early history, while Robert Allison’s The Crescent Obscured addresses the early United States’ relations with Muslim world states and peoples.)

The responses can be viewed at: http://www.opinionjournal.com/cc/responses.html?article_id=110009412.

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One Response to “the midwest melting pot ii: more on the mother mosque”

  1. CATO said

    Religious extremists practice a form of absolutism that eliminates rational argument. And no democracy has to tolerate that.

    Kasun made a point that diversity carries a cost, and that Islam does not have a good record of promoting religious diversity and tolerance in the present world. Since the world is an imperfect place, to consider the USA equally at fault because it is NOT PERFECT, is a fallacious argument that could only be perpetrated by religious intolerance and ignorance.

    As far as the violence of monotheism, well then look no further than Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, LEBANON. They are the paragon of violence, and the antithesis of freedom.

    When one takes off the blinders of religious extremism one is confronted by the abject violence and ignorance of monotheism.

    And it is only the Western tradition of freedom that will vanquish the extremists within Islam.

    A young Pakistani boy or girl will choose life over a weaponized belt if GIVEN THE CHOICE.

    Islam cannot stand up to the kind of rational scrutiny that values freedom and the primacy of independent thought.

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