New York's Muslims are scared and angry - and indisposed to side with their adoptive country over their religion : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

No national pride inspired in US Muslims

New York's Muslims are scared and angry - and indisposed to side with their adoptive country over their religion. Michael Ellison reports

Wednesday September 19, 2001

Mohamed Aissaoui, a son of New York City, wants to be a politician when he grows up; whatever else he lacks, the rhetoric is there already. "The only take you can have on it is as a Muslim," says the 14-year-old outside Al Qaraween Islamic bookstore on Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, several blocks of which is a heavily Islamic neighbourhood.

"You're Muslim first and American second. We can only do as our religion says: we should fight back."

The boy's father is Algerian, his mother Palestinian and he was born in the United States.

"For a long time in my country they've been killing innocent children and nothing happens," he says on the opposite side of the East River to where over 5,000 people were killed in Lower Manhattan by the World Trade Centre suicide pilots.

"Who? The Israelis and the United States. It's about time something happened."

He is talking in front of a sign, appended to the divide between the shop and the Majid Al-Farooq mosque, that says: "In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful: Koran, chapter six, verse 151: 'And kill not life that Allah has made sacred.'"

The boy rolls up the sleeve of his grey sweatshirt and says:

"The Americans should know one thing. If these people took two years to prepare for this attack, they took two years to prepare for the defence.

"When people are fighting for the cause of Allah, they're not easily defeated. If they were doing it for a good cause, then God bless them."

In the wake of the attacks, Muslims have been attacked in Texas, Ilinois and New York. Their religious leaders counsel tolerance.

"We see common people assigning guilt by association of religion or ethnicity to others, and expresssing their understandable grief and rage by attacking those who are themselves innocent," says Iman al-Haji Talib 'Abdur-Rashid, spiritual leader of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem. "This must stop."

The Muslims of Atlantic Avenue are torn by President George Bush's promises of retaliation, torn by their twin allegiances.

"If somebody is involved, they deserve punishment," says 40-year-old Nasir Nisham, who moved to the US from Pakistan five years ago, talking from behind the counter of the Noo As-Sunnah bookstore, which also sells clothes, oils, newspapers, videos and "I love Allah" bookmarks.

"This is not a little thing. This is a very, very big upset. If Bin Laden is involved in this then he deserves it."

But he is not convinced that Bin Laden should be the target: "He has a problem, not with the USA. He has a problem with Russia."

Jaezah Ahmed, a friend, says: "America doesn't have a good history. America has bombed almost every country. Now they get bombed, they can't accept it. Going after Afghanistan is not going to solve any problem."

Omar Mohmed, a 23-year-old taxi driver standing outside the mosque before going in to prayers, notes that there were many Muslims working inside the two towers of the World Trade Centre when the planes struck.

"America doesn't know who did it. They can't just say that if a Muslim did it then all Muslims did it," he says, cradling a cup of coffee.

"We're not going to judge it because he [the pilot] already died. Maybe he did it from anger, maybe he saw his brother die and he wanted revenge.

"If the Americans bomb another country, it just makes matters worse. This is just the start. Who knows what is the truth? They tell us who did it, then they have the investigation. That's not the way you do it. If Bin Laden can do this, why didn't he go for Israel?"

Omar Mohmed, who came to the US from Egypt five years ago, has another question: " Why didn't you listen to us before? Why does it take this for you to come here to listen to us, to find out what we want?"

Police officers are on the corners of most of the blocks in the neighbourhood and lurking surreptitiously also in the doorways between.

Moon Ahmad, a 36-year-old from Pakistan staffing the counter at the Moon Palace Deli where a television station is broadcasting under the title "Day of Destruction", says that he is both American and proud to be a Muslim.

"Everything should be peace, that's the main thing. Love can change a lot of things. Not hate."

The Americans should attack, he says. He is 100% in favour of doing so. No question, the Muslim countries should support the US.

On the other hand, the US was not blameless; had it acceded to Bin Laden's demand and removed its troops from Saudi Arabia, this might not have happened.

"If you don't do anything to me, you don't think that I will hit you, do you? You send a bullet, you get a bullet back.",7792,554464,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (, September 19, 2001


Do we need to ask those that support Osama that live in this country to leave? I certainly don't want to see another internment situation like we had with the Japanese in WWII, but I find it hard to believe those citizens supported the emperor.

-- Steve McClendon (, September 19, 2001.

Should they be asked to leave?


However, each Muslim or person that supports Bin Laden, needs to ask themselves a sincere question... Why am I in America? Why have I "chosen" to live among people of all faiths and non-faith based ideals?

The answer should guide their actions.

Regardless of any American's faith or non-faith based ideals, there is a common principle that forms such a diverse culture. Respect of "life, liberty, and property rights." That is what defines a person as American!

Mr. Bin Laden transgressed against all three of these corner stones of freedom. It is hypocrisy to preach "peace" and to ignore the principles of freedom. Any person that supports his terrorist actions cannot possibly understand the depth and importance of three corner stones of freedom. They may wish to feel American" by calling themselves as such. But, the title will always sound hollow to them.

Those who support Mr. Ben Laden and decide to stay in this country are surely being dishonest with themselves. They are not true to their conviction, they are not true to their own principles. They will continue to live among Americans. Living lives filled with envy and hate as they struggle to fit into a way of life that becomes aver more elusive.

I cannot imagine having to live this way.

-- Justo Perez (, September 19, 2001.

The elements in this here discussion are the best arguments I have seen for separation of church and state. Religion should be a personel matter, not one for the state to enforce. If a person believes otherwise, he should move to a country which supports the offical state religion in which he believes.

On the other hand, I see nothing wrong in saying a public prayer in school to whatever or whomever your religion's supreme being may or may not be. If you don't agree with the prayer, simply do some introspective self-realization during it.

Many acts of violence have been commited in the name of one religion or another. During the Spanish Inquisition it was in the name of Christianity.

The founders of the USA realized radical or ultra-conservative religion has no place in politics , what is the problem with the rest of the world?

Just my opinion FWIW.

-- PHO (, September 19, 2001.

Don't forget, all the arguments about the "Seperation of Church and State" must apply also to ANY form of radical philosophy, not just religious ones.

I agree, there are extremes in all religious communities that can be lethal. We can study the last five years of the 20th century to see violence instigated by radical Islam, radical Christians, radical Hindus, radical Sikh's and radical Jews.

But - in the same 20th century, it was radical philosophy, especially that based on Neitsche and Marx/Lenin that prooved infinately far more dangerous to the health and safety of ordinary citizens than any religion. I think that those numbers are very well-known, I hardly need to cite them. But remember "National Socialism" in Germany - the "NAZI's." We also can't forget the Communist states of the world nor the various various fascist military dictatorships of the century.

We find that during the 20th century, religious extremists might have been responsible for as many as 2million deaths. That's two million too many. But remember, political extremists can be charged with more than 120 million deaths during the same hundred years.

Fundimentally, extremists of ANY kind are dangerous.


-- Rich Marsh (, September 19, 2001.

Point well taken. The movements which Rich mentions had their own equivalents of "supreme beings" -- Hiter, Lenin, etc., so they were much like religions in their own right.

-- PHO (, September 19, 2001.

Yes, those movements did have their "supreme leader" but that is not always true.

Perhaps a more common element for these dangerous groups, both religious and philosophical is their intolerance for any form of opposition. They all seem to have as a common point of view that they believe that "We know what is best for you, and we're going to bring it about..." They don't start out saying, but soon begin to add to that phrase, "Even if we have to kill you to do it."

There have been hundreds of charismatic leaders, who never engaged in that sort of thing. It is how they and their groups deal with opposition that makes the difference between Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and Adolf Hitler and Paul Pot.

Just a thought.

-- Rich Marsh (, September 20, 2001.

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