Estimated reading time: 15 minute(s)
Much has been said about the controversy surrounding the proposed construction of the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Frankly, it has become outrageous.
Another voice has officially joined the national dialogue…the African American Muslims in America. As a young Muslim, it was a joy for me to witness this.
The unified Coalition of African American Muslims (CAAM) held a press conference on Sept. 2, 2010 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Prior to the press conference, the coalition released this statement in part:
“The controversy over the Park 51 Project (Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan) is indicative of a general rise in racist bigotry towards people of color in this country. While the issue has its particular and unique distinctions, it cannot be separated from the rising violence against African Americans and Latinos, or the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric and exclusionary politics driving the national debate on immigration.
As African-American Muslims, we feel our unique perspective has been missing from an emerging national discussion. We wish to join that discussion by first of all affirming that among our forbears are Muslims who have lived peacefully and productively in this country since its inception.
We commend all of those Jews, Christians and members of other faith and ethnic communities who have raised their voices in defense of the constitutional rights of all Americans.”
During the press conference, various speakers spoke on behalf of the coalition including Akbar Muhammad, Imam Abdul Malik, Nisa Islam Muhammad, Mahdi Bray, Imam Zaid Shakir, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, and Minister Louis Farrakhan.
“It’s a great day to be a Muslim,” said Nisa Muhammad, who has organized the Ramadan Tsunami Prayer line the past five years, bringing together Muslims from across the globe.
Imam Shakir, who lectures at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, CA., said that he sees the opposition to the Park 51 project as “symptoms of a deeper disease. That deeper disease manifests itself in nooses being hung in places like Jena, Louisiana…that deeper disease is called fear monger. That deeper disease is called hatred. It is called bigotry.”
Mahdi Bray,the Executive Director of MAS Freedom, said “We’re here as a coalition of African American Muslims because we have a unique perspective on bigotry and hatred. This is the same toxic soup of bigotry and hatred–served in a different bowl. I live in a country where I have to worry about driving while Black and flying while Muslim.”
“No matter how many books they burn, they do nothing with Islam–because Islam is in your heart. The Qur’an is in your heart. They can’t burn that out of me,” said Asma Hanif.
Sister Asma also emphasized “As a Muslim woman I am not oppressed. I dress this way because I love it! The only oppression I have ever seen is growing up Black in North Carolina. Islam liberated me.”
“The people of intelligence know that Islam is not the enemy. Islam represents one of the greatest paths to salvation. My concern is for the future of America. I’m not worried about Islam–Islam will prosper. Whether they burn the Qur’an or seek to destroy mosques, we will only print more and build more,” said Imam Abdul Malik.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj said “The hatred towards Muslims right now is good. All over America people are asking “Teach me about Islam”.
The final speaker was Minister Farrakhan who stated “The ground where the World Trade Center was–I like the fact that it is called hallowed. Because on Sept. 11, the World Trade Center, in which there were representatives of the entire world, there were Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists–people from practically every nation on this earth. When that building was destroyed, the whole world felt it…Among those sending condolences were Muslims from all over the world.”
“Why then should a mosque–a cultural center–not be constructed a few blocks away? Well let’s see what’s around it,” said Min. Farrakhan.
Min. Farrakhan then quoted from an article by Nicolaus Mills of the Christian Science Monitor wherein he writes, “But the World Trade Center neighborhood is also filled with eyesores. When I walked from Park Place on the north side of the World Trade Center to Rector Street on the south side, what I encountered were a string of bars, betting parlors, and fast-food restaurants. And within this cluster of buildings, especially noticeable were two strip clubs, the New York Dolls Gentleman’s Club and the Pussycat Lounge, plus Thunder Lingerie and More, a sex shop with a peep show.”
To further emphasize that “Ground Zero” is hallow ground to African Americans, Min. Farrakhan referenced the 1991 discovery of 415 graves with bones of some 20,000 African slaves buried underground ten minutes away from the spot where the WTC once stood.
“We will not allow anyone–on our watch–to do some silly act to deprive an innocent human being of their life. And if we see it, we’ll stop it. If we see the person, we will arrest them because they are not only an enemy to Islam–they are an enemy to us and all of the American people,” said Min. Farrakhan in regards to acts of terrorism.
“I am for and we are for building that mosque or cultural center wherever they want to. Wherever they want,” said Min. Farrakhan to a question from the media.
The coalition also addressed the controversy surrounding Pres. Obama being called a Muslim and the state of education in this country. To view the entire replay of this press conference click: http://www.noi.org/webcast/sep-02-2010/
All photos are still shots taken from the video