Saturday, August 14, 2010

Obama Supports The Cordoba House Masjid - To The Saudi and Other Muslim Countries - Learn!

Yesterday evening President Obama supported the Park 51, Cordoba House Masjid (Mosque). In a Whitehouse Dinner hosting Muslim leaders to celebrate the beginning of Ramadhan, President Obama Said:

Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities -– particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground

But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who led the response to that attack -– from the firefighters who charged up smoke-filled staircases, to our troops who are serving in Afghanistan today. And let us also remember who we’re fighting against, and what we’re fighting for. Our enemies respect no religious freedom. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam -– it’s a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders -– they’re terrorists who murder innocent men and women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion -– and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.

I applaud President Obama to uphold the core values of our Nation and respect his courage to do so against an overwhelming anti-islamic sentiment that has swelled around this issue.

However, I also feel President Obama lost an opportunity to further accentuate the religious freedom opportunity by pointing out to the very leaders that sat around this dinner listening to him; Ambassadors and Dignitaries representing some of the most totalitarian states like Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia continues to practice some of the most egregious form of totalitarian dictatorships in the world. Not only are they intolerant of other religions but rather they are intolerant to other Muslim brothers who do not agree with their Wahabi interpretation of Islam. Case and point is the continued persecution and desecration of a Shi'ite revered site in Medina where the Prophet Muhammed SA daughter, Fatema AS and grandchildren are buried - Janat-Ul-Baqi. Here the Saudi government not only has systematically destroyed key religious sites important to Muslims, especially Shi'ite Muslims, but they have prohibited any further development of the area. Instead it is kept in a delapitated state with the Secret Police monitoring the site and surrounded by a fort like structure which looks grand from the outside but disrespects the actual cemetery and the religious significance of the location.

When President Obama made the above statements yesterday, these very same leaders who represent their governments stood up in support clapping and giving a standing ovation to President Obama. I call upon those leaders attending this ceremony to take heed and learn from the ideals talked about by President Obama and adopt those principals in their own country.

I have said repeatedly that this controversy surrounding the Community House at Park 51 represents the best of our United States. The energetic discussion and the fact that the leaders of New York, despite whatever personal preferences and biases, have stood in support for the project and allowed it to move forward says volumes about the true freedoms we enjoy.

On the surface the Cordoba House and the Masjid that it will house may seem "insensitive" and "wrong". I whole heartedly disagree and in fact I think it honors and celebrates the 3000 victims (many of them who were Muslims as well) of 9/11. What better than to honor the memories of the victims of 9/11 then to have a call for prayers sound 5 times a day just a few blocks from Ground Zero where US Citizens will come there to pray and remember. Those families around the local area will come to the community center will play, learn and socially interact with each other and practice the fundamentals of the American Life each and every day. What better way to celebrate the American Dream then to have the true nature of Islam be practiced in defiance to those terrorists who attempted to destroy our way of life on 9/11. This center in fact will demonstrate to those intolerant, ignorant militants that America is not Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or other but rather a way of life that allows all religions including the true values of Islam to be practiced harmoniously and side by side with others who may disagree.

I call upon the Saudis, The Pakistanis, The Indonesians, The Egyptians, The Kuwaiti and another intolerant regimes to see and learn! I call upon the Saudi's who may be contributing to this Cordoba House project to stop and take head and learn from this awesome system we have in our great nation, and for once just take the first step - allow the reconstruction and rebuilding of revered institutions in their own countries for their minority populations. Maybe they can start by allowing the rebuilding of Janat-Ul-Baqi - a revered site of Fatema AS the daughter of Prophet Mohammed AS.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Revered Guest Ramadhan Returns

Once again the 9th Holy Month of Ramadhan is amongst us Muslims. Yesterday for the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims marked the first day as we started our month as per the lunar calendar.

As I sat in our Masjid right after Maghrib (sunset) prayers waiting for my dates, cup of tea and a cookie served by young volunteers to break my fast, the Masjid was resonating with a buzz and prayers. It is during this time for the next 30 days we will ask Allah to guide us back to the graces of heaven and show us the path to avoid the sins that could lead us to hellfire.

A tradition of 1400+ years Muslims during Ramadhan come together and ask the same question to Allah. We gather to seek solace, repent and renew our wows to do better for the coming year. And most of all we come together in Ramadhan to remember the many bounties we have and give thanks for what we have received.

For the past 4 years, the journey for me has been a long, arduous one. Looking back it may seem difficult to see how we can be thankful. For the past 4 years, our country has experienced one of the most difficult times in our history. We seem polarized and truly distraught in where we want to go and what we want to be.

Pundits and Gurus continue to show comparisons to Rome and other empires of the past say that we are going down the same path. And yes there are some striking similarities but there are many contrasts too. I will not bore you with these details but rather write about why I believe this Ramadhan we have many things to celebrate and be optimistic.

As a small business owner I have experienced the "Great Recession". Business is down significantly and the old business models are out the window. "Things just do not work the way they used to..." I look back and think why is it not working, what can I do to make this better or different? History teaches us that during times of great change, turmoil, and distress we come up with the greatest and biggest answers. I know this is true, and this Ramadhan I am thankful that I am living through such a great time of change. For this experience will be the initial sparks to the next sea of changes that will bring decades of prosperity. For these difficult times will give me an opportunity to make a difference in where my humble small boat will float for my family, my friends, my community and my country.

If we raise our view to the national level, we see the recent political, economical and social turmoil and I see numerous opportunities of hope. The Oil Spill in the Gulf was devastating to the local economy and a disaster that will take decades to recover. But it is this very spill that has helped us focus on our endless dependency on depleting and polluting energy source and see what we can do to try to right this endless appetite for oil. I am thankful that as devastating as this Oil Spill has been for our nation, that we will get an opportunity to right the many wrongs that have persisted in this industry. Lives will be changed forever and opportunities for new businesses and ventures will be born. Like any wildfire, yes the brushfire will destroy the old growth but it will also make way for the new. I know we will build and the new will be stronger and better than the old.

Our nation continues to fight two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though I politically disagree with both the wars, but now as we try to exit both theaters, there is great uncertainty of what will happen to these nations and what dangers will be born for our nation. Time will of course tell us, but the reality is that there will always be great opponents of our country and so no war or effort can ever eliminate this threat. We can't win this war in a traditional sense. What has to change is the very social, economical fabric of the Iraqi and Afghani society. This can only be done through time with education and exposure to new thinking.

As nasty and as destructive as the two wars have been, there is a spark for hope. The turmoil once again has brought about a sea of change. The status quo is gone and opportunity to accelerate the growth of new ideas has taken root. Time will tell if those ideas, systems and processes will be positive or not. I am optimistic that the human ingenuity in this great age of information sharing will yield a very different result than what has happened in the past. It will take time and it will be different.

One of the bigger issues of the day has been the Community Center - Cordoba House in Manhattan that is being built by Muslims. It has a Masjid as part of the whole complex. The proximity of this project to the 9/11 site has created massive political repercussions for those that support the project and those that oppose it. I have read and listened to all parties and through this chaos and this Ramadhan I have realized that such a discussion is awesome. This issue has helped do two things. One, it has provided an awesome opportunity for the large American Muslim community to showcase the true aspects of a peaceful Muslim community that are large great contributers of the socio, economic and political landscape of modern America. Two it is showcasing the very beauty of our constitutional system that allows such a discussion to even take place. The very fact that this discussion is occurring is a testament that our system is not broken but rather working and working well. In this information over load age it looks like our disagreements are increasing...but I believe on the contrary. These disagreements have always been there, but through the new age of instant news and communications - things like this very blog - allows these discussions to take place quicker and faster which gives us all an opportunity to practice the fundamentals of the American way better.

So as I sat in the row with my brothers ready to break my first fast of this Ramadhan, a thought crossed my mind that things just cannot get any worse! How can this all be fixed, it just gets worse every day? But then I closed my eyes and as I sipped the hot tea that blended with the juicy date in my mouth after a long 101 degree day, I knew that it can only be good. Just like the Hot Day of August with 101 degree heat and dry fasting mouth can be relieved by the grace of tea and dates, May Allah Ta'ala grant us the bounty of the sweet reward of the great struggles of the men and women of this great nation. I pray that the long fast of this past few years be broken soon with the bountiful flavors of the fruits to come. May he grant us all the Sabr (Patience) to see through these difficult times to realize that the journey will take us to a better place.

Ramadhan Karim, Mubarak to all!