AverageMohamed.com was set up to talk plainly to Humanity. The issue of extremism is one that directly affects us all. I have waited for a constructive logical argument that can reach average people. It has dawned on me that it will take an average guy. It is an average guy who turns average people into extremists. It will take all of us average people to tell them other wise. My mission is simply create a counter ideology with your help and input. Give average parents who deal with their average kids and clergy talking points that can help with theological or even logical talking points countering falsehood propagated by extremists. I live happily in the greatest place a person can call home, amongst a people who cherish peace and offer people like me unparralled oportunity to achieve as much as I want to. It is in their name and that of my children and the right to free speech I do this.
Dear America, “Let My Mosque Go”
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), “American mosques and Islamic centers have been the targets of vandalism, harassment and anti-Muslim bigotry at least 63 times this year”. So many Americans mistake mosques for churches; Mosques aren’t churches, and they don’t function like one. Mosques are open for everyone, no membership or affiliation required, they don’t check your id at the gate. On Sundays mosques unlike churches, are the most divers place in America. US Today reported that according to a census of U.S. mosques the overall number of mosques in America are 2,106 in 2010 … the study also found that:
“•States with the most mosques are New York (257), California (246) and Texas (166).
•Most mosques are in cities, but 28% were in suburban sites in 2010, up from 16% in 2000.”
Any group or Imam can open a mosque if they let them. If you don’t like a mosque you simply go to another one or build your own. Imams build their own mosques not to breach jihad but to ask for money to fix the roofs or bathrooms! One mosques here, runs by a group of Imams that are interested only in dead Muslims than lives one. They run the biggest Muslims cemetery in the state, and charge $5000 for a head, for them a good Muslim is a dead one. The role that mosques play in Muslims’ lives and belief system is way overstated.
I go to mosques periodically and I have never seen such a bunch of bored Muslims as those who are exposed to the so called jihad preaching. If America has the “born-again Christians,” Islam has the “bored-again Muslims.” Continue reading Dear America, “Let My Mosque Go”
according to the Washington research center New America.
“In America, the mass shooting in San Bernardino has further radicalized anti-Muslim feeling. If only people felt as passionately about all the domestic terrorism and mass shootings. Since 9/11, more people have been killed by white supremacists and right-wing extremists than by jihadists in America,”
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), “American mosques and Islamic centers have been the targets of vandalism, harassment and anti-Muslim bigotry at least 63 times this year. That’s the highest number since CAIR began keeping track in 2009 and a threefold increase over last year.”
In a time of crisis and in the absence of rational thinking, people express grievances differently. American fixation with attacking mosques is puzzling in a country that prides itself on the sanctity of private property. Angry Americans attack and burn mosques — Muslim place of of worships — while angry Muslims attack and burn, not churches, but the American flag, which is a political symbol.
President Obama assured us that America is not at war with Islam or Muslims, that this is a war on ISIL, or Daesh. So why don’t angry Americans burn ISIL flags instead of mosques?
Well, let us seek enlightenment from the “American Thinker,” a daily internet publication that is, as it claims on its website, “devoted to the thoughtful exploration of issues of importance to Americans.” In an article written by Carol Brown titled “Mosques on the front lines in the war against America,” she explains: “Mosques pose a dual risk to Americans. First there is the nature of what is preached inside the walls of the mosque. Second is the nature of the walls themselves.”
I have no idea what she means by “the nature of the walls themselves.” Most mosques in this country were at some point churches or schools that closed down. Very few mosques are actually built as mosques.
Here is the scary thing. According to Brown, 80 percent of these mosques “preach jihad,” as she puts it. I went to a federal trial of a Somali American who was accused of recruiting young Somalis to go and fight with Al Shabab. The prosecutor asked him: “When you go to mosques, didn’t you recite ‘jihad verses’ with your friends (conspirators).”
I have no idea what those “jihad verses” are.
The role that mosques play in Muslims’ lives and belief system is unlike the role of churches, and is way overstated. I go to mosques periodically and I have never seen such a bunch of bored Muslims as those who are exposed to the so called jihad preaching.
If America has “born-again Christians,” Islam has “bored-again Muslims.” Imams, for the most part, are unqualified self-appointed preachers, not well versed in religion or in effective communication.
And here is a tip that may help Islamophobes: Nothing disperses a crowd of Muslims’ like an Imam’s sermon. People carefully plan their Friday prayers to miss the sermon. More Muslims meet after Friday prayers for social gatherings than actually during the prayer.
When I was growing up in Egypt, most people went to the mosques for the indoor plumbing. In countries where secular dictators like Ben Ali, Gaddafi, Al Assad and Mubarak ruled, mosques were the only places the dictators couldn’t control. So the only things that grew in those countries were corruption and beards.
Mosques played a major role in the Arab Spring, however. Mostly it was led by young seculars who probably never visited mosques before the revolution, and whose main chant was for “bread, freedom and social justice.”
As Charles B. Anthony wrote in “Middle East Eye” magazine: “Militant political Islam was midwifed in the dungeons of Nasser’s Egypt, aided by the CIA as counterweight to Pan-Arab nationalism, then raised in Afghanistan as a proxy force for fighting Russia, with our stalwart allies the Saudis sowing the seeds of Wahabi ideology from Peshawar (Pakistan) to Tunis.”
Radicalization among Muslims is driven mostly by socioeconomic conditions and local politics. People in Muslim countries express their political grievances in religious rhetoric. But the biggest issues that drive terrorism against the West are political, not religious — the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the support for Arab dictators and for Jewish state atrocities against Palestinians.
The only religious war we have is Muslims fighting among themselves in sectarian wars in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere after Western interference broke down social institutions.
According to the latest Gallup Poll released Monday, Americans’ concern about terrorism has increased five-fold in the past month alone, surpassing the economy as their most important concern. Presidential candidates are taking notice.
Lots of pundits are trying to figure out Donald Trump’s outrageous, racist statements about Muslims. As Chauncey Devega succinctly stated in Salon: “Racism, bigotry and xenophobia are a core part of America’s national character.” And it is as old as apple pie. The GOP debate is nothing but hate speeches. As Devega stated: “83% of American history was a history of slavery and exploitation of non whites to reinforce white supremacy.”
The night of the 9/11 attacks, I was asked by Charlie Rose in a TV interview how that terrible tragedy was going to affect Muslims in America. I quoted Winston Churchill: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”
It seems the learning curve is longer than I thought.
Ahmed Tharwat is host and producer of the Arab-American TV show BelAhdan, TPT Mondays, 10:30pm. On twitter @ahmediatv.
Notes from America: Ramadan – a personal reflection
By Ahmed Tharwat
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began last week. This fasting month is observed by millions of Muslims around the world, unless you are in China, where anti-fasting cops resort to force feeding observing Muslims in public. The number of hours that Muslims must fast will vary based on where they live. In a country in the northern hemisphere, like Denmark, there is a whopping 22 hours of fasting time. I fear there will be some very angry Muslims over there. However, in the southern hemisphere, Argentina has the shortest fasting day with only 10 hours. In my own state, Minnesota, there are 17 hours to endure and summer temperatures often reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit (about 32 C). This would make even Representative Michelle Bachman (R/MN)—who is known for her anti-Muslim sentiment–feel for Muslims.
Notes from America: Muslims and Christians – At war in life, at peace in death
On a hot summer afternoon, Standing along with a few hundred Muslims at the Garden of Eden Islamic Cemetery located in a remote corner of a Christian cemetery in Burnsville, Minnesota, mourning the death of one of our friends, the reverences and the respect were not just given by Muslims, but also by the staff and workers at the Christian cemetery.
Everyone was taken by the gravity of the situation. Cemetery workers dug the grave, carried the coffin, lowered it into the grave, and waited quietly away until the end of the burial, cleaned up and walked away. What a contrast, Muslims in the United States, in the post 9/11 era are constantly exposed to all sorts of bigotry, discrimination and media demonisation, are chased, attacked, racially profiled at airports, spied on in schools, mosques, and young Muslims are entrapped by the FBI for show. But when they die they are welcomed and given most respect at a Christian cemetery in unmarked graves not too far distant from dead Christians.
I never understood the rules of religious proximity between the dead Muslim and Christian, and if no amount of interfaith dialogue could bring Muslims and Christians together, death can. As a hyphenated Muslim-American living in the US, I couldn’t help but wonder about the one Christian family that was living in my village growing up in Egypt 50 years ago, what became of them, and what trace they had left – if any. I decided to go back to a trip in history and find out more about this Christian family, and why my village was immune to the rift between the two religions.
My village, as I remember it, was a small, unassuming place in the Egyptian Nile delta. Before CNN and Al Jazeera, villagers lived the simple life of a farming community, and their interest in the outside world went only as far as the edge of their fields. The men left with their animals for work at dawn and came back at dusk, while their wives stayed home, busy preparing hearty meals and raising kids to work on the farm as soon as they mastered their first step.
People seemed to consult the same fashion designer, go to the same mosque to pray, eat the same food, celebrate the same holidays, and for generations, villagers kept the gene pool very much confined to the area’s families. I was interested to know more about the Coptic family who lived among us.
The Christian family’s peculiar lifestyle was intriguing to me. In fact, it was a breath of fresh air that invigorated the monotonous village life. “They seemed friendlier than most, and they easily smiled,” commented Haj Abdullah, one of the few relatives left with a sharp memory of the Coptic family history.
Unlike other villagers who worked on the farm, the Christian family was still in the hunting-and-gathering age. “They made their living chasing wild wolves lurking on the outskirts of the village,” continued Haj Abdullah. “The Christian father, Kyriakos, would vanish into the remote fields for days and suddenly resurface with his kill,” he added.
“The Coptic family would drag the dead wolf around in the streets for show-and-tell, describing the grave danger they had just faced and the heroic adventure they had encountered, which earned them considerable admiration from villagers and a handsome handout of rice, corn or whatever the season offered at the time,” explained my cousin Ezzat.
“I knew Kyriakos, the father; he had a great sense of humour,” Haj Abdullah added, “He was a joker.”
“I never thought of them as Christian or Coptic, just my neighbour,” shared my brother Abdel Rafaa. Growing up in my village, I liked to hang around with Sameer Kyriakos: one of the Coptic brothers, known simply as the Copt. Although I had the privilege and perks that came with being part of the majority religion, my alliance with him was personal, and it might have resulted from both of us being considered somewhat social outcasts by most of the villagers.
Both of our families had chosen a career other than farming. My family members were the educators who ran the only village elementary school for years. Sameer was in my class, and I always envied him for being a Coptic during our religion class: he was free to choose to stay or go to the school playground. I wished I could go too, if only to spare myself the abuse of our religion teacher.
Besides his great personality, Sameer had a unique skill: he was a sharp shooter, exceptionally good at using the BB gun, and I was good at using the slingshot. Our pastime was hunting small birds in the summer. We both left the village early in the morning and spent the whole day roaming the field hunting for these birds. The solitude of the field’s greenery and the empty roads gave us the emotional space to be close and good buddies; we talked about anything; kissing girls and other dreams.
Years went by, until the day the father suddenly died. The family was not prepared for this eternal fate, and neither was the rest of the village. Although the cultural tradition of the Muslim villagers to accommodate the Coptic family while they were alive, the religious burial traditions were not flexible enough to accommodate the mixing of their dead in the same cemetery.
“The Coptic family wanted to bury their father at their cemetery located away from the city, as most of them do across Egypt,” said Haj Abdullah. However, “before his death, Kyriakos the Coptic father asked your uncle [my uncle Abd Elhafeez] to be buried with him at the Muslim cemetery,” he explained. My uncle kept his promise to his Coptic neighbour.
“There was some reluctance and hesitation from the villagers,” my brother Refaat said. “Both religions prohibit mixing the dead in the same graves or cemetery,” he explained.
Before the Wahhabi-oil brand of Islam that was sweeping Egypt these days, there was more tolerance.
Members of my father’s family were not known for their religious zealotry, but for their kindness and generosity. ”If the Coptic family had lived in peace with the rest of us all these years without any trouble, there shouldn’t be much trouble while they were dead,” explained my cousin Fekary about Uncle Abd Elhafeez’s view at the time.
“My family consulted no one in the village,” said my brother Nasser. The burial ceremony was completed quietly at my family’s cemetery gravesite. Now and after all these years , like all Muslim graves, which lack any religious symbols or eulogy – only a name and date – just a Coptic family name remains, “Kyriakos” and the dates: “Born in 1911 and died 1962.”
What is so amazing today is that with all the rift between Christians and Muslims, and Islam and the West, and also periodic flair-ups between Egyptian Copts and Muslims, this has never translated into any hostility towards the Coptic family’s grave; no act of defacing or expression of graffiti on the unfenced Coptic grave can be found, which is remarkable in the age of the internet and the global village and religious fundamentalism.
All those years ago, in my village, Muslims and Copts had lived together and died together in peace and harmony. There is very little they can do when they are dead.
Ahmed Tharwat is host of the Arab-American show Belahdan. He blogs at Notes From America www.ahmediatv.com Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @ahmediatv
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