Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dispelling the myth of American hostility against Muslims - Part I

I live in an Islamic state. The United States of America has a rather negative image here. The media often portrays the US as being hostile towards Muslims.

This is a very inaccurate and irresponsible portrayal of America.

I worked in California in year 2000/01. As a Buddhist – yes, I am a minority in my country - I visited many Buddhist monasteries in the States. Some of them served single-ethnic – usually Asians. Others were multi-racial. My favorite monastery, Wat Metta, was established by Thais but now has a White abbot. Another monastery had a White abbess and most of its members were non-Asians.

I had not visited any mosque but I dare say that Muslims in the States enjoy more religious freedom than their counterparts in the Middle-east and perhaps even my country. There is no reason to believe that Washington persecuted Muslims while at the same time spared Buddhists, Hindus or Sikhs. (Some of my co-workers were Indians.)

Malaysia-born Muslim, Zuriani Zonneveld, now living in Los Angeles, told us her story when she was interviewed by a newspaper recently:

“…right after 9/11, the Friday, ICUJP (Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace) people went to the closest mosque which is the mosque that I attend and they circled it to protect the Friday prayer worshippers in case someone decided to harm the worshippers and in case somebody decided to bomb it, you know. And these are people of other faiths. It brings tears to your eyes. It really does. This is the America that I know. The compassionate.”

Malaysian journalist Foo Yee Ping recently interviewed an imam of Manhattan mosque. Sheikh Omar Saleem Abu-Namous, a Palestinian who has been on American soil since 1998, said, “Muslims here enjoy a great measure of freedom. There’s no interference from anyone when we go to work, worship or when we demonstrate against the attacks on Lebanon.” (SundayStar, "Not dancing to the T tune", Sep 10, 2006) Sheikh Omar also estimated that in New York City alone, there were about 100 mosques.

[Part II is here]

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