Divisive debate on Ground Zero
by M. Zuhdi Jasser
For Muslims, Ramadan is a spiritual month of fasting, prayer and self-reflection. It is an intense mental and physical experience that is a symbolic equalizer of every part of humanity, rich and poor, educated and uneducated.
We embark on this year's fast during increasingly challenging and divisive times.
Since last Ramadan, Nidal Hasan is accused of massacring 13 at Fort Hood and Umar Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to blow up a plane on Christmas Day. Faisal Shahzad is accused of terrorizing Times Square only to later tell America that he was a proud "Muslim soldier." And now, President Obama has weighed in, or not, on the growing controversy over the proposed mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero.
The president has fundamentally misunderstood the stakes and the sentiments of the American people. Opposition to a mammoth Islamic center near Ground Zero is not about religious freedom, it is about the significance of Ground Zero to the American psyche.
The president's admonishment on religious freedom will play on Islamist media as a lecture to the American people. With almost 70 percent of Americans opposing this center, his focus has directly fed the false Islamist narrative that most Americans want a war against Islam and Muslims.
The reality is that the impression many leading American Muslim groups leave of Islam can only be described as narcissistic spirituality. They obsess about what "we need," "I want," or what "you are doing to us." It's about what others should do for them, underlined by a demand for political correctness.
They seem to be indifferent to the feelings and needs of the majority of America, Muslim or non-Muslim.
The president is just parroting that rather than leading.
Many major Muslim groups deny any responsibility for the reforms needed to stop radicals. Instead, they obsess on victimization, make belligerent demands, and wrap themselves in the First Amendment.
This $100 million political structure is a demand that is wrong in many ways, but especially for Muslims in America.
Our spiritual journey of Ramadan is about admitting that we want equality, not special privileges. It is now that we refocus our children on what it means to put our needs a distant third to God and to those who need us, like our nation.
Our priorities need to be self-repair and humble spirituality. Introspection and humility are the only way to treat America's perception of Islam.
Islam taught me to focus on "my responsibilities," "my role as an American" and "my moral and Islamic obligations to reform" and separate mosque and state.
Denial is the tool of the narcissist. Islamists insist that they are misunderstood. But it is they who misunderstand America and ignore the pre-modern ideologies that permeate many interpretations of Islam.
So this Ramadan, I propose we focus on some core humanitarian values. Let us spend a week on each. First, we need to lift up the principles of the U.S. Constitution and its Establishment Clause over any other legal system, including Shariah.
Second, we need to celebrate our devotion to American nationalism and its universal equality "under God."
Third, let us celebrate modernity and the Enlightenment and the hard work we have yet to do to bring Islamic thought into this era.
Last, let us focus on Quranic scripture and realize passages that need reinterpretation.
Our major holiday at the end of Ramadan will fall the day before the ninth anniversary of 9/11. May the lessons of Ramadan this year end with every imam asking Muslims to step away from tribal whims and demands and step towards genuine reform and the separation of mosque and state.