Imam: Park51 Essential for Waging Peace

But is assimilation the only way forward?

By Naima Ramos-Chapman Sep 27, 2010

Feisal Abdul Rauf, Imam of the controversial Park 51 Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, said recently on "60 Minutes" that the building of Park 51 is essential for "waging peace" and bridging understanding between Americans, Muslims abroad, and Muslim-Americans.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Rauf said a "campaign for winning hearts and minds is an important part" to any military fight against Muslim extremists. 

It seems American Muslims in New York City are following the Imam’s "we’re just like you" lead. Last week the city held its 25th annual Muslim day parade, and from the view on one parade-goer, the event was less about taking pride in their faith and more about proving that Muslims aren’t so scary after all.

 "We are just trying to show that we are a good community to the New Yorkers and everywhere," the person said, according to local news outlets.

It’s tricky business when an entire community is put in a position of feeling that they have to prove their respectability in order to gain equity. On one hand, it can be useful to win battles by temporarily pacifying the mainstream and comforting xenophobes with images of upstanding Muslim-American citizens. But on the other hand, it reinforces the underlying narrative that Muslims aren’t inherently deserving of basic rights; instead, they’ve got to earn respect by being good, law abiding, citizens. Of course, those in the majority are never forced to make such concessions.

It’s true, kneading out some misconceptions that mainstream media and fear-mongering conservative pundits have pained us all with is necessary. But pushing forth an assimilationist narrative allows mainstream society to those revoke those rights whenever they please. But with mosque mania running rampant, this may be one of the only entry points to having a dialogue about religious freedom, and promoting tolerance.