Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Go Home?

The incident underscores how contentious — and, perhaps, how irrational — the debate over the mosque has become.

Indeed. For one thing, describing Cordoba House as a mosque is inaccurate, because it is intended as a more ambitious and pluralistic project.

Anyway, in a column about the bigoted protests against the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, we come across this ironic incident:

At one point, a portion of the crowd menacingly surrounded two Egyptian men who were speaking Arabic and were thought to be Muslims.

"Go home," several shouted from the crowd.

"Get out," others shouted.

In fact, the two men – Joseph Nassralla and Karam El Masry — were not Muslims at all. They turned out to be Egyptian Coptic Christians who work for a California-based Christian satellite TV station called "The Way." Both said they had come to protest the mosque.

"I'm a Christian," Nassralla shouted to the crowd, his eyes bulging and beads of sweat rolling down his face.

But it was no use. The protesters had become so angry at what they thought were Muslims that New York City police officers had to rush in and pull Nassralla and El Masry to safety.

"I flew nine hours in an airplane to come here," a frustrated Nassralla said afterward.

This is not only about religious persecution, it is also a vague ethnic persecution, as when Sikhs are harassed by people who think they are muslims, and others who simply appear by their clothes or the color of their skin to be of middle-eastern descent.

It is a sad irony that the Cordoba House's stated purpose is, in substance, a repudiation of the Islamist fanaticism that has deployed terrorism around the world. Here we have American muslims seeking engagement with other faiths and with republican democracy. There could not be a more profound rebuke of Osama bin Laden's vision of the world.

1 comment:

Debby said...

This is powerful truth. Powerful. We decry the intolerance of the radical Muslim even as our own intolerance grows.