Of all the pictures taken at the end of World War II, none are as memorable as the photo snapped on V-J Day in Times Square, August 14, 1945, of a sailor passionately kissing a woman wearing a white dress. This shot captured the joy the nation was feeling having received news that war had finally come to a close. All of which is reminiscent of another collective sharing.
When heavyweight champ Joe Louis took to the ring, all of Black America might as well have been fighting his opponent along with him. In Louis’ return bout with German champ Max Schmeling on June 22, 1938 at Yankee Stadium, 70 million persons in the U.S. listened with rapt attention to this historical fight. History reminds all that it was possible to walk for blocks and blocks through any Black community and never miss a second of the radio announcer’s blow-by-blow account of Louis’ delivering one devastating blow after another. When Joe Louis won a fight Black America won and when Louis was defeated, as he was in his first fight with Schmeling two years earlier, so did Black America feel the crushing blow of failure; a failure that lingered in the air like Los Angeles’ smog. Muslims too have come to know more than a little about these two emotions.
President Obama in Egypt
When President Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world in particular and all else in general from Cairo University in June of 2009, there existed a pride and interest among many Muslims. Yet, despite this fleeting feeling of euphoria, many Muslims know all too well that ever since 9-11, the title “Muslim” means different things to different people. Reports come in from Pakistan, a nation that has been all but devastated from flooding, indicating there are many in the U.S. who are hesitant to assist this ravaged country for fear their charitable dollars would be used to fund terrorists organizations within Pakistan’s borders. It is difficult to imagine the same line of thinking being applied to a Christian or Buddhist nation flattened by a natural disaster. Yet is the burden that accompanies the collective Muslims of the world today.
Ground Zero Cultural Center
Whereas there exists enough shame and guilt to go around when one considers the shoe and underwear bombers and a host of other attention getting gestures of those acting according to how they interpret the Qur’an, an opportunity to revel in a collective joy exists in what has come to be knows as the Mosque near Ground Zero or Park51.
Muslims too are torn between whether the construction of an Islamic anything near the site where thousands of lives were loss and untold numbers of families scarred forever was a good idea. Some Muslims believe a smaller building would not have provoked as much public rancor while others inquire, “How far away would be acceptable? Five blocks? 15?”
There is a tendency among groups that are in the cross hairs of a broader population to attempt to remain low on the radar screen. This is seen among undocumented workers in Arizona and other states who, when victimized, are reluctant to call law enforcement.
Such behavior was also exhibited in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, when Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., and the Montgomery Improvement Association when bargaining with city officials, initially asked for a more “humane” from of Jim Crow (segregation)
and not the full rights afforded them as citizens of the United States.
An opportunity to Muslims to again breathe a sigh of collective joy is being afforded them and other freedom loving persons of all faiths through the Ground Zero Cultural Center. The planners of this peaceful edifice is extending an invitation to New York City and the world to join them in their study halls, basket ball courts, and yes, mosque when construction has been completed.
Muslims, like those of other faiths, will do what their hearts and assessments of social conditions dictate. This is seen in the USA and other locations around the world where Muslims kill Muslims who happen to be innocent women and children. If Muslims are to continue proclaiming from the highest minaret that Islam is a religion of peace, it appears that an opportunity exists right this minute in New York City to support the Ground Zero Cultural Center aka Park51.
Interested in knowing what Valley Muslims think about Ground Zero Cultural Center/Park51? Visit any of the area mosques and speak with the Imam (religious leader) as well as other attendees. The Islamic Community Center of Tempe, 131 E.6th Street, Tempe is one among many.
To Your Journey!