Park51, originally named Cordoba House, is a planned 13-story Muslim community center to be located two blocks from the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. The major part of the center will be open to the general public. It will contain a Muslim prayer space that has controversially been referred to as the “Ground Zero mosque. The proposed construction of this community centre has become a controversial issue and a very hot favourite point of opposition for various religious sections of the American society. Some of the politicians who want to win the political sympathies of the religious sectors are also trying to exploit the situation. “No mosque at ground zero. We won’t allow creeping Sharia in the United States,” says in an article former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who is one of the possible presidential candidates in election 2012. As a result of such type of instigation angry Americans are participating in different protest rallies. They are raising slogans in opposition to the building of new mosques and Islamic centers in America.
As reported by The Brooklyn Paper, in one of such protest rallies in the surrounding area of the Sheepshead Bay an outraged resident who lives across the street from the proposed house of worship between East 28th and East 29th said, “If they build a mosque there, I’m going to bomb the mosque. I will give them a lot of trouble .They’re not going to stay here alive.” A Fox News poll also added to the severity of the situation which showed that while 61 percent of Americans believe that Cordoba House has a constitutional right to build near Ground Zero, 64 percent believe it is not appropriate to do so. It is nothing but an irony that in spite of such a horrible situation, the USA claims itself a ‘secular state’ where every citizen has equal moral rights of living his life according to his own creed and religious ideology.
Religion is no doubt one of the most sensitive issues even for those who claim to be secular in their everyday life. It is the only issue where we find the least forbearance and surely a situation of no compromise. Every year thousands of innocent people are deprived of their lives in the name of religious intolerance. Even in the West and particularly in America , where most of the people take religion as the personal matter of an individual, situation is not very much different from that of the rest of the world. The case study of the proposed Islamic community center near ground zero New York would give us a very clear picture of the so-called ‘secular’ society of America.
On the other hand, the countries like Pakistan are consistently being branded as ‘fundamentalists and extremists’. In spite of the fact that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam there is no such type of extremism as we find in the USA. In Pakistan every religious community enjoys complete religious freedom. The Christians, Hindus and the Sikhs are allowed to build their Churches, Gurdawaras and Temples respectively. Different religious segments and factions have been co-exiting harmoniously showing signs of mutual respect and deference for each other. Religious tolerance and sectarian broadmindedness as envisaged by teachings of Sufism have remained the hallmark of Pakistani society. But this peaceful and exemplary situation of religious harmony is painfully pinching those who do not want to see Pakistan progress as a prosperous and peaceful country.
These hostile elements are earnestly trying to de-stabilize the Pakistani society through religious and sectarian division. Anonymous non-state actors are targeting the mosques and shrines. Religious scholars and leaders of religious parties are being killed; all for nothing but to widen the sectarian divide among peaceful factions of society. The government of Pakistan must be more vigilant in taking steps to deal with these hostile elements. Moreover, religious leaders of different factions should play more effective role to counter this menace. There is also need to create awareness amongst general public against the interests of hostile elements. It is the high time to get alert. We will have to prove that Islam has nothing to do with extremism and the people who are involved in any type of extremism have no affinity with Islam and Pakistan. We will have to show to the world that we are not as narrow-minded, partial and prejudiced as the American protesters of the Park 51 who intend to blast a community centre with a bomb just because of a small place of worship specified for the Muslims.