Ground Zero Mosque | 1431 Hijri


Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." ~ Robert Green Ingersoll

This year observant Muslims will celebrate Ramadan at sunset Tuesday, 10 August 2010 and will continue for 30 days until Thursday, the 9th of September. The Islamic calendar is lunar and each new day begins at sundown of the day before. Although many of the world's one billion Muslims are celebrating Ramadan tonight, here in North America it will begin on Thursday, 12 August 2010.

The Islamic calendar mirrors the Hebrew calendar in that its holidays begin on the sunset of the previous day. Although Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This difference means Ramadan moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year. The date of Ramadan may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not.

Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month in the Islamic calendar. For the next 30 days, believers will abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and having sex from dawn to dusk. For Muslims, Ramadan marks the month during which God, through the angel Gibril (Gabreal), revealed the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad. This in itself is reason enough to write a post; however, I would like to combine this joyous occasion with a brief commentary on the disturbing trend toward xenophobia by the American public and media.

I am speaking about the latest furor surrounding the construction of a New York City cultural center which will also include a mosque which is being erected at the former site of the World Trade Center known as 'Ground Zero.'  "Two blocks from Ground Zero -- around the corner from the Glad Tidings Tabernacle and up the street from the Christian Science Reading Room -- stands a former Burlington Coat Factory outlet damaged on September 11th . If all goes as planned, it will soon house Cordoba House, a community center and mosque open to people of all faiths.

At the heart of the project are the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and its sister organization, the Cordoba Initiative led by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan. Supporters of the initiative include hundreds of Muslims, Jews, and Christians who have known this couple and their work for decades and share their dream of a place to house a vibrant, pluralistic American Islam."  Source: Huffington Post, Nancy Fuchs Kreimer

One does not need to belong to a monumentally contentious effort to practice the tenets of our Abrahamic faiths.  Radicalism is most easily cultivated in isolation and therefore, no matter how uncomfortable it is for us to try and understand the 'other', we must do this, because to understand the 'other' is to know ourselves.  There are very bad people, evil people, misguided people, radical homicide bombers, etc. in every man-made system, whether religious, political or social.  It is not our place to impose our will, view of the world, or lifestyle on any other person.  Neither can we condemn an entire group of people for the faults of others.

Because our life as humans is so fleeting, challenging, and often insecure, we seek definites to provide boundaries with which to insulate ourselves from the reality of our finite existence.  One example is "if a black man attacked me on the street and stole my purse, then all black men must be bad and when I see one approaching me on the street I choose to cross, or power lock my doors, or not get on the elevator if he and I would be alone no matter how well dressed he appears."  This is the same lens through which many people view Muslims.  However, if we take the time to extend ourselves then we would be surprise both at our capacity to learn and accept and for the 'others' thankfulness to have been treated as a human being and not an object.

Ramadan Kareem to all of my Muslim friends, readers and to my father who lives in Zimbabwe. When we first moved to Africa my father made his pilgrimage to Mecca to say Hadjj, which fulfills one of the Five Pillars of Islam. He was privileged to touch the Kaaba which is pictured above. Although we were introduced to Islam in America through the Nation of Islam, my father recognized the fallacy of that cult, and embraced Islam as practiced by Sunni Muslims of Nigeria. Later, when he moved to Zaria, he adopted the more fundamentalist Islamic practices and beliefs, including Shariah Law. But that is another story.

I am so fortunate to have experienced both Islam and Judaism as an adherent. Because of my personal experiences I can greatly appreciate the best of both faiths. My experiences inform my interactions with all the People of the Book without the weight of judgment founded upon ignorance. This is why I have written both this post and the one on the Ethiopian calendar. In a world full of Western views and symbolism, it is easy to forget that a great number of people in the world order their lives according to the lunar calendar, and it is this cyclical rhythm that undulates through more than a third of the world's population.

To learn more about the Islamic calendar check out the Gregorian-Hijri link to the right.