Moozweek: A weekly round-up of news about Muslims and Islam in the United States and abroad.
“Ground Zero Mosque” developer to build synagogue
Sharif El-Gamal, founder of SoHo Properties, the real estate company behind the controversial Park51 project, which envisioned a 13-story Islamic community center a couple of blocks from Ground Zero, is building a prominent synagogue in midtown Manhattan. El-Gamal and a partner plan to buy and demolish a three-story building that includes the 83-year-old Garment Center Synagogue, just off Times Square, and rebuild a 23-story tower that will include a new synagogue, hotel, and retail space.
A high price to pay
Rutherford County, Tenn. has spent $343,276 to defend itself against a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs angry that county officials approved a mosque for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. Those fees will surely rise, as more court dates have already been scheduled, and plaintiffs last month appealed their case to the Supreme Court. Despite being the target of protests, the mosque opened in 2012.
Modesto mosque rising
The two minarets outside the Islamic Center of Modesto (Calif.), look like stubs, but to local Muslims, they are symbols of an exciting future once the mosque is completed, according to The Modesto Bee. The mosque was approved unanimously six years ago, but construction only started last year. The 18,000-square foot mosque will have two levels and aspires to offer a health clinic serving about 450 people.
Mayor gets Muslim boost
Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has named Rahim Jenkins, a prominent member of the city’s Muslim community and activism scene, as his campaign manager. Jenkins has long been involved in anti-violence and anti-gang initiatives. He converted to Islam about 35 years ago, and attends historic Masjid Muhammad in Washington D.C.
Republican women host hate group leader
Muslims fleeing Central African Republic
The situation goes from bad to worse in the Central African Republic, where Human Rights Watch and news organizations say Muslims are being driven out by Christians. The sectarian violence began last year when Muslim militias staged a coup and killed Christians opposed to them. But these militias were quickly overthrown, and since then Christians have been attacking Muslims as well as Christians trying to protect them. Nanjala Nyabola of Harvard Law School writes that there is much more to the violence than just sectarianism.
Jordan’s king in Washington
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, a descendant of Prophet Muhammad and a noted spokesman for moderate Islam, has been in Washington D.C., this week, and will meet with President Obama in California on Friday. The talks have focused on the Middle East Peace Process, Syria, and U.S.-Jordanian relations.
The Pew Research Center notes in a new report that the Winter Olympics in Sochi have put a spotlight on Russia’s Muslims. What often comes to mind are the two recent Chechen wars and an Islamic extremist insurgency in Dagestan. According to Pew, however, roughly half of Muslims in those two regions are also concerned about Islamic extremism, while Russia’s Muslims, who comprise 5 to 10 percent of this country of 143 million people, overwhelmingly reject violence.
Russia & India Report has an interesting story about what it’s like being a Muslim in Russia. “Russia has always prided itself on being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country,” writes author Marina Obrazkova. “So where does the apprehensive attitude toward Islam come from?”
Iranian Revolution at 35
American-Iranian relations may be improving, but many Iranians still like to engage in some good old fashioned America bashing, and celebrations marking the 35th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution proved to be a good opportunity to chant “Death to America.” Others hope Feb. 11 will some day be celebrated like a normal national holiday, like July Fourth or Bastille Day.
The New York Times reported on an even older Iranian institution, Dr. Sapir Hospital, a Jewish hospital in Tehran founded more than 50 years ago, and named for a Jewish doctor who died in 1921 trying to save Tehran residents from an epidemic. “They might have a different religion, but they are fellow Iranians. I do not see why I should not go to the Jewish hospital,” said one student from the seminary located across the street from the hospital.
Suicide bomb trainer accidentally blows up class
In what is being regarded as dark humor and poetic justice for Iraqis beleaguered by violence and terrorist attacks, a commander at a terrorist training camp in the country unwittingly blew himself up, along with 21 students while demonstrating a suicide belt that he didn’t know was packed with live explosives. ”This is God sending a message to the bad people and the criminals in the world, to tell them to stop the injustice and bring peace,” said one Iraqi.
Travelers looking for an off the beaten path destination with an Islamic twist may want to visit Xian, China, which Perri Klass recently explored for the New York Times travel section. Islam goes back to the eighth century in this city of 8 million people, and is reflected in various ways. On a thoroughfare known as “The Muslim Street,” visitors will find a huge selection of street food vendors selling local delicacies. The Grand Mosque of Xian, founded in 742, offers and excellent example of Islamic Chinese architecture, with a minaret that resembles a pagoda, and pavilions decorated in bright red ceramics.