Indian Americans and the Ground Zero “Mosque”
The Indian American community was affected by post-9/11 politics, as seen in documentaries such as “Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath,” which explored the effects of post-9/11 sentiments on the Sikh American community across the United States.
How, then, is the Indian American community affected by the issues surrounding Park 51? And how does the community itself respond?
In the blogosphere, there has been a variety of discussion on the issues surrounding the building of the community center in Manhattan. Major outlets such as the New York Times have recorded the range of opinions on the subject; visit NYTimes’s The Thread for “an in-depth look at how the major news events and controversies of the day are being viewed and debated across the online spectrum.”
Historian Scott Kurashige comments on PRI’s The World that after WWII, America had faced similar controversies surrounding Japanese American community centers and any sort of religious institutions along the West coast.
Blogger Aditya contributes to this conversation by sharing his personal thoughts on the matter within the context of the Indian American community.
by Aditya Desai
The Indian American community, which includes a good number of Muslims, is certainly directly affected by the rhetoric, outcry, and the ultimate fate of the Islam interfaith center being built just blocks away from Ground Zero in New York City.
The situation is clear: First Amendment, okay. President Obama approves, okay. We can even further accept that, in all likelihood, it is not a breeding ground for the future generation of suicide bombers and jihadists. Rest assured, the building will likely go up.
The question is not the fidelity and religious nature of Park 51, but whether or not it besmirches the lives lost on September 11th. It is this issue that has divided people in a profound way and honestly in a way not seen perhaps since the ‘08 election.
Many Indian Americans have voiced their opinions against opposition. Fareed Zakaria from Newsweek returned an award he received from the Jewish Anti-Defamation League upon learning that the organization was against the building of Park 51. Indian journalist MJ Akbar also wrote a column signifying the building as a symbol of partnership between America and its Islamic communities.
There are also many middle-ground opinions; and Indians have weighed in as well. Many, like New Yorker Vandna Jain, still feel that the wounds of 9/11 are too new and that the mosque is an insult to the victims’ memories. Others think an anti-Muslim fear is still prevalent enough that the building should be reconsidered.
Indian Americans come from a culture that has had its fair share of tensions with Islam, such as the Babri Mosque being built at the site of the Hindu holy city Ayodhya.
In the month of India’s Independence, this is a resonant issue for the Indian American community. The fate of Park 51 has already become a litmus test to see just how tolerant America is towards Islam, but could it also be the same for minority groups overall?