It’s funny that before the recent controversy about the Cordoba House in NY city a block away from the former World Trade Centre buildings, my imagination never successfully pictured a mosque in the United States. Of course it’s a no-brainer, there has to have been a mosque somewhere. Or where did Malcolm X, Mohammed Ali, and other countless immigrants from the Middle East do their Friday prayers. Somehow I must have always thought that they prayed in designated places in their homes. Of course, now I know different. Even Wikipedia has a list of all the mosques in the country. So when I had to drive one of the current Arabic teachers on the Fulbright program to a place to pray on Friday, wiki was there to help.

The problem was, it wasn’t called a mosque even though that was what it was. It was called an Islamic Community Centre. What on earth is that? When we went to a Cathedral, it was called a cathedral. When we visited a Synagogue, it was called as such. But when we went to the mosque, it was called something else. It was not just a place for socialization. It was a Mosque – a praying ground. When did it become a crime to call something by its own name? Only in America, perhaps. The only consolation is that, by any other name, the building remained visible for all to see with a minaret pointing to heaven. On the one hand, I am proud of the country living up to its creed of freedom for all (including freedom from discrimination on the basis of religion, and the freedom of worship). This is beyond impressive and it speaks to diversity, courage and maturity. On the other hand, I’m disgusted by the hypocrisy that would make a mosque be called by any other name for any reason in order to adjust to the discomfort of a needlessly frightened society.

(Click image to enlarge)

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