For much of America’s Muslim community, the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed their relationship with the rest of American society – for the worse. Broad government surveillance and discriminatory law enforcement policies, combined with an increased suspicion of Muslims by the general public, left many feeling that daily worship had suddenly become synonymous with terrorism. But a decade on, Imam Abu Sufian tells a different narrative.
The Imam, a 35-year old American of Bangladeshi origin, sat on fading jade-colored carpet upstairs at Madina Masjid – the redbrick mosque with an unobtrusive turquoise minaret on the corner of First Avenue and 11th Street. Speaking softly and holding a worn, leather-bound copy of the Koran in his hands, he wanted to highlight positive developments in the mosque’s relationship with East Villagers in the ten years since the terror attacks. “I would actually say that since 9/11, we have had a greater relationship with the local community than we did before,” he said. “Everyone realized that we needed to get to know each other better.”
That realization has led the Imam and other East Village religious leaders – including those from Catholic, Jewish, Anglican and Buddhist faiths – to meet together twice a month. Initially, Imam Abu Sufian saw the meetings as a way to educate others about Islam – a need that was clearly evident in a 2009 Gallup poll showing that almost two-thirds of Americans knew “nothing” or “very little” about Islam. But in fact, the Imam discovered a two-way education process.
“Our Muslim community is more informed than before 9/11,” he said. “We have been learning more about American history.”
Like Imam Abu Sufian, the founders of Madina Masjid were from Bangladesh, and the mosque still has a core Bangledeshi community. However Muslims representing more than 50 different nationalities now belong to the mosque, and many are first-generation Americans. The Imam says they have begun to see that their hardships are “not just about the Muslim community, but [are] the story of the history of all immigrants to America. Learning about the challenges that the Catholics, for example, faced. It has been helpful.” Read the rest of the article as it appeared.