Intellectual Thoughts by Sanjay Panda !!!!!: Ground zero


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ground zero


The ongoing furore over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque shows no sign of abating after weeks of noisy controversy. In a sense, it has become a litmus test of America’s cherished freedom of worship, as well as its tolerance of other people and other faiths.


The project is expected to cost around $100 million, and many think the bulk of the money will come from Saudi Arabia, even though the source of the funds has not been made public yet. If this is indeed so, this would be a slap in the face of Americans as “nine of the jihadis in the Twin Towers calamity were Saudis”. Saudis have been funding mosques and madressahs around the world, in addition to paying for chairs for Islamic studies at major universities. Many of these have been used to project the country’s official Wahabi version of Islam that has fuelled the rising tide of extremism and jihadi fervour. Why the $100 million can’t be put to use to help others who actually needs the funding like in Pakistan instead? This is especially relevant in the context of the floods that are devastating much of Pakistan today.


Now the question is about reciprocity: if the Saudis can aggressively spread their ideology abroad, why can’t other beliefs build their places of worship in Saudi Arabia? 

Currently, it is illegal to build a church, synagogue or temple in that country. Even importing copies of the Bible or the Torah is forbidden. Granted, Saudi Arabia is not an example of tolerance and freedom of worship. In fact, it is one of the most benighted societies on the planet where the royal family rules with an iron hand in partnership with the clergy. Nevertheless, every time the government or individual members of the ruling House of Saud wish to fund a religious centre abroad, they should be asked to open up their country to other faiths.

Edited version of Mr. Irfan Husain ‘s article published in Dawn

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