Ayman HakkiProf. Plastic Surgery Georgetown U.
The Answer to the 9/11 mosque question is simple, but the question is what should actually be done?
Let me start by addressing the mosque location issue. The answer’s twofold. A: Muslims should not want a mosque near the 9/11 site. B; Americans should insist we build a Muslim Civic Center right there. That way both sides win. We Muslims show empathy-something that has been missing in Islam for centuries-if we build the Center elsewhere. Conversely, we Americans will be true to our reason d’être (freedom of religion) if we insist on building it right there. This isn’t just a pipe dream… it’s what should be done.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me tell you what really gets my goat as an American Muslim. The questions I keep getting about us moderate Muslims. The most often asked ones are: Where are you moderates and why don’t you speak out! Why aren’t you denouncing the 9/11 hijackers and the suicide murderers and terrorists amongst you? Where’s the outcry in the Islamic world against the taking of innocent lives? And, how come we never hear from you guys, are you all scared? When I try to answer these questions they don’t hear me and smugly conclude; there are no moderate Muslims.
The questions are valid but they are loaded. Consider this simple fact about our supposedly inexistent moderates: The Imam-who’s behind this mess-was handpicked by the Bush administration to head an interfaith group. I suspect he’d done everything-to the point of obsequiousness-to say and do what they wanted. Now this same guy is being labeled; a Jihadi radical and a caller for Sharia in America by right wingers and their talking heads. People…George W. Bush, not Barak Husain Obama, picked him!
As for the rest of us Muslim American moderates: We are right here and we are vocal, but we remain unheard of…for complicated reasons. Let’s forget for a minute about the 9/11 Imam (I suspect he’s a publicity hound) and let’s consider me. I’m not a religious man nor am I a politician. I’m a personable celebrity plastic surgeon living in the capital of this great country of ours. I can get on any TV show I want to get on and talk about Botox, but no one wants to hear me denounce these “Men who call themselves Muslims” (a term I picked up from Karen Hughes a women I admire). Nor is anyone recruiting me in our fight against the hijackers of my religion of peaceful surrender not vile terror.
In 2004 I volunteered to be an advisor to a congressional committee that deals with Islamists, and I was shunned. I questioned how can the Congress of the United States of America–in this day and age–have a committee that deals with Muslims without a single Muslim on it? It’s like having a committee on women with an all male panel! Representative Kyle and Lieberman (or the staff members who my friend Bruce Cohen contacted) chose to ignore me. According to Bruce, who is himself a top Congressional staffer, I may have been suspect because I was a Muslim. The fact that I was then a Republican and the proud father of a US Marine serving in Iraq meant nothing to those staffers. If you wanted a Muslim to serve on a committee such as that one, my story couldn’t have fit any better, during those Bush years.
Men calling themselves Muslims were behind 9/11 and I despise them even though I’m a Muslim myself. Some have labeled me ‘anti-Islamic’ for saying I despise them. On the other hand, right wing Christians, are adding fuel to the fire when they preach hatred for Islam while they proclaim their eternal love for Israel. And they have labeled ‘anti-Semitic’ for calling them out. In short, both sides want nothing to do with me. We Muslim moderates exist but our inability to break through the barriers that mute our message makes us irrelevant. I won’t be silenced, but please excuse me if I’m not heard by anyone.
Bio. Ayman Hakki is Assistant Clinical Professor of Plastic Surgery at Georgetown University