Muslims nervously await 9/11 amid row over mosque plan

By Arun Kumar,IANS,

Washington : Muslims in the US are nervous about celebrating Eid this year as the festival coincides with the 9/11 anniversary that too amid a controversy over plans to build a mosque near ground zero.

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A worried US commander in Afghanistan has criticised a Florida church’s plan to mark the anniversary of Sep 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington by burning copies of the Quran, and warned that the demonstration “could cause significant problems” for American troops overseas.

“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan,” Gen. David Petraeus said in a statement issued Monday.

The Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, insists the Quran burning event is “neither an act of love nor of hate”, but a warning against what it calls the threats posed by Islam.

With about 120,000 US and NATO-led troops still battling Al Qaeda and its allies in the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban movement, Petraeus warned that burning Qurans “is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems – not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community”.

Several religious organisations have joined with US Muslim groups to oppose the Quran-burning. The National Association of Evangelicals is urging the Florida church to cancel the event, warning it could cause worldwide tension between the two religions.

Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu leaders in Gainesville have organised a “Gathering for Peace, Understanding and Hope” the night before the scheduled Quran burning.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told CNN: “Most Muslim communities will be reluctant to have something that’s perceived to be celebratory on 9/11 even though we’re not celebrating 9/11.”

“There’s a whole cottage industry of Muslim bashers now who would seize on that,” he said. “Unfortunately, these are the times we live in.”

With many American Muslims already feeling intense scrutiny over the controversy surrounding a proposed Islamic centre and mosque near New York’s ground zero, many mosques and Islamic groups are dramatically altering their usual plans for Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, CNN said.

The Islamic Centre of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which made national headlines after the site of its future mosque was vandalised last month, has decided against scheduling any festivities for Saturday.

“It’s a sad day for us as Americans and it’s a sad day for us a nation and we don’t feel it would be right to celebrate on the anniversary of 9/11,” Abdou Kattih, vice president of the centre’s board of directors, was cited as saying by CNN.

In lieu of celebrations, many mosques are planning open houses next weekend in the hope of strengthening ties to their communities, according to Naeem Baig, vice president for public affairs at the Islamic Circle of North America.

A coalition of influential Muslim groups has announced a national day of service for Sep11, aimed largely at burnishing the image of American Muslims at a sensitive time.