Not The Minarets, Please

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[This letter is in response to the Muslim Link’s front page article from the Frebruary 24, 2012 issue, “Masjid Architects Say Design Should Reflect American Culture”]

A few years ago during a visit to India, I found myself searching for a Masjid. As I drove through the city, it took me about ten minutes to locate a Masjid – May those who built that tall Minaret rest in paradise.


Domes and Minarets were originally invented for certain reasons such as amplifying sound. However, over the last fourteen hundred years, the Minaret became the emblem of Islam – a symbol of unity among Muslims whether in China, Russia or Africa. It shouldn’t surprise us if such a daring symbol that represents oneness of a people with different backgrounds might result in dislike among those who are not tolerant of Islam.  In order to lessen the emotional pain of having to give up what we hold dear in return for being accepted by the majority, it is tempting to reduce a Minaret to basic functional needs that can be met otherwise. We know our cultural baggage has not been very helpful in strengthening our faith, perhaps if we threw the Minaret into that bag, it might be easier to get rid of and succumb to pressure? But there is a problem. There is no such thing as a Pakistani, Arabic or Chinese Minarets.

As a minority group living in the US, it’s clear that we are taking the brunt of the anger against Islam expressed in different ways.  However, we can’t respond with appeasement and justify it as “Dawah” or submit to assimilation and give up our faith. The unprecedented nature of this endless and senseless demagoguery against Islam is expected to take a toll on us. It is easier to react to all this negative impressions toward Islam by directing the blame at ourselves rather than standing up to the bullies. If we are taking the low road, we might as well start with the Hijab – that’s another symbol people don’t like. Some “muslims” before us already took care of the “Niqab” and placed it into the casket labeling it as merely “cultural” under the cloak of integration. We can start with the Hijab, the Minaret, The Beard (or what’s left of it) and recreate a way of life that is more appeasing to the majority. Put a little American “Cultural” touch and you get yourself a Mosque that Rocks. 

Or we can dare to be like the Tatar Muslim who persevered the tortures of communism and fascism for hundreds of years while living in the heart of Russia yet did not compromise. When they celebrated the one thousandth year of Muslim existence in today Russia, they could only express such a deeply felt innermost joy with an outermost beautiful Minaret. One that cries in the depths of the skies the perseverance that helped it overcome Fascism, Communism and Islamophobia. We must do the same.

Let’s build a Masjid so that one day, long after we are gone, a Muslim visiting Washington DC from another corner of the world sees our Minaret from a far distance, makes it to our Masjid and after having performed his prayer, proclaims “May those who built that tall Minaret rest in paradise”!

By Rustam Bake from Maryland


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