Islam center's eerie echo of ancient terror
Last Updated: 8:35 AM, September 10, 2010
Posted: 5:34 AM, September 10, 2010
Should there be a mosque near Ground Zero? In fact, what is pro posed is not a mosque -- nor even an "Islamic cultural center."
In Islam, every structure linked to the faith and its rituals has a precise function and character. A mosque is a one-story gallery built around an atrium with a mihrab (a niche pointing to Mecca) and one, or in the case of Shiites two, minarets.
Other Islamic structures, such as harams, zawiyyahs, husseinyiahs and takiyahs, also obey strict architectural rules. Yet the building used for spreading the faith is known as Dar al-Tabligh, or House of Proselytizing.
This 13-story multifunctional structure couldn't be any of the above.
The groups fighting for the project know this; this is why they sometimes call it an Islamic cultural center. But there is no such thing as an Islamic culture.
Islam is a religion, not a culture. Each of the 57 Muslim-majority nations has its own distinct culture -- and the Bengali culture has little in common with the Nigerian. Then, too, most of those countries have their own cultural offices in the US, especially in New York.
Islam is an ingredient in dozens of cultures, not a culture on its own.
In theory, at least, the culture of American Muslims should be American. Of course, this being America, each ethnic community has its distinct cultural memories -- the Iranians in Los Angeles are different from the Arabs in Dearborn.
In fact, the proposed structure is known in Islamic history as a rabat -- literally a connector. The first rabat appeared at the time of the Prophet.
The Prophet imposed his rule on parts of Arabia through a series of ghazvas, or razzias (the origin of the English word "raid"). The ghazva was designed to terrorize the infidels, convince them that their civilization was doomed and force them to submit to Islamic rule. Those who participated in the ghazva were known as the ghazis, or raiders.
After each ghazva, the Prophet ordered the creation of a rabat -- or a point of contact at the heart of the infidel territory raided. The rabat consisted of an area for prayer, a section for the raiders to eat and rest and facilities to train and prepare for future razzias. Later Muslim rulers used the tactic of ghazva to conquer territory in the Persian and Byzantine empires. After each raid, they built a rabat to prepare for the next razzia.