10 Sep 2010

US Muslims feel the pressure following Koran burning row

Sarah Smith blogs from New York on reaction to threats by Florida Pastor Terry Jones to burn copies of the Koran – with one Muslim describing how members of his faith are “the new communists”.

NEW YORK “We are the new communists” that’s how one man described to me what it’s like to be a Muslim in America today.

At morning prayers at the largest mosque in New York City today there was more of a mood of patient resignation, not the fear or fury you might think that think the row over Terry Jones’ threatened Koran burning would have created.

One man told me his greatest fear was that if Islam’s holy book was publically set on fire then how long would it be before someone else burnt a bible?

This one obscure pastor with a tiny congregation in Florida has attracted so much attention – and got a phone call from the secretary of defense – it now seems pretty clear that any extremist who want to grab their 15 minutes just has to buy a book of matches and threaten to burn someone’s Holy Scripture.

“To say you are a Muslim in America today is the same as saying you are a terrorist” I was told. A pretty frightening statement but in country where polls show that 43 per cent now hold “unfavourable” views of Islam you can see why some Muslims feel threatened.

All of sudden Terry Jones has decided to insist that an Islamic centre that’s proposed for near Ground Zero in New York be moved if he is to call off his book burning protest entirely.

The Imam behind the project in Manhattan says that he has not agreed to move his centre and nor will he.

Quite right say the worshippers at the 96th Street mosque. If the Islamic centre is moved than that is accepting argument that Islam and terrorism is the same they told me.

If you accept that having somewhere for Muslims to pray within two blocks of Ground Zero is insensitive or insulting than you are agreeing that Islam was responsible for bringing down the twin towers.

And if you think those 19 highjackers represent Islam that’s like saying Terry Jones is an ambassador for Christianity.