Room to grow

USA WashingtonDCThis morning’s Washington Post had a story that, believe it or not, I finished. Rarely is there anything in the morning paper, unrelated to my day job, that is interesting enough for me to finish (another example was this story on China).

Here’s the nut graph of the story. Muslims are moving to the suburbs like many other Americans on their way up the economic ladder and they are building mosques and, like many other religious groups, they are struggling financially.

The boom in exurban mosques has resulted from the migration of Muslims to the outer suburbs, as followers of Islam — just like other suburban emigrants — seek less-expensive housing and good schools.

The story deals with some of the tensions in a Muslim community in the suburbs of Washington. Some harassment, some bigotry, but for the most part, the author paints a pleasant portrait of a group of outsiders, trying to establish themselves as insiders. There is also the issue of radical Islamic terrorism, but the Muslims settling in Northern Virginia and Maryland have denounced the radicals behind the recent terrorist attacks. Underlying the whole story are the incidents in London and whether they could happen in the United States. A fascinating angle of the story is that, in building their mosque, these Muslims could not go into debt and used local fundraisers to bring in money.

The story represents a very similar experience I dealt with growing up in a conservative denomination, which did not believe in going into debt for church-related funding. When a new addition was needed, several years went by as we raised funds. Then, to defray costs, we choose to use people from within the congregation to finish the interior, once the frame was up, much like these Muslims in the suburbs of the nation’s capital.

While some would see this Mosque as a threat to their community, I would try to see it in a different light. Residents in a community are attempting to construct a center they can be proud of and, with this center, something they can base their community life on. As more Muslims in America live in communities like this, where they can come together to construct a building, it will be less likely that their youths will turn to extremism as we have seen recently in London.

Area mosques have tried to educate non-Muslims that extremist views are not a part of the religion of Islam. After the recent bombings in London and Egypt, the Woodbridge mosque and a mosque in Manassas jointly issued a statement condemning the incidents. “These actions are not sanctioned, nor justified, in Islam,” the statement read. Both mosques promised to nurture “interfaith understanding and diversity” in Prince William.

Yet connections between mosques and more militant elements of Islam have been unsettling for some members of the public. The FBI found that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers worshiped at Dar Al Hijrah in Falls Church for a short time. And Ali Al-Timimi, a popular lecturer at the Center for Islamic Information and Education in Falls Church, was recently sentenced to life in prison for inciting a group of followers to train for a violent jihad against the United States. The executive committee at Dar Al Hijrah supported him and called the federal prosecution overzealous.

In all, it’s a well-written, balanced story that favors a positive outlook, rather than a fear-mongering-future-terrorists-could-be-your-next-door-neighbors story that so easily could have been written. Favorite quote, involving a minor issue that keeps mosques in the area from sounding the traditional Adhan, or call to prayer:

“I’m laughing now,” he said, speaking from a coffee shop near his office in Falls Church as noontime chimes began ringing at a nearby church. “I can hear the church bells coming from Columbia Pike. . . . One day we will hear bells and the call for prayers. I believe that day is coming.”

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  • Terry Tee

    DP you wrote: As more Muslims in America live in communities like this, where they can come together to construct a building, it will be less likely that their youths will turn to extremism as we have seen recently in London.

    I live in London. I can assure that three of the Muslim young people who were involved in the first set of bombs were in many respects decent citizens. One was a well-respected class-room assistant known by parents of all races as a good person to help children with learning difficulties; another played cricket; all three were involved in a Muslim community centre for young people which received substantial state funds. The fourth bomber, by the way, was a Jamaican-born convert, but one who had a job and a wife and young child. The area of Leeds where the three came from, Beeston, has long had mosques alongside churches. Yet these young men turned against us, to the deep distress and devastation of their families. I don’t know why integratin fails, but I would suggest that for young men alienated for whatever reasons – and that could include psychopathology of different kinds – the West becomes a convenient reason to blame, and Islam a handy weapon.

  • dpulliam


    You point on the London bombers is well taken. These young men were brought up in what most would think were stable societies, but there are marked differences between the Muslim communities in London and the U.S.

    I would also hold that when a group of people to assimilate into a society, they are less likely to break the rules of that society. Sadly there are anomalies, as we have seen in London, but that doesn’t change the general rule.

  • Molly

    Hmm. Is it an anamoly to stand up for one’s beliefs?

    I think the increase in bombings may be related to a perceived increase in secularism and is not confined to Muslims. Obviously, one would prefer that a stance against Mammon would be less violent but aren’t all faithful of any variety called to be in contrast to the culture in order to witness to it? Isn’t there a line where assimilation becomes apostasy? Isn’t there a point at which the faithful rise up and declare “No More!”?

    I am not advocating for the violence perpetrated on 9-11, 3-11, or 7-7, but a principled stand for a belief system within a culture that gives no credibility to belief systems. I am calling into question your assertion that resistance is an anamoly. Maybe the methods are the anamoly….?

    “I would also hold that when a group of people to assimilate into a society, they are less likely to break the rules of that society. Sadly there are anomalies, as we have seen in London, but that doesn’t change the general rule. “

  • dpulliam

    I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say Molly. Is it that all Muslims are radical and interpret the Koran to state that resistance is necessary part of their faith?

    If so, I would refute that assertion and hold that it is a misinterpretation of Islam. This has been stated by many well-respected Islamic scholars. People like bin Laden would disagree, but they lack credibility in my mind.

  • Aumgn


    Well, ‘refuting’ a position typically requires reasons and as you give none, let’s just say that you ‘contradict’ Molly. Which advances us ne’er a jot.

    Anyhow, who’s to say what is and is not a valid interpretation of Islam? You bring up ‘respected’ Islamic scholars. Yes, if they are held in respect then they might have some influence, but what if they aren’t? What’s the basis for this ‘respect’? Outside of old influences based on caliphates and empires within the Ummah there is no basis, certainly no warrant in the Qu’ran itself for holding the interpretation of a liberal scholar or mullah over someone else. ‘Credibility’ has nothing to do with it.

  • dpulliam


    You bring up a good point in that I failed to cite specific sources and material supporting my assertions. It could be easily done, but you’re comment some what proves my point. There are different views on the interpretation of Islam and who is to say which is correct.

    All I know is that there are plenty of Muslims out there who deplore the hijacking of their religion to justify terrorism and these are the people we should be looking to support and reach out as people who can help us.

  • Matt

    Frightening. Where is El Cid when we need him?

  • Molly

    Let me try to be more clear.

    1. I am hearing you say that the bombers are an anomoly. Correct?

    2. I perceive the bombers as people who are resisting what they perceive to be immoral influences of the culture. This can be debated.

    3. I understand that the bombers are using explosives as a way to make a point about their beliefs rather than engaging in dialogue or what have you. Yes?

    4. I am suggesting that the anomoly is their method of disagreement (bombs) rather than the disagreement itself.

    5. It sounded as though you were dismissing the BOMBERS as a “deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule.”( when I am suggesting that it is their METHOD that is the anomoly.

    6. I think we just dig the hole deeper when we dismiss the “crazies” without looking beyond the carnage for their motives, which is how I understood your statement. If I have misunderstood your statement, then I stand corrected.

  • tmatt


    How would you relate your concerns to press coverage OF Islam? What do you want to see from the MSM?

  • dpulliam

    Molly, I agree with you that we should not just dismiss the “crazies,” but we should not let the “crazies” decide how we respond to a group of people. And you’re right, we must look beyond their actions and look at their motives.

  • Molly

    I would like to hear more about men like Stephen A.’s friend who has been a citizen for 35 years and is appalled by the radicalism of his faith (8-4 re:room to grow). In broad general terms, the MSM seems to handle Islam in broad general terms! Reporting seems to bounce off the surface of the community without going into the sphere to examine its components like this man or the men and women I met in Dayton, OH in the year following 9/11 who went out of their way to show us that their faith did not make them threats to the rest of us.

  • Stephen A.

    Like Molly, I’d like to see more depth to coverage of Islam, rather than the broad strokes being painted that offer a superficial understanding of the faith and issues surrounding it.

    For instance, I would enjoy hearing Islamic scholars come out of the dark recesses – where scholars of all faiths tend to hover – and publicly explain just what the theological debates are that have raged surrounding the word “infidel” and “Jihad.”

    I’ve obviously heard and read about some of these discussions, otherwise I wouldn’t know to ask for more of them. But perhaps these and other discussions, held publicly, would be a valuable service the media could perform to connect us to the debate and reassure us that it’s actually going on.

    Not that the theology of ANY religion is necessarily appealing to a newspaper or TV anchor (what with all those, you know…big words and all) but this particular debate may be crucial to understanding how we (and they) can combat the idea of radical Islam for the next half century.

  • Mila

    Radical Islam will be easily defeated when the world is actually interested in doing so.

    Terrorism is like a many-headed snake – you can keep cutting it’s heads off from now until the end of the time, but as long as the snake’s habitat remains intact, it will continue to thrive.

    To defeat terrorism we have to defeat the reasons it exists.

    As an example – Israel has a policy whereby the homes of suicide bombers are destroyed. In Haifa, the single-family home of a bomber was bulldozed. His family was given a comfortable new home and kept under heavy surveillence while a small, public park was built where the old home once stood.

    In Gaza, because of one suicide bomber, an entire apartment complex was destroyed, rendering more than 2,000 people homeless. They were not given new homes, and the rubble of the complex still stands where the building once did even today.

    Both operations didn’t kill a single terrorist, they were already dead. But which do you believe actually combatted terrorism with a soft a hand as humanly possible, and which contributed to it greatly?

    When these conditions are gone, so is the radical element.

    Let me confess… if someone had come to me in 1994, after my mother was shot by a sniper, after I had spent two years of my life living in a basement in a city being pounded by 3400 bombs a day, every day. If someone had to come to me in the middle of what turned out to be the longest siege in the recorded history of mankind. If someone came to me the day after my father was killed, or the day news reached us that more than 70 members of my extended family were killed at the Omarska concentration camp. If someone had come to me then, during the war in Bosnia, and given me a bomb, and said: Go to Serbia and blow yourself up.

    I would have done it. And I’d have been proud to do it. I could’ve done it in a day care if given the chance. The intense pain warps your mind and you can look at a smiling mother and child belonging to the same group that is attacking you and think: You know, she’s not really smiling. She’s not really happy. She’s just rubbing it in. She’s smiling because she knows, because of her government and her army, I cannot. That’s how deeply warped your mind can become.

    But, likewise, just thinking about this terrifies me now. When the war ended, and finally we had even the faintest hope of surviving, of having a future, of living…instantly life was possible. I had more to look forward to than just a fleeting moment of revenge, and I went for it.

    Fixing these situations will not stop all terrorists. Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland will still throw petrol bombs at each other occasionally. A few more abortion clinics in the United States will bite the dust. But it will help, significantly. And we need to take any step forward that we can.

    My favorite bumper sticker explains this, right at the root of the problem:

    “Support Israel: Free Palestine!”