How moderate Muslims in Africa view NYC mosque debate
Senegal is a critical junction for US dialogue with the Muslim world. Reaction there to the NYC mosque debate has potentially far-reaching implications for the battle against Al Qaeda.
Suburban Point E, on whose cobblestone backstreets Senegalese-American R&B roué Akon passed his boyhood years, already has a mosque. Several, actually, each megaphoning prayer songs across balmy Ramadan soirées. So, locals wonder, why shouldn't downtown New York City get another mosque, too?Skip to next paragraph
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The question may seem trivial, coming from one of Africa's smaller nations, but America's controversy over the interfaith community center proposed by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has implications for the United States' ability to thwart terrorism and defeat Al Qaeda. And Senegal, with a 95 percent Muslim population, represents a pivotal buttress in that campaign, say US military operatives. With Islamic fundamentalism triumphing in neighboring Mauritania and northern Nigeria, strategists see Senegal as a critical junction for US dialogue with the Muslim world.
“Islam in Senegal is tolerant, and we expect that tolerance in return," says Souleye Diallo, director for a study abroad program here.
But lately, Senegal’s FM talk shows and private press have been appalled by America's debate over the mosque near ground zero, protests against Mr. Rauf, a Manhattan taxi passenger's attack on his Muslim driver, and sneers that Muslims worship “a monkey god” (that was former Tea Party spokesman Mark Williams).
Land of intolerance?
Mr. Diallo says Senegalese aren't seeing tolerance in the charged debate over the proposed Islamic community center about two blocks from the former World Trade Center. Nor did he personally feel it when he visited New York City earlier this month. While waiting to board the Staten Island Ferry for an iconic boat ride past the Statue of Liberty, he says he was profiled, frisked, and bag-searched in front of his outraged daughter.