Mosque Updates and More: News Roundup

The past two weeks in the news have seen many updates to stories we’ve been following for quite some time: Park51, the proposed mosque in Temecula, CA and the public school/kirpan case in Michigan.

Park51
Former Park51 leader Imam Feisel Rauf launched a cross-country tour to raise awareness of Muslims and Islam in the United States “Imam Rauf's tour aims both to hold America accountable for its tradition of freedom of religion, while ushering in an era of maturity for the American Muslim community,” writes The Huffington Post, where you can also see a video.
 
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on the shifts in Park51’s leadership. “Two weeks after the developer of a controversial Islamic center and mosque planned near ground zero distanced himself from the imam who co-founded the project, the imam has raised confusion over who is in charge by suggesting that he would move the center to a less contentious space if an opportunity arose,” said The Times.
 
It further reported that project developer Sharif el-Gamal stated that Park51 would not be moving “under any circumstances.” Meanwhile, Park51 sought to distance itself somewhat from Imam Adhami, announced as the project’s new religious leader two weeks ago, after a report in NY1 that he had said that homosexuality was usually caused by abuse in childhood.
 
“Imam Adhami is not a leader of this project,” said a Park51 statement issued last week. “He will not be on the board, nor will he be a member of the executive leadership team when it is formed.” The statement called Mr. Adhami one of many religious and civic leaders who will have a role in the center’s wide spectrum of programs, adding, “The opinions voiced by this diverse group of advisers will not always represent the official position of Park51.” (The New York Times)
 
**Breaking News: Park51 has just broadcast on Twitter and Facebook that Imam Adhami will no longer be a senior advisor to the Park51 project.
 
Temecula
“The Temecula City Council early Wednesday morning unanimously approved a proposed mosque after a marathon eight-hour hearing that seesawed from vitriolic rants from residents castigating Muslims as terrorists to interfaith leaders praising the peaceful virtues of Islam,” reported the Los Angeles Times.
 
The Temecula mosque had been long-contested, with opponents claiming that it would cause excessive traffic congestion in the surrounding neighborhood and would attract Islamic extremists. (Los Angeles Times)
 
The leading opponent of the project, Concerned American Citizens President George Rombach, is weighing whether or not to file a legal challenge to the city’s decision. (Los Angeles Times)
 
Wearing the Kirpan
Several weeks ago, we focused on the story of a Michigan school district struggling over whether or not to allow Sikh students to wear their kirpans – small ceremonial daggers worn by baptized Sikhs – to school.
 
After initially barring the kirpan, the schools district met with the local Sikh community, learned more about Sikh customs and reversed its decision. Kirpans will now be allowed, subject to some restrictions (Detroit Free Press):
  • Any kirpan worn at school should be sewn inside a sheath in such a way that the blade cannot be removed from the sheath.
  • The blade of the kirpan is restricted to no more than 2 1/4 inches. This would take the object outside the scope of the Revised School Code's definition of a knife constituting a dangerous weapon.
  • The blade of the kirpan must be dull.
  • The kirpan should not be worn on the outside of the clothing and should not be visible in any way.
Said District Spokesperson Frank Ruggirello, "I'm confident we got a good plan for the community … I think we found a happy medium." (Detroit Free Press)