Interview

Shawn Braley
Pastor and social activist Martin Niemoller once said about the Nazi’s in Germany:

“First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”


His words ring out against the powers of injustice and hate. It is with this very thought in mind that I approached Mrs. Dabdoub about conducting an interview to discuss the recent controversy in Manhattan regarding an Islamic community center dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque”. I am not comparing the actions of Americans and specifically Christian’s (Of which I am) specifically to that of Nazi’s. I’ll leave that to television talking heads and talk radio hosts, although Karen Dabdoub does use such rhetoric briefly, and who am I to blame her? Her religion has really been taking a beating as of late.

I’m not going to pretend I don’t have a side in this, but I think my position is obvious. I, however, feel sympathetic towards people who are actually grieving the loss of loved ones on 9/11 of which a mosque may bring up the worst of thoughts. To those people I am deeply sorry for your loss, but also feel it’s important, as neighbors, as Americans, and as human beings, that we not demonize people due to a difference in religion, skin color, or any other detail that brings depth to us as a nation and a culture.

In regards to Niemoller’s quote, I felt the need to speak with Mrs. Dabdoub because I know if someone doesn’t speak too and see that these people are just like everyone else, it’s too easy for us to pass them off as the “other”. I know if I don’t do something, there could come a day when people will react the same about my religion, and there will be no one left to speak out for me. Not that simply speaking to someone is really standing up for them, but meeting Karen; shaking her hand; looking her in the eyes as she told me her concerns; I saw myself in her. I saw my mother. I saw my wife. I saw my neighbor. I saw a human being.


AltOhio: I wanted to open up at first and get a little bit of personal background.

Karen Dabdoub: Uh huh.

AO: What is it about Islam that attracted you to it?

KD: Well, at some point in your life you start looking for what’s real. I think I was kind of looking without really realizing and for a long time I didn’t find any meaning in what I had grown up with. It didn’t touch my soul. As far as I knew there wasn’t anything that was out there that was even legitimate. I just kind of left it alone for a while.

My husband is actually Muslim, and when we first got married we said; “Okay, you have your religion and I have mine, let’s leave it at that.”

AO: And what was your religion?

KD: I was raised Christian, Protestant. And after we had our kids, he was teaching them about Islam, that’s what he wanted to do and I said that’s fine with me. You take care of that. It had really meant a lot to him, and what I had grown up with didn’t really mean much at all to me. But as he was teaching the kids I was sort of picking stuff up along the way just by listening. I was just realizing that this is what I’ve always believed, I never believed in original sin, that never made sense to me, and Islam doesn’t teach original sin. Islam teaches that both Adam and Eve were responsible for their own behavior. He doesn’t get to blame her; he was a big boy, too. Jesus was a prophet of God and not God, and I was saying, “that makes a lot more sense to me.” So I was just learning by osmosis, picking this stuff up and at a certain point you think, “Well if I believe all this stuff where does that leave me?” and then you get to a point where you start to really take it seriously.

It was not something that I actively went looking for. I didn’t just sit down one day and say, “I’m going to start studying Islam and see what I find.” And that’s what some people do, but that’s not the way it happened with me; it just kind of snuck up on me. I wasn’t looking for it at all. At a certain point I did start doing some reading because I realized I needed to really pursue this and see if this is what was right for me. The more I read, the more I liked what I read, the more it just made sense to me and the more it really just felt right. At a certain point I just realized that this was where I needed to be. Personally, it’s something that I really believe in. It’s something I feel strongly about because I really believe it is the truth. Not to say there isn’t any truth any place else, but I’ve found that everything in it is the truth. Whereas, with what I grew up in, some of it was truth and some of it was man made. Some of it was not from God, in my opinion. So, for me, this is the right place to be, and I would not presume to push it on anybody, because everyone has to come to their own understanding of truth in their own way or else it doesn’t mean anything. But it’s just what I found has full meaning and full truth in it.

AO: Does it offend you when Americans think that your religion is a religion of violence or terrorism?

KD: Well, I’m American, too, so my fellow Americans, it offends me when people make their decisions based on ignorance, because CNN and Fox News are not sources for scholarly information. They’re not even really sources for good information most of the time. They’re sources of talking heads and their opinions. I’m not talking about if there’s a flood in Pakistan and they’re reporting that, well of course, you can prove that. But how they interpret things, that’s not a point of facts most of the time, that’s a point of their opinion.

So, what offends me is people take hard, fast opinions against other people they don’t know based on lack of information and ignorance. That to me, no matter what we’re talking about, whether it’s Islam or not, it is offensive. Because if you don’t know then just don’t say anything. I hope I follow that advice on my own. I try not to talk about things I don’t know anything about.

AO: Do you think there’s a way Islam can counter that misconception?

KD: Absolutely! The reason why people who take that opinion are offensive is because they don’t know Muslims. All they know is what they see on TV or read in the paper. They don’t know anybody who really is a Muslim and practices Islam in their daily life, yet they’re so vehemently against it, and they don’t even know what they’re talking about. The vast majority of Muslims, and there’s good people and bad people, but my experience as I have traveled all over this country and met Muslims all over it. I’ve traveled all over the world and met Muslims from many different countries. The vast majority of people that I meet, whether Muslim or not but we’ll talk about the Muslims for now, are good people with good hearts and good intentions. They just want to work everyday, raise their kids, get their kids an education; they’re trying their best to be good neighbors. They help other people; visit their neighbor when they're sick. Whatever it is; feed people who are hungry, this kind of thing. This is the vast majority of Muslims that I’ve met all over the world. They’re just like everybody else. I have in my neighborhood neighbors who are Christian, who are Jewish and who are Muslim. You know what? They’re all good people and do the best they can.

If people would just stop and think about what they’re doing and think about what they’re saying and stop acting and speaking from hate, and actually say, “you know, I really don’t know any Muslims, I really don’t know anything about Islam or Muslim’s, let me go find out. Let me go to the mosque in my city and talk to them, see what kind of people they really are. Most people aren’t going to do that. If they would come and speak to us like real human beings, they might find out that we’re regular folks just like everybody else. I think that it’s possible, but it, "takes two to tango," as they say.

We can’t do it on our own. We do reach out on a regular basis. We have regular activities that we participate in with other faith groups here in Cincinnati. We’re doing what we can, but we’re a very small portion of this country in our population. We’re like 1 or 2 % of the population here. That’s the thing about when people say, “oh, the Muslims are going to take over the county”. 1% of the population? We’re going to take over the country? I mean, it’s just ridiculous.

AO: How do you react when someone personally attacks you?

KD: I’ve never had it done in a sustained way. I get hate email but usually those are broadcast email. Most of the time it’s not directed at me personally. When we first moved into this building I had this guy, he’s not here anymore, try to make some smart aleck remarks to me based on my faith and the way I dress. At first I thought he was just joking because I’ve never had anybody personally come and accost me like that. I just sort of blew it off. Then he came, wrote this long note, and stuck it under the door and continued with his offensive remarks. The management here then told him that tenants are not allowed to harass each other. So after that he just glared at me on a daily basis. Eventually he left, I don’t know for what reasons, but that’s really been the only personal experience I’ve had.

I did have a friend who was standing on a street corner, waiting to cross, and someone came around the corner and threw a cup of coffee out their car window and cursed at her. So it definitely happens.

AO: I’ve noticed on the CAIR website that you guys have a lot of information distinguishing Islam from the terrorists who happen to be Muslim. You have many petitions and essays and things.

KD: That’s the other thing. People don’t even really have to come meet us. Just look at our website and see what we do. Don’t just look at what we say, look at what we do.

AO: Newt Gingrich said of the proposed community center, known in the media as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” that if Saudi Arabia would start allowing Christian churches to be made there, then we would allow it here. What are your thoughts on his statement?

KD: So, the United States of America, with our Constitution, we look to Saudi Arabia with how to do things? You’ve got to be kidding me. It almost defies comment, it’s so bizarre, so ridiculous. We want to be like Saudi Arabia?

There are a couple of things behind that comment. First of all, it’s not a mosque, it’s a community center. Second of all, it’s not at Ground Zero, it’s a few blocks away. It’s not even in sight.

AO: And isn’t there a mosque that’s actually closer?

KD: It’s very possible. There are several hundred thousand Muslims in New York City so I’m sure there’s lots of mosques in lots of places around the city. This Imam has had a mosque, not in that building because that building, as everybody knows is an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory, several blocks away for over 20 years.

Anyway, it’s not a mosque. It’s not at Ground Zero. We don’t want to be like Saudi Arabia. People assume that because the two holiest cities for Muslims, Mecca and Medina, are in Saudi Arabia, that somehow Saudi Arabia is to the Muslims what the Vatican is to Catholics and it’s not the case at all. That happens to be the geographic location of those cities, but the people of Saudi Arabia, and certainly the government of Saudi Arabia does in no way represent the Muslim community around the world. Does not speak for us. Does not act for us. The only thing is, that’s where those two cities are located. They always have been, and that’s where for instance our pilgrimage is located, so we have to go there for our pilgrimage, but they don’t represent us or the way that we think. As a matter of fact, they are an outlier, in terms of the Muslim community worldwide, the Saudi government and the way they do things there, in my opinion that they are an outlier.

One more point on that. That ignores completely the many Muslim countries that not only have churches, but also have significant Christian communities that go about their daily lives just fine. Saudi Arabia is not the only Muslim country in the world. Egypt; Jordan; Palestine; Lebanon; even in Pakistan there are Christians. India is not a Muslim country of course, and the Muslims are a minority there, and even then there are more Muslims there than even the population of the United States, or close to it, and there are a lot of Christians there. Muslims and Christians get along just fine. Saudi Arabia is the only place.

AO: It seems like it’s all just predicated on fear.

KD: Yeah, we all know about the relationship our former president George W. Bush had with the King of Saudi Arabia, and his family. We’ve all seen the pictures of President Bush holding hands with the king. So our government has a very close relationship, whether under the Republicans or Democrats, with Saudi Arabia. So it’s okay when it comes to business but when it comes to other stuff all of the sudden… I mean come on.

AO: Before we go a little deeper in discussion of the mosque controversy, I wanted to preface it with a few questions regarding debated controversial texts in the Qur’an.

KD: I’m not an expert on the Qur’an. I’ll do the best I can, but if I don’t know I’m going to say I don’t know.

AO: That’s fine. I’d rather you say that if that’s the case. I only have a few, but the first one is in chapter 5 :33 it says(the text I had was wrong and Mrs. Dabdoub had to get out her Qur’an for us to read, here’s the real verse) “It is but a just recompense for those who make war on God and His apostle, and endeavor to spread corruption on earth, that they are being slain in great' numbers, or crucified in great numbers, or have, in l' result of their perverseness, their hands and feet cut off in great numbers, or are being [entirely] banished from the face of the earth: such is their ignominy in this world. But in the life to come yet more awesome suffering awaits them. Save for such of them as repent ere you O believers become more powerful than they: for you must know that God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.” So I know that is often quoted as being very controversial.

KD: And you can find very similar verses in the Bible, if we want to go there. But like I said, I’m not an expert on the Qur’an. Typically when you have a Qur’an that is translated in English, often you’ll have explanation, what we call Tafsir, but I think in English it’s called exegesis. So what are the explanations that are offered about this particular verse?

(reading) The term apostle is evidently generic in this context. By making war on God and his apostle is meant a hostile opposition to and willful disregard of the ethical precepts ordained by God, explained by all of his apostles, meaning all of his prophets; combined with the conscious endeavor to destroy or undermine other peoples belief in God as well(finished reading).

So they’re talking about people who are trying to kill you for your religion; religious persecution.

(reading) in classic Arabic interpretation, the cutting off of one’s hands and feet is often synonymous with destroying ones power, so it’s an idiom. Alternatively, it might denote being mutilated both physically and metaphorically similar to the use of the expression being crucified as means of being tortured (done reading).

One of the things that Muslims understand about the Qur’an, and that Christians understand about the Bible, that when it gets to verses like this that are specific, that is revealed in a specific context, they are about a particular incident or time in history. This is a Medinan Sura and in Medina Muslims…the Muslims left Mecca. Prophet Mohammed became a prophet in Mecca, where he grew up. He became a prophet at 40 years old. For the first 13 years of his prophet hood, the Muslims were in Mecca, they were small in number and were being persecuted. At the end of the 13 years is when God said to them; “enough is enough, you’ve preached to the people in this city long enough. The one’s who are going to come to Islam already have. Now it’s to for you to leave Mecca and go to Medina.” At that time it wasn’t called Medina, but anyway, the name changed later, and so the Muslims left Mecca, they didn’t bother the people there, they just left. They went to Medina, and in Medina, many people accepted the message of Islam. Well, the people of Mecca weren’t satisfied that the Muslims had left Mecca. They had left them alone. Didn’t destroy anything, or start any fights. Just left. In fact, most of them weren’t even allowed to take their own property with them and the Meccans stole it, and kept it for themselves. So they weren’t content to just leave the Muslims in Medina and leave them alone. They decided, and Medina is about a four hour drive, so like 250 miles, and that distance, of course back then, had to be walked. They went from Mecca to attack the Muslims in Medina. This is what this verse is talking about. The Muslims are in Medina, they’re living their own lives, they’re not bothering the people in Mecca. The people have come from Mecca to Medina to attack them because of their religion. So God is saying to them here that to those who make war on God and his prophet were losing to the Muslims. The pagans from Mecca were being killed. They were the ones who came to attack, and that’s the risk you take. It’s not about going to just attack people for no reason. They were fighting against the attackers who came to fight them in their city and they were winning. The pagans were being killed in great numbers and God’s saying that’s what they get basically.

AO: That is very reminiscent of verses in the Old Testament, there are plenty of them.

KD: One of the differences, though, is there’s another verse in the Qur’an that says if they attack you in your homes because of your religion that you have the right to fight back, but if the other side asks for peace then you have to stop. It also says in other places that you can’t kill woman, children, old people or religious people in their place of worship. You can’t destroy crops and trees it says. It says you can’t poison wells and things like that. So even when physical fighting becomes necessary, you’re still not allowed to go beyond the bowels of the fight between two combatants, or destroy civil society and it’s infrastructure, or kill civilians, you can’t do any of that. So, there are strict rules about how far you’re allowed to go when the fighting actually starts.

AO: The other verse I found that seemed to be pretty controversial was chapter 9:29. It says “You shall fight back against those who do not believe in God, nor in the Last Day, nor do they prohibit what God and His messenger have prohibited, nor do they abide by the religion of truth - among those who received the scripture - until they pay the due tax, willingly or unwillingly”.

KD: (reading the exegesis) In accordance with the fundamental principle observed throughout the Qur’an, that all of it’s statements and ordinances are mutually complimentary and cannot therefore be correctly understood unless they are considered as parts of one integral whole.(finished reading)

That’s another thing, people want to cherry pick. Muslims read the whole book. We understand that it is guidance for us in all aspects of life and that when we have questions about something from the Qur’an, that we don’t understand, we go to the scholars, and when scholars approach an issue, they look at every verse in the Qur’an that talks about that and they don’t just pick one verse, take it out of context, and not look at what comes before it and what comes after, because that’s something else that people do. Look at everything that has to do with this subject as a whole and then go from there.

(reading)this verse too must be read in the context of the clear Qur’an role that war is permitted only as self defense, in other words the above injunction to fight is relevant only in the event of aggression committed against the Muslim community or state or in the presence of an unmistakable threat to it’s security. A view which has been shared by the great Islamic thinker Muhammad Abdul, commenting on this verse he declared; “ fighting has been made obligatory in Islam, only for the sake of defending the truth and it’s followers. All the campaigns of the cause that were defensive in character and so were the wars undertaken by the companions in the earliest period of Islam.” (finished reading)

So that’s talking about fighting.

(reading) “Do not consider forbidden that which God and his apostle have forbidden.” This to my mind is the key phrase to the above ordinance. The term apostle is used here in it’s generic sense and applies to all the prophets on whose teachings the beliefs of the Jews and Christians are supposed to be based; in particular to Moses and in the case of the Christians, to Jesus as well. Since earlier in this sentence, the people who are alluded to are accused of so great a sin as willfully refusing to believe in God in the last day, other words in life after death, in Man’s individual responsibility for his doings on earth. It is inconceivable that they should then be blamed for imperatively minor offenses against their religious law. Consequently the stress on their not forbidding that which God and his apostle have forbidden must refer to something as grave or almost as grave as disbelief in God. In the context of this ordinance and enduring war against them, this something can be seen only as mainly unprovoked aggression. For it is this that has been forbidden by God, through all the apostles who were entrusted with conveying his message to mankind. Thus the above verse must be understood as a call to the believers to fight against such, and only such of the nominal followers of earlier revelation as deny their own professed beliefs by committing aggression against the followers of the Qur’an.(finished reading)

AO: So basically, it falls in line with what the other verse we talked about was saying?

KD: Right. So, again, we understood them in context. Within the historical context and also within the complete context of the Qur’an. People can cherry pick all they want, it doesn’t make what they’re saying correct or right and it certainly doesn’t make it correct or right in the minds of the Muslims who actually practice this religion. That is unless they are those who have a violent and political agenda and want to cherry pick from the Qur’an to try to give justification for their position, which is totally incorrect under Islamic law. Are there Christians and Jews who do the same thing? Absolutely. Some of them cherry pick from their own book. Slavery was justified by cherry picking from the Bible. So, we can go there if they want to go there, but it’s something that ignorant people do.

AO: Yeah. I agree. I tried finding a verse to back up the idea of “kill the infidel” and I found nothing. Where did that come from exactly?

KD: First of all, the word infidel is a word from the Christian dictionary that was used to refer to Muslims and Jews during the crusades. The word infidel means; “someone who’s not of your own faith”, or inferior. Another word they would use for the Muslims and Jews was sarrasins and I don’t know where that word specifically comes from but again it was derogatory. We don’t have that word in Islam. We obviously don’t have the exact word infidel, but we don’t have a word that translates exactly as just someone who’s not of your faith.

There are two terms in Islam. One is 'Ahl al-Kit'b, which translates exactly as “The People of The Book”. That’s how we refer to Christians and Jews. The People of The Book or The Family of The Book, the more correct is The People of The Book. That is a term of respect, because what it means is; the Christians and Jews are people who have received revelation from God in the past and follow that book. So that’s a term of respect we use towards the Christians and Jews. We also have a great deal of love and respect for the prophets that the Christians and Jews claim for themselves, mainly Moses and Jesus, and there are others as well, but those are the two main ones. Those are prophets that Muslims love dearly and respect greatly. You will never hear Muslims defaming prophet Jesus, peace be upon Him, or prophet Moses, peace be upon him…ever. Now think about that. How often is prophet Mohammed defamed by others, on a daily basis nowadays, and all kinds of really vile things are said about him. And you never hear Muslims say anything like that about Jesus or Moses or any of the other prophets. Why is that?

The other word is caphir, meaning someone who doesn’t believe in God by their own expression. It’s not something we’re supposed to put on other people. If someone says “I don’t believe in God” that’s what that word means. It comes from the phrase ‘to cover’, so another translation of the word caphir is farmer because a farmer puts his seeds in the ground and covers them with dirt. So, it has a good meaning, but in the religious sense it means, “someone who covers or rejects the truth of the existence of God.” So someone who doesn’t believe in God is a caphir. A Christian or a Jew is not an unbeliever. A Christian or a Jew is someone who believes in God, they have a book, they have a revelation, they have a prophet and we refer to them as “The People of The Book.”

AO: Is it true that in the Islamic belief that Christians and Jews will also go to heaven after death?


KD: Well, the Qur’an does mention that. It doesn’t say all Christians or all Jews, because, that’s up to God. Whether it’s Christians, Jews or Muslims or anybody else it is up to God on the Day of Judgment, that’s our belief. It’s not for us to say who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Because even amongst the Muslims, there are those who will go to heaven and those who will go to hell. The Qur’an is very clear about that. So it’s not up to us to say because that’s something only God knows. But yeah, the Qur’an does talk about that.

AO: Leading into the thoughts about the different mosques and the controversies surrounding them, a lot of the critics are saying, and you were alluding to this earlier; that Islam is trying for a world takeover, they’ve already started with Europe and they’re in the beginning stages with America.

KD: Yeah, that’s an email that’s going around with a video in it.

AO: Is it with a British guy talking to the camera about it? Because I’ve seen that one.

KD: Is that the one with all the words going around?

AO: Nope.

KD: Well, then, that’s a new one. There’s another one about Europe that’s going around with all the different countries and it has all these different statistics, first of all the statistics aren’t correct, and second of all, according to what their projections are, Muslims would have to have something like 28 children in each family to get even close to what they’re talking about. So what they’re doing is putting up lots of numbers, knowing that 99% of the people would never bother to actually look it up or think about it or do the math. It’s fear and smear, scare tactic type things to make every body go; “Oh the Muslims are coming! The Muslims are coming! They’re going to take over!” and it’s just scare tactics. It derives from people who have a tremendous hatred for Muslims and anything having to do with Muslims. Their interested is in stoking that fear and hatred. So what they want to do is cause harm to the Muslims in any way, shape, or form that they’re able to do so. They’re trying to make average people like you and me be afraid of the Muslims because once you’re afraid you stop thinking.

The fear response becomes a physical response, it is no longer a cerebral, thinking response. That falls in line with the fight or flight type thing, which becomes all about survival, and not about thinking anymore. They always say, “don’t panic”, because then you’re not thinking. And that’s what they’re trying to do is induce fear and panic so people stop thinking. I pray to God that this country of ours is not going to turn to that fear and hatred and stop thinking.

AO: Is there a website or something where there would be the correct statistics or some kind of disproving of those statistics?

KD: There’s an answer to it. I don’t think there’s anything else with that particular set of statistics to refute that particular email that’s going around. People could look it up on factorfiction.com, the website that debunks the fake emails that go around. I don’t know if it’s made it on there or not.

AO: You said there was a reply?

KD: There is a reply I’ve seen. I don’t know where exactly. But again, if you stop letting them make you be afraid and really think about it because as far as the population statistics, I don’t know that those are available anywhere. Here in the US they don’t ask religion. When they do the census they’re not allowed to ask religion, and you can’t tell by ethnicity, because in the US the Arab-Americans are mostly Christian than Muslim. South Asians are majority Hindu, not Muslim. I don’t know in Europe if they take population statistics with religion, so the people who made that email may have made up the numbers to start with. I mean there are estimates, but nobody really knows if those are correct or not, at least in this country. But if you do the math and look at the average birth rate, and again, I don’t they even take birth rate by religion statistics, even in Europe they probably don’t. even just doing the math with what they’ve got, like I said, if they did the math, every single woman would have to have something like 28 children to be able to reach to the numbers that they’re talking about in the amount of time they’re talking about.

AO: The underlying assumption behind all that predicates that if Islam were the main religion in a country it would therefore make it…

KD: A bad place. Yeah, that’s the assumption. One of the things that we need to understand here. There is a different between the scene in Europe and the scene in America, because America is a country of immigrants and we are a melting pot. Whereas, Europe, up until World War 2, each area of Europe has remained ethnically pretty monolithic, and it wasn’t until after WW2 when their populations were decimated that they started bringing in cheap labor from their colonies, which is mostly the Middle East and Africa. They’re the ones who brought people in from Indonesia, Algeria, Sudan, and all these places that were there former colonies. They went down there and destroyed these countries and took over before WW2. After WW2, the European continent had destroyed itself. They needed cheap labor, so they brought in the natives from Africa, but they’re not really French or German or British, we just want to use them for their cheap labor.

You see, they never thought 50 years ahead that, these people are going to live here, their going to have kids, their kids are going to have kids, their kids are going to grow up speaking English or French or German. They’re not going to know the country back home. They’re going to be British, they’re going to be French in their own minds, but in France if you’re not white and you don’t have a French name, then somehow you aren’t French enough. Then those people who aren’t French enough or German enough; France is one of the worst honestly, in terms of how they treat their immigrant population. They shove them in the ghetto. They give them substandard housing; substandard labor opportunities, substandard education, many of the youth can’t even find work. It’s very similar to what we’ve done in this country to the African American population. We give them substandard living conditions, substandard education and then we’re puzzled somehow when they’re angry. That’s what’s going on in France. So when they have race riots going on in this country, and they have them in France. Here we don’t say, well those black people are rioting because they’re Christian. Because they’re Christian like everybody else, so they’re rioting because they’re black. Well that’s a bunch of nonsense. In France they’re not too black, just a little dark brown, so they can’t call them black, they just refer to their religion because their religion is different. Most of these kids don’t speak Arabic, they generally don’t know anything about Islam at all. They’re angry because they don’t have education opportunities, they don’t have good work opportunities, they don’t have good living conditions, and they’re shoved into the slums. Of course they’re angry. You and I would be angry as well. I’m not saying rioting is the right response at all, but it is understandable.

AO: So with the community center that’s planned for Manhattan, what are your thoughts on it?

KD: Well, I sent out an email, an action alert to our community yesterday, and it got picked up on Cincinnati.com, I was amazed. The first thing I said in that is that freedom of religion in this country is a right from our Constitution, no if's, and's or but's. Period. Because that’s what we’re hearing these days; “oh, we believe in the freedom of religion, but…not here. Not two blocks from Ground Zero.” Okay, so is it freedom of religion outside of two blocks from Ground Zero, but not within, is that what our Constitution says? We don’t play games with our Constitution, no but's. The underlying assumption, even if we don’t consider that, is that American-Muslims are somehow collectively guilty or responsible for 9/11. American-Muslims had nothing, absolutely zero to do with 9/11. As an American, I highly resent having that collective blame or collective guilt placed on my shoulders. My country was attacked. To try to place that blame on me or any other Muslim in this country that didn’t have anything to do with 9/11 is morally wrong, unacceptable and I won’t put up with it. I won’t stand for it. It is to deny me my heritage as an American. It is to say, “we’re more American than you…you Muslims, you’re not American enough.” No. My family goes back to the late 1700’s in this country. My ancestors have fought and died in every war. You can’t tell me I’m not as American as everybody else. No way.

This community center is being built by American-Muslims. The other excuse people say is they’ll be okay with it as long as they know where the money’s coming from. Well, do we know where the money is coming from for every church, synagogue and temple in this country? Do we ask? No. Do we have laws to protect against money coming from illegal sources? We absolutely do. And that’s what those laws are there for. And if the people who are building this mosque take money from illegal sources than they will be legally culpable just like anybody else. But until we start asking every church, mosque, temple and synagogue to open their books and say where they got their money from, we’re not doing it to this place either. And the fact of the matter is, mosques in this country get their money from the Muslims in this country. That’s who builds the mosques in this country, the people who are going to use that facility. Now, where they’re going to get the money from for this specific place, I don’t know because they haven’t raised it yet. They have less than 25 thousand dollars and it’s going to cost 100 million. So they have a lot of fundraising to do before they lay one finger on that building.

That building’s already being used as a mosque right now, for the last 2 years by the way. The upper floors are damaged, but apparently the main floor is still somewhat usable. It’s used as a place of daily prayer. I am not less American than you are anybody else. I will not accept anybody to tell me that somehow, because of my religion, that I am less American, because that is un-American.

AO: What do you feel about when President Obama takes that exact stance, and then he comes back a day or so later and says he doesn’t want to comment on the wisdom of it. Do you think…

KD: Well, I think there’s an election season coming up, and you have a lot of people making comments on this that really have no business making comments. I think the President does need to say something in this type of situation, and I think his statement he made last Friday was the right statement to make. Whether or not he was backtracking, I don’t know. That’s for him to say, because I don’t know what’s inside his head. I can’t interpret his words in my own way, which is what a lot of people are doing.

AO: But do you, personally, think it’s unwise for them to place the mosque there?

KD: Am I concerned for the amount of hatred that’s being piled on? Yes. Am I concerned about what direction this is leading us as a country? I’m extremely concerned about that. Because the types of things we’re hearing right now. The types of anti-Muslim bigotry and hatred that we are seeing spewed all across the media these days is very similar to the type of hate, historically, that we saw spewed on the news pre-Nazi Germany and it’s that serious. Because actions begin first with thoughts and then words and then move to actions. People don’t just wake up one day and start killing each other out of nowhere. It starts first with this extremely hateful type of rhetoric and rallies and demonstrations, like the one that was in NY a couple days ago. There was some type of a demonstration and there was an African American gentleman who just happened to be crossing the area where the crowd was gathered, and he had what looked like a skullcap on, so people started assuming that he was Muslim, and started verbally attacking him. He said with a lot of expletives included, which I’ll leave out, but basically he said, “you all don’t have any clue who I am, and what I am, or what I think about anything, and you’re attacking me? As a matter of fact, I’m not Muslim.” And they still didn’t leave him alone. He had to be escorted out by security guards and police. So we’ve been seeing this mob mentality leaning towards violence in this country, and it’s frightening. To me, as an American, it’s a frightening development. I hope and I pray that it’s an isolated incident.

So, is it wise? I don’t think that’s really the issue here. The issue is that we have freedom of religion. Period.

AO: I would say that what upsets me is…well, someone like Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. The Godhatesfags.com people. They picket soldiers funerals with signs that say “Thank God or IED’s.”

KD: That’s horrible. Oh, that is sick.

AO: But at the same time, as an American, no matter how much they are offending me, I believe it is there right to do that and believe that.

KD: That is horrible, though, to do that to a grieving family. They have the freedom to practice their religion, but to say those actions fall in line as practicing religion, I guess I would have to disagree with that.

AO: This isn’t to say that the community center in NYC is in any way comparable to that, but you don’t see that all over the news, and being used to say Christian’s shouldn’t have rights, and that’s a much deeper issue I think.

KD: To me it is, yeah. The other thing is, Imam Rauf, who’s the Imam of this proposed community center, one of the main people behind it, he’s been the Imam of a mosque in NYC for over twenty years. He and his wife have worked extremely hard to build good and peaceful interfaith relationships in NYC. A lot of people of other faiths have spoken up because of his track record. Some people talk about the controversial remark he made concerning 9/11. A lot of other people have made similar remarks, other people of other religions. It’s not to justify what happened but to look at what’s going on and to talk about what’s going on is not to justify what happened on 9/11. Again, it’s pure ignorance to try to equate those things.

So we see a lot of this kind of ignorant, false, juxtaposition of ideas and words to manufacture a problem here. We always say actions speak louder than words, and when you look at his track record; I mean, for God’s sake, the reason he’s out of the country right now is because he’s on a trip with the state department trying to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world to make friends for America. He’s working to try to make things better for our country, and what are people doing while he’s gone? Attacking him behind his back.

AO: And it seems like the remarks that he made concerning 9/11 were something to the effect of not agreeing with what was done, but at the same time the United States can’t say that they didn’t ask for it in a way, with our treatment of the world around us.

KD: We can’t pretend that our actions didn’t contribute to it. You can’t go around the world bombing people for no reason and then just act like nothing is going to happen, or there aren’t going to be any consequences for that. What goes around comes around. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the world that we live in, no matter where you live. You go and attack a country or occupy the land where these people live in their homes, there’s going to be a backlash. The same thing would happen here. Just imagine for one minute that the Russians, in the old days of the Soviet Union, had attacked our country and occupied it. Do you think for one second that the American people would just lay down for that? There’s no way. Every person in this country would be picking up a gun. So, we think we can do that to another people and they’ll just lay down for it? Why do we think they would and we wouldn’t? Because we’re so great? Come on! Human beings are human beings, no matter where you go.

AO: It kind of reminds me of something Jon Stewart had actually said while discussing the talking heads saying things like, “I am for freedom of religion, but…” and he basically explained how they were lumping all of Islam in with terrorists. And then he said, “I’m not for allowing there to be a place where terrorists can gather anywhere near ground zero…or for that matter anywhere.” So basically what that shows is that they’re saying we believe Islam is a terrorist organization in a sense, and they’re allowed to have their places to gather but not right here because this is where they attacked. So basically, they’re saying it’s okay for terrorist organizations to gather in the United States.

KD: That’s a rather twisted form of logic, I kind of follow. I don’t think you would have to get deep to make the point. I think it’s extremely straightforward. We have laws in this country regarding peoples criminal actions. We have laws in this country regarding where money comes from and goes to these days. If somebody has broken the law, they need to be prosecuted under the law, period. And we have freedom of religion in this country. Period.

One of the other things that Jon Stewart said is that people don’t want Islam to have the status of a religion, they want to call it a cult, like that guy down in one of the Carolina's who said, “it’s something like a nationality or a cult or something” as if those two things were the same. Which shows this persons extreme ignorance about Islam and about Muslims because Muslims come from every nationality on the earth and every ethnicity on the earth. But what Jon Stewart said was, “14 hundred years and a billion and a half followers, I think that qualifies it as a religion.” In my words, the fact that we believe in God is what qualifies us as a religion. All of those things combined. Again we have freedom of religion in this country. Period. We follow the laws, and if we don’t we get prosecuted.

AO: What would you say to the people that have lost somebody in 9/11, and they might not be against Islam, but the idea of that being there is just reminding them of the pain?

KD: I would think that the loss of their loved one, whether the family is Muslim or Christian or Jewish. There are many Muslims who died in the World Trade Center, people forget that ,too. I would imagine that the loss of their loved one is a pain that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They don’t need any reminders, it’s already there. And again, to say that that is not right or acceptable is to say that those people, and American Muslims in general, bear collective responsibility or blame for what happened on 9/11, and I will categorically reject that as wrong.

I am very sorry for their loss. I am very sorry for their pain, but that doesn’t entitle them to abridge our Constitution, I’m sorry. That’s just the way it is.

AO: I don’t understand why people say it’s like a slap in the face to the victims families of 9/11.

KD: Because again, the underlying assumption there is that all Muslims carry the collective blame for what happened on 9/11 and that’s just not the case.

AO: Many believe that the Imam for the community center, who says he’s a moderate, believe he’s pretending to be moderate so he can go under the radar. What do you think about people who are saying those things, and about that in general?

KD: Again, this is a way of placing doubt and suspicion, without any proof, on Muslims because they’re Muslims. Where that comes from is in Muslims belief in the concept of taqiyya, which they say it means that Muslims are allowed to lie, wholesale, under any circumstances, at any time to anybody who’s not Muslim in order to deceive them so they can somehow perpetrate their malicious agenda under cover of darkness. As if we are some kind of evil super hero or something like that.

The concept of taqiyya is not believed in by the majority of Muslims and even for those who do believe in it, what it means is, if you are under threat of death because you’re a Muslim, if it’s to save your life you can say you’re not Muslim, to save your life. But that’s it, and even most Muslims wouldn’t go there. So what they’re doing is taking that very narrow concept, and applying it in a way that Muslims themselves don’t apply it, and using this broad-brush stroke and saying this is what Muslims believe in; this is what Muslims do. I mean, we’re here, we’re saying we’re Muslim. I’m Muslim, I’ve got this thing on my head. Everybody who sees me can tell I’m a Muslim. I’m not trying to hide it. He’s an Imam, he’s saying we’re Muslim. He’s not trying to hide it. It’s all just to impede his character and denigrate his work that he’s done for over 25 years in this country. He and his wife have spent all their time trying to better their community. As a whole, at large, the entire New York City community. What he does is to benefit the entirety of New York City and the people in that city.

So first of all, people are saying these things without any knowledge whatsoever, it’s just words coming out of their mouth, without any knowledge at all. To me that is evil. That is wrong and it is evil.

AO: It just seems like as a nation that we shouldn’t be just looking at this one Imam’s personal history.

KD: Of course not. This is a flash point, and again, it’s an election season. We’ve seen a lot of people who are up for election jumping on the bandwagon. Most of them are republicans, but there are some democrats in there as well. Reid is one of them, I’m extremely disappointed in all of them. Because as our representatives in the congress, they’re supposed to be better than that, and apparently they’re not. There are Muslims all over the United States, mosques all over the country. People go about their daily lives, including their worship. They’re not bothering other people. They’re just like every body else in this country. They just want to go to work, come home, enjoy their family, worship as they see fit. We volunteer in our communities. We give in charity. We do the things we’re supposed to do as Americans. We pay our taxes. We follow the laws, just like every body else. But it seems like for some reason the American psyche needs a boogey man.

AO: An “other”.

KD: Exactly. And we’re it this time. But people need to stop and remember that at one point in time it was the Catholics who were the boogey man. And at one point in time it was the Jews who were the boogey man. And at one point in time, and maybe still for some people, the African Americans were the boogey man. It’s always been somebody. So now that burden is being placed on us, so we try to understand it within that historical context. That doesn’t make it right. I sure would have hoped by now that we would have learned and we would know better. We as a nation have done it to the Japanese in WW2, we did it to the Native Americans. We’ve done it to every group since the Native Americans that wasn’t white and protestant. I’m really sad that we haven’t learned. We still keep doing the same things over and over again. It’s hurting our country because one of the things that’s happening is that it’s distracting our attention and our efforts from the real crisis’ we face. The crisis of our economy. The crisis of morality in this country. The crisis of energy in this country. We need to be paying attention to this things. They require a lot of thought, a lot of brainpower, to overcome these challenges. But instead we’re worrying about some guy who wants to build a community center in New York City. Let New York City deal with it. The people in New York City aren’t having a problem with it. According to the polls, the majority of New Yorkers don’t have a problem with it. Why does John Boehner need to open his mouth about a community center in Manhattan. It’s not my business, it’s not his business. They’ve gone through the whole process with the zoning and building permits. They’re going through the whole thing, even historical preservation, all of that. They’re going through the whole legal process just like every body else would have to. We really don’t have any right to ask any more than that from them unless we’re going to ask more from everybody else. Again, freedom of religion, Period.


AO: Now there’s also the opposition to the mosque in Florence, KY, which makes even less sense.

KD: I don’t want to say too much about that because the opposition has been small and I’d like to keep it that way. At this point, the mosque property, well first of all, there has been a mosque in Florence for over twenty years, they’ve just been renting spacing. Now they want to actually build their own place. Muslims have been in the Florence area that helped build Northern Kentucky, literally. They’ve done so through their construction companies, electrical contractors and all kinds of businesses have helped to build Northern Kentucky for over the last 40 years. And now that some of the people of Northern Kentucky want to build their own place of worship, now we have some people coming out of the woodwork, saying, “We have to stop them, and stop the takeover of our country.”

The property was zoned commercial when they bought, and commercial allows for houses of worship, so they did have to go through the zoning process. They’ve gotten their building permits, so as far as the city government is concerned, they’re done. The next thing is to find a construction company, raise the money and start building. They’ve been raising money from within the Muslim community in the greater Cincinnati area, so I’m assuming they have a little more to raise, and they’ll get started on their construction. That’s all there is to it. They will go on living their lives, doing their jobs and raising their families just like everybody else.

AO: What is the one thing from this whole interview that you want non-Muslims to understand about Islam?

KD: I don’t think there’s any one thing. What I would like is for people to stop being afraid and start thinking for themselves, start asking questions. Go and meet Muslims. Talk to them, they’re people. They’re your neighbors. Talk to them. That’s all, just talk to them. Treat them the same way you would want to be treated, the golden rule. Stop with the smear and fear. Stop with the sky is falling and start thinking for yourself and go and talk to people. Meet some Muslims and talk to them, and find out what they’re really like for yourself. Don’t just believe all this nonsense that’s taking up space on the airwaves.

AO: That’s the only way you can know your view of someone is true. If you believe they’re bad people, go and meet them and find out.

KD: Right. Because I wouldn’t ask them to listen to me instead of listening to Newt Gingrich. They don’t know me, but they also don’t know Gingrich either. Just because he has reached elected office doesn’t make him a better person. We certainly know that. Every single week in the news we see some politician that’s being indicted for some kind of a crime, moral or otherwise. They’re no better than we are on the face of things. So, go find out for yourself, don’t believe what you hear on TV, because that’s just so much ‘blah blah blah’ taking up airspace.

AO: Well, thank you so much for taking the time out.

KD: You’re welcome, and it was nice to meet you.