Friday, August 27, 2010

Reader Question: "Do Muslims Build Mosques on Sites Where They Have Defeated an Enemy?"

The reader question: "Do Muslims build mosques on sites where they have defeated an enemy?"
The answer: read on . . . Once the seat of Orthodox Christianity, Agia (Hagia) Sophia was converted into a mosque within days of the conquest of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey) by Ottoman Turks in 1453. Among the alterations made during
the Basilica's transformation into a mosque:a cross atop the dome was replaced with a crescent, minarets (slender towers w/ balconies where the Islamic faithful are called to prayer by the muezzin) were erected, an icon of Jesus Christ within the dome was gilded over, the altar and icons were removed, and mosaics described as "irreplaceable & majestic" were plastered over. According to one source, "," during its 553 years of "captivity" by Muslims, many Ottoman Sultans "showed particular interest in embellishing and maintaining Agia Sophia as a mosque."
Today, the once great Basilica is a government-owned museum, convention center, concert hall & tourist destination.
Obviously, the above-question arose from the battle of words and philosophies surrounding the plan to build an Islamic Community Center two blocks from the site where the World Trade Center once stood.
Honestly, my first reaction to the plan was "OK, if you want to build an Islamic Center, then match it with a Christian Center, a Jewish Center and a Nature Center." Or how about an Inter-faith Center, funded, created, maintained and shared by multiple religions/philosophies?
Then I learned that Daisy Kahn, executive director of The American Society of Muslim Advancement, and the spokesperson for the pro-Community Center sector, is supported by Rabbi Joy Levin, executive director of an NYC Jewish Community Center.
During an ABC interview conducted by Christiane Amanpour, Kahn & Levin spoke glowingly and in unity about a Muslim Community Center with a swimming pool and other recreational amenities, a gathering spot for yet another America-as-melting-pot community - its families and its people. The Community Center was beginning to sound much more secular and innocent than a foreboding sign that America is indeed being infiltrated and conquered by Muslims.
This, of course, was too good to be true.
My mental brakes slammed on with accompanying screeching in my head, as Amanpour asked the question, will the Community Center's features include a place of worship with loud calls to prayer several times each day?
Kahn's non-answer was that of course, there will be a place to pray within the Center. She never confirmed or denied Amanpour's "loud calls to prayer" query. I was actually surprised that Amanpour let that slide. Unless, of course, I missed something. I'll have to go back and re-watch the interview.
Personally, in my opinion, the sound of a muezzin calling Muslims to prayer multiple times a day would be a slap in the face to anyone touched by the terror attacks (remember, a parking garage was blown up years before 9/11- in the 90s?) on the World Trade Center- and that's pretty much anyone within a two-block radius, and arguably, all Americans.
I believe the better part of valor for all concerned, the Muslims, the Jews, the politicians, the public, would be to construct an inter-faith center that's board of supporters/directors would include equal representatives from any religion/philosophy that would like to be involved. An interfaith prayer room could certainly be included, decorated with a cross, a Star of David, a crescent, Buddha, a Goddess image, and hey, let's not forget NYC's many citizens of the Hindu faith.
But this isn't about my opinion. As a journalist, I'm charged with truthfully and accurately presenting both sides of an issue, and leaving the decision in the hands, hearts and minds of each and every individual reader. So from here on in, that's what I'm going to do - just the facts, as far as I was able to research the facts, presented truthfully and without bias, regarding the question: Do Muslims build mosques at sites where they have defeated an enemy as a sign of conquest?
I felt this question was likely a loaded one, requiring careful research. I began by Googling the question, and was led to anti-Muslim blogs, where one writer, self-described as someone who had lived and conducted business in the Middle East, cited several examples of incidences and sites where Muslim conquerors have built mosques.
The anti-Muslim blogger named the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem as having been constructed near the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, as a symbol of conquest; St. Sophia's Basilica in Istanbul, Turkey as being replaced by the principal mosque of Istanbul (this statement by the blogger contained erroneous "facts", as the Basilica was not dedicated in reverence to St. Sophia, but to the meaning of the word "Sophia," which is "God's wisdom," with the Basilica dedicated in reverence to Jesus Christ. The blogger also stated that "St. Sophia's" was destroyed for a mosque, leading readers to believe that the Basilica no longer exists. It was not destroyed, as the structure itself still stands, although altered and no longer used as a Christian Church.); the blogger wrote that the Cordoba Mosque in Spain was first a Christian cathedral; that a Pagan pantheon in Mecca had been taken over by Mohammad himself; that the Church of St. John in Damascus was destroyed for a mosque; and that the Babri Mosque in India was built by demolishing a Hindu Temple at the site of Hinduism's Lord Rama's birthplace.
I first researched "St. Sophia's," or accurately, Agia Sophia.
As previously stated, the anti-Muslim blogger's claim that Agia Sophia was razed in favor of a mosque is not true. The Basilica was taken over by an Islamic conquering army, and all signs of Christianity that could be obliterated were. But the structure stands today, and many of the Christian-Byzantine features have been restored. One source stated that a room is set aside inside the structure for use by both Muslim and Christian workers for prayer.
The use of Agia Sophia as a mosque ended along with the Ottoman Empire, and in 1934, the modern Turkish State turned the Basilica into a museum. The Free Agia Sophia Council of America describes the Basilica as a "Holy site . . . brutally violated," by both Islam's followers and the modern day Turkish government.
Free Agia Sophia's mission is to restore Agia Sophia to a functioning Church of the Orthodox Christian faith and to reestablish the Byzantine Basilica as a "Holy house of prayer for all Christians of the world and the Basilica (seat) of Orthodoxy that it was before the conquest of Constantinople by Ottoman Turks in 1453."
The history of Istanbul's Blue Mosque, that was erected opposite to Agia Sophia more than 1,000 years after the Basilica's first existence, should be noted. One source revealed that the Blue Mosque was built by Sultan Ahmen I, with construction beginning in 1609, not because the Sultan was a fierce conqueror, but to placate Allah (Islam's incarnation of God) because the Sultan had not won any notable victories. The construction of most mosques was funded by the spoils of war. However, the Blue Mosque had to be funded with treasury funds, as Sultan Ahmen's spoils of war were paltry. The Blue Mosque does stand on the site of a palace of Byzantine emperors, facing Agia Sophia, which at the time, is described as having been the most venerated mosque in Islam.
On to the story of the Cordoba Mosque in Spain and the claim that it usurped a Christian cathedral. The anti-Muslim blogger I found during my research also pointed out that the name being floated for the Islamic Community Center near Manhattan's Ground Zero is "Cordoba House," described by the blogger as a site of key significance among the history of Islam's conquests of things-Christian.
Cordoba, Spain is the site of the capital of the Islamic Empire in Spain and is the place where Islam established its first Caliphate in Europe. A Caliphate is best described as a jurisdiction or a territory, ruled by a Caliph. The last of the Caliphs were Ottoman Turkish Sultans. In Cordoba, the Grand Cordoba Mosque was erected where a Visigoth Christian Church stood before the Visigoths were defeated by the Muslims.
I'm going to throw in my opinion here, which may be supported by historical fact. Calling the Visigoths "Christians" in the truest sense of the word -all loving, all forgiving, self-sacrificing, as Jesus Christ was - is akin to calling a Great White Shark a guppy. The Visigoths were an Eastern Germanic tribe best described for purposes of common understanding as barbarian/warriors - one of the groups of Goths - who ravaged Rome and established a kingdom in present-day Spain and southern France.
The Visigoths were "Christianized " in the latter half of the fourth century, but theirs is often described as a less-than loving, charitable, peaceful incarnation of Christianity. Many varieties of Christians are less-than literally Christ-like. That does not negate the fact that the Muslims did indeed build a mosque on the site of the Visigoth's cathedral upon defeating them.
So yes, naming the Islamic Center intended for placement close to Ground Zero is honoring and recalling an important site of Islamic conquest where a Christian house of worship was razed and replaced with a mosque.
Agia Sophia was not destroyed in terms of its actual structure, but it was altered significantly for conversion from a house of Christianity to a mosque, after a major Islamic take-over of a Christian Empire.
So yes, historically, it can be said that Muslims build mosques on sites of Christianity that they have conquered.
Next week, we'll take a look at the history of mosques usurping other religious/philosophical sites in Jerusalem, Mecca, Damascus, India, and at the prophet Mohammad as a champion of the downtrodden among his people, a man of God and as a warrior. I'll also delve into the record of Daisy Khan's controversial husband.
Until then, be well & happy. Strive to understand your neighbors as you would have your neighbors understand you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Life is Good & I'm Thankful!

When life is good, it's very good. I'm watching my big orange creamsicle cat becoming mesmerized by the rainbows my crystal projects in abundance each afternoon around this time. FYI, orange creamsicle means he's orange w/ creamy, lush white fur. I sometimes refer to him as "the Pelt," as he's blessed with a luxurious coat, but a brain that only kicks in sporadically. My little Bootsie-kitten is much smarter than her brother Bubbah.
We're in our new home, and it's a delight! It's just up the road from a lake, near my son's school, surrounded by nature. A flock of wild turkeys make a regular pilgrimage through our yard. Deer, chipmunks, skunks and other forest creatures abound. The Commonwealth has yet to produce the compensation it has been promising for more than a year for eminent-domaining our former home , property and business, but life is still good, and as always, we've survived.
Theorizing that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar, I shall wait to complain loudly about the Department of Transportation's abysmal handling of our situation until after we receive compensation.
I suppose at this point I should explain, as simply as I possibly am able to, the events that have occurred since I landed in Pennsylvania 3 years ago..
We moved to Pennsylvania in July 2007, following my brother's death at age 49. My brother had lived with my mother from the day he was brought home as an infant, he never left her. This was not healthy, to put it mildly. Following my father's death in 1979 at age 49 (I'm not looking forward to turning 49!), my mother and brother formed a strange, financially disastrous alliance. My mother lost the really beautiful house my father left her, blew all his insurance money, blew all the money she made as a registered nurse (they make very good money) supporting my brother's many failed attempts at being a business man.
She systematically vilified either me or one of my sisters on a rotating and regular basis over the past 30 years, with my brother's encouragement. I should have left my mother far behind on many occasions, but I loved her unconditionally and blamed all of her problems on my brother.
Upon my brother's death, she cried and moaned to my sister that she needed me. I was happily in Florida at the time, having just 3 years prior survived the death of my children's father with no help or support from my mother. I begged her to come to Florida to help me emotionally support my two then-teenage daughters and my 6-year-old son. She refused. She didn't attend his funeral either. A nice message to send one's supposedly cherished daughter and grand children.
Any how, because I loved her unconditionally, I moved to Pa and tried to help save her home. She had bought the home 9 years earlier for $90,000, and mortgaged it up to $245,000, once again supporting my brother's failed attempts at maintaining a livelihood (she worked as an RN until his death, when she was 76.). She paid for a travesty of a wedding to a real slut/grifter only 9 months before he died. (My sisters and I paid for our own weddings).My brother's wife turned out to be a complete fraud. I found evidence that she may not have been divorced when she married him. I found evidence of a meth lab in their closet ( an entire bedroom converted to a closet- wow.) I found e-mails to other men that were written during their 9-month marriage. I found sexually explicit photos the wife had posted on the net.
In March 2007, my brother was told to have a cardiac catheterization as doctors suspected his arteries were blocked. Being a tried and true know-it-all, my brother refused. Now I ask you, honestly, if as an RN your beloved son was given such advice by doctors, would you not insist that he heed that advice? As a new wife, wouldn't you insist that your husband of only 6 months heed that advice? My bother was dead on a client's front lawn 3 months later. He wasn't found for more than 24 hours. The wife had been to the client's home before, but claimed ignorance of its location. Fishy, to say the least. He lay dead, only a block south of I-84, and his wife couldn't find him. Hmmmm . . .
When I arrived in Pa, less than a month after my brother's death, the wife/widow had traveled to a Mexican resort to swim with the dolphins. The mortgage on my mother's house was several payments in arrears. My brother's "step son," a young adult who totaled a car that was in my mother's name and had a job, but didn't contribute, was living in the house, treating my mother like garbage.
So, me being me, I cleaned house. Through legal channels, I banished the wife/widow and the step son. My mother hid in the back portion of the house as her daughter-in-law removed her belongings under my watchful eye. I made the undertaker who was hounding my mother to pay for my brother's funeral back off by reporting him to the state licensing board for harassment. My mother ended up in tears every time the undertaker called for his money. The only payment made on my brother's funeral was made by 2 of my cousins, if Irecall correctly, about $2,000. The wife/widow held an extravaganza that left her owing thousands to the funeral director. This was after my brother lay dead in the rain and mud for more than 24 hours.
I did not attend, but several of those who did said it was obvious he had begun to decay and that an open coffin wake was wildly inappropriate and ghoulish.
The house was disgusting. My brother had 4 or 5 unneutered male cats caged on a kitchen porch. The stench of cat waste was overwhelming. He had the parlor of what should have been a charmingly renovated 100-plus-year-old farm house jammed with tools.
Although my mother and brother had lived in the house for 9 years, and had remortgaged the house at least 3 times, the house was not insulated or ever improved by them. The downstairs toilet was falling into the basement.
I found a fraudulent appraisal that was signed by my mother, stating that the house had more bedrooms, bathrooms and other amenities than actually existed. I found evidence (listed in his own hand) that my brother was wanted in two states for road rage, reckless driving and assault-related incidences.
Somewhere along the line, my mother had turned into Ma Barker. A sociopath who created a son who was destined to fail because she always provided him with a home, money, excuses and businesses to run into the ground. I never saw what a horrible person my mother was when my brother was alive. But in the aftermath, I saw her for the narcissist she really was and is. Needless to say, my mother and I parted ways.
In truth, I decided that I could not save the dilapidated old farm house. I decided that we should move out of the house and let the bank or mortgage company have it back. It wasn't hard to decide in the dead of winter, as the main water pipe burst and flooded the living area in the freezing, uninsulated house.
We moved to a house with plenty of storage and a large attached garage (heated) in which my mother would be able to go through decades and decades of mostly junk. She was a hoarder, and it was important to her to go through everything we removed from the old farm house without pressure or stress. She never did.
Although she and I co- signed a two-year lease, my mother decided, three days after I returned from the hospital and heart surgery, that she needed to move out. She never said a word to me. She left like a thief, only telling my significant other that she was going to stay with her friend for a few weeks to give me a chance to recuperate and adjust. She never said a word to me-never. We never spoke again. I was held responsible for the balance of the two-year lease.
I fell into a deep depression that I am just emerging from.
My S.O., I and my son moved yet again to the house we just left. It was at the intersection of two rural, but well-used by would-be hot rods and high-revving hogs, highways, but it was spacious and a really nice house, a home. It didn't help my depression that another move was looming on the horizon.
We first met with DOT representatives more than a year ago. They came to our condemned-for-a-road-improvement-project home and told us not to fret, that the Commonwealth would pick up the moving charges, find a comparable house for us, and compensate us for the eventual loss of our livelihood. The house was attached to a business the S.O. was partnered in.
We were never told that we would not be compensated until after we moved, so obviously, I didn't set funds aside for moving, which is very expensive and stressful- I know. I've done it numerous times in the past 10 or so years.
The Friday before the moving date, at 3:32 p.m., a representative of the DOT e-mailed me to inform that no compensation would be made until after the move.
I almost lost my mind. Here we were, promised compensation and support for more than a year, and at the last moment, having the rug pulled out from under us.
I was distraught.
But, we sucked it up, and with some financial help from my daughter, Lauren, we survived and are thriving.
It's amazing how the human spirit endures. I'm happy, really happy. My son and my S.O. are happy, too. I'm thankful for the lessons I have learned during this odyssey that began with my brother's death. I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted. I don't have to fret about living in a condemned home any more. I am free. I can breathe easy for the first time in many, many years.
Hopefully, this wonderful state of being will hold for a few more years, and maybe longer. Stranger things have happened!
Thanks for reading. It has been very therapeutic to get all of this off of my chest. I shall never speak of the really horrible parts again!
If you have an honest , truthful, healthy relationship with one or more of the people in your life, thank God. The unhealthy relationships take a very deep toll, but even the most horrendous of experiences teaches lessons if one is willing to learn!
Blessed be all!
Be well & happy!
I'll strive to get back on a regular schedule.