Sunday’s editorial catches up with our local Muslim community as Ramadan approaches and on the heels of some divisive statements made in the presidential race:
GOP presidential contender Herman Cain made headlines recently with the vitriolic idea that communities have the right to keep mosques from being built in their towns. His worry, he said, was that Muslims are furtively trying to inject sharia law into the U.S. and many can’t be trusted. For the record, he’s wrong, and he’s admitted as such since.
Whether he truly accepted that his initial stance was way off base or whether he simply abjured in the face of strong condemnation, Cain apologized on Wednesday after a meeting with Muslims in Virginia, emerging “humble and contrite.” He further acknowledged in a statement issued afterward that Muslim Americans, “like all Americans,” have the right to freely practice their faith.
It’s encouraging to see that logic and common sense prevailed in that case, especially as fundraising is ongoing to build a mosque in our own community. The Grand Strand Islamic Society has been working to build its own worship space for a while now, one that would “look like a little oasis,” according to leader Fawzi Bennani.
Bennani said that he and his group have met with some resistance from the community, but it’s encouraging evidence of our region’s accepting Southern hospitality that “the opposition is very small.” Part of the reason may be Bennani’s even keel and approach to opponents. “You have to be able to deal with it diplomatically,” he said. “Rage and anger is not going to help.”
With the holy month of Ramadan beginning Monday, Bennani’s group is beginning an important time of year. The feast that marks the end of the month of fasting and prayer is expected to draw as many as 350 celebrants at the end of August. In the past the area’s Muslim community has been estimated at around 1,000, not an insignificant number of our neighbors and friends.
The worshippers currently meet at a small donated space in an industrial park near Surfside Beach, but building their own place to worship is an important goal. “We are a mainstream Muslim community; we just want to integrate with the society,” Bennani said, “and part of integration is to have your own place of worship. You can’t integrate into society and feel like you’re not home. Part of feeling like you’re home is not just work and a house, but you want a place of worship.”
No doubt all of our readers who attend worship services of any stripe can attest to the truth of that feeling, and to the community that can be found in corporate worship and fellowship.
Some residents, while perhaps not going so far as Cain, are likely yet uncomfortable about the idea of a mosque on the Grand Strand. We would urge them to start a dialogue about their concerns, and to perhaps reach out to put a face to their fear. It’s also worth considering the societal benefits of another place of worship on the Grand Strand.
“When people are content and happy and things like that,” Bennani said, “they’ll give more to society, they’ll give back to society.”