September 21st was my first day as a reporter assistant intern at News 12 New Jersey. News 12 New Jersey is the local 24-hour cable television news channel, reaching more than 1.8 million homes in northern and central New Jersey and is part of News 12 Networks, the first, largest and most watched regional news channel in the U.S.
I work weekends. I’m a sucker who’s got classes Monday thru Friday, and my nights tend to be busy anyway, so it works out. Last Sunday, I suggested a story which I wanted to come in on Tuesday (yesterday) for. And the assignment editors took it.
A few years ago, my friends and I got ourselves into the fight for AlFalah Islamic Center’s mosque in Bridgewater. It was yet another case of people going, “Not in our town!,” although they cleverly backpedaled and presented the building of the mosque at the former Redwood Inn as a “traffic concern”. Mind you, we’d been having holiday prayers and I think some Friday prayers there for years.
On September 30th, U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp ruled that Bridgewater Township can’t enforce a zoning ordinance that effectively meant the mosque could not be built at the site, as the ordinance was not passed until after AlFalah had submitted their application to build there. So after three years… victory! And guess who’s sitting in a newsroom when this happens?
I suggested to an assignment editor a story on Eid al-Adha for Tuesday, because Muslims are such a significant community in New Jersey, the state with the 2nd largest percentage of Muslims in the nation, population-wise. I wrote up the proposal and gave them the background– how Eid al-Adha is a major Muslim holiday in which we celebrate Prophet Ibrahim (aka Abraham)’s willingness to sacrifice his son (either Ismail [Ishmael] or Ishaq [Isaac], as it is not specified in the Qur’an) in submission to God’s command as well as his son’s willingness himself to be sacrificed. (For those of you who don’t know, don’t worry, God intervened and replaced the boy with a lamb, hence another Eid al-Adha tradition of sacrificing goats/lambs/cows/etc and distributing the meat to family, friends, and the poor.)
Now, stories aren’t decided on at News 12 until the morning of, so I had to call in around 7 o’clock in the morning yesterday and was connected to the reporter on the story, Sally Ann Mosey. She gave me the green light, and I met her at The Days Inn in Bridgewater, NJ where she covered the story quite spectacularly. It was only a vosot (short for “voiceover/sound on tape”) rather than a fully packaged story. I have yet to see any of it, but from what I heard, they showed the actual Eid prayers, people hanging out afterwards, and also an interview with a woman explaining the significance of the holiday that happens to be my mother. (I actually wasn’t there yet for that, but needless to say, she is now more okay with my career choice than ever.)
I’m only an intern, but this is basically me setting into motion one of my career goals as a journalist. Not only did I bring more media attention to AlFalah’s fight for freedom of religion, but seeing Muslims pray and celebrate a holiday that commemorates an event familiar to Jews and the Christian mainstream points out what should be apparent to the average American, but isn’t: we are a faith just like any other, people like any other. We are nothing like those extremists who have hijacked our religion and brought terror to our world through their attacks on innocent people.
One of the questions that I’ve heard or been asked the most by skeptics of Islam being a non-violent religion is Why don’t Muslims come out and condemn these terrorist attacks? Because, as you can see, we are busy living our lives.
I have heard many other Muslims say that it is not our job to speak up and say what should be obvious, that we shouldn’t have to answer for those who are distorting our religion beyond recognition. But I disagree. I think we should, as an ummah, come together and take offense to those who take the name of God and Islam in vain. If people can riot over an idiotic cartoon, then we can speak out against a suicide bombing or a plane crashing into a national landmark. I personally feel sick to my stomach every time I hear of a Muslim being connected to an attack– Mohamed Atta, Hani Hanjour, Richard Reid, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Faisal Shazad, Nidal Malik Hasan, Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. These people are nowhere near being the majority, and yet we are letting them be our representation in the media. The rest of us are going on and living our lives, and I personally think we should stop and try to find ways to contribute to the name of Islam. We are the legacy of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions, and we are not taking it seriously.
So this was my contribution. Eid Mubarak, everyone.
Ab imo pectore,