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Aug. 29: Mosque Controversy, Women and Education



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In this Sunday Edition, KSL's Bruce Lindsay discusses the proposed Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero with prominent Utah Muslims. Also, Utah Valley University professors discuss a research project aimed to determine why Utah women are not finishing their college education.

Segment 1: New York Mosque Controversy

Reaction to a proposal to build an Islamic Center in lower Manhattan has hijacked political discourse in this country for most of August. The proposal has been public since late last year, and didn't draw much notice until a small headline in New York this summer called it the World Trade Center Mosque, which soon became the Ground Zero Mosque and the 9/11 Mosque.

Here are a few of the facts: The site is not at "Ground Zero." It is some two blocks away from the World Trade Center site in a neighborhood where two other mosques have existed for years.


I am afraid that they are associating a religion and a mosque, a physical building, with radicalism and with this Taliban and terrorism idea. When in actuality it is just a place of prayer, just like a synagogue.

–Noor Ul-Hasan


In addition, this project cannot accurately be described as a mosque. It would be a 13-story cultural center with a pool, gym, an auditorium, daycare center, food court and a prayer room. The currently mostly-empty building once housed a Burlington Coat Factory and has been used for Muslim Friday prayer services for nearly a year.

Finally, the center is the dream of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Columbia-educated preacher of a moderate, pluralistic brand of Islam, the kind of Islam that is an antidote to extremism. And Rauf's Cambridge-educated father opened the first Islamic Community Center in New York 45 years ago.

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Joining Sunday Edition to discuss the mosque are two Utah Muslims, Noor Ul-Hasan, Interfaith Representative of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake, and Khosrow Semnani, Chairman of the Semnani Family Foundation.

Both guests emphasize the importance of distinguishing between Muslims and terrorists.

"I am afraid that they are associating a religion and a mosque, a physical building, with radicalism and with this Taliban and terrorism idea," says Ul-Hasan. "When in actuality it is just a place of prayer, just like a synagogue."

Semnani sees the mosque as a symbol of religious tolerance and a way to improve the image of Muslims in America.

"It very much is a propagating, improving and enhancing the position of modern Muslims, in this country and in the world," Semnani says.

Semnani says recent polls find most Americans equate the word Islam with the world of terrorism.


Muslims are part of America's tapestry, we are part of the community. We are teachers, government workers and businessmen. We are part of this community. We are not terrorists.

–Khosrow Semnani


"What Imam Rauf is doing, he is trying to take care of that problem. There is a huge misconception and misunderstanding here in this country," he explains. "Muslims are part of America's tapestry, we are part of the community. We are teachers, government workers and businessmen. We are part of this community. We are not terrorists."

"It's time to bring people together in this country to heal and not associate a mosque or religion with that kind of behavior," explains Ul-Hasan. "Hold the individuals accountable; don't hold the whole faith accountable for that. And the whole point of the community center is to bring people together to better understand Islam is, it's not what was portrayed in that huge horrific action."

Ul-Hasan says religious freedom is an important part of the United States.

"This country is a melting pot of different diverse people, diverse religions. That's why they came here because they have the freedom to pray, the freedom of religion that they may not have had in their countries," says Ul-Hasan. "That's what we are built on."

Segment 2: Utah Women and Higher Education

Students across the country are heading back to college. Nationally, more women than men are hitting the books. But in Utah, women are falling behind men in higher education.

The state launched a two-year project to understand and motivate more young women to enter and stay in school long enough to obtain a college degree. The Utah Women and Education Project is focused on conducting research, disseminating findings, initiating dialogue, providing resources and leading change.

Joining Sunday Edition from the Utah Women and Education Project are Dr. Susan Madsen, associate professor of management at Utah Valley University, and Dr. Cheryl Hanewicz, assistant professor of technology management at Utah Valley University.


It seems that women are just not getting the message that getting an education is so much more important than just getting a job. It's good for the family, they're more involved in their communities, healthier, wealthier families.

–Dr. Cheryl Hanewicz


The researchers are gathering lots of information on young women in Utah.

"Our initial, really big study we are doing in the state is really to talk to different populations of young women in the state. We are talking to young women that have graduated from high school and made choices not to go to any college, some that have dropped out after a few semesters, some a little further along, and also talking to college graduates," explains Dr. Madsen. "What we are asking them are questions about what their aspirations are, what their high school counselors or teachers in high school, how they influenced them, what do they think education is all about, what is the value of education to them -- we really want to understand what they are thinking."

Complete results will be released at a summit in November, but preliminary analysis indicates young women in Utah do know the vast benefits of an education.

"It seems that women are just not getting the message that getting an education is so much more important than just getting a job. It's good for the family, they're more involved in their communities, healthier, wealthier families," says Dr. Hanewicz.

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