Archive for New York City

Can America Learn From Czech Muslims?

Posted in Features, New York City with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2010 by pbiris

The recent hubbub about the construction of a Muslim community center near ground zero drove me to dig up a story I reported and wrote while studying in the Czech Republic last fall. Since I haven’t had much success shopping this around – a little too specific to the Czech Republic, probably – I’ve now decided to self-publish the feature here, as it seems the right time for this story. Obviously this is a personal blog, so my opinion and personal perspective are a little more available than they would be elsewhere, but hopefully that doesn’t impact how you respond to this.

Since I can say so here though, I really think opponents to the mosque in Lower Manhattan should reconsider whether the United States should be in the habit of debating core freedoms to the same extent as a much smaller nation that’s been a democracy for less time than I’ve been alive; this sort of thing is happening all over our country.

But maybe these thoughts should rest somewhere near the back of your mind as you read the story of Muneeb Hassan Alrawi’s mosque, one of only two that have been officially allowed in the Czech Republic.


Czech Muslims at the Breaking Point of Past, Present, and Future
by Damon Beres

Muneeb Hassan Alrawi made a choice 25 years ago to leave his home in Iraq and lead his life as a Muslim in the Czech Republic, a nation wherein 96% of the population is ethnically Czech, and nearly 60% describe themselves as unaffiliated with any religion. At the time, there were a grand total of zero mosques nationwide for Muslims to worship in.

Over two decades later, the number has risen to two, and petitions for a third have largely fallen on deaf ears.
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Harlem and a t-shirt

Posted in Journals, New York City with tags , , , on March 5, 2008 by pbiris

If ever you find yourself in Manhattan, I would implore you to take the following trip:

Take the 1 train to 116th street (the Columbia University stop), where you will be surrounded by some absolutely gorgeous architecture and wide, open streets. Walk to Riverside Park and then the memorial to Ulysses S. Grant, which is a really beautiful structure but is also right across the street from what I would consider a stunning cathedral (stunning) that kind of looks like it could be a nesting ground for the Man-Bat. The area is quiet, upscale, and surrounded by Columbia housing, which should give you a general idea of what to expect (ugly nerdy couples walking their miniature poodles). When you’re done being whitewashed, head up to 125th street in Harlem, preferably early in the evening. Tons of people will be out in this popular shopping district, and it feels like a completely different city, maybe even a different country. In-between the big names like H&M and Payless (is Payless a big name?), you’ll find all-in-one stores with clothing, platinum jewelry, cell phones, and video games (the essentials), in addition to intriguing street vendors. And, of course, the famous Apollo theater happens to be on this street, as well. The area is predominately black, with housing projects nearby, which obviously sets it apart from the stuffy (but stunning, so stunning) Columbia region that’s mere minutes away, and gives it a unique flavor (it even has a different smell). Like a delicious Oreo, though, it just works so well!

When you’re done in Harlem, you can shuttle down to the Village in about 20 minutes. I noted that you get just about the same view of the Empire State building at the subway stop on 125th and when you get off in the Village, it just so happens that you’re at two separate ends of the island, which is neat. Manhattan seems so small, but man, there’s an awful lot to it.

And also, I want everyone to look at this awesome t-shirt I just ordered:

Brilliant, right?