Religion

Muslims Ask NYC To Remove Sacred Names From Sidewalk

| by Lauren Briggs
Former Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlevi's name on sidewalkFormer Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlevi's name on sidewalk

Hundreds of people are calling for New York City officials to remove 11 sacred Muslim names engraved in sidewalks because it is considered disrespectful in Islam to trample on them.

"Walking on an important symbol is a sign of disrespect," said Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, according to the New York Post. "As Americans might view walking on an American flag or a grave disrespectful, in Islamic culture, the prophets are some of the most important things in the world."

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A Downtown Alliance spokeswoman projected that removing all of the 11 markings would cost taxpayers approximately $110,000.

The engravings are not in reference to the prophet Mohammad or any other sacred figures but rather to those with the same names, such as Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, the former shah of Iran, although walking over such names is nonetheless seen as an insult by many Muslims. Indeed, this is why boxing legend Muhammad Ali's Hollywood Walk of Fame star is the only one that hangs vertically.

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"It is a hate crime and must be prosecuted," Alina Nisar wrote on an online petition that seeks to remove the name Mohammad from 200 other names etched in granite in 2003 to honor the ticker tape parades that have passed over the area.

Fellow petitioner Syed Zaidi suggested that the engravings' locations are "molesting the sanctity [and] feelings of other human beings and their faiths."

A third petitioner, Hamdy Elsayed, offered his own take: "I understand for an American it is a sign of respect for it to be honored in such a way. In our beliefs we happen to think quite opposite, it is imperative that we unite in such times rather than ask why one wants to be treated differently than the other; we are 1."

The petition, which was published at the beginning of March, has more than 430 signatures out of the 1,000 sought.

"It was with the utmost respect ... that we placed granite markers ... to more permanently commemorate them," said Jessica Lappin, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York.

But many people say that the intentions do not mitigate the disrespect.

"It really hurts the feelings of people of Muslim faith," said One Nation US Treasurer Yasir Bhai, who helped launch a similar earlier petition that garnered 700 signatures.

The petition also asks that the city remove the names Ibrahim, Ahmad, Hassan and Ali, which are found in the engravings for former president of Sudan Ibrahim Abboud, former president of Guinea Ahmed Sekou Toure, former king of Morocco Hassan II and former prime minister of Pakistan Liaguat Ali Khan.

Sources: New York Post, iPetitions, ABC News / Photo Credit: Angel Chevrestt/New York Post