This weekend on This Week George Will damn near made my entire month by calling the controversy over the Cordoba House/Park51 a “fundamentally weak” story, and telling anyone who might be offended or troubled by a Muslim-sponsored community center two blocks from Ground Zero, and I quote, “too bad.” He also chalked up the attention this story is getting to a slow end-of-summer news cycle, and predict that in a month we’ll all look back and say, “what was all that about?”
He might be right. But the month ain’t over yet. In his column for Slate.com today, Christopher Hitchens tackled the controversy surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” for the second time this month. His position a complex one, something that should come as no surprise to those of us who have read and followed him throughout his career. On the one hand, he agrees with me (if I can state it so egocentrically) that the Cordoba Initiative have every right to build their center anywhere they please. On the other hand, he agrees with frequent commenter Kim, and my fellow blogger Rick Rottman, about Feisal Abdul Rauf and Islam in general.
As he always does at his best, Hitchens does far more than preach to the converted. He challenges, and makes us think. Check out a few excerpts below, and read the whole thing at Slate.com:
Two weeks ago, I wrote that the arguments against the construction of the Cordoba Initiative center in lower Manhattan were so stupid and demagogic as to be beneath notice. Things have only gone further south since then, with Newt Gingrich’s comparison to a Nazi sign outside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum or (take your pick from the grab bag of hysteria) a Japanese cultural center at Pearl Harbor. The first of those pseudo-analogies is wrong in every possible way, in that the Holocaust museum already contains one of the most coolly comprehensive guides to the theory and practice of the Nazi regime in existence, including special exhibits on race theory and party ideology and objective studies of the conditions that brought the party to power. As for the second, there has long been a significant Japanese-American population in Hawaii, and I can’t see any reason why it should not place a cultural center anywhere on the islands that it chooses.
From the beginning, though, I pointed out that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was no great bargain and that his Cordoba Initiative was full of euphemisms about Islamic jihad and Islamic theocracy. I mentioned his sinister belief that the United States was partially responsible for the assault on the World Trade Center and his refusal to take a position on the racist Hamas dictatorship in Gaza. . . .
[. . .]
Emboldened by the crass nature of the opposition to the center, its defenders have started to talk as if it represented no problem at all and as if the question were solely one of religious tolerance. It would be nice if this were true. But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything "offensive" to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter . . .
I’ve heard no such hints from Rauf, and don’t expect to. If I do, then the time will have come to reevaluate my opinion of him. Any religious leader who would replace (or supplement, as it is sometimes described) a nation’s constitution with religious laws does not understand or does not truly desire democracy, and cannot under any circumstances be given his way. If Rauf turns out to be such a man, then the egg will be on my face, and the faces of the thousands of others, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who have risen to take his side in this debate.