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Steve Likes to Curse
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Opposition to the “Ground Zero Mosque”: We’ve Seen This Before 
Thursday, August 5th, 2010 | 05:40 pm [commentary, news, religion]
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Comments continue to accumulate on both of my recent articles about the controversy surrounding the Cordoba House, the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.” (I say “so-called” because the term mischaracterizes the project twice over — the Cordoba House is not located at the former World Trade Center site, but over two blocks away; and its backers stress it will be a community center, not primarily a place of worship.)
Late last night I wrote a lengthy response to one of those comments. That comment can be viewed
here, and my original response can be seen in two parts (I exceeded my length limit) here, and here. What follows is largely taken from my response to that comment, edited and expanded somewhat.
the video I produced one week ago entitled “Ground Zero Mosque: A Thought Experiment,” I attempted (unsuccessfully, I now think) to illustrate the illegitimacy of the opposition to the Cordoba House by drawing an analogy to resistance to a black family moving into the same neighborhood where, ten years earlier, an entirely different group of African Americans had murdered a family and burned down their home. As several commenters both here and at the video’s YouTube page have pointed out, people aren’t troubled by the racial identity, but the religious ideology of those building the Cordoba House.
Fair enough. Allow me, then, to propose a slightly different thought experiment:
Imagine a moderate, relatively respectable Christian organization is proposing to build a church and community center on a given site. The location the group has chosen sits a few blocks over from the former site of an abortion clinic, which was destroyed ten years ago by a bomb, which also killed everyone inside the building at the time. The bomb was planted by a gang of radical Christian fundamentalists, who believed their faith compelled them to bomb the clinic. The leaders of this Christian organization have made it clear that they chose the location deliberately for its proximity to the scene of this horrific crime, and that they hope to bring the community together, and demonstrate that their Christian faith is not defined by the acts of those terrorists, but by the values of love, charity and compassion.
Would anyone have a problem with that? Would anyone reflexively question the motives of those Christians? Would bloggers and pundits be digging through the trash of the leaders of that organization, looking to exploit every questionable association, no matter how tenuous? What do you think? 
“Ah,” perhaps you’re thinking, “but your analogy fails again. The Muslims behind the Cordoba Initiative are not moderates!”
Aren’t they?
Last night, after asking for evidence to justify the resistance to the Cordoba House for nearly a week, a commenter pointed me in the direction of an article on National Review Online titled “
Not at Ground Zero.” The article, credited simply to The Editors, accuses Faisal Abdul Rauf, the imam leading the Cordoba Initiative, of being a terrorist sympathizer who believes the United States is at least partially responsible for the crimes committed on 9/11.
That article repeatedly references the work of Andrew C. McCarthy, a National Review contributor who is apparently quite the expert on Islam and its sinister plans for the United States. McCarthy has written on the Cordoba House twice in the last two weeks or so. I will also be referring to both of these articles — “
Rauf’s Dawa from the World Trade Center Rubble” and “It’s About Sharia.” 
Some things about these articles struck me as odd. For instance, Rauf is accused of being “an apologist for Hamas.” No examples of this are cited in any of these three articles. Yet, continually, Rauf is referred to as an apologist. His purported reluctance to label Hamas a terrorist organization is apparently all the evidence we ought to need.

Also, Rauf’s book, What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America, is mentioned several times. Much is made of the fact that the book was published in Malaysia under the title A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11. The presence of the word “dawa,” said to describe a particular mode of Islamic evangelism that has imposition of sharia law as its ultimate goal, is cited as evidence for Rauf’s radicalism. So is his association with Yusuf Qaradawi, an influential Muslim cleric who is banned from entering the United States, and has been accused of supporting and inciting terrorism.

But there is not a single citation from Rauf’s book in any of these articles. Not a quote, not a paraphrase. If it really is as radical as McCarthy is strongly suggesting it is, this seems a bit odd.

Rauf is also attacked for describing terrorism as “a very complex question.” Well . . . it’s a complex subject. Not all of it — of course I’d be grateful to Rauf, and other Muslim leaders, if they would come out strongly against terrorism, murder, suicide bombing, and kidnapping employed as strategies for advancing Islam. I consider that bare minimum. But to do so would not be to answer the terrorism question completely. Even Qaradawi, who at first glance seems like a prototypical radical jihadist, has pushed for dialogue and cooperation between the Islamic world and the West. Does that make him a good guy? No. But it does make him more complicated than a bad guy who must be roundly and utterly condemned by all right-thinking people.

Moderates like Rauf have no choice but to occasionally associate themselves with radicals that stand to either side of them. If he really wants a better relationship between Islam and the West, he can’t just take the side of the United States and wag his finger disapprovingly at his fellow Muslims. He has to promote engagement, and maintain friends on both sides.

I’m no great fan of Faisal Abdul Rauf. I consider myself an enemy of all religions, whatever they may be. I can’t avoid thinking how much easier this would be without the irrational convictions of religion clouding the minds of hundreds of millions of people. But Rauf is no radical. To read and listen to the Andrew McCarthys, Sarah Palins and Newt Gingriches, you’d think the man was Osama bin Laden. If they are unable or unwilling to draw any distinction between the Muslims who crashed commercial airliners into three buildings and a Pennsylvania field almost nine years ago, and men like Rauf who are at least making some effort to wrest their religion away from the fanatics and drag it into the 21st century, that is their problem. It need not be yours.

There’s another thought that I have as I read these National Review articles, and listen to these other voices from the right, outraged at the thought of this center of Islam being built two blocks from Ground Zero. It’s so obvious, I wonder why it didn’t occur to me before:

Muslims are the new Communists.

When my parents were children, the Andrew McCarthys and Glenn Becks of their era were shouting to anyone who would listen about the dangers of communist infiltration. “They are among us,” it was whispered. “They mean to take us over, slowly and quietly, without anyone noticing, from the inside.”

They have substituted Islam for communism. In place of a Soviet-style government dictatorship, sharia is their new boogeyman.

How little faith these people have in the Constitution they claim to revere, and the American people toward whom they launch their ignorant and fearful and insulting appeals. For the last three hundred years, western culture has been evolving away from absolutism and intolerance, and toward democracy and liberty. More times than I can count these last few days I’ve encountered warnings from conservatives (many of whom, like the almost too aptly named McCarthy, have apparently become scholars of Islam) about the vile way women and minorities are treated under sharia, about the cruel and unbending governments that result. Do they really believe that such crude, barbaric traditions can be imposed on the people of the United States by allowing some moderate Muslims to erect a community center and mosque in New York City? Would they have us believe that the road from the greatest democracy the world has ever known (as they so often crow) to brutal fundamentalist dictatorship is really that short?

Those who saw closet communists behind every corner, and our Soviet occupation as inevitable sixty years ago were not patriots or prophets. They were paranoid, hysterical demagogues who tried to pass their conspiracy theories by wrapping them in patriotism and Judeo-Christian cheers.

The writers and editors at the National Review, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, Dennis Miller — who spent much of his radio show the last two days on an uninformed, but no less righteously indignant, tirade against the Cordoba House — and all those who warn of the imminent imposition of a fascist Islamic dictatorship unless we isolate and marginalize our Muslim fellow Americans from our communities even more than they already are, are selling the same shit with almost the same pitch. It’s one of the most blatant displays of naked bigotry I can remember, and those who have spent the last few weeks encouraging it ought to be ashamed.
Thursday, August 5th, 2010 | 11:56 pm (UTC)
i am a christian i love my God i dont see anything wrong as long as the intentions are good in my field of work i have met people of the muslim faith and there are some good muslims out there just like you do have some christians that do wrong your white supremacist groups claim to be religious based but they go about things the wrong way but we are not to judge them that is Gods job to convict them of their sins and i dont know much about muslim faith or allah or mohaamed but that not to say i wouldnt like to read the koran and compare it to our own bible
Friday, August 6th, 2010 | 12:20 am (UTC)
Actually I think there would be a significant amount of "WTF?!"-type response from abortion-rights groups.

And there would be Christian groups going "what's the big deal?" and other religious groups going "look, it's time to make peace" and self-righteous pro-life groups going "well if they hadn't been killing babies in the first place they wouldn't've got blown up!"

Freedom of speech means that idiots get to prove themselves. ;)
Friday, August 6th, 2010 | 01:44 am (UTC)
Fair enough. But I very much doubt the reaction to a mainstream Christian group building a church in the general vicinity of the site where a radical fringe Christian group committed an act of terrorism would even approach the level of hysteria generated by the Cordoba House. Would there be nationally known politicians, and pundits on every TV network and political blog, professing their outrage?
Friday, August 6th, 2010 | 02:47 am (UTC)
Oh hell no. Of course not.

It's a lovely illustration of cultural privilege :)
Friday, August 6th, 2010 | 06:14 am (UTC)
For an enemy of all religions, you have gone to great lengths here to defend a triumphant symbol of your enemy as close as it can get to America's deepest wound.

I posted the link to and the excerpt from the National Review article not in response to your request for some kind of proof but simply as further reading that i thought might interest you. I am just as capable as you are of reading the McCarthy article with a critical eye. I believe most people can do the same, whether liberal or conservative minded. I agree with you that McCarthy's article left something to be desired. But so did the Cordoba Initiative's page about their take on Sharia law.

Here is what I've personally taken away from what I have read about Rauf, which includes about 5 hours looking over the Cordoba Initiative website and reading numerous articles since I first learned of the mosque. This does not make me an expert on Islam or Imam Rauf.

I said Rauf was pro-shariah. I provided a link to the Cordoba Initiative website.

I made reference to the fact that he has not disclosed where funding will or has come from. This has been stated in numerous articles so I didn't bother providing a link.

As far as the McCarthy article, you say much is made of the word Dawa. To that I say, we non-muslims have every reason to make a fuss about it. The little I do know about it, I sure don't like the sound of it. Do you, enemy of religion? I for one would like to get my hands on a copy of Rauf's book to check out what he has to say about it myself. Would I give a crap what he has to say about "Dawa in the heart of America" if he wasn't the same Imam who wants to build a mosque 2 blocks from ground zero? Probably not. But, considering that he is that same Imam, I am very curious.

And, I whole-heartedly disagree with you about moderates like Rauf having no choice but to associate themselves with radicals. Who on earth would the association benefit? How would this be at all helpful in regards to building a mosque at ground zero? If Rauf's a moderate his fellow muslims do not or should not include radicals.

And as far as Qaradawi, I don't care how complicated he is, if he is a jihadist, he can take his dialogue and shove it up his ass. Stop trying to kill us, and we'll talk. And screw Rauf if he doesn't feel the same way about it. The key word here is "if" because, just like you, I too see the holes in the McCarthy article.

"Terrorism is complicated." Well, yeah. And not sternly and swiftly denouncing a terrorist organization when asked specifically, doesn't help make it any less complicated. And staying the hell away from radicals would really go a long way in simplifying things.

This is nothing like the commie scare. For it to be,radical communists (?) would have to commit a terrorist attack, killing thousands of innocent Americans then a moderate group of communists 10 years later would have to come up with the brilliant idea of erecting a massive communist meeting place as close as they could get where everybody died.

There's nothing to compare it to. Stop trying.

And besides all this Rauf business, you say you asked for evidence to *justify* the resistance to the mosque/community center? Why isn't that many, many people find it horribly insensitive, including 911 victim's families, enough for you? How are they to prove to you that just the thought of it hurts them? Why is it that you see a bigger injustice in the pleas for no mosque than the want for one near ground zero?

Good luck convincing so many that they're all just paranoid bigots.
Friday, August 6th, 2010 | 12:28 pm (UTC)
The anti-Muslim hysteria in the wake of 9/11 comes from the same sense of paranoia and the same "Us vs. Them" mentality that created and propagated the Red Scare. The fact that there was no communist 9/11 doesn't matter; the behavior is the same. Anyone who seems even slightly out of step with the in-group is attacked and demonized, and dire consequences for the nation and the world are predicted unless the enemy (communists then, Muslims now) is pursued and purged from our ranks.

All I've seen as evidence for the radicalism of Feisal Abdul Mauf is a (mostly implied) link, through several intermediaries, to Qaradawi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Again, this strikes me as a line of reasoning worthy of HUAC. What has Rauf himself ever done or said to earn the attacks now being hurled at him from the fringe right? If he is really a radical who wants to overthrow our Constitution, how is it everyone but the angriest, least factually reliable conservatives have missed it?

The objections of the families of 9/11 victims' families and other New Yorkers don't justify the resistance to the Cordoba House. There are many New Yorkers who have no problem with it, or who might feel some instinctive twinge at the thought, but recognize that for what it is and choose not to join the chorus.

This outrage over the Cordoba House is only possible because people refuse to distinguish between a band of warlike radical Muslims, and the moderate, modernist, peaceful Muslims who are behind this initiative. Perhaps the 9/11 families who have expressed reservations are still so blinded by grief and anger that they are incapable of making such a distinction. Fair enough. But what excuse do the rest of us have for abandoning our reason and siding so quickly with the ignorant reactionaries?

Not all of the people upset over this are paranoid bigots. But they are allowing themselves to behave as such, and being influenced by people like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich, who are.

I suppose you're right about the Cordoba House being a symbol of my enemy. It is to be a religious center. But it will be no more a symbol of my enemy than St. Patrick's Cathedral. And I do draw a distinction between the moderates erecting an Islamic center in Manhattan, and the lunatics calling for the heads of infidels.

And I defend it because I think the principles of our free society, which tell us minority groups should be welcomed into our communities rather than ostracized, and that those who have committed no crime should not be treated as though they had, are worth defending.

Edited at 2010-08-06 12:53 pm (UTC)
Saturday, August 7th, 2010 | 04:51 am (UTC)
worth defending

even if they believe things that you think are crap.

I am so proud to know you ^.^
Sunday, August 8th, 2010 | 05:51 pm (UTC)

A Muslim victim of 9/11 and her reasons for opposing the mosque. Very much worth reading the whole thing.

"When I am asked about the people who murdered my mother, I try to hold back my anger. I try to have a more spiritual perspective. I tell myself that perhaps what happened was meant to happen -- that it was my mother's destiny to perish this way. I try to take solace in the notion that her death has forced a much-needed conversation and reevaluation of the role of religion in the Muslim community, of the duties and obligations that the faith imposes and of its impact on the non-Muslim world. But a mosque near Ground Zero will not move this conversation forward." "I fear that over time, it will cultivate a fundamentalist version of the Muslim faith, embracing those who share such beliefs and hating those who do not."

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