I have had mixed feelings about the question of whether to build a mosque and community center 2 miles from Ground Zero, which is the major reason I’ve been mostly silent about it. But the myth makers and apologists for radical Islam who feel no compunction in smearing all opponents of the mosque as bigots and haters have changed my mind.
The constant appeal directed to the media and ordinary Americans to feel guilt, to be afraid of being considered intolerant is wearing quite thin in the age of Obama. And wherever this kind of base, sneering, morally righteous nonsense rears itself up to spew its culturally divisive venom - be it from the right or left -those who value elevating dialogue and not debasing it should be heard.
I believe that the concept of religious tolerance would have to include the notion that one of the three major faiths should be allowed to build a place of worship wherever they want. And their stated goal of fostering interfaith dialogue should be accepted at face value.
This, however, would take place only in a perfect world where the universality of the Brotherhood of Man was understood, accepted, and actually practiced by adherents to all religions. In reality, this is not the case, as we well know. More troubling still are clear indications from the putative builders of this mosque that the feelings of those who lost loved ones on 9/11 have been ignored, or given short shrift, while the published comments of the Imam whose brainchild is the Cordoba initiative should raise alarm bells for those who believe that sharing some beliefs with the radical Islamists who brought the buildings down should disqualify the cleric from having anything to do with it.
I will grant - and have commented on often - the rank bigotry of many on the right who, since 9/11, have become certified experts in Islam and the Koran. I’m sure you’ve run into these scholars in your web surfing. They can quote chapter and verse from the Koran that “proves” Islam is a violent cult, or they can parrot something from someone as equally ignorant as they are about Islam, who state categorically that there is no such thing as a “moderate Muslim,” and that all who follow the teachings of Mohammad support the terrorists in one way or another. It is truly pathetic that these bigots lack the self awareness to see what howling fools they make of themselves, engaging as they do in this nonsensical “analysis.” And all who value reason and logic should condemn such idiocy in the strongest possible terms.
The latest meme to catch hold among this crew of deluded haters is that he reason the mosque is being built overlooking Ground Zero is that it will serve as a triumphal icon of “victory” by Islam over the west. It’s true that the terrorists would no doubt see it that way, but what connection is there between the builders of the mosque and al-Qaeda? Unless you are willing to suspend belief and insist that all Muslims see 9/11 the same way, the idea of Islamic triumphalism doesn’t cut it.
The blows we have dealt al_Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, and Indonesia this last decade has made them a near irrelevancy in international terrorism. They are scattered to the four winds, their sources of funding have nearly dried up, their ability to strike a blow has been reduced to shoe bombers and the like, and we kill most of their leaders faster than they can replace them.
Some victory. And those who would see it as such aren’t persuadable anyway so what’s the point?
But trying to lump all opponents of building the mosque in with this group of loons is typical of how many on the left play at politics these days. By highlighting the absolute worst arguments against building the mosque, from the most unbalanced elements opposing it, supporters don’t have to address the real concerns that many of us have about the efficacy of of building a house of worship within sight of Ground Zero that - rightly or wrongly - is dedicated to the faith that the perpetrators of the outrage believed they were honoring.
It isn’t that the leaders of the Cordoba Initiative share al-Qaeda’s warped view of Islam. It’s that the terrorists made it crystal clear they were acting in its name. The same basic beliefs about Allah and his prophet that animated Mohammed Atta are in the hearts of 1 billion Muslims around the world. This doesn’t mean they subscribe to Atta’s twisted interpretation of some parts of the Koran that justified, in his mind, murdering thousands of innocents.
There are many on the left eager to condemn Christianity for the sins of radical abortion activists, or Judaism for the actions of the Israeli government. More thoughtful opponents can separate the religion from the bad actors. But, if an evangelical Christian sect wanted to build a church across from an abortion clinic that had been bombed, I wonder what the reaction among even those who can separate the act from the faith would be? Would it not give us pause to contemplate the appropriateness of it? I’m sure it would and many arguments being made against the mosque would find an echo in arguments against building the church.
Then there is the problem with family members who lost loved ones on 9/11. There seems to be a general consensus among them that the mosque shouldn’t be built, but it is by no means a unanimous desire among families and begs the question of how much input they should have in the decision in the first place? What is sure is that the leaders of the Cordoba Initiative never asked for input from 9/11 families during any stage of the planning for the center. What kind of reckless insensibility is that? With so many victims still missing from that horrible day, most family members view Ground Zero as a cemetery, and thus, sacred ground. The idea that good hearted Muslims would be so insensitive to the feelings of grief stricken relatives is almost beyond belief. It calls into question the idea that the center is supposed to foster “interfaith dialogue.”
Indeed, the head of the Initiative, Imam Rauf, seems to have problems with consistency when it comes to this point, saying one thing to Americans in English and something entirely different to his Arabic-speaking audience:
Only two months before, on March 24, 2010, Abdul Rauf is quoted in an article in Arabic for the website Rights4All entitled “The Most Prominent Imam in New York: ‘I Do Not Believe in Religious Dialogue.’”
Yes, you read that correctly and, yes, that is an accurate translation of Abdul Rauf. And Right4All is not an obscure blog, but the website of the media department of Cairo University, the leading educational institution of the Arabic-speaking world.
In the article, the imam said the following of the “religious dialogue” and “interweaving into the mainstream society” that he so solemnly seems to advocate in the Daily News and elsewhere:
This phrase is inaccurate. Religious dialogue as customarily understood is a set of events with discussions in large hotels that result in nothing. Religions do not dialogue and dialogue is not present in the attitudes of the followers, regardless of being Muslim or Christian. The image of Muslims in the West is complex which needs to be remedied.
Substitute “large hotels” with “Islamic Center” and what do you get? Does Rauf believe in interfaith dialogue or doesn’t he? Don’t you think we should be sure before going ahead with building something that purports to have as its major impetus the idea that it will foster understanding among various faiths?
There is more evidence of Rauf’s possible two-faced attitudes toward the west and dialogue. I don’t buy the idea that he is a closet extremist but his curious statements about partially blaming the US for 9/11 are troubling:
Way back on September 30, 2001, Feisal Abdul Rauf was interviewed on 60 Minutes by host Ed Bradley. Their verbatim dialogue from this CBS News transcript concluded:
BRADLEY: Are — are — are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?
Imam ABDUL RAUF: I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.
BRADLEY: OK. You say that we’re an accessory?
Imam ABDUL RAUF: Yes.
Imam ABDUL RAUF: Because we have been an accessory to a lot of — of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, it — in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.
Did the various board and commissions that vetted this proposal have access to that interview? Would it have changed any minds? I wonder.
There are good, solid arguments for building the center that don’t use as a basis the hatred and bigotry of the opposition. But with 60% of the City of New York now opposed, and the realization that in an imperfect world, the appropriateness of building the center can be legitimately questioned, I wonder if we shouldn’t follow the advice of Senator Leiberman and others who counsel a cooling off period to examine the proposal further.
It just might prove to the doubters that Rauf is indeed interested in “dialogue” and not pushing an unknown agenda that would be inappropriate for the location he has chosen to honor his god.