The Power of Numbers and Random Thoughts. Again
From the Village Voice.
I think this rudimentary illustration speaks for itself:
Unfortunately, it’s not just the incorrectly-termed “Ground Zero Mosque” that is being opposed- it’s pretty much any new Mosque anywhere in the country. And here’s more. Rachel Maddow did a story on the more organized right-wing campaign against Cordoba House (video is here) while I was away on vacation and if you didn’t see it, it’s worth a look. There is something disturbing about politicians using the anti-Muslim hysteria as a political ploy, particularly when some transition from words into action and turn to violence. Great American leaders of the past have always appealed to the best in all of us, not the worst. This constant fear-mongering from some on the right (and the center) about not only Islam, but death-panels, socialism, lazy unemployed people, gay folks etc. seems to me to be an embarrassingly weak, albeit largely successful, political strategy. After all, the media is largely interested in alarmist headlines and ratings as opposed to fact-finding and holding people accountable.
This goes back to a good, if at times heated, discussion that took place on this blog several weeks ago. There may be some 9/11 family members (and others) who find the expansion of the Cordoba House to be unnecessary and insensitive and certainly not all those that oppose it are bigoted or anti-Muslim. That goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway so I’m not accused of being a narrow-minded liberal. While I may disagree with their reasoning, I am not so much talking about the 9/11 families as I am the people who have made spreading disinformation about Islam their new purpose in life. In other words, the people that are piggybacking their more generalized anti-Islam sentiment onto the views expressed by some of the 9/11 families and using it to promote a much less benign agenda.
The problem, at least for me, is that many are using the controversy in NY (and by extension also using those who feel hurt by the Cordoba House’s proximity to the site of the WTC/Ground Zero) to promote a larger political agenda which aims to demonize all American Muslims for political gain in an election year. To me, such scapegoating is very un-American and does very little to honor those who died on 9/11. Nor does it show any respect or sensitivity to the families and friends of the victims since much of it seems motivated more by politics and personal bias as opposed to concern for the sensitivities of others (see this stunning interview with the Reverend Franklin Graham for an example of politically-motivated opposition to Islam. And see Professor Stephen Prothero’s pointed rebuttal of Graham here.). After all, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Pamela Geller, Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey etc. have never before been too concerned about people’s sensitivities, hurt feelings or anything else for that matter. Again, I’m talking largely about the people who are using Islamaphobia for their own selfish purposes or people who simply make no effort to understand or learn anything about Islam and who instead prefer to demonize a whole group of people based on the actions of a few. I have repeatedly said that it is difficult for me to understand how so many people could view Islam and American Muslims as a threat if they actually personally knew some Muslims/had Muslim friends. Shabina Khatri makes the same point.
Stephen Walt over at Foreign Policy talks about some of the wider implications of the Cordoba House controversy:
…It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is going on here: All you really need to do is look at how the critics of the community center project keep describing it. In their rhetoric it is always the “Mosque at Ground Zero,” a label that conjures up mental images of a soaring minaret on the site of the 9/11 attacks. Never mind that the building in question isn’t primarily a mosque (it’s a community center that will house an array of activities, including a gym, pool, auditorium, and oh yes, a prayer room). Never mind that it isn’t at “Ground Zero”: it’s two blocks away and will not even be visible from the site. (And exactly why does it matter if it was?) You know that someone is engaged in demagoguery when they keep using demonstrably false but alarmist phrases over and over again.
What I don’t understand is why critics of this project don’t realize where this form of intolerance can lead. As a host of commentators have already noted, critics of the project are in effect holding American Muslims — and in this particular case, a moderate Muslim cleric who has been a noted advocate of inter-faith tolerance — responsible for a heinous act that they did not commit and that they have repeatedly condemned. It is view of surpassing ignorance, and precisely the same sort of prejudice that was once practiced against Catholics, against Jews, and against any number of other religious minorities. Virtually all religious traditions have committed violent and unseemly acts in recent memory, and we would not hold Protestants, Catholics, or Jews responsible for the heinous acts of a few of their adherents.
And don’t these critics realize that religious intolerance is a monster that, once unleashed, may be impossible to control? If you can rally the mob against any religious minority now, then you may make it easier for someone else to rally a different mob against you should the balance of political power change at some point down the road…
And finally, let’s not lose sight of the foreign policy implications. It’s hardly headline news to observe that the United States has an abysmal image in the Arab and Muslim world (for a variety of reasons), but the xenophobic and cynical posturing of the community center’s opponents is a free gift to extremists who are eager to portray the United States as inherently hostile to the entire Islamic tradition. The controversy itself has probably taken a toll already; if the critics win, then we should hardly be surprised if moderates elsewhere begin to have even more doubts about America’s ability to live up to the principles that we like to boast about to others. [emphasis added]
On a rather humorous-if-it-wasn’t-so-pathetic note, Fox News (GOP TV) has been blasting Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal for his financial support of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of Cordoba House. Where’s the humor in this? Well, Jon Stewart points out (video is here) that Fox News’ anti-Muslim obsession and recent targeting of bin Talal is ironic given Fox is owned in part by bin Talal. God forbid our crack mainstream media pointed out that hypocrisy.
NOTE: As always, feel free to comment irrespective of your viewpoint. It is not a requirement for commenting on this blog that you agree with me and in fact, in my experience, many readers of this blog don’t agree with me. It’s all good. I only ask that people stick to respectful debate as opposed to personal attacks.