A civil war is raging in Islam; if the US is to be spared the social problems already shaking much of Europe, its politicians and media must take the more difficult course of engaging those Muslims who want to support democracy and liberty, while sidelining those who do not – or who want democracy so long it allows them to agitate for just a little more sharia, and a few more accommodations to hard-line views.
These thoughts, current after 9/11, seem to have quietly slipped from the debate over Islam and democracy, perhaps because the West’s self-appointed opinion-makers prefer to avoid unpleasant issues and hard truths concerning anything non-Western, and perhaps because this “civil war” is also being waged among those who claim to speak for Western civilization.
Increasingly since 9/11, many have seized on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to portray the US as the main obstacle to “peace” (meaning surrender). Nevertheless, if much of the European press, and the left-wing press in the US, repeatedly attempted to portray President George W. Bush as a man lacking subtlety of mind, and the “war on terror” as a war against Muslims or Islam, the president himself was always careful to stress that the enemy were those who rejected democracy in favor of a medieval legal system that regarded women as second class citizens, and included such barbaric practices as stoning. “Islamo-fascism” was articulated as a radical strain of Islam, rejected by “moderates,” who were, and are, regarded as apostates by the Islamo-fascists, and, as such, sentenced to death in absentia.
To a large extent, many have allied with radical Islamists bent on the destruction of the traditions of the West – which allegedly serves an oppressive, capitalist system. The proposed “Ground Zero Mosque” has provided another opportunity for the majority of Leftists to bash America, and, in particular, those opposing its construction. In the US, MSNBC Host Norah O’Donnell displayed Euro-style cultural relativism by implying that the mosque’s opponents were behaving like the 9/11 attackers. In the UK, Alex Massie at The Spectator neatly illustrated fashionable knee-jerk anti-Americanism: he had initially wondered why “such a project had to be built in such a location. It seemed likely to cause offense even if none were intended.” On hearing protests from Sara Palin, Newt Gingrich, and other American conservatives, however, Massie changed his tune, suggesting that “not only is there no reason not to carry on with the project but that, contra its critics, it now must be built a couple of blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center.”
Yet such verbal assaults also strike American Muslims, who are as proud of their country as American conservatives. Yes, many on the Left portrays themselves as sensitive to “minorities,” never fail to dismiss the voices of those who do not share their views. Naturally, the Left has failed to notice that critics of the Cordoba House initiative (now “Park51”) include a number of Muslims.
One of them is LA-based Muslim Neda Bolourchi, whose mother was killed in the 9/11 attacks, and who regards Ground Zero as her resting place. Other critics include Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy; and Raheel Raza of the Muslim Canadian Congress, who wrote to Imam Faisal Rauf, the man behind the initiative.
“Many Muslims,” Raza wrote, “suspect that the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation, to thumb our noses at the ‘infidel.’ We believe the proposal has been made in bad faith and, in Islamic parlance, is creating ‘fitna,’ meaning ‘mischief-making,’ an act clearly forbidden in the Qur’an.”
It is easy to see why many Americans – particularly New Yorkers – are upset at the prospect of a mosque and Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero. The 9/11 attacks transformed the city, and, in one way or another, were experienced by the majority of its residents. For days, dust from the wreckage of the Twin Towers spread across the city, coating apartments 50 or 60 blocks away. Swept up, the dust only reappeared.
Soon, thousands of black and white, letter-sized appeals lined the walls of lower Manhattan and across the river in Brooklyn heights, each one with the name of a loved-one killed in the attacks. “Missing since 9/11,” they read, heart-wrenchingly; “please contact… if you have any information”. Remains of loved-ones killed in the attacks are still being found.
Ground Zero itself burned for months, with the glow visible at night from tower blocks at least a mile away.
Yet “Islamophobia” did not sweep New York, and has not swept the US, no doubt largely due to president Bush’s unambiguous statements about who the enemy was. Muslims are more visible in New York than a decade ago. Hijabs are more common now than before. There are also several Iraqi, Afghanistani, and Persian restaurants (which are surviving despite the economic climate), and dozens of mosques in Manhattan and surrounding boroughs (many of which are listed on Google maps), including the small Masjid Manhattan mosque, located five blocks from Ground Zero.
It is easy for fashionable European commentators to worry about “Islamophobia” in America, rather than face with seriousness the problem of radical Islamism closer to home. Perhaps they are happy to see strife in the US, as the continent’s appeasement of extremists, and the habitual sidelining of Muslims who believe in democracy, has created so much strife there.
Some of the protestors against the Cordoba House/Park51 are undoubtedly motivated by simple anti-Muslim bigotry, and should be sidelined. Most criticism has, however, been restrained. Most critics, including ordinary Americans, do not appear to have lumped all Muslims in with Islamists.
On the contrary, this is usually a mistake that liberal politicians and media pundits make, with both groups happy to engage Islamists, and to take at face value their claims to represent Muslims in their country or “community.” Never does anyone bother to check their backgrounds or connections.
If the criticism of the Ground Zero mosque suggests that the “Islamization” of US is not the fait accompli that Islamists would like, some in the media and political realm make it seem as if Europeanization is.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg sounded every bit the Euro politician when he asserted that “to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists” and, “No neighborhood in our city is off limits to God’s love and mercy.”
Opposing this view, New York Republican Peter King has said that “it is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero.”
Insensitive, no doubt. Uncaring, very possibly. As Raheel Raza has said, many Muslims regard it as a deliberate act of provocation (and in that assessment they are clearly joined by many non-Muslims).
However, as such, it is wrong to characterize the “Ground Zero Mosque” as an initiative of “the Muslim community,” just as it is wrong to defend it by comforting statements about Islam, especially when the imam behind it appears to have a less than unblemished record [pdf].
Europeans are used to having their legitimate concerns portrayed as extreme by those elected to represent them, not to mention hearing the obligatory amateur theology in which grand pronouncements about Islam are used to avoid questions regarding funding and connection of specific organizations, and so on. Patronizing one’s citizens has not led to Muslims feeling they belong. Quite the opposite, since this behavior has provided an atmosphere conducive to the agenda of Islamist radicals. When Ken Livingstone was the Mayor of London he brought “theologian of terror” sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi to the capitol city, where he was able to promote his extremist Islamism. Livingstone simply dismissed opposition to al-Qaradawi’s visit, and the sheik’s earlier endorsement of suicide bombings in Israel, incitement of violence against Jews, the beating of women by the husbands, and the execution of gays, as simple bigotry. There are countless other examples, though not all as flagrant.
Many ordinary Europeans feel nothing more than resentment and anger at such behavior by their politicians, and a backlash is now beginning, with calls to ban burkas and minarets.
America undoubtedly does not want to go down that road, although in making the “Ground Zero Mosque” an issue of Islam versus America, it has put a foot firmly in that direction.
Derided as a know-nothing cowboy while making it clear that the war on terror was a war on Islamo-fascism, and for the human rights of Muslims around the globe, president George Bush seems to have become a beacon of moral clarity in the stew of pseudo-sophisticated platitudes. Apparently, some of his most ardent detractors now miss him.
As the November elections approach, and the “Ground Zero Mosque” looks set to become an election issue, those opposing it should be equally as clear about exactly where the ideological boundary lies.