Friday, September 03, 2010

Victory Mosque Removal

In The New Republic, Yossi Klein Halevi has a heartfelt letter addressed to "his friend" Imam Rauf. The objective behind the letter is twofold: first, to establish that he does consider Rauf to be an important figure in interfaith dialogue ("If you are not a worthy dialogue partner for the Jewish community, then there is almost no one in Islam with whom we can speak."), and second, to urge the Imam to change the plans for the Park 51 center. Instead of turning it into a Muslim community center:
Instead, I urge you to consider turning the site into a center for interfaith encounter. Build the mosque—but do so together with a church and a synagogue and a center for common reflection for all three faiths and for those with no faith. Do this, Imam Feisal, not to surrender to your critics but to honor their pain, and, in the process, to honor Islam.

In the abstract, such a center would be a wonderful idea. Is it "better" (from the standpoint of interfaith healing? From the a general social utility view?) than the current blueprints? It's hard to say, though I suspect that, under whatever standard that labels such a center superior to Park 51, that same center would be a "better" usage for nearly any parcel of land publicly or privately developed in New York City (those strip clubs spring immediately to mind). And I maintain that, if the purpose of the community center is to serve the Muslim community in Southern Manhattan, it kind of misses the point to relocate the center to the other end of the borough Staten Island Queens.

But even if such an idea was meritorious, it can't happen anymore. The stakes have changed. We've moved beyond that.

One of the more ridiculous memes surrounding the Park 51 center is that it constitutes a "victory Mosque". The center organizers certainly never cast it that way, so we're forced to speculate that Islamists world-wide are slapping high-fives over the creation of a Islamic center headed by a man who has said he is a "supporter of Israel", and who gave such a stirring sermon on the occasion of Daniel Pearls brutal murder by those same Islamic extremists. The "victory Mosque" supposition stretches beyond implausible -- it is the stuff of pure paranoid bigoted fantasy.

On the other hand, we need no speculation to know who would claim victory at forcing the abandonment of the Park 51 plan. Changing the Park 51 plans -- moving it one inch, changing its mandate one iota -- would hand a victory to Pam Geller and her crowd of fascists who are responsible for ginning up this controversy and have never minced any bones about their objectives. They absolutely would declare victory. And they'd be right.

This is why, even granting the most "nuanced" interpretation of their position on this controversy, I still find the ADL's stance to be an outrageous capitulation of their core agenda. The arguments being put forth by Pam Geller and her bandmates represent a dire threat to the entire American constitutional vision. Their principles are toxic to the ideals of religious liberty that the ADL had sworn to protect. That was the critical issue that the Park 51 controversy raised. Everything else is a sideshow. The ADL either didn't recognize that, or it didn't have its priorities in order. Either way, it's no longer worth the time of folks genuinely concerned with preserving freedom in this nation.

America has seen these moments before. We had the Know-Nothings. We had Father Coughlin. We had the John Birch Society. All of these repellent groups counted hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans, among their adherents. But that did not render these movements American, and ultimately, we the people were faced with a choice. To affirm American values of religious freedom, of pluralism, of tolerance; or to cede ground to the nativists, the ultra-nationalists, the reactionary purveyors of hatred. Today, we have Pam Geller. She is a representative of an ancient evil, one that slumbers but seemingly is never killed. And we have that same choice faced by our predecessors. The time for clever midway solutions is over. You're either on the side of American values, or you're with Pam Geller. No more middle ground.

15 comments:

N. Friedman said...

David,

What you have written is way off base. The US is at war, albeit a low-intensity war, with Islamists. Evidently, that fact, in your mind, ought have no impact on how people see things. That view, notwithstanding the fact that we have troops and agents engaged all over the world (and not just in Afghanistan) directed to countering the Islamists.

That view, notwithstanding that there are Islamists in power in, for example, Iran who may be arming with nuclear weapons and who threaten not only to eliminate a member state of the U.N. but to drive the US out as protector of the Gulf - a vital interest to the US. See generally, the great British historian Martin Gilbert on this topic and on the more than eery similarities with the early 1930's.

That view, notwithstanding that there are Islamists in power in Sudan who, since 1980, have killed around 2 million people, mostly Christians and animists but, more recently, insufficiently Arabized Muslims, and reinstituted slavery as an acceptable institution, allegedly all the will of God.

That view, notwithstanding that this genocidal movement is on the march and asserts that there will be more genocides to come - i.e. of Indians and Jews, among others.

To suggest that average people are wrong to be a just a little bit - in fact, to be really, really - concerned that the Cordoba Center might somehow play some role in Islamist thinking is, to say the least, naive. People fear movements that employ sleep cells and they resent elites who assert, as has been asserted repeatedly with a whole host of not so moderate imam, that a not so moderate imam is moderate. Yet, again and again, the elites have been wrong. Must I list the long list of wrongly claimed moderates who ended up supporting terrorism?

To call people concerned about the Cordoba Center all racists - which is what you more or less seem to be insinuating (i.e. people are lockstep with Ms. Geller) - amounts, frankly, to surrendering your mind.

Now, as I have said - and I repeat so that people do not falsely brand me a racist -, I do not oppose the Cordoba Center project (unless Islamist money is found to be behind it). The law is the law. But, that is as far as I take it. The project is appalling.

Of course, Imam Rauf says he wants to heal wounds and thus has opened up the question of whether his project will. Clearly, the evidence here, given the reaction of most Americans to the project, is that the project will not only not heal wounds but, in fact, has already opened raw ones very wide.

Further, no one who has considered carefully what Christopher Hitchens has noted about Rauf's support for the Iranian Mullacracy, ought reasonably claim the imam is really a moderate who could heal wounds. And, of course, there are those unvetted declarations by the imam to the one state solution, a sign that he is very far from being a moderate. At one time, your view was to fight anyone who held that view. Evidently, your thoughts have evolved.

Returning to your point. Calling everyone who opposes the project a racist is wrongheaded. It is the mistake which has led Bernard-Henri Lévy to note how the left has stopped thinking, as passionately analyzed in his two most recent book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism and American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville.

N. Friedman said...

David,

What you have written is way off base. The US is at war, albeit a low-intensity war, with Islamists. Evidently, that fact, in your mind, ought have no impact on how people see things. That view, notwithstanding the fact that we have troops and agents engaged all over the world (and not just in Afghanistan) directed to countering the Islamists.

That view, notwithstanding that there are Islamists in power in, for example, Iran who may be arming with nuclear weapons and who threaten not only to eliminate a member state of the U.N. but to drive the US out as protector of the Gulf - a vital interest to the US. See generally, the great British historian Martin Gilbert on this topic and the more than eery similarities with the early 1930's.

That view, notwithstanding that there are Islamists in power in Sudan who, since 1980, have killed around 2 million people, mostly Christians and animists but, more recently, insufficiently Arabized Muslims, and reinstituted slavery as an acceptable institution, allegedly all the will of God.

That view, notwithstanding that this genocidal movement is on the march and asserts that there will be more genocides to come - i.e. of Indians and Jews, among others.

To suggest that average people are wrong to be a just a little bit - in fact, to be really, really - concerned that the Cordoba Center might somehow play some role in Islamist thinking is, to say the least, naive. People fear movements that employ sleep cells and they resent elites who assert, as has been asserted repeatedly with a whole host of not so moderate imam, that a not so moderate imam is moderate. Yet, again and again, the elites have been wrong. Must I list the long list of wrongly claimed moderates who ended up supporting terrorism?

To call people concerned about the Cordoba Center all racists - which is what you more or less seem to be insinuating (i.e. people are lockstep with Ms. Geller) - amounts, frankly, to surrendering your mind.

Now, as I have said - and I repeat so that people do not falsely brand me a racist -, I do not oppose the Cordoba Center project (unless Islamist money is found to be behind it). The law is the law. But, that is as far as I take it. The project is appalling.

Of course, Imam Rauf says he wants to heal wounds and thus has opened up the question of whether his project will. Clearly, the evidence here, given the reaction of most Americans to the project, is that the project will not only not heal wounds but, in fact, has already opened raw ones very wide.

Further, no one who has considered carefully what Christopher Hitchens has noted about Rauf's support for the Iranian Mullacracy, ought reasonably claim the imam is really a moderate who could heal wounds. And, of course, there are those unvetted declarations by the imam to the one state solution, a sign that he is very far from being a moderate. At one time, your view was to fight anyone who held that view. Evidently, your thoughts have evolved.

Returning to your point. Calling everyone who opposes the project a racist is wrongheaded. It is the mistake which has led Bernard-Henri Lévy to note how the left has stopped thinking, as argued passionately in his two most recent book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism and American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville

Anonymous said...

The victory goes to the extremists on both sides of the issue. Because it was blown up so much, the propagandists can claim "see how intolerant the Christians are they would not let the mosque be built". Or, see how the Muslims get away taunting us with this building.\And so on and so on. Mainly due to human weakness not religious intolerance.

joe said...

And, of course, there are those unvetted declarations by the imam to the one state solution, a sign that he is very far from being a moderate.

I find it pretty amusing that N. ostensibly writes to insist that mosque opposition in no way makes one necessarily racist (though the real question is whether it's Islamophobic, but it's a pretty big overlap given the conflation of Arabs and Muslims), and then continues to harp on this "No True Scotsman" thing with Rauf.

N. Friedman said...

Joe,

America is at war with people who claim they fight us as Muslims in the name of Islam. Such has resulted in thousands of Americans dying needlessly in genocidal attacks, in NYC, in Arlington, VA and attempted attacks elsewhere in the US. Attacks by these maniacs have also occurred all over the world - again, the attackers being Muslims acting in the name of Islam.

We have no reliable way to know, in fact, which Muslims are part of this genocidal movement and which are not. That is the thing about sleeper cells and that is the thing about killers adopting a feigned lifestyle - in Arabic, taqqiyya. Which is to say, the genocidal maniacs do not announce who they are and often live as seemingly innocent people.

The fact is that your PC nonsense amounts to blinding yourself to the above basic but fundamental point. Pointing such facts out does not make one Islamophobic.

Anonymous said...

You might wanna read this profile of Pamela Geller. A friend of mine wrote it.

http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new_york/passions_and_perils_pamela_geller

The Passions (And Perils) Of Pamela Geller
The vehement Park51 opponent and day school mom sits down with Jewish Week, up to a point.

joe said...

Which is to say, the genocidal maniacs do not announce who they are and often live as seemingly innocent people.

Good point. We have no way of knowing who could be a sleeper agent! Sure, sometimes they leave us a big clue, like having "Hussein" as a middle name, but for all I know the Evangelical church being built across the street is really a secret Nation of Islam mosque with ties to Imam Rauf (and by extension, to Hamas) that only lets white people in as useful idiots (not that I can assume the white folks aren't secret Muslims; they could be anywhere, and since the "mosque" critics are so clearly not-racist, we can't make any assumptions).

Why, we even have the word of many of these "Evangelicals" -- on record! -- that they don't favor a two-state solution, a position no true moderate would take!

Sure, it would be nice if we could give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but between maintaining political correctness and rooting out a hidden enemy, there can be no contest.

N. Friedman said...

Joe,

You attempt to make fun of my point but there is precedent for this sort of concern. For example, FDR was obsessed by concerns that German Americans would side with the Nazis. He spied on them and watched them like hawks. Such was an entirely reasonable concern just like, today, it is reasonable to worry about Muslims, since the Muslim population is the only source of Islamists, the group with genocide in their hearts and minds.

N. Friedman said...

McCarthyism has nothing to do with what is occurring in the US. That is just another canard by which you deny the genocidal war against the US.

joe said...

You're going to cite FDR as a moral authority? Really? I think this is the part where I throw up my hands and leave.

N. Friedman said...

Joe,

Well, FDR was a really great president. He saved the country and was elected four times. Evidently, he is not your cup of tea. Perhaps, you are a right winger.

Rebecca said...

To take the discussion in another direction - of course FDR was a great president, but not everything he did was so great: 1) interning all of the mainland Japanese in internment camps; 2) his dilatory action to stop the Holocaust (the War Refugee Board was only established in 1944) - not that he could have stopped it entirely, only winning the war did that, but since he was president during the 1930s when Jews were trying to leave Austria and Germany and needed a place to go, he could have done much more to ensure them that place.

Are you suggesting that we should suspect ALL Muslims as possibly being members of Al Qaeda sleeper cells? Was it right, then, for the US to intern all mainland Japanese out of the fear of Japanese spies? In that case, maybe we should intern all Muslims!

N. Friedman said...

Rebecca,

You write: "Are you suggesting that we should suspect ALL Muslims as possibly being members of Al Qaeda sleeper cells? Was it right, then, for the US to intern all mainland Japanese out of the fear of Japanese spies? In that case, maybe we should intern all Muslims!"

You ask very fair questions. I would like to look at this matter from a slightly different perspective. First, though, I want to be clear that I am not suggesting putting all Muslims into internment camps. Turning now to the issue at hand, I have to assume that the government does, in fact, cast at least some degree of suspicion towards Muslims. In the past, whenever the US has had wars and there were Americans with ethnic or other connections connected with those with whom the US was fighting, the government always was concerned that there would be a fifth column. The issue, however, is one of degree, not of kind.

Rounding people up would be, based on our current experience, unnecessary. It likely was not necessary during WWII to intern all Japanese. And, interning all Germans, as Roosevelt would have preferred to do, was not feasible given the large percentage of Americans of German heritage. However, he was correct to be concerned and, in fact, there were cases of sabotage. Had the government not kept a close eye on things, there were have surely been more cases (since rings of saboteurs were broken up).

So far as the public is concerned, which is a different question but really the question posed by the Cordoba Center project - since no government officials are acting to make it unlawful to build the center -, the issue is what attitude is reasonable for the public to have. My suggestion is that the public is reasonable to assume that it is at war with Muslims and to have some degree of suspicion. That would be no different from the public being suspicious of Germans during WWII.

Rebecca said...

So in your opinion, N., we are at war with Muslims in general, any Muslims, not just Al Qaeda, or other jihadi movements that want to (re)establish a caliphate. I'm glad that you've finally come out and stated your bigoted opinions against Muslims.

The United States is not at war with Muslims. President Bush was always careful to distinguish the mass of Muslims, who had no responsibility for the crimes of 9/11 or the horrendous murders committed by groups like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and those who were actually responsible for them. In Afghanistan, we are fighting the Taliban, we are not fighting the citizens of Afghanistan, who are largely Muslims. In Iraq, we defeated the Saddam Hussein regime and we are now allied to the Iraqi government, which is composed of Muslims.

I am not at all interested in going down the dangerous route that you advocate, in which I must decide to be suspicious of any Muslim I meet lest he or she be a terrorist.

It seems to me that both American and Jewish history would teach you the danger and immorality of blaming an entire people for the sins of a few individuals.

N. Friedman said...

Rebecca,

It would help if you read (or could read?) what I wrote. I did not state that we are at war with all Muslims or anything of the sort. Instead, I said that we are at war with Muslims. Note the absence of an article such as "the" before the word Muslims. Note the significance of that point, with reference to UN 242, with the absence of the definite article "the" before the word territories is of considerable signficance. Evidently, not for you.

I have to assume that you know full well that I did not mean all Muslims and that you merely prefer to brand me a racist - most likely because you have no real argument that objects to FDR's concern about Germans. Frankly, your dog does not hunt and you should be ashamed of yourself. Next time, ask me what I mean before calling me names.

You are a case study of what Bernard-Henri Lévy has written when he speaks of our side of the political spectrum having lost its way and having no intellectual ideas. So, rather than address my point, you call me a racist. And, I might add, you are evidence in the debate between Lévy and Alain Finkielkraut about whether the entire intellectual house regarding the anti-racist ideology needs to be dismantled. You are good evidence for Finkielkraut's position that the edifice needs to be knocked down.