Bigots vs. Bleeding Hearts: The Battle over the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’
The swords are already clanking over a disputed patch of turf two blocks north of Manhattan’s Ground Zero, and the noise grows louder by the day.
“Let them build it!,” demands the HuffPost Left.
“Over our dead bodies!,” answers the Tea Party Right.
“Ignorant bigots!,” shouts the HuffPost Left.
“Self-hating traitors!,” counters the Tea Party Right.
What’s the beef, exactly? The extremists are clashing over “The Islamic Center Formerly Known as Cordoba House,” recently rechristened (if that’s the proper word) “Park 51” in a futile attempt to disguise the project with a nondescript monicker.
Brainchild of self-proclaimed moderate Muslim cleric Feisal Abdul Rauf, the center purportedly aspires to be an open, civil, warmly welcoming multicultural link between the Muslim community and the rest of American society. We desperately need such a link, of course, and we also need to see moderate Muslims grab center stage during the ongoing jihad of fevered Islamists against the West.
The Right is insisting, somewhat vehemently, that Imam Rauf is no moderate — that he’s simply a clever deceiver, a front for ill-intentioned radical Islamists, a skilled practitioner of the age-old Muslim strategy of infiltrating non-Muslim societies to undermine their defenses.
Here’s their evidence:
- Imam Rauf refuses to say whether he supports or condemns Hamas
- The Imam gave a TV interview shortly after 9/11 in which he notoriously implicated U.S. foreign policy as an “accessory” to the terrorist attacks (Osama bin Laden was “made in the U.S.A,” he declared)
- He’s been distressingly vague about whether he wants to make the U.S. “sharia-compliant”
- He’s the founder and CEO of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, an activist group similar to the NAACP that represents the interests of the Muslim community
- He’s accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical international society dedicated to the triumph of Islamic fundamentalism and the restoration of the caliphate
Of course, Imam Rauf argues that he’s an anti-extremist and a dedicated bridge builder:
My colleagues and I are the anti-terrorists. We are the people who want to embolden the vast majority of Muslims who hate terrorism to stand up to the radical rhetoric. Our purpose is to interweave America’s Muslim population into the mainstream society.
Brave and noble words, most of them — though the “interweave” part flashes across my brain like a little red warning light. Nothing alarming, mind you, but something tells me we need to be vigilant all the same.
Yes, the assimilation of the Muslim community into American society is devoutly to be wished. But “interweaving” isn’t quite the same as “assimilating.” I worry about crescents sharing equal billing with crosses, progressive Americans greeting the inroads of sharia law with open arms, public schools forced to eliminate all references to pigs and Crusades for fear of offending Muslim sensibilities.
But you know what? I’m overriding my instincts for the outside chance that Imam Rauf is serious about building anti-terrorist sentiment within the Muslim community. Short of an Islamic Martin Luther emerging to reform and reconstruct his religion from the ground up, Imam Rauf is currently our last best hope for encouraging moderate Muslim minds to prevail. He might or might not be a moderate himself, but I expect him to help subdue the flames of fanaticism that currently lick at the foundations of Western life.
Besides, America grants the practitioners of every religion the right to practice their faith without interference. To grant that freedom to every group except Muslims would make us less American — and less decent as a nation.
But we can’t be pushovers, either. (This isn’t England, after all.) Freedom of religion should never imply freedom to import alien laws into America. Islamic law can be particularly brutal and regressive, as most of us have learned from the recurring reports of ghastly retributions against Muslim wives and daughters. America must adopt a zero-tolerance attitude toward sharia law in this country, or we’re as doomed as Western Europe.
I say it’s time we made a distinction between Islam as a faith and Islam as a social and legal system. We clearly need to accept the former (hear that, conservatives?) and reject the latter (got that, liberals?). There I stand, and no extremists of any religious or political persuasion will convince me otherwise.