By now we all know that having a right is not the same as doing right. And we should also know that confrontational actions trump conciliatory words. As the old cliche says: actions speak louder than words.
Whatever his initial intention, once Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf saw the way New Yorkers and Americans were reacting to his plan to build an Islamic culture center and mosque at Ground Zero he should have offered to move it elsewhere. Out of respect... in the spirit of conciliation... to better relations between Muslims and America.
That he did not tells us most of what we need to know about the project.
Just in case you missed the point, the Imam's wife, Daisy Khan announced on ABC yesterday that Republican opponents of the mosque had gone beyond Islamophobia. They were indulging in "metastasized anti-Semitism." Link here.
Khan even compared her efforts to build a mosque at Ground Zero with the early efforts of Jews to build a synagogue in Peter Stuyvesant's Manhattan. As it happens, she got her facts completely wrong, as John Steele Gordon explains here.
More importantly, Khan was exploiting the basic reason that some New York Jews, from Michael Bloomberg to Frank Rich, have been supporting the mosque. These New Yorkers have bought the notion that Muslims are a persecuted minority group, just like the Jews and other groups that have suffered discrimination in America.
Standing up for the Islamic culture center and mosque is standing against anti-Semitism.
There is nothing very new here. Sophisticated leftists have long believed that the Palestinian cause is a fight against anti-Semitism. In their narrative, the Palestinians are really Jews, and the Israelis are really modern Nazis.
To fight against Israel, to work to destroy the Jewish state, is in the minds of many left thinking people, to fight against Nazis.
You might think this is something of a joke, worthy of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. Alas, it is not.
Now that terrorist groups like Hamas are among the world's leading purveyors of anti-Semitism, to the point where they refuse to renounce terrorism and refuse to recognize the right of Israel to exist, they have duped left thinking people into seeing them as innocent victims of Zionist oppression.
As you know, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has never been able to find the moral fortitude to denounce Hamas.
And while his wife is trying to make the two of them into victims of malignant anti-Semitism, we can wait for the moment when Imam Rauf will repudiate the anti-Semitic remarks in the Quran (link here). We will also wait for him to denounce the anti-Semitism coming from both secular and religious leaders in Iran and Saudi Arabia?
As of now, no such denunciations have been forthcoming.On the contrary, the imam is looking to those countries for funding to build his mosque.
Considering that Muslims are the leading proponents of anti-Semitism in the world today, it takes a special kind of chutzpah for Daisy Khan to pretend to be a victim of anti-Semitism.
Yet, many of those who support the Islamic cultural center believe that they are fighting anti-Semitism. In their minds, fighting anti-Semitism means fighting against the Republican party and Fox News.
Thus, they side with the the Imam, against the majority of New Yorkers and Americans, because they have bought into a narrative that blames all anti-Semitism on the right wing. Keep in mind that this same right wing has counted among the most stalwart defenders of Israel.
But, left thinking people tell us, the brouhaha over the Ground Zero mosque is helping terrorists recruit new adepts. Recycled New York Times drama critic Frank Rich wrote yesterday that the war in Afghanistan is being undermined by Fox News, because its attacks on the mosque are a perfect recruiting tool for the Taliban. Link here.
If half of New York did not take Frank Rich seriously, I would simply dismiss his idea with the contempt that it so fully deserves.
Do you believe that the existence of a Mosque at the site of the 9/11 attacks would not be used as a propaganda tool to recruit terrorists? And since when did the terrorists need any special events to help in their recruitment efforts?
As a U. S. official said today, terrorists are opportunistic. They take what they can get and use it to their best advantage. Link here.
Besides, if America decides to make nice to Islam, does anyone really believe that the Taliban will put down its arms and embrace democracy in Afghanistan? Will it not persuade them that they are on the winning side, and thus make it easier for them to enlist new recruits?
The larger issue in the Ground Zero mosque debate concerns the international reputation of Islam. While it is surely true that the only people who are guilty of the September 11 attack are the perpetrators, it is also true that reputation is not entirely about guilt or innocence.
When a member of your family commits a crime, he and only he is guilty of the crime. He and only he deserves punishment.
And yet, for being affiliated with him, for bearing the same name, you will also bear a stigma. Everyone will know that you had nothing to do with the crime, but your name will still evoke the image of the crime, and this will function as something of a stigma.
The same applies to members of a community. It is surely true that only a small number of Catholic priests were molesting children. And yet, all Catholics feel some degree of embarrassment over the incidents, and especially over the Church's failure to act decisively against the priests who were abusing their position and authority.
Today Islam does not have a good reputation in the world, and that the fault lies for the most part with Muslims themselves. Not so much because they are all committing terrorist atrocities, or stoning adulteresses, or murdering their children to protect their honor, or fomenting anti-Semitism... but because moderate Muslims have been singularly ineffective in disconnecting these atrocities from their religion.
Some might say that we should blame the news media for reporting these abominations, but the truth is, if there was no reporting the same things would continue to happen.The best hope for putting an end to them is, in fact, public exposure.
When Frank Rich blames Fox News for the continued horrors committed by the Taliban he is implying that a news blackout or even an opinion blackout would serve our military or cultural purposes.
If Imam Rauf wants to improve the reputation of Muslims he should not have his wife slander opponents of his project as anti-Semites. Once she does it, she reminds us all of how pervasive anti-Semitism is in Islam today. And if really wants to make a gesture of conciliation, a gesture that would enhance the reputation, then he need but agree to move his cultural center and mosque.
Digging in his heels makes him look more intransigent in his failure to denounce the worst aspects of today's Islam. Keep in mind that this same imam, in an interview following 9/11 declared that Osama bin Laden was "made in America."
Speaking for Islam he should have said that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were produced in Muslim communities, and that they believe themselves to be following the dictates of the Quran. And he might have expressed his embarrassment that his religion had been identified with such horrors.
[Note: You might also be interested in Neo-neocon's analysis of anti-Semitism in Arab lands, in her blog today. Link here.]