So it is shameful to see the mosque hysteria in the US. Yes, it has become an emotionally charged issue and not everyone who opposes the Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero is a bigot. But bigots do also exist everywhere - and one hopes that the narrative of the bigots does not become mainstream. Enter the Republican Party and the mid-term elections. They have clearly decided to make this a political issue and have blurred the distinction between Muslims in general (about 1.4 billion worldwide) and Al-Qaeeda (estimated to be a few thousand). Thus, people like Newt Gingrich are successfully creating the narrative promoted by Al-Qaeeda itself (check out this article: Sheikh your Newtie - The Gingrich-Bin Laden Alliance).
Yes, much of this is tied to domestic US politics. But it is foolish to think that this is how the rest of the world (especially the Muslim world) will see it. Not only is this an assault on idea of religious freedom in the US, but this will have consequences for US foreign policy as well. However, there are also a number of people and publications, that are standing up to this shameful opposition and they need to acknowledged as well - and it is great that there is some high profile support (Harry Reid, of course, excluded) for the right to build the Islamic Center near Ground Zero.
First check out this rant by Keith Olberman on yesterday's Countdown:
Plus, today's NYT came out with a strong editorial today: The Constitution and the Mosque
Like President George W. Bush before him, President Obama warned against linking all followers of Islam to terrorists. “Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam — it is a gross distortion of Islam,” he rightly said. It is our tolerance of others, he said, “that quintessentially American creed,” that stands in contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001.
We wish he hadn’t diluted the message the next day, telling reporters that he wasn’t commenting on “the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.”
He would have done better if he had explained the wisdom of going ahead with the project, which developers said is intended to bring Muslims and non-Muslims together. In addition to a place of worship, it would have a pool and performing arts center. They also have said they want the board to include members from other faiths — a promise they should take care to keep.
Mr. Obama and all people of conscience need to push back hard. Defending all Americans’ right to worship — and their right to build places to worship — is fundamental to who we are.Similarly, William Dalrymple - also in NYT - brings up an interesting point regarding the mosque opposition:
The problem with such claims goes far beyond the fate of a mosque in downtown Manhattan. They show a dangerously inadequate understanding of the many divisions, complexities and nuances within the Islamic world — a failure that hugely hampers Western efforts to fight violent Islamic extremism and to reconcile Americans with peaceful adherents of the world’s second-largest religion.
Most of us are perfectly capable of making distinctions within the Christian world. The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn’t mean he’s in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers, just as not all Orthodox Christians have ties to Serbian war criminals or Southern Baptists to the murderers of abortion doctors.
Yet many of our leaders have a tendency to see the Islamic world as a single, terrifying monolith. Had the George W. Bush administration been more aware of the irreconcilable differences between the Salafist jihadists of Al Qaeda and the secular Baathists of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the United States might never have blundered into a disastrous war, and instead kept its focus on rebuilding post-Taliban Afghanistan while the hearts and minds of the Afghans were still open to persuasion.I appreciate his point about diversity amongst Muslims. I have recently returned from Malaysia - and I have been absolutely astonished/fascinated by the cultural/political/social face of Islam there. And this is after growing up in Pakistan and having visited countries like Turkey and Egypt - alongside having an experience with the Muslim diaspora in the US. So it is indeed comical that someone would even think of treating all of the Muslims as a monolithic entity.
Rest of Dalrymple's article deals with sufism and the recent attacks on sufi shrines in Pakistan. Check out his full article here.
But then of course, the best commentary on the issue is provided by Jon Stewart (sorry for those who can't watch it). Here is an excellent piece from yesterday's Daily Show:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
Let's hope that sense (and the sensible side) prevails on this issue. There was a time when Japanese-Americans were placed in internment camps in the US. Or a time of racial segregation, before the Civil Rights Movement . Or McCarthyism. The bad thing is that these things have happened in the past - and at the time many people were convinced that this was a good idea. The good thing is that many Americans also stood up against these steps and ultimately changed the tide. I'm pretty sure, the mosque and other anti-Muslim hysteria being drummed up by the Republican party will also die out and many years now we will look at this episode in an embarrassing light. Constitutionally and domestically, the US will get back on track. But what about the damage to the US reputation of freedom-of-religion - especially in the Muslim world? That may turn out to be a more permanent mark.
Bonus: A Salon piece dissecting an interview by a CNN anchor on the mosque issue.