Do not deny it; everyone has an opinion on the plan by the Cordoba Initiative to build a “community center” and mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
It is highly likely that a person’s political and religious beliefs already determine what side of the issue he or she is on. Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh, along with the rest of the tea-crazed right lie predictably in opposition. The problem is not simply that they are in opposition but that they and other members of the extreme right are funneling American fears about the current state of the economy and high unemployment into anti- Islamic sentiments. They seem to be saying blame Muslims and immigrants in general for the problems people face and what better way to channel those fears than into conservatively led opposition to the Cordoba Initiative’s construction plans.
The matter is made worse by the right’s absurd argument that building a mosque near ground zero is somehow the equivalent of brandishing a swastika outside of the Holocaust Memorial Museum or housing a memorial to Hitler outside of Auschwitz. These and other comparisons are reckless because they cast adherents of an entire religion into a category of people as demented and sick as the Nazis were.
The media has further perpetuated the problem by painting all those in opposition to the mosque in the same light, casting the Christopher Hitchens and the Sarah Palins together, as if they are all in opposition for the same reason. The media is now in the midst of feasting on the recent incident of a Muslim New York cabbie attacked by a fanatical passenger because of religious differences. This is what the media, with the right, has succeeded in doing—creating a state of tension so extreme that it leads to violence. The talking heads on television (and in Congress) cannot help but gloat now when comparing anti-mosque protesters with the psychotic actions of this clearly insane young man, as if this violent opposition is evidence of the enlightened media’s humanity and tolerance. Wrong. Instead, these hypocrites have succeeded in casting the opposition in the same bad light that they complain hillbilly Americans cast all Muslims in.
The real story is that, laughably, “progressive” politicians and political “activists” have failed again in their quest to show Islam in a truly “peaceful” light. While bending over backwards to demonstrate their inane tolerance, the incompetent men and women in the media and in D.C. have shown why tolerance for intolerance does not a better world make. While they have spent their time castigating opponents, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Obama and their friends in the media have overlooked the very man placed in charge of bearing this new banner of Islamic peace and understanding, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.
Other than appearing on television to speak of tolerance and butterflies as the “Founder and Visionary” of the Cordoba Initiative, Rauf spends his time as most “moderate” Muslim leaders do. That is, by holding the United States as partially responsible for the events of 9/11, refusing to declare the Iranian government at fault for the bloody suppression of Iranian dissidents following last year’s stolen elections, subsequently supporting that country’s dictatorship, and refusing to take a position on the fundamentalist, terrorist Hamas dictatorship in Gaza. This, ladies and gentleman, is the man endowed with teaching about Islamic peace and tolerance less than two blocks from the site of the worst terrorist attack to have ever taken place on American soil.
Furthermore, the organization has not ruled out using donations from racist, misogynistic Islamic regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia to pay for the construction. Talk about adding salt to the wound. Even despite these glaring problems, should the mosque be built there? Gila Barzvi does not think so. Standing with mosque opponents in New York, she clutches a photo of her son, Guy, who was killed in the towers. “This is sacred ground and it’s where my son was buried,” she says, adding that the mosque would be “like a knife in our hearts.” The issue has been made a national one despite the fact that New Yorkers oppose the mosque’s construction by a margin of 2-1. While no one can legitimately deny the constitutional right the Cordoba Project has to build the mosque at the site, or the right of a gay bar to build right next to it, one can question the lack of sensitivity and respect the organization holds for the victims of the tragedy that took place near the site just nine years ago.
Is this truly the best way to engender peace and understanding between the Islamic world and the West? Or is tolerance, like religion, a dish best served to the blind and dumb?