In the Arena

Mosque Bore

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Over at the National Review, Clifford D. May takes the mainstream media, including Time, to task for rolling over for the “terrorists” on the Cordoba Center mosque in downtown Manhattan. He does cite our poll which had 46% of Americans thinking that Muslims were more likely than others religionists to act violently:

Goodness, why would anyone think that? Could it have something to do with the fact that there have been close to 16,000 terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam since 9/11? Just last month, Time had on its cover the photograph of an 18-year-old Afghan girl whose nose and ears were sliced off by members of the Taliban because she had violated Islamic religious law as they interpret it by “running away from her husband’s house.” The word “Taliban” means “the students.” Students of what? Engineering? Dentistry? No. Of Islam.

Now, to say that this is slipshod slander of more than 1.5 billion human beings (minus maybe 20,000 extremists) is almost beside the point. Although I do find it offensive that Mr. May has problems with Sufis–among the most peaceful religionists extant–the former Cat Stevens, the Green Movement protesters in Iran, the “liberated” people of Iraq, plus several close Muslim friends of mine who are–at least, it seems to me–far more civilized than any hater who would make this sort of statement.

It can be safely said that Mohammed, unlike Jesus and Moses, was a prophet who took up the sword and this may have had some influence on some of his more extreme followers (Moses, a wise delegator, asked God to take up the sword against his enemies). It could also be said that western colonial assumptions about Islamic inferiority may have had something to do with creating the ghastly anger that attends the outer precincts of Islam now. And it could also be said that Christianity, in its crusading phase, spilled an awful lot blood and behaved, in general, in a manner that might have caused its pacifist Jewish founder to become a Buddhist or Zoroastrian, or a Sufi.

But none of this matters. Nor does the occasional immoderate statements made by the Cordoba Center’s founder, who truly seems a person attempting to create an important interfaith dialogue…most of the time.

Why doesn’t it matter? Because the Cordoba controversy isn’t about Islam. It is about America. It is about whether or not we take the freedom of religion clause in our Constitution seriously. And that is all the dispute is about. Period. I find it hilarious that conservatives who insist on the purity of the Second Amendment are such relativists when it comes to the First. I find it appalling that neoconservative Jews, whose presence and historic success in this country is a consequence of the First Amendment, would deny full rights to Muslims…and that, in their mania, seem to think that it’s all right to defame so many innocent people. (By refusing to acknowledge the specific and benign humanity of most Palestinians, for example–a too-common practice among American Likudniks–they relinquish the right to be assumed civilized themselves.)

I am, admittedly, a bit radical on this subject: I think Ground Zero itself–not a building two blocks away–would be a terrific site for a mosque, as a demonstration of American freedom, one of the truly superior qualities our nation offers the world. But you don’t have to agree with me. You don’t even have to like Muslims. You may be concerned about the senstivities of  some of the families of some of the 9/11 victims; I certainly am; some of them are my neighbors.

You just have to like the Constitution. I love it.

Update: Greg Sargent took Krauthammer to task for similar assumptions about the nature of Islam recently in the Washington Post.

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