There are, perhaps, reasonable arguments to be had about the zoning of places of worship. However, the debate over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” has been far from reasonable.
I haven’t been following closely the debate over the proposal to site Cordoba House a number of blocks away from the World Trade Centre site. From a distance, the only argument that came even close to hitting its target was the revelation that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf had participated in a Hizb ut Tahrir conference. That, in my view, would be pretty strong proof that Rauf is not what he appears to be, but is some form of jihadist in moderate clothing.
Except that the Hizb ut Tahrir link appears to be bollocks:
A NYC anti-mosque activist, Madeline Brooks, has published an article on “Pajamas Media,” alleging Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf attended a “Hizb-ut Tahrir Conference” in 2007, with a “feeling of celebration.”
However, her article appears to provide a misleading view of the event based on foreign web pages that she has linked to her article without translations, which appear to be contradicted by a translation of the Indonesian web site that she uses as her basis. The translated Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia website condemns Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf for his support of the U.S. Constitution, calls him a “propagandist,” and condemns his “propagandist lie” that the U.S. Constitution supports “freedom, justice, equality and fraternity.”
The only real argument against Rauf is that he has a connection to the Perdana Global Peace Organisation, which itself is headed by the Jew-hating Malaysian politician, Mahathir Mohamad, and which has underwritten some of the Free Gaza convoys. Certainly, Perdana attracts the full range of nutters to its events. However, this is comparatively weak stuff.
The campaign against Cordoba House is extremely worrying. It has been premised upon the propagation of anti-Muslim bigotry, rather than evidence. Had the campaign focused on a proper investigation of the supposed Hizb ut Tahrir links, and Rauf’s position on the racism and conspiracism propagated by some of his co-contributors to Perdana, that might have been fruitful. However, the campaign against Cordoba House has been characterised by its blunderbuss approach. The whole business has been very ugly indeed.
What is depressing about this affair, is that it demonstrates that hatred and bigotry is a stronger force than reason and argument. It was long thought, by supporters of the Palestinian cause, that antisemitism damaged their activism. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. Recycling slurs about Jews killing children, dictating to Western governments and controlling the media chimes, in the context of the Israel-Palestine debate, has struck a chord with many racists around the world who always knew this to be true.
In the United States, it looks as if the debate is going the same way, where Muslims are concerned. Although there are some groups which do carefully track the relationships between Islamist political groupings worldwide, the argument appears increasingly to be dominated by a demagoguery which paints Muslims as a fifth column within America. Many of those opposing Cordoba House appear to have their own tie-ups with US “nativists” and the European neo Nazi Right.
Anti-Muslim bigots and Islamists share precisely the same view of Muslims. They have a common interest in promoting alienation, distrust and hatred. If they end up dominating the debate – and there’s a real risk they will – I genuinely fear for the future.
ThomasK in the comments links to the following article by Rauf:
After the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took the Shiite concept of the Rightly Guided Imam and created the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, which means the rule of the jurisprudent. This institutionalizes the Islamic rule of law. The Council of Guardians serves to ensure these principles.
Before the election, the Iranian government allowed an unprecedented degree of political discourse so that the election would establish a legitimate ruler.
Now, on the streets of Teheran and undoubtedly in high political circles behind the scenes, Iranians are asking themselves, has this election confirmed the legitimacy of the ruler?
President Obama has rightly said that his administration will not interfere with the internal affairs of Iran, unlike what happened in 1953. Now he has an opportunity to have a greater positive impact on Iranian-American relations.
He should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution — to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, that establishes the rule of law.
His administration understands that what is going on now in Iran is an attempt by the Iranian people to live up to their own ideals. Just as American democracy developed over many years, the United States recognizes that this election is part of the process of an evolving democracy in Iran.
That would send a resounding message to the Iranian presidential candidates and their supporters that President Obama understands the ideals of the Islamic Republic and that he seeks a peaceful and harmonious Iran that has the unquestioned support of a majority of its population.
It is difficult to interpret this quotation as anything other than support for the principles underpinning the Khomeneist system of government. Although the article does refer to “the violence”, there’s no suggestion that Rauf himself has any serious concerns about the conduct and aftermath of the Iranian election.
Given the Muslim-baiting and polarising campaign run against Cordoba House, however, it is unlikely that this subtle but important point about Rauf’s political perspectives will have much traction.
This is the problem. However unpleasant Rauf’s politics, there is no case for denying Rauf and Cordoba the right to establish this project. That is not to say that Rauf’s own politics should not be criticised. Indeed, supporters of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s system ought to be ostracised.
The shrill, absurd, and often misinformed debate on Cordoba House, the generalised anti-Muslim bigotry, and the attacks on freedom of speech and religion will make it difficult in future to make that important point.
By running a campaign which is premised on the assumption that Muslims are the enemies of America, Geller, Spencer, Brooks and the rest of them have effectively canonised Rauf.