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American Islamophobia running out of control

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Aug. 26, 2010 at 7:50 pm with 7 Comments »
August 26, 2010 6:04 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

If one of the chief purposes of an Islamic center by Ground Zero was to promote interfaith understanding, its chief backer – Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf – might want to think about building it elsewhere.

But if the Cordoba House will be about making a defiant assertion of Muslim identity and constitutional rights, the location near the fallen World Trade Center will do just fine. Whatever Rauf originally had in mind, and whoever’s to blame, that site has become an incitement to Islamophobia, and the public now sees it as a stick in the eye.

Much as he’s been maligned for defending the project, President Obama actually got things right two weeks ago – if you combine both his original statement and the half-step back he quickly took.

As he said initially, Muslims have the same right as other Americans to “not be treated differently by their government.” Next day, he said he was talking about constitutional freedoms, not the “wisdom” of the project.

No one was questioning either the wisdom or foolishness of the Cordoba House until recently, when the usual crew of mega-mouthed media rabble-rousers – thank you, Fox News – began whipping up a furor about it. It might otherwise have quietly been built, opened and absorbed by the commercial din and ethnic cacophony of Lower Manhattan.

That possibility is long gone. The project has since become an epicenter of anti-Muslim sentiment, which has rippled out to other mosque projects elsewhere in the country. The Washington Post reported Monday, for example, that citizens in Murfreesboro, Tenn., are protesting plans for an Islamic center there with such signs as “Keep Tennessee Terror Free.”

Islam in America has taken a beating since the uproar metastasized across the nation. A recent Time magazine poll is particularly discouraging.

Published a week ago, it suggested that 70 percent of the American public viewed the Cordoba House as an “insult” to the victims of 9/11. That, taken by itself, is a defensible view. As others have noted, there’s no Japanese cultural center at Pearl Harbor, though Japanese Americans have as much right as anyone else to build a cultural center there.

What’s unreasonable, and downright un-American, is the belief that Muslims in general are suspect and ought to be treated as second-class citizens. The Time poll indicated that 28 percent of Americans believe that Muslims shouldn’t be eligible for the Supreme Court, and nearly a third think Muslims should be barred from running for president.

As the “Keep Tennessee Terror Free” sign suggests, the tenor of anti-Muslim rhetoric has gotten distinctly uglier since the Cordoba House got the Bill O’Reilly treatment on Fox.

At this point, the ball is squarely in Rauf’s court. Any American who understands and cherishes the Constitution will defend to the death an imam’s right to build an Islamic center anywhere a church could be built. But rights and wisdom are not always the same thing. Defiance or prudence; that’s become Rauf’s choice.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. I’m deeply ashamed of what my country has made this whole local land use issue into. It’s ugly, bigoted, ignorant, insanity on full display for the world to watch while our national politicians are tripping over themselves to take advantage of it.

    Years from now a lot of them will still be around doing their best Senator Byrd impressions trying to live down their past behavior. People will look at pictures of the hateful faces protesting at the Park51 site the same way I grew up looking at pictures of white adults screaming at black children for the crime of walking into schools.

    There’s a lot of folks that need to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask themselves if this is really how they want to be remembered.

  2. The word phobia suggests fear and I don’t think fear is the issue. Mistrust, anger, and concern perhaps, but not fear. Suggesting that irrational fear motivates the opposition here is cheap rhetoric.

    To further suggest that our founding fathers would want us to “defend to the death” the right to place a mosque somewhere in the United States is absurd. They’d no doubt have cringed at that concept. I’ll die for my religion, but not Islam. Islam has much work to do throughout the world to demonstrate that they are a truly a “relgion of peace.” A good start in that regard would be to show some class and refuse to build the mosque on Manhattan.

  3. Patrick O'Callahan says:

    Actually, hundreds of thousands of Americans have already defended to the death an unpopular faith’s claim to the same privileges other religions enjoy.

    That right is guaranteed under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights and arguably the most important section of the Constitution we all say we honor. It originally protected Baptists, Catholics, Quakers and Jews from unequal treatment, mainly because they were the most convenient targets of religious discrimination in the 18th century, but it protects today’s unpopular targets, too.

    Spend enough time with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the framers most responsible for the First Amendment, and it’s impossible to conclude they wouldn’t have protected Muslims on an equal basis.

    Jefferson: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

  4. Ok, sure the attack on our world trade centers on September 11th was a devastation to our country. But I’m not sure why we still associate the religious backround chosen by some to be affiliated with the terrorists that took part in this attack. I know it’s hard for Americans to accept Muslims in our country after what we all had to experience, but I don’t think anyone keeps in mind the fact that it wasn’t an attack by Muslims to the US. It was an attack from terrorists to our country, and the attacks were not even associated with the country from which they came from. It was some insane people trying to, I’m not even sure what they wanted to accomplish by this, crashing into buildings. I’m not sure why people are now mad at Muslims.

  5. Roncella says:

    Would it really be too difficult for the Emam to just select another location away from the sacred ground where over 3000 people were killed by Muslim Terrorists.

    There is a word that describes this, its called respect.

  6. larsman says:

    Let them build, it is legal after all. But then everyone will see the hypocrisy between what they say…and what they eventually will do. Will the Imam denounce and condemn the founding charter of Hamas or not? Not a trick question – yes or no will do. In Arabic and English so that everyone will know the same answer and avoid Taqqiya.
    Read Surah 5 :38. All Surahs are relevantly applicable for today…

  7. Theoldsergeant says:

    We probably should look into the future a bit. Should it be built at it’s proposed location, some down home domestic crazy may try to destroy it 9/11 style. Or, during the build try to sabotage every step of construction., That should drive the elite media nuts along with every crazed Muslim on the planet. Then Mr. Obama will have another major problem. Then again, if successfully build the president will have the opportunity to give his blessing at it’s open house won’t he?

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