Why it will be good for Muslims if the Ground Zero Mosque is stopped.
The plan to build a mosque and Islamic center at the site of the 9/11 attacks is one of those rare events that is more important for what it portends than for what it does. To build a mosque on the spot where three thousand people died in the name of Islam would be deeply offensive; but what seems even more important about this event is what it teaches - about those who are building the center, about the non-Muslims who are supporting them. As President Obama might have put it, this is a "teaching moment." What can we learn?
Despite the fog that surrounds so many controversies these days, a number of things are clear enough by now that all whose eyes are open should be able to see them without difficulty.
The mosque is hugely unpopular, all over the country (by about 70 percent). It is unpopular not simply because it is a mosque at Ground Zero, but because the people who are building it are far too close to the ideology of al-Qaeda - a fact which they have demonstrated, over and over again, by their statements and by their associations. The public has noticed this, although their leaders have not. Certainly, the official media doesn't know (the New York Times, for example, claims that for his entire career, Rauf has been trying to "reconcile Islam with America and modernism", a truly preposterous claim), and it's apparently not known to the folks in the White House, either - but it manages to be true nonetheless.
Here is what the Times and the White House do not know about Imam Feisal Rauf and his partners, and about what they called, revealingly, their "Cordoba Initiative."
Imam Rauf, an Egyptian born in Kuwait, is the son of the founder of the Islamic Center of New York, whose leaders have consistently been telling their congregants that someone other than Muslims was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. (Rauf is on the Board of the ICNY, and has never interfered with this teaching.) The first candidate, naturally, was "the Jews." Then it was the United States government. Then it was just "someone" other than Muslims. Rauf himself has said that the United States was "to blame" for 9/11 - a statement just a shade more nuanced than blaming it on "the Jews". (It's also what bin Laden said.)
Rauf's father was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a friend of its founder, Hassan al-Banna, and Rauf's professional and political connections are all to the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas support network in the United States: the Council on American Islamic Relations; the Muslim American Society; the Islamic Society of North America; the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Three of these organizations were unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist financing trial - which produced the now famous (in some circles) Brotherhood memo from 1993 describing their goal in America: "eliminating and destroying . . .Western civilization from within . . . so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious . . . ."
Accordingly, Rauf has always refused to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization, insisting that "terrorism is complicated." He eagerly promotes the imposition of shari'a law on American Muslims, and eventually on non-Muslims as well. He has spent a lot of time in Malaysia, getting an education in religious law from the lunatic anti-Semite who used to be the nation's prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad. Rauf's business partners have included agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where he says he might secure financing. He will also accept financing from Saudi Arabia, but he has refused so far to say where his actual pledges have come from, if any. It is unlikely that he could raise $100 million for this project anywhere else but the Gulf.
Just in case there might have been some room for doubt about their intentions, Rauf and his partners named the Ground Zero project after the Cordoba Mosque in Spain, which displaced the last Christian church in that city after the 8th century Muslim conquest. (There were still Christians; just no more churches.) It has long been an orthodox Muslim practice to build mosques where Allah's enemies have been defeated (e.g., the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus). The Cordoba Initiative is intended to be a monument to yet another famous Islamic victory. It is, in fact, a 9/11 Memorial, built by the enemy.
That's what the controversy teaches about the builders. What does the controversy tell us about their supporters?
First, they are a minority, and this is something of a surprise. The fault line in this controversy has broken considerably to the left of the political center, and the doubters must include many people who voted for Barack Obama. The Anti-Defamation League, for example, has joined the opposition (though not Alan Dershowitz, normally a partner of the ADL). The official guardians of morality in the mainline Protestant churches are all on board, but it is not at all clear how many of their congregants are with them.
Evangelical Christians are opposed, mostly, but so are many Democrats, who are usually at odds with the "Christian Right". Harry Reid opposes it, and so does Howard Dean, who even criticized fellow-Democrats for "demonizing" the center's critics.
Second, we have learned that there are many people in the leadership of the nation's religious, cultural, and political institutions who simply will not look at the evidence about Imam Rauf, or any other Muslim leader or organization, no matter how clear or damning that evidence is. This is a form of irresponsibility that borders on the criminal.
Included in this indictment, unfortunately, is the State Department, which is even now sending Rauf on a good-will tour to the Muslim world. The amply demonstrated fact that most of the major Muslim organizations in this country are Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas affiliates and apologists comes to many Americans, over and over again, as news - and then quickly disappears down the memory hole. For a certain kind of liberal, as for birds, the world is born again every morning.
A favorite argument of the Center's supporters is that if "Muslims can't build mosques, then we are no longer living in a free country." Yet the principle of religious freedom is embedded in the very Constitution Imam Rauf has promised to replace with the Quran, ASAP. There is a word for that; the word is "sedition," and if Imam Rauf is a naturalized American citizen, then he was lying when he took his oath of allegiance, and ought to be deported. And no critic of the Cordoba Initiative has argued that "Muslims" in general should not be able to build mosques. Their ire is directed at this group, and this project, at this particular place.
Given the fecklessness of America's elites, what must American Muslims, standing on the sidelines, be thinking? Supporters of the Center talk as if Muslims were united in its defense, but that is far from the case. "Make no mistake," said the courageous Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, "this Islamic center is not a spiritual statement but a global political one in the name of Islam." Rahel Raza, one of the founders of the Canadian Muslim Council, testified against the plan at the Community Board hearings in New York - after which, she says, the Center's financial backer, Sharif Gamal, threatened her over the telephone. The director of Al-Arabiya TV, Abd Al-Rahman al-Rashid, said that he couldn't "imagine that Muslims want a mosque at this particular location, because it will become an arena for the promoters of hatred, and a monument to those who committed the crime."
Many American Muslims - how many we have no sure way of knowing - are alienated from the Muslim Brotherhood network that runs so many of the country's Muslim institutions. They have no desire to see this network score yet another victory. Yet other Muslim-Americans on the sidelines are undoubtedly more conflicted. They may have doubts about Feisal Rauf, but they may also be drawn by the power of orthodoxy, which has always appealed to those unimpressed by easy, half-way answers to life's most difficult questions. This group is much bigger, almost certainly, than the group determined to modernize Islamic practice and doctrine. They are not yet committed to the radicals, either, but are up for grabs - not just in America, but all over the world.
This group in particular needs to understand that support for shari'a is sedition in a liberal democratic republic, and that the movement to impose it in the West is a political and cultural dead end, a non-starter - a certain route to political isolation and irrelevance (if not deportation). We should work with real moderate Muslims to isolate and disable the fake moderates like Rauf and others from the Brotherhood front groups, in order to stop them from passing their ugly teachings to the next generation - and to set an example for those still on the sidelines.
Yet we are doing exactly the opposite. Imam Rauf is not the only Islamist with good connections inside the government, the press, the universities, and the churches. He has hundreds if not thousands of comrades, in the Defense Department, Homeland Security, the FBI, and in state and local law enforcement. This makes the pious moralizing of the mosque's defenders doubly dangerous: it enables the enemy, and demoralizes those American Muslims who hope for a different kind of life from the life lived by most Muslims abroad.
This means that the debate over what gets built at Ground Zero is not just a debate among Muslims, and neither is the larger debate about Muslim reform. True enough, there is a war going on inside the Muslim community, a struggle for the soul of Islam and for the future of American Muslims, and that war will have to be fought mostly by Muslims. But it is not a war between equals, and it is not a war in which Americans can be neutral. The Islamists have on their side money, influence, and a ruthless determination to get their way, no matter who has to be hurt. They have already taken over, with Saudi money, most of the mosques in America - one reason why so many American Muslims are "unmosqued" and worship in private. The radicals have also planted themselves inside the government, and have won the admiration and support of the political, religious, and media elites. We have essentially said to the true moderates: You are on your own, and out of luck; the bad guys are running the store.
Bid Laden once said that when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they will naturally prefer to ride with the strong horse. By caving in to the likes of Rauf and his triumphalist Cordoba cronies, we are letting Muslim Americans know who the strong horse is. And it ain't us.
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