The Not-Quite Mosque Not-Quite at Ground Zero

“There’s battle lines being drawn.

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” – For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield

When Stephen Stills wrote those lyrics in 1966 he was talking about confrontations between the police and sometimes-rowdy young patrons of West Hollywood’s music club scene. The song soon became an anthem of the Viet Nam war protest movement. It could have been written this month about the hullabaloo over the Muslim cultural center, gymnasium and Islamic prayer room otherwise known to non-Muslim Americans as a “mosque” which is to be located in a neighborhood of lower Manhattan that is a seedy jumble of strip clubs and betting parlors known only recently as “hallowed ground” because it’s two blocks from the vacant landscape where the World Trade Center used to stand until 9/11 and because a whole bunch of Americans distrust Muslims.

Not all Muslims are to blame.

On the other hand, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the driving force behind this project, and his oh-so-concerned progressive defenders of religious freedom (you know, the ones who never attend any church, synagogue, temple or mosque yet are making lots of right-to-worship noise lately) are so busy asserting the Constitutional right to worship where one chooses that they conveniently for the Public Relations – Capital P and Capital R, as in PR – factor in this tempest in a teapot. President Obama, in a ham-handed position on the issue first defended the Constitutional principle of freedom of religion, then the next day acknowledged there’s a separate public relations question, and managed to sound like a weasel on the whole issue.

If ever there were a case proving the old line that that there are two sides to every story, this is it.

It would be wonderful if our cherished Constitutional principles ran free and unfettered by reality. But they don’t. Perception is reality and Muslims the world over have a perception problem. Thanks to jihads, fatwas and other convenient excuses to inflict violence on innocent people, followers of Islam are widely perceived as culturally primitive and fond of bloodshed.

A sober search of the positions taken by many American Muslim leaders regarding terrorism shows many of them have condemned it. The trouble is, a press release denouncing horrific violence done in the name of your religion doesn’t do much to dissuade non-believers who view Muslims as murderous barbarians.

  • It is an inconvenient truth that the carnage of 9/11 was the result of a belief in a nasty fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that seems to relish spilling the blood of “infidels.”
  • It is an inconvenient truth that the massacre at Ft. Hood was the work of a Muslim military officer who is a follower of this branch of Islam.
  • It is an inconvenient truth that the underwear bomber aboard the Christmas flight to Detroit was a believer in this branch of Islam.
  • It is an inconvenient truth that the would-be Times Square bomber was a disciple of this branch of Islam.
  • It is an inconvenient truth that some Somali immigrants to the United States appear to be a little too cozy with al-Qaeda affiliated radicals from the old country.

Does this mean all Muslims are terrorists or participants in a “stealth jihad” as fear-mongers like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich would have us believe? No.

Does this mean all Muslims have a PR problem and ought to be doing more to remove this stain from their faith for the sake of their faith? Yes.

Does this excuse non-Muslim Americans in branding all Muslim-Americans as suspect? No.

Gingrich, a self-styled intellectual recently told Fox News: “We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor.”

But as Lisa Miller pointed out in a column in Newsweek, “Fourteen percent of Hawaiians call themselves ethnically Japanese, according to the U.S. Census, and dozens of Japanese temples stand near Pearl Harbor. One of them…is less than half a mile away.”

All of this, like the frightened and angry whites who despised Obama for his attendance at the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and now parrot the echo chamber false claim that Obama is a Muslim, is uncomfortably reminiscent of the Joseph McCarthy Commie witch hunts of the early 50s.

It’s true that America has plenty of enemies in the world but we diminish ourselves and what we stand for when we tar an entire religion with the brush of terrorism and we see mad bombers behind every rock and tree and within every Islamic mosque in the USA.

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