Looking for Terrorists in All the Wrong Places

Aug 09 2010 Published by under Featured News

“Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.” Sarah Palin on Twitter, July 18, 2010

Everyone is by now familiar with the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy. Cries of horror have ascended to the heavens from the right-wing as they denounce Muslim plans to build a mosque at Ground Zero.

A couple of things, first off: the planned Cordoba House is as much a community center as a mosque and it’s not at ground zero.
In point of fact, it’s two blocks away. You can’t even see it from Ground Zero. You know how cities are, intervening buildings and all.
Pesky things, facts.

But xenophobia, to be more precise, Islamophobia, most of it originating from conservative Christians, is not fact-friendly. Bottom line is that it’s getting put where it can be put, to serve an existing need in Lower Manhattan.

As Media Matters has said recently, “you can be forgiven for thinking that it’s a tough time for white Christians in America right now,” but white Christians aren’t the ones being targeted – by anyone. Rather, it’s the other way around. It’s the white Christians who are doing the targeting.

On the 19th century Western Frontier, white folks would hold an entire tribe accountable for what one individual did. The same rules did not apply to whites, of course. Welcome to the 21st century, where all Muslims are held accountable – and guilty – because a few radicals – who happen to be at war with the rest of Islam – did a truly terrible thing.

The application of Collective guilt is obvious, given that the man behind the Cordoba Center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the spiritual leader of Masjid Al-Farah mosque in lower Manhattan, is known as a progressive Muslim and for his interfaith efforts. The Imam did not blow up anything. He has not advocated blowing up anything. He has not attacked America or advocated attacking America.

The terrorists, you might observe, are not progressive in their outlook. And they represent a minority in Islam. Yet even the Anti-Defamation League, which above all others ought to know better, has condemned the mosque.

What’s next on the agenda? The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim?

The fear mongering is in full swing aided and abetted not only by Tea Party personalities but old Republican mainstreamer Newt Gingrich, whose pandering cry is: “Creeping Sharia in the United States.”

Scholar Gerd Lüdemann has argued (Intolerance and the Gospel 2007) that Christianity’s values are incompatible with those of modern liberal democracies. Ironically, this is the argument being made by conservative Christians with regard to Islam even while they do their best to dismantle that liberal democracy themselves and replace it with Mosaic Law.

Lüdemann, who argues that toleration for what you don’t approve of us essential to the modern liberal democracy, seems to be on to something. Listen to what the Republicans are saying: “We’re all about religious freedom,” Sarah Palin says, but only “down the road.”

Newt Gingrich gives and takes in the best biblical tradition when he claims: “I favor religious freedom,” but not “right at the edge of a place where, let’s be clear, thousands of Americans were killed in an attack by radical Islamists.” Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum, a conservative think tank, calls the building of the mosque a “soft jihad.”

“This is something where they’re not doing it in our face, they’re doing it very quietly, very stealthy…this is a triumphant gesture on their part.”

As in they [the Muslims] conquered with their attack and now they are following an ancient custom by building on the site. Or as some are saying, “a monument to terrorism.” Rush Limbaugh seems to be on board with this and calls it a “recruiting tool for domestic extremists” and Glenn Beck refers to it as an “Allah tells me to blow up America mosque.” One doesn’t have to guess where FOX News stands with regard to the defamation.

You’d think old Tariq ibn-Ziyad had come back in the flesh and planted his spear on the rock of Gibraltar. But this isn’t 8th century Spain, and there is no Muslim army on our shores preparing to march into the heartland from Ground Zero.

The mosque, Newt, is not a home to radical Islamists. And Daniel, Islam did not attack the US. Some Islamic terrorists did. They are not the ones building the mosque, however much you wish to pretend otherwise.

Yet Daniel Pipes even goes so far as to claim that the imam isn’t one of us. He has a dubious record, Pipes says suspiciously, and you can almost hear the sinister whisper: “He’s an Islamist.”

Daniel, what’s an Islamist? Is that the same as being a Christian reconstructionist like Sarah Palin or Sharron Angle, but Muslim instead? An Islamist according to definition is someone who wants to impose Sharia Law, which does not seem like something a progressive interfaith person like Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has any interest in.

But then, Pipes also thinks Barack Obama was a Muslim and that the PLO held a fundraiser for him.

As I’ve said many times, context is everything. And Mr. Pipe’s context is not as a Middle East expert, as he is so often billed, but as an extreme right-wing Islamophobe. In that, he has something in common with our other critics, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin. They have already made the pre-determination that Christianity=good, Islam=bad and that therefore anything which is good for Islam is an attack on white Christians.

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who is currently running third in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary race, is apparently not sure if the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of religion apply to Islam, on the grounds that the Constitution refers to religions, not cults, and Islam is, in his opinion, a cult. Tennessee Republican congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik seems to agree, saying in July that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro TN is secretly pursuing a “radical agenda,” one that is “designed to fracture the moral and political foundation of Middle Tennessee.”

This is all a far cry from Thomas Jefferson’s “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.”

Yet we must fear the creeping Sharia. And embrace Mosaic Law instead! In every courthouse throughout the land! That is what Nevada Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle wants. Angle is a Christian Reconstructionist who believes in a return to Mosaic Law. The message seems to be that when Muslims stone somebody it’s bad but when Christians do it, it’s according to God’s will. Never mind that it’s the same god with different names.

Do you see where this is leading? There is no appreciable difference between Sharia Law and Mosaic Law. It makes no difference to non-monotheists which law is in place. They’re equally repressive and Draconian in nature.

The cry could as easily be “creeping Law of Moses.” Let’s talk about Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle and their reconstructionist attitudes. They’re the ones we ought to be afraid of; they’re already on these shores and have armies of followers ready to strike, if you’ll pardon me for using Palin’s own words, at the heart of America.

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