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Tilting at Windmills

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August 3, 2010

COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE, FOOT-SHOOTING BIGOTRY.... I don't often agree with Jeffrey Goldberg, but his observation this morning on the proposed Muslim community center in Manhattan is both insightful and important. (via John Cole)

This seems like such an obvious point, but it is apparently not obvious to the many people who oppose the Cordoba Initiative's planned mosque in lower Manhattan, so let me state it as clearly as possible: The Cordoba Initiative, which is headed by an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an enemy of al Qaeda, no less than Rudolph Giuliani and the Anti-Defamation League are enemies of al Qaeda. Bin Laden would sooner dispatch a truck bomb to destroy the Cordoba Initiative's proposed community center than he would attack the ADL, for the simple reason that Osama's most dire enemies are Muslims. This is quantitatively true, of course -- al Qaeda and its ideological affiliates have murdered thousands of Muslims -- but it is ideologically true as well: al Qaeda's goal is the purification of Islam (that is to say, its extreme understanding of Islam) and apostates pose more of a threat to Bin Laden's understanding of Islam than do infidels.

I know Feisal Abdul Rauf; I've spoken with him at a public discussion at the 96th street mosque in New York about interfaith cooperation. He represents what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country. Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of this mosque project are giving him what he wants.

The anti-Muslim bigotry has been painful and offensive, but the counterproductinve idiocy of conservative leaders railing against the Cordoba House has often gone overlooked.

Feisal Abdul Rauf isn't some dangerous extremist for Republicans and Tea Partiers to fear; he's a longtime local imam, active in the Manhattan community, and committed to fighting radicalism. Indeed, he considers it a personal mission. The proposed building is intended to be a monument to tolerance and respect.

For folks like Gingrich, Cheney, Giuliani, et al, Feisal Abdul Rauf is exactly the kind of American ally who should be embraced. Instead, the right is going to genuinely ridiculous lengths to isolate, offend, and ostracize him, signaling their belief that all Muslim Americans should be treated as second-class citizens.

If Osama bin Laden were to write a script for what he'd like to see happen here, it'd be identical to the one Gingrich & Co. are following. This isn't intended to question their patriotism, but rather, their sanity.

Steve Benen 1:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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This isn't intended to question their patriotism, but rather, their sanity.

If one defines patriotism to mean "a loyalty to country such that you are willing to occasionally put the country's needs before personal gain or convenience," I think you'd be pretty safe questioning their patriotism.

Posted by: zeitgeist on August 3, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

I know it has been said, but bin Laden can't *really* hurt this country. But our ignorance sure can (and has).

Posted by: rrright on August 3, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

It is impossible to overstate how stupid and counterproductive the rights approach to radical islam is. This is but the most recent example.

Posted by: Vince on August 3, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you for this post. I went to the Cordoba House website at: http://www.cordobainitiative.org/ after another story on this subject last week. I recommend that everyone here check it out and directs as many people as possible there.

Cordoba House is literally everything the right-wing claims they want to see from mainstream Muslims. Perhaps more to the point, it is what they claim we aren't seeing enough of from mainstream Muslims, which may explain why conservatives are attacking it. If the existence of groups like Cordoba House were known, then it would be a lot harder for the Christian hatemongers to pretend that Al Qaeda and other radical groups are the real face of Islam.

Posted by: tanstaafl on August 3, 2010 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

If one defines patriotism to mean "a loyalty to country such that you are willing to occasionally put the country's needs before personal gain or convenience," I think you'd be pretty safe questioning their patriotism.

Exactly.

Why is it necessary to put disclaimers on criticisms of Gingrich & Co.? They're wrong, they're evil and they don't for moment concede that the people they criticize are acting in good faith

Posted by: foosion on August 3, 2010 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

" ... the counterproductive idiocy of conservative leaders railing against the Cordoba House ... ."

... is, in my humble opinion, based on the equally-counterproductive idiocy that these same said "conservative leaders" find profit in their extremist, oligarchically-un-American philosophy ---and may even be, in an indirect manner, on Mr. bin Laden's payroll.

Posted by: S. Waybright on August 3, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, you are also absolutely right about Al Qaeda's real fight being with other Muslims. Their attacks on the West in general and the United States in particular are nothing more than a way to convince Muslims that their is an existential threat to their religion and that the attitudes repesent by the Cordoba House (and many other groups within Islam) need to be wiped out in order to prepare for a holy war.

By attacking the Cordoba House, our homegrown bigots simultaneously are threatening to deprive us of an ally in the fight against Islamic extremism and giving the Islamic extremists an example to support their claim that many in the West do see this as holy war to eliminate the Islamic faith entirely.

Of course, that is because many of those bigots find the Islamic extremists an equally useful foil in their own fight against the sane element here over the direction of our own culture.

Posted by: tanstaafl on August 3, 2010 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

I guess everytime some rightwing gasbag asks "Where are the moderate Muslims speaking out against islamofascism?" all they really wanted to know was how to hunt them down and drive them out.

Posted by: martin on August 3, 2010 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

It's been clear to me for a few decades now that the extremists of opposing parties desperately need each other to exist. They define themselves in relation to the opposing extreme, and would lose their definition if the other extreme ceased to exist. Likud needs Hamas - Hamas needs Likud. Cheney needs bin Laden.

Our job is to resist being sucked into the narrative of any extreme world view.

Posted by: Stephen1947 on August 3, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that it's bigotry... or, worse, politicians who should know better appealing to bigotry. Disgusting.

Posted by: MattF on August 3, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

If Osama bin Laden were to write a script for what he'd like to see happen here, it'd be identical to . . .

. . . the events of the last 9 years. Bush and the Republicans got played PERFECTLY by Bin Laden. They did precisely everything that he wanted them to do, and in ways far more ham-handedly and counterproductively than Bin Laden could have ever dreamed or wished for.

Posted by: Domage on August 3, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I really don't have an opinion on this, and I know it's sorta catering to bigotry, but of all the thousands of old buildings they could buy and tear down in Manhattan, why did Cordoba pick this location? That is much more of a business than residential area, I'm not aware of any particular Muslim community in that area, and besides most people in NYC get on a subway to go anywhere. One, two, three or six stops away doesn't matter much. No doubt way more Muslims live in Queens and Brooklyn.

Posted by: emjayay on August 3, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

There you go again, Steve, using those Lefty tools: Fact and Nuance!

All Muslims are the Enemy! Not Like Us! (Why do you hate America?)

-sorry, I was just listening to el Rushbo while driving. . .

Posted by: DAY on August 3, 2010 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

If one defines patriotism to mean "a loyalty to country such that you are willing to occasionally put the country's needs before personal gain or convenience," I think you'd be pretty safe questioning their patriotism.

How about if we define patriotism as "loyalty and adherence to the foundational principles of the nation?"

Or "belief in the nation's strength and resilience in the face of adversity?"

Yep. Still safe questioning their patriotism.

These people believe that the United States of America is a weak, vulnerable, victim nation, whose only hope of survival is a tribal ethos of exclusion and bigotry. Their United States does not countenance religious liberty or equal protection of the laws to all men, and they justify themselves by making comparisons to Saudi Arabia and Iran, as if the United States should aspire to be no better.

I will not only question their patriotism, I will deny it in clear and unambiguous terms. These people are not patriots. I do not know what nation they love, but it is not the United States of America, and they are no countrymen of mine.

Posted by: elmo on August 3, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

This controversy is yet another example of our loved ones on the Far Right looking for their guns to shoot what it is they don't understand! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on August 3, 2010 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Two things to consider here:

1. The Gingrich/Palin calculation is not about defeating al queda, but about creating tension between American citizens.

2. The Neocons dont really want to defeat al queda either. The Neocon goal is endless conflict and thus aq serves a useful purpose. It is hard to justify a 700 billion dollar pentagon budget with world peace. So a series of small to midsize wars is necessary and it doesn't really matter who is fighting Sunni/Shia, Wahabists/moderates, Muslims/Jews etc.

Posted by: RolloTomasi on August 3, 2010 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I second Domage's comment. What Osama wanted was to make it impossible to be a west-leaning moderate Muslim, by goading the US into intemperate reactions that the Muslim "main street" could not tolerate. Bush gave that to him in spades, with the added bonus of us wasting vast amounts of our money and prestige AND wiping out Sadam Hussain's regime, which ran one of the the most secular Islamic countries, which Osama liked the least. Bush could hardly have accommodated Al Qaida any better, revisionist Republican history notwithstanding. "Mission accomplished", as someone once said.

Posted by: N.Wells on August 3, 2010 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Can we please abandon the niceties and just call this "concern" about Muslims what it really is...good ol' fashioned, straight up racism?

Posted by: neilt on August 3, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta disagree. See how this cute little narrative seems to take an oppositional stance against belligerence towards Muslims while at the same time legitimizing the al Qaeda/terrorism/caliphate threat?

"Liberal" hawks like Goldberg are still lying, propagandizers IMO. It's long been mainstream Democratic strategy to accept neo-con framing and lies, just gussying it up by saying we'll do [the wars against Muslims] smarter, with more competence and planning. Whether we're doing that strictly opportunistically, for votes or campaign donations, or because we "believe" in the wars against Muslims, real people are still being hurt.

Posted by: flubber on August 3, 2010 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

I will not only question their patriotism, I will deny it in clear and unambiguous terms. These people are not patriots. I do not know what nation they love, but it is not the United States of America, and they are no countrymen of mine.
Posted by: elmo on August 3, 2010 at 2:01 PM

Wholeheartedly agreed, elmo, and that quote should be put up on billboards across the country, underneath a photo lineup of Gingrich, Palin, McConnell, Limbaugh, Beck, Kyl, etc.

Posted by: electrolite on August 3, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

The entire "War on Terrah" has been counterproductive. It's what the Right always does and does best.

Posted by: ckelly on August 3, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

emjayjay, we are talking about Manhattan, not North Dakota, where you just go one block beyond the edge of town and buy up some out of service farmland. I assume they are locating there because the building was for sale, the square footage and zoning fit the group's demands, and the price was right.

Posted by: Barbara on August 3, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

If there is anything that should be more discredited then the Republican's economic policy, it should be it's foreign policy and view on public relations. George Bush and his neo-conservative allies made us less respected AND less feared. The American right was in may ways Bin Laden's best ally these past 8 years and were suppose to listen to their opinion on a mosque being built next to ground zero?

And almost rather hear them talk about the common good "benefits" of supply side economics then listen to them talk about anything related to how were viewed by the rest of the world.

Posted by: Archon on August 3, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

To paraphrase a great speech in "The American President":

Republicans are interested in two things, and two things only:

1) to keep you in fear, and

2) to tell you who is to blame for it.

Any responsible journalist could have interviewed Mr. Abdul Rauf for some perspective. But that perspective would go against the narrative of fear that they are paid, and paid well, to peddle and nurture.

Posted by: terraformer on August 3, 2010 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

A modern know-nothing in the other thread made an unintentionally revealing comment on the subject.

I guess I find it frustrating that many progressives and center-leaning Americans bend over backwards to differentiate between the bad Muslims and the good Muslims

Got that? By implication, right leaning Americans don't differentiate between the bad Muslims and the good Muslims. And so pointing out how factually wrong -- not to mention un-Constitutional! -- the anti-center crowd is becomes tantamount to defending radical Islam.

Of course, by adopting that stance, they're playing right into bin Laden's bloody hands. And in the case of jackasses like Palin and Giuliani, they're doing so for short-term political advantage of keeping their base -- as exemplified by our know-nothing commentor there -- riled up. Nice.

Posted by: Gregory on August 3, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

I checked out the website. The Cordoba Initiative is named after the Cordoba mosque in Spain. The first mosque built in Spain after the Moors invaded. And they built the mosque on top of a Christian church.

Revealing indeed.

I've yet to hear a convincing argument that those who oppose building a Muslim mosque so close to Ground Zero are somehow racists and against the freedom of religion.

If an environmental impact study had found the Cordoba Institute's building who harm an endangered species, would it be legal to prevent the building from being erected? If so, wouldn't that be hindering someone's freedom of religion?

Got that? By implication, right leaning Americans don't differentiate between the bad Muslims and the good Muslims.

I do differentiate. And frankly, Muslims can build all sorts of mosques all over NYC. Just not so close to Ground Zero. I don't think that's too much to ask.

I would also be against a Japanese temple being erected next to Pearl Harbor.

Posted by: Da Pup on August 3, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Stephen and Rollo, you nailed it. There's a reason why Bush didn't try very hard to capture Bin Laden, and why Bin Laden released a tape in the fall of 2004 that was precisely timed to help Bush in his bid for reelection. The CIA understood what he was trying to do as soon as they saw it, and were pretty depressed by the implications. Bush and Bin Laden needed each other. They both needed bogeymen to use to scare their true believers.

Posted by: T-Rex on August 3, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

I checked out the website. The Cordoba Initiative is named after the Cordoba mosque in Spain. The first mosque built in Spain after the Moors invaded. And they built the mosque on top of a Christian church.

So what?

Revealing indeed.

Way to miss the point, jackass.

I've yet to hear a convincing argument that those who oppose building a Muslim mosque so close to Ground Zero are somehow racists and against the freedom of religion.

How about this one?

I for one am not aware of anyone claiming that opponents of the structure are racists, but by opposing a moderate Muslim cultural center, they're certainly opening themselves to the charge of bigotry. And as has been pointed out to you repeatedly -- and it's truly a shame that you don't find it "convincing" -- the Constitution prohibits discriminating on religious grounds. On top of that, in your own words just now, "oppose building a Muslim mosque" is inherently against freedom of religion.

You were asked, upthread, to state how far away from ground zero would be acceptable to you. What is it? Blocks? Miles?

And once you've answered that, you can explain what gives you the right to declare where it's acceptable for muslims to practice their religion, and how your opposition isn't religious discrimination. I can't wait.

If an environmental impact study had found the Cordoba Institute's building who harm an endangered species, would it be legal to prevent the building from being erected?

Perhaps, dope, because the grounds wouldn't be religious, whereas your objections are explicitly because they're Muslims.

Seriously, Pup, are you stupid?

If so, wouldn't that be hindering someone's freedom of religion?

If it was, it'd be because of a compelling interest. Unfortunately for you, "I think Muslims are icky" doesn't count as a compelling interest.

I do differentiate.

Now it's my turn to say -- and with far more solid ground -- that I don't see any indication in your commentary here that you do.

And frankly, Muslims can build all sorts of mosques all over NYC.

For once, you're right!

Just not so close to Ground Zero.

Aw, you were doing so well for a second there. But I really am curious -- how "close" is acceptable to your anti-muslim bigotry?

I don't think that's too much to ask.

According to the Constitution, it is. And it's sure as hell too much for demagogues from Alaska and Georgia to ask. Who the hell says that you and Sarah Palin get any say in what people who actually live in New York get to do? I thought conservatives were supposed to be against government interference in local affairs?

On top of that, Pup, it's a bit too late to pretend that you weren't callingfor a blanket anti-Muslim ban, even if your "it's too close!" pearl clutching wasn't disposed of upthread.

I would also be against a Japanese temple being erected next to Pearl Harbor.

Nice to know your religious bigotry isn't limited to Muslims, anyway.

You are aware that "Japanese" isn't a religion, and that "Islamic" isn't a nation, right? Oh, but I forgot -- you really don't differentiate between good muslims and bad Muslims, do you? Nice own goal there, dope.

Shame on you.

Posted by: Gregory on August 3, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

I checked out the website. The Cordoba Initiative is named after the Cordoba mosque in Spain. The first mosque built in Spain after the Moors invaded. And they built the mosque on top of a Christian church.

Revealing indeed.

Revealing of what, exactly? Don't rely on dogwhistles and cheap innuendo -- spell out what you're saying. Are you genuinely claiming that the people behind this community center are celebrating a victory over the United States by building it two blocks from where the WTC once stood? Because the people building it, and the community it serves, are New Yorkers. Do you really think that they celebrate the 9/11 attack on their neighborhood? And if you don't, what are you trying to say?

And frankly, Muslims can build all sorts of mosques all over NYC. Just not so close to Ground Zero. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Not "so close," huh? Not two blocks away. What about three blocks, is that okay? Five? Half a mile? How far out does this Muslim-free zone stretch?

You do know, of course, that American Muslims from New York were killed on 9/11. Their remains lie in the same ashes, the same ground as all the other victims. Are their family members allowed near the sacred site to pay their respects? Can they pray there? Or would that also be insensitive to the white Christian real victims?

Posted by: elmo on August 3, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Revealing indeed.

Revealing of what? Do you actually believe that you have made some sort of argument? Is anyone past the age of 12 ever convinced by this sort of coy ambiguity?

You didn't know anything about the Cordoba Institute when this conversation started. You have learned a little bit but rather than admit that you were simply wrong in your fundamental assumptions, you have decided that your very limited understanding of Spanish history justifies your original ignorance. This is not persuasive.

I would also be against a Japanese temple being erected next to Pearl Harbor.

What the hell is a Japanese temple? Do you mean something like a Shinto shrine or a Buddhist monsatery? You mean to say that you would have some particular objection to a Shinto shrine being erected near Perl Harbor and you tell us this to convince us that you aren't a religious bigot!? Again, not very persuasive.

I don't think I even know anyone who would even make the connection between a Japanese religion and Pearl Harbor and I know many avowed bigots. Congratulations. You have gone where even few bigots would dare to go?

Posted by: brent on August 3, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

There's already a Shinto shrine on the highway leading to Pearl Harbor.

Posted by: Gregory on August 3, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Really, Pup, your feeble claim that you "do differentiate" between "good Muslims" and "bad Muslims" doesn't hold water.

The Cordoba site, despite your vile attempt to imply otherwise, is being built by the good muslims. But you seem to want to pretend, in one of the most spectacular displays of deliberate ingnorance I've witnessed in a long time, that they're somehow sinister. That notion is not only bullshit, and not only bigoted, but it"s stupidly counterproductive and plays right into bin Laden's hands. Another own goal, there, Pup.

And if you do differentiate, as you claim you do, what the hell is your beef?

Posted by: Gregory on August 3, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

It will be a great/sad moment in the history of irony when some redneck car bombs this mosque.

Posted by: myproxy on August 3, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

A good point from Bloomberg's great speech quoted in the other thread: The center is private property. I thought conservatives are supposed to be against the government restricting what people can do with private property?

As I said earlier, Pup almost has a point upthread: The Supreme Court has long acknowledged that even fundamental rights can be abridged in the presence of a compelling interest. The government gets to tell you not to dump toxic waste or yell "fire!" in a crowded theater.

But once again, Pup's argument of "I think Muslims are icky!" is not even remotely a compelling reason to restrict their free exercise of religion.

Posted by: Gregory on August 3, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK
neilt: "Can we please abandon the niceties and just call this 'concern' about Muslims what it really is ... good ol' fashioned, straight up racism?"

Because it's not racism, per se, but rather overt religious bigotry. If you'd ever been in southeastern Europe, then you'd know exactly what I mean. The populations of Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania and the Russian Caucasus are both ethnic European and majority Muslim.

Our "concern" can be construed as racism only in the sense that Americans have a distressing tendency to subscribe to crude stereotypes for our general characterizations of Muslims.

But the practical reality is that Islam is every bit as ethnically diverse as Christianity, and Mulims constitute the majority of the population in countries and regions ranging from the southern Philippines and Indonesia to southern Europe and northern Africa. It's not a one-size-fits-all faith, any more than Christianity is.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on August 3, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK
Da Pup: "I would also be against a Japanese temple being erected next to Pearl Harbor."

Of course you would, being the fucking numbnutz that you are. You sound exactly like those jingoistic assholes from a few years back, whose xenophobia led them to publicly call upon the National Park Service and the U.S. Navy to prohibit Japanese tourists from visiting the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.

P.S.: There's also no such thing as a "Japanese temple."

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on August 3, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

I call bullshit on Pup's claim that he/she does differentiate between "good muslims" and "bad muslims."

Exhibit A:

I've yet to hear a prominent Muslim scholar speak out against honor killings, female circumcision, stoning adulterers and gays, or jihad.

Got that? Pup attempts to imply that "honor killings, female circumcision, stoning adulterers and gays" and "jihad" are the tenets of mainstream Islam. indeed, in that very paragraph, partially quoted earlier, he/she said:

I guess I find it frustrating that many progressives and center-leaning Americans bend over backwards to differentiate between the bad Muslims and the good Muslims when Muslims themselves don't really do it.

Got that? Muslims themselves don't differentiate, according to the oh-so-learned Pup.

So, Pup, why would you be frustrated at people trying to "differentiate between the bad Muslims and the good Muslims" when you claim, however unconvincingly, that you do the same thing?

Posted by: Gregory on August 3, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

re: Donald from Hawaii

Yeah, I know, but somehow I very much doubt the rightwing have much of an issue with your Indonesian or Yugoslavian Muslims.

Muslim = A-rab.
A-rab = sand n***er.


Posted by: neilt on August 3, 2010 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

neilt I hear you, but the bottom line is that this latest upsurge in Muslim-baiting is rooted in plain, old-fashioned religious bigotry, the same kind that brought about the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century.

I'm not doubting that a significant number of anti-Muslim bigots are also racists, but racism is clearly not the factor driving their actions.

Rather, it's the Chritianists' nonsensical insistence that their God must have bigger genitalia than does Allah, a sort of faith-based penis envy that one can only guess is somehow meant to compensate for Allah's gift of 72 virgins to the Islamic martyr.

Aloha.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on August 3, 2010 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Who are you, and what have you done with Jeffrey Goldberg?"

Posted by: Anthony Damiani on August 3, 2010 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Bush and Cheney followed Bin Laden's script almost exactly with respect to major actions (though Bush personally repudiated bigotry) - why should Republicans do something different now?

Posted by: skeptonomist on August 4, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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