The plan to build a ‘Ground Zero mosque‘ literally overlooking the site of the destroyed World Trade Center has brought the question of the meeting of Islam and the West to the forefront in a way that even 9/11 and the terror attacks in Madrid, the London, Bombay, etc. themselves did not (if you haven’t read the post linked above, please do so).
The murderous attacks were clearly the work of fanatics. Although they were done in the name of Islam, it was possible to believe that the perpetrators were acting against normative Islam. It was said that they had ‘hijacked’ Islam for their nefarious purposes. Indeed, this appears to be the official position of much of the media, the government of the US and its legal and law enforcement agencies. The case of Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, whose crime is being explained as a result of mental illness, is an example.
Americans have a passionate commitment, expressed in the Bill of Rights, to free exercise of religion. And the reaction to the historical treatment of blacks in our society — a national trauma — has made anything that even comes close to a negative general statement about any racial, ethnic or religious group a violation of taboo so extreme that the violator is instantly ostracized (although an exception is apparently beginning to be made for left-wing antisemitism). This is one reason for the popularity of the ‘hijacked’ metaphor.
Organized Muslim groups in the US such as CAIR and ISNA have been quick to present any criticism of Islam in general or any warning that political Islam could be a danger to our free society as ‘islamophobia’, a form of racism. People like Geert Wilders are called right-wing extremists or worse, as are ‘anti-Jihadist’ bloggers like Robert Spencer. It’s harder to attack Aayan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim who came to criticize Islam — particularly in connection to the position of women — from within, so while she is admired for her courage her ideas are mostly ignored.
There are also practical reasons to speak kindly of Islam. There are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world, they control much of the oil supply, and there are a large number of them who are prepared to respond to perceived defamation of Islam quite violently. There’s nothing that has more of a ‘chilling effect’ on speech than a credible threat to behead the speaker.
Unlike Wilders and some others, Daniel Pipes doesn’t believe that violent extremism is inherent in Islam (although this doesn’t keep him from being called an ‘Islamophobe’ and requiring police protection when he speaks). Pipes thinks that the texts of Islam can in principle be interpreted peacefully, but that the radical, expansionist interpretations that characterize the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian mullahs has recently gained ascendancy as the definition of normative Sunni and Shia Islam respectively.
Although there is only a small fraction of the Muslim ummah who are prepared to act violently in defense of — or in offense for — Islam, there is a growing number who provide moral and material support for them, because they believe that the truest, purest form of Islam is the most radical form. Unfortunately, the major Islamic organizations in the US are aligned with radical movements like the Muslim Brotherhood.
This also turns out to be the case with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the head of the “Cordoba Institute” which is spearheading the building of the Ground Zero mosque. And if Rauf espouses the expansionist radical Islam of the Ikhwan (brotherhood), then we can answer the question that I asked in my previous post about the mosque:
Does Abdul Rauf represent a moderate, conciliatory, tolerant Islam … or is he following in the tradition of the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, who built the Dome of the Rock over the ruins of the Second Temple in 692 CE? Is it a work of peace or a triumphal celebration of a successful act of war?
The Islam of the Ikhwan is more than ‘just a religion’. It is even more than ‘just a fundamentalist religion’. In addition to what we normally think of as ‘religious’ things requiring tolerance — practices of worship, ritual, moral codes, beliefs about a deity or afterlife, etc. — there are other features which the West cannot afford to tolerate.
They include a political program, a program to expand the borders of Islamic domination, and a legal, political and social system — Shaaria — which is diametrically opposed to the principles of an enlightened society (and the US Constitution), since
- It institutionalizes the superiority of Muslims over other religions, and men over women. It calls for the subjugation of Jews and Christians and the murder of ‘polytheists’ (for example, Hindus) who refuse to accept Islam.
- It is incompatible with democratic government. Decisions are made by religious authorities.
- It is opposed to personal liberty in social matters, even prescribing a death penalty for adulteresses and homosexuals.
Abdul Rauf’s connection to the Muslim Brotherhood implies that this project is not a project of peaceful, tolerant Islam, because that is not the Islam of the Brotherhood. It is an Islam of conquest and the imposition of Shaaria in the conquered territory.
For the brotherhood, the horrific terrorist attacks perpetrated around the world by Muslims were not ‘crazy’, but rather expressions of the purest and most admirable faith. And, similarly, we too need to see them as ideological and purposeful acts of radical Islam.
The Ground Zero mosque is intended to be a symbol of the defeat of the United States of America by the forces of radical Islam. Westerners often treat symbolism and ideology as unimportant. What counts are practical things like a healthy economy, etc.
But the behavior of Muslims in the Middle East — the Palestinians are a good example — where time after time ideology and symbolism has trumped what we think of as common sense — should be a warning to us.
Thousands of ordinary New Yorkers took part in a demonstration against the plan to construct the mosque last month. They get it. Why don’t our leaders (including the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg) and most of the media?