Tuesday’s incident in which a Muslim cabdriver was attacked in New York is being treated as emblematic of the controversy about the Ground Zero mosque:
The police said Mr. Enright had been drinking for much of Tuesday afternoon before getting in the cab and exchanging pleasantries with the driver, Ahmed H. Sharif, 44, who is originally from Bangladesh. He asked Mr. Sharif if he was Muslim and greeted him with “salaam aleikum,” an Arabic greeting that means “peace be upon you.” He even asked Mr. Sharif how his celebration of Ramadan was going before he began cursing at him and slashing him in his face, arm and hands with a knife, Mr. Sharif told the police. — NY Times
Here are some of the things being said about it:
- It was the fault of Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing talk radio hosts who have stirred up Islamophobia
- The perpetrator was a right-winger
- No, he was a left-winger
- It’s all about the mosque — this shows it should be built
- It’s all about the mosque — this shows it should not be built
How about this: he was both drunk and crazy, and picked an issue that resonated in his drunk and crazy brain. It is entirely irrelevant to the mosque issue.
I spent a few months driving a cab in my youth and met more than a few crazy drunk passengers. None of them attacked me, but it could get scary.
Compare this to the Fort Hood shooter, whose history and actions showed a clear ideological motivation for his crime. As far as I know, the official explanation is still that he was mentally ill.
There is a huge amount of hysteria being voiced in connection with the mosque. Could we have some rationality? Here are a few good reasons not to build it at that location:
- It will make a significant number of the 9/11 families unhappy
- It will serve as a symbol of victory to radical Islamists, and be a selling point for the radical viewpoint in the ongoing struggle to define normative Islam
- It will worsen relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in New York
- Moving it will not injure Muslims or in any way prevent the free exercise of their religion
People are remarkably ready to accuse mosque opponents of horrible crimes, even of being Republicans. In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, Russell Simmons calls opposition to the Mosque “fear-mongering or hate speech”. He mentions Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin in case anybody is insufficiently horrified.
Although a Democrat without political ambitions, I was accused of ‘hate speech’ myself after I pointed out that Imam Abdul Rauf refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization, and that Hamas’ self-described raison d’être was to wipe out the Jewish state and kill its Jewish inhabitants. Hate speech? I’d call it stating facts that are highly relevant to the question — which we are entitled to ask — of who Imam Abdul Rauf really is.
Here’s another point which has been forgotten in the controversy: insofar as Islam includes a blueprint (sharia) for social and political relationships, law, economic activity, etc. and prescribes this blueprint as the best possible form of social organization, everybody — Muslims and non-Muslims — has a stake in deciding to follow the prescription or not. This is a legitimate matter for discussion.
Additionally, the radical interpretation of Islam — which is rapidly gaining ground in the world — has a very aggressive and ambitious political program. It is by no means the province of a few extremists, but promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates among Sunnis, and Iran among Shiites. One might even say it seeks world domination. Talking about this is not hate speech, but rather a conversation that could bear on our culture’s self-preservation.
We had our own “Islamophobic hate crime” a few miles up the road from here in Madera, where some anti-Muslim signs were posted at an Islamic center. This behavior was mean and stupid, and while probably the act of harmless adolescents… one never knows.
But this kind of thing, or mentally ill college students, should not distract us from a serious consideration of Islam, radical Islam, and its relationship to Western culture.