The controversy about the Ground Zero whatever-it-is (supporters say it is not a mosque and not at Ground Zero, but it includes a mosque and is two blocks away) has left the realm of rational discourse. Once you have The Opposition — Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich — weighing in on one side, you could have expected that the administration and its friends would take the opposing view with both feet. The latest broadside comes from the liberal Jewish establishment:
SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — Jewish groups have stepped up efforts to combat anti-Muslim bigotry, with several national initiatives announced this week and supporting statements coming in from a range of Jewish voices.
In Washington, officials from several Jewish organizations took part Tuesday in an emergency summit of Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders that denounced anti-Muslim bigotry and called for a united effort by believers of all faiths to reach out to Muslim Americans.
Also Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League announced the creation of an Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, which will monitor and respond to instances of anti-Muslim bias surrounding attempts to build new mosques in the United States.
Meanwhile, six rabbis and scholars representing the Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox streams have launched an online campaign urging rabbis to devote part of their sermons this Shabbat to educating their congregations about Islam.
The efforts come in response to what organizers describe as a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment resulting from the impending ninth anniversary of 9/11 and the controversy surrounding efforts to build a Muslim community center and mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan. Jewish bloggers and pundits, mostly on the right, have become more vocal in opposing the center and calling for greater scrutiny of American mosques. [my emphasis]
There are still plenty of good reasons to want the mosque to be built somewhere else, and they don’t include “anti-Muslim bigotry”. There are questions about the Imam’s support of radical Islamism, the funding of the project, and the understanding of its significance in the Muslim world. This is not changed by some drunk and mentally disturbed student stabbing a cabbie or a nutcase burning copies of the Quran in Florida.
I’ve been denounced more than once as a ‘bigot’ who is against to free exercise of religion for opposing the project. The people who denounce me are remarkably obtuse, so what follows may be hard for them to understand. But I’ll say it anyway.
There is a campaign underway to define all speech critical of programs, projects or activities of Muslims as anti-religious hate speech, which is out of bounds. Islam is, of course, a religion, but like the Christianity of the 11th – 13th centuries, it — more correctly, a significant faction within it — has a political program. This program includes aggressive expansion of Islamic rule, by violence, by subversion, or even by democratic processes. It’s called “Islamism,” to distinguish it from Islam in general.
Arguably the most significant political conflict in the world today is the one between more traditional conservative Muslims and radical Islamists. Radical Islam is championed by the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood — to which some American Muslim groups are linked — and the Shiite Iranian regime. Saudi Arabia funds radical Islamist groups, mosques and schools the world over, perhaps buying temporary protection for its monarchy from the radicals.
A large number of the world’s Muslims — including, in my opinion, Imam Abdul Rauf of the Ground Zero mosque, as well as the main organizations purporting to represent Muslims in the US, such as CAIR, ISNA, MPAC, etc. — support the Islamist project. Insofar as it envisions the ‘conquest’ (in a violent or nonviolent way) of the United States and the replacement of its Constitution with Islamic law, it is imperative that Americans be able to express their opposition to it. Defining speech critical of this political idea as ‘hate speech’ makes it impossible to do so.
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which convened the ’emergency summit’ to deal with the “wave of anti-Muslim sentiment”, does not want to make this distinction, in my opinion, because they support the goals of Islamism. They want to conflate the religion of Islam with the political program of Islamism. And they have an interest in exaggerating the degree of anti-Muslim prejudice, because they want to create an atmosphere in which nobody can say anything negative about anything Muslims say or do, short of actual violent terrorism.
Incidentally, one way to tell if an organization or individual is an Islamist is to ask him how he feels about Hamas or Hizballah. Islamists may deplore the terrorism that these groups engage in, but they will not condemn their goals, and usually they will ‘understand’ why the resort to terrorism even if they don’t approve of it (Abdul Rauf won’t even call Hamas a “terrorist group”).
In many ways, they couldn’t buy the kind of help they are getting from Terry Jones. First, he makes the case that there is a huge wave of Muslim-hatred out there — even though Jones supposedly has a congregation of only about 30. Second, he provides an excuse for Muslims around the world to fly into a rage, to burn and destroy and maybe kill people — thus reinforcing the idea that anti-Muslim speech is not only bigoted but downright dangerous.
Our own ‘useful idiots‘, particularly the Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism, which co-sponsored the ‘summit’, have been front and center in helping the Islamists by blurring the very important distinction between anti-religious prejudice and opposition to a radical political program.
These are not unintelligent people, so I can only conclude that the opportunity to display their moral superiority to the supposedly bigoted Right — and their leaders, Palin and Gingrich — has been so irresistible as to short-circuit their faculty of analytic thinking.
Our administration, much of the media and the liberal religious establishment is using this issue as a political weapon against what they view as the threat from the right wing, which they apparently see as more dangerous than radical Islamism. That’s a mistake.