Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friedersdorf Flips The Perspective

Lamenting his apparent failure to convince fellow conservatives that Imam Rauf of the so-called "Ground Zero" mosque is "with us" in the War on Terror (as in, "you're either with us or you're against us..."), Conor Friedersdorf decides to come at this question from another direction:

Perhaps it'll help my case to offer a flip in perspective. Take a look at an imagined conversation between two radical Islamists in Saudi Arabia who are having their own argument about whether Imam Rauf is with them or against them.

Jihadi 1: Maybe he is on our side. He does seem to sympathize with the Palestinians.

Jihadi 2: No more than lots of American liberals. Being pro-Palestine hardly makes him a soldier of Allah.

J1: He is also building a monument to Islam at Ground Zero.

J2: It's two blocks away. And he has publicly promised that he is going to let Jews in.

J1: Really?

J2: Yes, he even reached out to two rabbis before announcing the project.

J1: Even so, he seems critical of America.

J2: Yes, he is mildly critical once every few years, when he's not busy doing the bidding of their State Department, or helping to train their FBI agents.

J1: He cooperates with their FBI?

J2: He is very friendly with them. And he lets his wife go on television too. Without a burka or even a headscarf.

J1: I heard he attended a Hizb ut-Tahrir conference.

J2: It turns out that story is false. In fact, when radicals from the group confronted him, he defended the United States Constitution!

J1: Andy McCarthy thinks that he is a radical.

J2: You fool. Andy McCarthy also thinks that President Obama is allied with radical Islamists in a grand jihad against America.

J1: Seriously? That bastard Obama just killed an Al Qaeda cousin of mine with one of his drone strikes. At first I thought maybe he's just trying to shore up his domestic political support, but then I realized that his administration is taking pains to keep most of them secret. Still, I hear than the mosque being built will signify the beginning of the United States of Arabia, and that it marks their surrender to us.

J2: That makes no sense. Their voters can't even manage to pass gay marriage bans without them getting struck down and you believe people who say that they're about to submit to sharia law? And how would the construction of a mosque even be a factor in transforming their legal system. I think you're listening to too much of their talk radio.

Insofar as this conversation is unrealistic, it's because every actual radical Islamist would know perfectly well that an imam who works with the FBI, tours on behalf of the State Department, denounces terrorism, defends the US constitution in an Arabic exchange with radicals from Hizb ut-Tahrir, has a good relationship with New York City rabbis, and preaches on behalf of women's rights isn't on their side. In fact, he is exactly the kind of imam that Islamist radicals target and kill when they dare to do these sorts of things in other countries.

Now I'm not saying that Rauf is a saint or that he's never uttered anything controversial but when one takes the time to find out the things he's actually said and done it becomes clear that those who are automatically jumping to the conclusion that his motives are nefarious simply because he's a Muslim are doing so out of either ignorance, bigotry or both. And Friedersdorf's last point is an important one: moderate Muslims like Rauf are exactly who al Qaeda and other radical extremist organizations would like to see us turn against to help facilitate their war on the West. Now I'm also of course not saying that the Republican party is in league with al Qaeda but when your political party's current talking points mirror that organization's stated aims and goals of turning Christianity and Islam against each other, perhaps it's time to reexamine your stance on this particular issue. Sometimes constitutional freedoms and civil rights are more important than people's hurt feelings. Hell, they pretty much always are.

[Update: Jon Stewart connected a few more dots with his highlighter last Thursday:

I too denounced Heston and the NRA for their actions in Colorado several years back and I too was wrong to do so. Just as the NRA was not responsible for the Columbine tragedy, Rauf and his organization were not responsible for the attacks against America on 9/11 and conflating either event with an unrelated group of people is both dishonest and unAmerican. We need to be better than that.]


Leslie Parsley said...

I'm not sure you were wrong in criticizing Cheston and the NRA for having their national conference in Denver immediately following the Columbine shooting. It's the "immediately following" that signals the difference. I think if Cheston were alive today and he and the NRA wanted to hold their convention in the heart of Littleton, not too many people would raise an eyebrow.

This is ten years after 9/11 and it will be several years before construction can even begin on revamping the community center (have to raise the funds), so I really don't think there's much comparison.

Besides, we intelligent mortals know what the real reason is behind this charade of a protest and it really has nothing to do with any mosque - in NYC or elsewhere in the country.

JBW said...

I agree with your comments concerning the community center Leslie but I still think I was wrong about the NRA. They weren't advocating gun violence in schools. In fact, what they were advocating was everyday Americans arming themselves in order to stop horrific acts like those committed on that fateful day. I don't think they were wrong to do so.