I get a lot of bullshit emails from rightwing organizations that make racist claims about Teh Muslimz. In fact, I get so many — Family Security Matters, I’m looking in your bigoted direction — that my eyes typically glaze over. Zach Roth shows why that reflex ought to be resisted.
He’s got a story about right-wingers clutching their pearls over a mosque planned to be built near Ground Zero. Yes. A mosque. A place of religious worship for one of the world’s major faiths, next to a cite where conspiratorial mass murderers who tried to hijack that religion killed a lot of people, including many Muslims. Building a mosque at Ground Zero is a perfect fuck-you to al-Qaeda.
Naturally, Andy McCarthy and his band of ignorant bigots consider all Muslims to be bin Ladens in training, and so he and Liz Cheney and the Washington Times the rest of them are engaging in the usual slanders. Tellingly, none of them will actually say what’s wrong with building the mosque there, retreating to idiotic meta-points about political correctness. This is the closest the Times comes:
The effort to memorialize 9/11 has seen an overweening and unnecessary deference to Muslims. Most memorials will not mention the fact that the Sept. 11 terrorist attackers were motivated by the faith of Muhammad.
But they weren’t motivated by the faith of Muhammed. They were motivated by a conspiratorial politics that claimed religious authority. If the 9/11 hijackers were “motivated by the faith of Muhammed,” then every Christian is David Koresh and every Jew is Baruch Goldstein.
One more thing. The imam responsible for the mosque, according to Zach, is Faisal Abdul Rauf. I know Imam Abdul Rauf. He’s the author of an inspiring book called What’s Right With Islam Is What’s Right With America. I drew upon his insights for a 2005 piece about American Islam and counterterrorism:
America’s blend of liberalism and religiosity, in other words, has created perhaps the most potent weapon against Al Qaeda conceivable: a resolution to the identity crisis of Western Muslim life that bin Laden preys upon. When Abdul Rauf came to the United States from Egypt 40 years ago, Muslims were a curious unfamiliarity to most Americans, and the impact on his mental health was real. “Myself, I suffered for eight years from an identity crisis–not knowing who I was,” he recalls. Back then, “when Muhammad Ali became a Muslim, he was seen as rejecting America.” Yet, as Abdul Rauf explored both his faith and his new country, he recognized that reconciliation was not just possible, it was natural. His project now, like that of many other U.S. Muslim organizations, is straightforward: “We’re looking to expedite the creation of an American Muslim identity in order to resolve the issues between the U.S. and the Muslim world.” What Abdul Rauf means is a public identity seamlessly blending Islam and Americanism and reinforcing both. For Patel, this is the most important front in the war on terrorism. “The battlefield is identity, and the players are young people,” he says. “When I first tell people about the Interfaith Youth Core, people say, ‘Aw, what a sweet organization.’ But there’s another guy running a youth organization, and his name is Osama bin Laden.”
The Washington Times, without a shred of evidence, intimates that this good and decent man is receiving money from terrorists. “Odds are the money will come from overseas,” it vaguely and nefariously whispers. Anyone with even the slightest familiarity with Imam Abdul Rauf would know that no one would find that prospect more stomach-churning. It’s as disgusting as presuming that that a Catholic is an antisemite because the pope was in the Hitler Youth.
Imam Abdul Rauf, and those like him, and the Ground Zero Mosque, are weapons against al-Qaeda, for all the reasons that John Brennan and Mike Sheehan and David Petraeus and Barack Obama can explain better than I can. What is happening at Ground Zero is a test of the necessity of treating American Muslims like the citizens they are and not like the terrorists that bigots wish them to be. To not build the Ground Zero Mosque will be to play into Usama bin Laden’s hands.