Liberal defenders of “mosque” get it wrong

Aisha Ghani points out that much of the liberal defense of Park51 requires that the center be shown as presenting a sanitized form of Islam.

[I]t is clear that the kindergarten logic of “hear no evil, see no evil” is being utilized in order to sway public opinion in favor of the Center, but while the success of these maneuvers remains to be seen, its damage is immediately apparent. The message being sent is loud and clear: if Park51 ‘sounds’ nothing like mosque, claims to ‘be’ nothing like a mosque, and, ‘looks’ nothing like a mosque, then, and only then, does it emerge a defensible endeavor within the United States.

Apart from the fact that these maneuvers do little by way of providing Americans with a reason to be self-reflexive — that is, to ponder the possibility of coexistence with Muslims without requiring, first, that those Muslims sanitize their identities and their places of worship — yet another danger exists in the fact that if these additives, this supplementary discourse (of community center and interfaith dialogue) continues to be the basis upon which Park51 emerges worthy of defense, then on what grounds will other mosques — which do not claim to be anything more or (perhaps, in Park51’s case) ‘less’ than a mosque — be defended?

Other red flags emerge when we take note of how Imam Rauf and Daisy Khan’s ‘personal’ relationship to Islam (a relationship that associates itself with ‘sufi’ ideology and is identified as ‘moderate’ Islam) has been ascribed to Park51. When these disclaimers are showcased in the media, they are presented not as interesting facts about two individuals, but as some of Park51’s most ‘appealing’ features, a major ‘selling point’ in subsequent liberal discourse.

The narrative of fitting in, of assimilation and integration that is being established through Park51 produces a dangerous set of ‘if, then’ contingencies that we should all be wary of, and which index the precise problem of this moment in American history; a moment in which the terms and conditions being articulated in the Park51 debate have, in fact, already been established as the ground rules for determining who gets recognized as the ‘right’ kind of Muslim in America. Sadly, this ‘conditional’ recognition also suggests that only the claims of certain kinds of Muslims will be recognized as legitimate or worthy of defense.

(H/t Pulse.)

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4 thoughts on “Liberal defenders of “mosque” get it wrong

  1. scott

    This is an important point. Further, ignorant liberals assume that the Quran has “satanic verses” just as the Bible has it’s own “satanic verses” they have some vague recollection of.

    But, as one who’s studied both–I consider myself a unitarian. I don’t believe in the Trinity, I’ve studied the three traditions. The Quran does have some passages that can be taken out of context, but nothing nearly as repugnant as the Old Testament. (This is a cribbing of Voltaire’s “Essay on Toleration.”)

    The Bible celebrates the story of Joshua. Joshua commits genocide in over a dozen cities, killing every man, woman, child and often all the animals. He does this through deception, accepting an invitation to dinner where he murders his hosts, conspiring with a whore who is the only one he spares. This tale is repeated a dozen times.

    Compare this with the Quran’s most controversial story, where Mohammad executes 300 “Jews.” This happens after a mixed community invites Mohammad and the nascent Muslim ummah to Medina to escape the persecution they were facing in Mecca. Once there these 300 Jews are tried and found guilty of deceptively committing treason. This is according to Jewish law. Mohammad is uncomfortable with this judgment and seeks to simply banish them. The Medinan Rabbi insists that Mohammad, as the invited leader of Medina must execute the judgment. He appeals to God for an out and is told, by God that he must kill them.

    Compare that with Joshua who shows not a seconds hesitation. There are many other atrocities recounted in the Bible which utterly offend our modern sensibilities. Whereas the Quran, benefiting perhaps from being the last written/edited of the three religious tomes is much less offensive.

    I’d encourage anyone interested in a spirit of fairness to look up the “kill them where you find them” quotes from the Quran that sophists like to put forward. I’m unaware of a single one of these that isn’t so qualified that all the teeth are taken out of it. Invariably, the preceding verse (Iyat) will say, [make peace with them, but if they deceive and refuse to hold to their agreements, go and kill them where you find them, but if they ask for a truce, negotiate with them, you have no cause whereby to fight them.]

    Joshua’s victims are offered no such opportunity for a treaty, no such mercy. The Quran forbids killing those who aren’t fighting you (the citizens of a “democracy” who occupy your land are a debatable case for some militants) It forbids the felling even of a tree. I am not saying that the adherents of any tradition aren’t flawed, we all are.

    Those who wish to claim Islam demands unbelievers be killed are slanderers. The Quran commands Muslims to protect Jews, Christians and all who believe in one god. The Quran states, “I made you different, from among many nations and peoples so that you might know each other.” Muslims are told to treat non-Muslims more fairly than their fellow Muslims–as this is how they proselytize, by example not compulsion.

    This is a difficult subject, but one that needs to be brought up and defended. We should all be humble, tolerant and better informed about the flaws in our own traditions.

    Friedman is pointing out the violence in Iraq, making the case that Muslims need their own intra-faith dialog–this is another example of overlooking our own shortcomings to point the finger at others. Imagine, WE unleash a civil war in Iraq, then dare to condemn them for fighting amongst themselves!?! We install dictators, actively suppress democracy, demand our pet tyrants suppress democracy and condemn the subjects for their sometimes violent civil disobedience!?! The hypocrisy is damning.

    The Declaration of Independence says, those living under tyranny have a right, a duty to alter or abolish that tyranny. Frankly, that justifies, by our own principles a Jihad against us, though the Quran doesn’t allow such violence.

    Our ignorance of our own traditions, of our own actions is legion. We point our fingers at the victims of our Machiavellian machinations abroad, actions which violate our own ideals, and dare condemn THEM? Incredible, God have mercy on us.

  2. scott

    I’ve posted this same argument on various websites, some libertarian/Christian, who supported the mosque. Many commentators harbored deep suspicions about Muslims, hell on Walt’s FP site with ardent Zionists commentors. No one will reply to this argument. I think it’s important to discuss this, to vent. It worries me that there is so much suppression of debate, even if it’s internal suppression–that may be the most dangerous.

  3. Mike B

    I don’t agree with this at all. Certainly, the punditry in the mainstream press and the moral cowardice of most (though not all) of our political leadership can be faulted in this regard. But making this blanket condemnation of all “liberal defenders” is just not true. I’ve heard plenty of people defending not just the Park51 complex, but the numerous other mosques around the country that have come under attack — without any insistence that Muslims “sanitize” their religion. This blanket condemnation of all “liberal defenders” is off-base — and smacks of its own intolerance. The author says “I take no pleasure in stating that I see no part of myself in what the Park51 initiative has become”, and so feels contempt for it and feels liberals are hypocritical for defending it. That smacks of intolerance.
    Everyone has rights in this country to worship as they wish, whether Pamela Geller likes it, Abe Foxman likes it, or the author likes it.
    And quite frankly, perhaps this sort of intolerance toward those whom the author feels are not Muslim enough is part of the reason why some people feel the need to point out that those behind the Park51 project are not similarly intolerant.
    I defend the right of people to worship however they wish, but I feel no need to apologize for the contempt I feel for the arrogance and chauvinism of those who think they are entitled to judge the religious worthiness of others — whether it come from Islamophobic bigots who oppose the building of mosques, or religious chauvinists like this author who condemn their fellow Muslims for not being Muslim enough.

  4. scott

    Mike, what I think we get is really no discussion or debate what-so-ever. It’s all treated as verboten save by those who slather slurs about. I think discussion is ultimately the best alternative. But, I think many liberals are illiterate on religious issues, so they’re not comfortable getting into the nitty gritty. Sadly, this leaves the field to those with the biggest microphone.

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