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.