Muslims should build mosques “everywhere,” Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar declared Tuesday as he addressed the plans to build a mosque near ground zero in New York. Most of his Muslim brethren, moderates and radicals alike, likely endorsed this sentiment. After all, when one of the pillars of Islam is its very dissemination, one should not wonder that even the “moderates” view ground zero as a suitable site for a mosque.
The fact that almost all global terror in recent years is carried out in the name of Islamic ideas being recited day and night at the finest mosques (both in the East and West,) and that almost 3,000 people were killed in New York in the name of these notions nine years ago should have elicited at least a hint of understanding for the feelings of the victims’ families on the part of Islamic moderates.
New York Governor David Patterson recently announced that Muslims refused his offer to find an alternate site for the new Islamic center. He may have forgotten for a moment that more than anything, the center and its name (The Cordoba House) are a symbol. Seemingly, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Sharif el-Gamal and their partners could have scored quite a few points in America’s public opinion (which in all polls shows firm objection to the center’s establishment) had they accepted Patterson’s proposal.
After all, these distinguished gentleman fully realize that the various shades of Islam, even without the center, do not enjoy an especially positive image in US public opinion, and that a gesture conceding only the site of the mosque, rather than the principle of building it, was virtually a win-win situation for them. Moreover, their willingness to change the location would have ended almost at once the ongoing media and public debate on the actions of 19 of their Islamic brethren nine years ago and the thousands of their victims.
If, as Rauf and Gamal argue, the center’s main purpose is to encourage tolerance and promote interfaith dialogue, while showing maximal sensitivity to the feelings of others, would it not be natural to show a little more than zero tolerance and consideration for other people’s feelings, instead of dismissing out of hand many families of September 11 victims who ask that the mosque be built somewhere else?
The trap of Islamic rhetoricAn important part of the answer to the above questions has to do with the long-term goals designated by many of Islam’s spiritual and ideological leaders, both in the past and at present, both in the West and East. These objectives prompt many Muslim immigrants in the West (unlike any other immigrant group on earth) to strictly refrain from integrating into their new home and adopt local customs, even when this does not require them to make any religious concession.
In Britain, France, and the US, the separatist and anti-Western voices coming out of the mosques have no parallel among any other immigrant group. Even the economic, educational, and social opportunities and temptations, which are immeasurably greater than what is available at their home countries, only prompt a minority of Muslim immigrants to veer off the path outlined by Imams and integrate into the citizenry of their new country.
Moreover, this separatism is not undertaken for noble aims of course, but rather, mostly in order to gain a cultural, social, religious, and political foothold in their new address. This has always been Islam’s way. We would do well to examine the refusal of mosque planners to compromise on its location, even at the price of boosting the grievances against them among Americans, through this prism.
Yet in order to ensure that their work bears fruit, the senior Imams within the “moderate” Muslim camp excel at uttering words that are pleasantly received in the West. These imams can always put their trust in a variety of enlightened Western intellectuals, as well as some useful idiots, which this time around include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city council members, with the trusted support of Barack Obama (before he embarked on his zigzags.)
And so, we again see a noble, wonderful partnership between “moderate Muslims” committed to doublespeak and Western intellectuals who remain loyal to double standards; meanwhile, naïve souls all around are deeply moved by any “moderate” Islamic statement.
In his recently published book Flight of the Intellectuals, Paul Berman warns that the danger posed to the West by “moderate Muslims” is even greater than that posed by their radical brethren, mostly because too many people are happy to fall into the trap laid by moderate Islamic rhetoric, even when the conciliatory tone disappears the moment the target audiences changes to Muslims.
And so, for example, the Cordoba House is marketed to Westerners as a stronghold of tolerance, moderation, and interfaith dialogue. Yet in Islamic tradition, Cordoba is first and foremost a Christian Spanish city conquered by Muslims in 711, with many of its residents butchered or turned into slaves; a mosque built on the ruins of a church; and memories of the Almohads, the spiritual fathers of contemporary Islamic zealots.
The Almohads razed the town in the 12th Century and killed those who refused to convert to Islam, forcing Jews and Christians to either convert or go into exile. However, Feisal Abdul Rauf reserves this chapter in Cordoba’s history for his Muslims brethren only.
Dr. Shaul Rosenfeld is a philosophy lecturer
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