Josh Marshall over at Talking Point Memo, observes the following:
"For most of us who are anything but quite young, we grew up in America where Islam, as a domestic social or cultural reality, was close to invisible. That doesn't mean there weren't any Muslims in the US. The fact that some of our most searing and for many of us some of our first experiences with Islam came in the form of a catastrophic terrorist attack by Islamic radicals creates a situation ripe for exploitation. And here we have it. We're in a midst of a spasm of nativist panic and raw and raucous appeals to race and religious hatred. What effects this will have on the November election strikes me as not particularly relevant. What's important is compiling some record of what's afoot, some catalog for understanding in the future who was responsible and who was so willing to disgrace their country and their principles for cheap advantage."
He's talking, primarily, about what direction his organization intends to take with its reporting; but the general observations are what really caught my eye.
The current wave of anti-Islamic hysteria is a very recent thing. While it clearly has roots in the September 11 attacks, it seems to me that it really blossomed in the wake of Obama's election. And, of course, it's reached a fever pitch at the prospect that someone might build a mosque at Ground Zero.
Now, there are legitimate complaints to be made about Islam - or, to my mind, about the cultures in which Islam is dominant. The government of Iran, for example, is currently deciding how to execute Sakineh Ashtiana after torturing a confession from her. They have issued an arrest warrant for the lawyer who tried to defend her, and who has now sought shelter in Turkey. I would argue that Islam is not, in itself, responsible for this - but the Iranian authorities justify themselves in terms of Sharia law, and I don't see other Muslims doing a lot to prevent this sort of abuse. (Maybe I'm just not seeing it - if you know better, please prove me wrong.) Women are maimed in the name of some people's interpretation of Islam. These are legitimate issues.
The "Mosque at Ground Zero" business, by contrast, is nothing but hysterical idiocy, ginned up by demagogues who profit off popular outrage. First of all, it's not a mosque, though it does include one; it's better described as a community center, the Muslim equivalent of a YMCA. Second, it's not actually at Ground Zero (though that would be a good way to prevent another attack); it's the site of a former Burlington Coar Factory a couple of blocks away. Third, it's run by a guy who has put a lot of time into trying to convince his fellow Muslims that America really isn't The Great Satan - the kind of person we should really want to have on our side.
But you know what? None of that should matter. This is America. We don't discriminate on the basis of religion. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
I'll grant you, it's an ideal we don't always live up to. But it is one of our ideals. It's one of the principles on which our country was built. Pretending like that doesn't matter, just because some of us are grieving, angry, or outraged, is childish, immoral, and anti-American.
After the September 11 attacks, there was a lot of talk about how "the terrorists want to take away our freedoms." Can we please, please quit helping them with that?