Tuesday, August 17, 2010

American Values

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?


  1. I wonder if the Russians would allow the Muslims to build a mosque to celebrate their other great victory of recent years, the child-rape razzia and massacre at Beslan?

    They could even have especially phallic minarets on the site of the school to symbolize the Muslims' favorite weapon of Jihad.

  2. I'm sorry, is there a particular point that you're trying to make? It looks like you're responding to the fact that I don't see Islam as inherently evil, but if so you're setting up a huge Straw Man. Have you any evidence that the "mosque at ground zero" is being built to celebrate the destruction of the twin towers? 'Cause everything I can find suggests that not only is that not case, but the actual case is very nearly the opposite of that.

    Your take on the Beslan School Hostage Crisis is interesting, but not especially persuasive. Ten of the thirty-two attackers were Muslims, so the entire religion of Islam is at fault? (That's assuming that the number is correct; between the Russian disinformation and the chaos of the event, it's more than a little hard to confirm.) At the very least, there was a lot more than Islam feeding into that event.

  3. It's like a Muslim YMCA? Can you get yourself cleaned? Can you have a good meal? Can you do whatever you feel? Young man...

    Anyway, I think they should be able to build whatever they want, but I would also laugh if someone had a strip club and liquor store on either side of it, and a pulled-pork cart out front.


Feel free to leave comments; it lets me know that people are actually reading my blog. Interesting tangents and topic drift just add flavor. Linking to your own stuff is fine, as long as it's at least loosely relevant. Be civil, and have fun!