Enough. We’re Not Islamophobes.
August 20, 2010 11 Comments
I recently praised Time Magazine for its courageous cover of an 18-year-old Afghan women without a nose – and Muslim courage worldwide – and now Time Magazine retrenches with offensive stupidity about the majority of Americans. “Does America Have a Muslim Problem?” asks Time. The article, spinning off the controversy over the Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, answers with shocking banality: “But it is plain that many of Park51’s opponents are motivated by deep-seated Islamophobia.”
To the Americans who find nothing disturbing about cruel ridicule of the faith of George Bush or Sarah Palin, but see Islamophobia everywhere: Enough. American moderates and conservatives are, honestly, sick to death of being called racists, Islamophobes, and hate-mongers. It just doesn’t work anymore.
Does America have a Muslim problem? Yes, to paraphrase Churchill on democracy, and it’s the worst, except for every other country.
America has lost more lives to murderous Muslims, saved more innocent Muslim lives globally, and striven more to accommodate free Muslim practice of Islam than any other non-Muslim country on the planet. That is who we are and should continue to be.
In November 2007, Americans elected an African-American named Barack Hussein Obama, with a Muslim grandfather and a Muslim, then atheist, father, as their national leader. This historic election could not have happened in any other country – and it happened a mere seven years after the most devastating foreign attack on American soil in American history. All of the attackers, and most of the celebrants of the attack, were Muslims.
In any other era in the history of our species, the 9-11 attack would have triggered a war against Islam – barring a rapid determination by Islam itself to crush its murderous faction. Neither happened. Led by President Bush’s insistence that America was not and would never be at war with Islam, Americans who knew little to nothing about Islam before 9-11 rallied to the noble distinction between most Muslims and the murderous few.
“America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country,” Bush said at the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. six days after the attack. “They need to be treated with respect.”
Education and accommodations surged.
We have been enlarged as a nation by burgeoning appreciation for peaceful Islam, and though the project is incomplete, the sincerity of America warrants respect.
Most Americans, including now Harry Reid, Howard Dean and some Muslims, oppose the Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero. Virtually no one questions the legal right of the property owners to build the cultural center. Overwhelmingly, they question its wisdom, and some question its motivation. That is fair dialogue.
That dialogue has been contorted by some cultural center proponents into a preposterous “anti-Muslim” versus “pro-Muslim” polarity. Time Magazine’s piece, and multiple other media takes on the controversy, perpetuate that simplistic and misleading polarity.
Twenty-first-century Americans are rightly weary of fair dialogue – the apotheosis of our First Amendment values – getting trumped by profligate “racism” charges. It is both reckless, and a recipe for resentment, to demand that Americans explore and respect all that is right about the varieties of Islam, but treat what is wrong about some varieties of Islam with un-American silence. If Islam is American, its warts are fair game.
You think Newt Gingrich or Pam Geller went too far? Tackle their words, condemn them – but stop painting “Republicans” and “conservatives” with the ridiculous brush of “Islamophobes.” And stop insisting upon a “racist” explanation for the 60+% of Americans who are troubled by the Islamic cultural center.
There is assuredly a cultural tension laid bare by the “Ground Zero mosque” controversy. It is quintessentially American. It is the principle of reciprocity. America respects your free exercise of your religion, more profoundly than any other nation, and asks simply that you reciprocate with respect for America.
When Maureen Dowd writes (dubiously) that “by now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for” – she expressly acknowledges the hunger of America for Muslim reciprocity, for Muslim voices that are first American, for a muscular Muslim challenge to its murderous faction.
I hasten to emphasize, nothing in the First Amendment compels adherents of a religion to respect America. That is precisely why the “Ground Zero mosque” controversy is a cultural tension, not a constitutional one. The zealous invocation of the First Amendment by proponents entirely misses the point – in fact, ironically guarantees that fair dialogue will not happen.
My liberal friends, and I love them dearly, counsel me to avoid stereotypes. The “racist” stereotyping of Republicans, conservatives, and moderates – and a few liberals – who see in this controversy an opportunity for Muslim reciprocity and sensitivity has been outrageous. Indeed, the only reason it has not been more outrageous is because it’s getting more difficult to be shrill when liberal democrats express their own misgivings.