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Bonfire of the Ideologies

September 20, 2010

Where do you begin to try to capture the sense of events over the past few weeks in the continuing controversy surrounding the plans to build a mosque at Ground Zero?  (And I say at Ground Zero intentionally, not near Ground Zero. When a portion of the landing gear from one of the planes that struck the Towers crashes through the roof of the proposed site, you’re at Ground Zero.)

There has been an insignificant leader of a minor congregation in Gainesville, Florida who “tweeted” about plans to roast some Korans on September 11th.  He has been given global attention from, first, the media, then a General, the Secretary of Defense, all sorts of celebrity and political personalities, the oh so tolerant rage of the “Muslim World”, and finally the President of the United States.  As Dallas Willard stated in the Renovation of the Heart, “What we call civilization is a smoldering heap of violence constantly on the verge of bursting into flame.  That is the true picture of the fallen human will.” Welcome to the age of the Internet, where any nut job with a Twitter account can set the world ablaze.

And that’s what I find so disturbing.  Not only the fact that a single human being wrongly motivated with a Bic and a book can draw the attention of millions, but that no one seems to recognize the deeper issue–why does the ideology of Islam result in the hypersensitivity of so many to the point of violence when no one has even flicked yet?   Not even a hint of smoke and some in the “Muslim World” are already burning effigies and flags, and threatening American lives.

Let’s replace the Koran and Gainesville, with the Bible and Kabul.  Do you think anyone in America would be offended?  Sure.  But do you think the “Christian World” would be clamoring for air strikes?  No.  Fortunately we’ve grown up to the point where we recognize stupidity when we see it, apparently the same cannot be said for some in the “Muslim World.”  This idea that you can paint the entire worldwide Muslim community with the actions of a few is inherently ridiculous, so why doesn’t that also apply to a few wrong-headed supposed Christians?

None of this has ever been about Constitutional rights in Gainesville or New York City.  Can you build a mosque at Ground Zero or burn a Koran?  Yes.  While these two things are obviously not morally equivalent, pundits far more experienced than I have put these two items together and I believe it’s for a logical reason, because there is the common denominator of Islam binding them—one in a building, the other in a book.

Also this past weekend, the remembrance of 9-11 occurred.  The powerful images and palpable memories of all that was suffered that day, along with three domestic attacks in the last year, add to a growing sentiment of wariness regarding Muslims in America reflected in a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll where 49% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion.  I believe Brit Hume summed up one of the reasons for this trend quite well on Fox News Sunday when he said, “Let’s get back to this question of rising anti-Muslim sentiment.  And I think it owes something as well to…what Americans see as the attitude of Muslims in America on all these issues.  Do you see Muslims really in the forefront of denunciations of, and militant resistance to Al Qaeda and other forms of Islamic terrorism–Islamic based, Islamic inspired terrorism? I think the answer’s no.  I think what you see is organizations like CAIR—the Council on American-Islamic Relations—bellyaching on television continually about how badly Muslims are being treated.  When, in fact, the record shows…they haven’t been badly treated at all.  We did not have a big anti-Muslim response after 9-11.  I think that’s a piece of it.”

There was another demonstration on 9-11 as well, held at the proposed sight of the mega-mosque called a “Rally of Remembrance.”  What struck me from the video was that there were no cars, effigies, or flags burning–none at all.  No violence, no threats, just a peaceful protest with lots of chanting.  Compare that to the mere tweet of the plan to burn a Koran by a minor figure of an insignificant church in Gainesville that so inflamed some Muslims that I imagine they ran out of butane.

Take that in concert with an interview on This Week with Imam Rauf.  Here’s the opening salvo,

“RAUF: The decisions that I will make — that we will make — will be predicated on what is best for everybody. AMANPOUR: How do you decide that? RAUF: That’s been very difficult and very challenging, because, unfortunately, the — the discourse has been, to a certain extent, hijacked by the radicals.

The radicals on both sides, the radicals in the United States and the radicals in the Muslim world, feed off each other. And to a certain extent, the attention that they’ve been able to get by the media has even aggravated the problem.”  Did you catch it?  Of course you did.  Imam Rauf transformed the majority of the families of the victims of 9-11 and 64% of the American people into “radicals.”  Nice.  One burns cars, effigies, flags, and threatens American lives, while the other would just like a building to be located a few blocks away—guess who’s who?

Then there’s the pièce de résistance, AMANPOUR: 71 percent of New Yorkers say it should be moved. What is your main reason for not wanting to move it? RAUF: My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America, this will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people — our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens — under attack in the Muslim world and we have expanded and given and fueled terrorism. AMANPOUR: Do you think that is a legitimate reason not to move it? RAUF: It is an extremely important consideration.” [Emphasis mine.]

Does that sound like a threat, or is it just me?

In his recollections of 9-11 Rudy Giuliani said it best, “I think the Imam has added another very troubling aspect to this. Um, it sounds like a threat. I mean it sounds like a threat that if you don’t do what he wants, Americans are going to get harmed and hurt.  And, ah, I hope he didn’t mean it that way, but an awful lot of people interpreted it that way, and I’ve listened to it three times and I’ve tried to interpret it differently than that and, um, I’m not sure that I can. I mean to be quite honest with you, and that’s all I can be, there are two Imams—there’s the good Imam and the bad Imam.”

“The good Imam is the one that talks about reconciliation and interfaith dialog and seemed to convince a lot of people that he’s truly a very peaceful man.  The bad Imam says things like, ‘America was an accessory to September 11.’ That’s the reason I gave the Arab Prince his money back, ‘cause that’s what he said.  Ah, he says he ‘can’t quite come to calling Hamas a terrorist group.’  That’s not really hard. He says that ‘Americans have more blood on their hands, more Islamic blood on their hands, than the other way around.’”

“So now I add to the bad Imam part, this unfortunate sort of suggestion that if he doesn’t get his will, which is his 100 million dollar center and mosque right there, then there are going to be bad, bad things that happen to Americans.  I’m trying to figure out if this Imam is a man of God and of healing, or a man of confrontation.  I believe that a man of healing and a man of God would move it, out of respect for the people who lost loved ones there who feel really strongly about this.  After all I feel very strongly about it.  I lived through it. Ah, Mayor Bloomberg feels strongly about it in a different way. Governor Paterson feels strongly about it in a different way.  But none of us lost loved ones down there.”

“I defer to the people who lost loved ones down there.  They’re telling me—80 to 90% of them—this would be an outrage, this would be really hurtful.  I think a man of God says, ‘Let me heal’ Just the way the Pope did when the nuns had a convent outside of Auschwitz.  It was very offensive.  The Pope could have said, ‘I have the right to keep it there.  It’s my property.’  The nuns could have said, ‘We’re going to stay there. We’re going to make the point that we have the right.’  The Pope could have said that Catholics all over the world are going to riot? He didn’t say that.  He moved it because he was a man of love and a man who felt ‘I have to heal, not confront.’”

And then there’s Geert Wilders at the Rally of Remembrance on 9-11 who said “What, my friends, would you say to people who argue that New York, that America, that the West had itself to blame for those horrible sounds? There are people in this city who argue this. And they are angry because we are gathered here today to commemorate, to make a stand, to draw the line.” “Among those lost were people from 55 nations, people of every religion and every persuasion. No place on earth had a more multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-lingual workforce than New York’s proud towers.”

“That is exactly why they were targeted. They constituted an insult to those who hold that there can be no peaceful cooperation among people and nations without submission to Sharia; to those who wish to impose the legal system of Islam on the rest of us. But New York and Sharia are incompatible. New York stands for freedom, openness and tolerance. New York’s Mayor recently said that New York is ‘rooted in Dutch tolerance.’ Those are true words. New York is not intolerant. How can it be? New York is open to the world.”

“But, friends, I have not forgotten and neither have you. That is why we are here today–To draw the line. Here, on this sacred spot. We are here in the spirit of America’s founding fathers. We are here in the spirit of freedom. We are here in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, the President who freed the slaves. President Lincoln said: ‘Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.’  These words are the key to our survival. The tolerance that is crucial to our freedom requires a line of defense.  Mayor Bloomberg uses tolerance as an argument to allow Imam Rauf and his sponsors to build their so-called Cordoba Mosque.  Mayor Bloomberg forgets, however, that openness cannot be open-ended. A tolerant society is not a suicidal society.  It must defend itself against the powers of darkness, the force of hatred and the blight of ignorance. It cannot tolerate the intolerant – and survive.”

So what is at the heart of all of these contentions?  Contending ideologies—Islam verses the democratic West.  One guided by Sharia, the other by what Wilders characterizes as Judeo-Christian principles along with a humanist view of civilization, where freedom and human rights are foundational.    Did you know that in Islam there are two “houses”, or views, of the world? There is the “Dar al Islam” or “House of Submission” —which is what “Islam” means—that encompasses all of those who live under Islam and its political companion—Sharia law.  The other is the “Dar al Harb,” which is the rest of us in the “House of War.”  Pause for a moment on that. While billions of Muslims are definitively peaceful, the history, ideology, and terminology of Islam are academically not.

What has the pastor in Gainesville rightly decided to do?  Put the Bic away.  Where is the appropriate location for the mega-mosque?  Wherever this…

…isn’t the scene outside and 64% of Americans don’t care.

Copyright 2010 Julie Schmidt.

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