Principle and Park51: Tariq Ramadan vs Leon Wieseltier

Here are two statements about the proposed Islamic Center in Manhattan — the so called ‘Ground Zero Mosque.’ One by The New Republic‘s literary editor and pro-Israel partisan Leon Wieseltier, the other by noted Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. I leave it to the readers to guess which statement was made by whom.

  1. “The challenge for Muslims in America is to respect the fears of ordinary people while resisting the exploitation of those fears by political parties, lobbies and sectors of the media. To meet this challenge, Muslims must reassess their own involvement, behavior and contributions in American society…Life is not only about rights to be claimed but also about collective sensibilities to be felt. It is possible to protect one’s rights while at the same time acknowledging and understanding the concerns of others…No doubt, it is the legitimate right of Muslims to build a community center near Ground Zero. Yet, I believe it is not a wise decision, considering the collective sensitivities in American society. This is a moment to go beyond rights and reach for the common good: To build it elsewhere, if possible, would be a sensible and symbolic move.”
  2. “It is odd to see conservatives suddenly espouse the moral superiority of victimhood, as it is odd to see them suddenly find an exception to their expansive view of religious freedom. Everybody has their preferred insensitivities. In matters of principle, moreover, polling is beside the point, or an alibi for the tyranny of the majority, or an invitation to demagogues to make divisiveness into a strategy, so that their targets come to seem like they are the ones standing in the way of social peace, and the “decent” thing is for them to fold. Why doesn’t Rauf just move the mosque? That would bring the ugliness to an end. But why don’t Palin and Gingrich just shut up? That, too, would bring the ugliness to an end.”

Well?

Let me assist. The first statement, telling Muslims to ‘respect’ fear and ignorance, is Ramadan’s; the second, speaking of inviolable principles, is Wieseltier’s. Ramadan’s principles are evidently more flexible. Muslims must apparently learn to live in a manner which accommodates Pamela Geller‘s prejudices.

Islam and America

Chris Hedges, Richard Bulliet and Zachary Lockman on Al Jazeera’s excellent Empire with Marwan Bishara.

On the 9th anniversary of 9/11, the fault lines between the US and the Muslim world seem to have expanded. As America’s internal cultural wars begin to affect its foreign policy, what are the options for President Obama? Which is the real US: The one that fights for Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the one that considers US Muslims as the enemy within? And have Osama bin Laden’s hopes of driving a wedge between the US and the Muslim world become a reality?

A Specious Compromise on Cordoba

by M. Junaid Levesque-Alam

You are not terrorists. Your religion is not evil. Your project is not a monument to murder. But since some believe otherwise, I propose a compromise:

Get out.

That is the message adopted by some liberals and their allies in the wake of smoldering conservative rage over the Cordoba proposal.

Nevada Senator Harry Reid, New York Governor David Patterson, former DNC chair Howard Dean, and New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan all echo the same theme: Muslims have the right to build a Muslim facility two blocks from Ground Zero—but they would be wrong to do so.

If the argument sounds familiar, that’s because it is. “No one is disputing that America stands for—and should stand for—religious tolerance,” Sarah Palin averred before assailing the proposal through her Facebook megaphone a month ago.

Of course, the official conservative position—“we are tolerant, just not here”—was always a transparent lie.

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Cordoba House and Religious Freedom

by David Bromwich

When Nancy Pelosi said the power and money backing the anti-Muslim protests in New York and elsewhere should be investigated, she had in mind the simplest of political questions. Who benefits? In this case, who benefits from a spectacle of words and images that suggest that right-wing populism in America has now taken a definitively anti-Muslim tone? The message of these protests against more than one mosque is that the fight to defeat al Qaeda has become a war against Islam.

No American is helped by that change of view. It exposes us to an enlarged hostility from the Arab world, heated by suspicion and legitimate fear. The only people who stand to gain are those who have an interest in setting the United States against the Arab countries of the Middle East. Who would that be? Pelosi has sharper instincts than the other leaders of her party. Her distrust of the sudden prosperity of a “grassroots” movement has been borne out by Jane Mayer’s recent investigation of the funding of the Tea Party by the billionaire Koch brothers.

The worst damage of the crowd actions of the summer has come from the faintheartedness of those who knew better, but declined to denounce them. The crowd has been permitted to go on believing it is wrong for Muslims to do something the Constitution gives all Americans a right to do. How did this deformation of public feeling begin? The protests against Cordoba House shifted from a parochial to a national issue on the impetus of two statements. The first came from Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, on July 30. Foxman put the ADL on the record in sympathy with the protest against the planned community center and mosque. His statement conceded the right of the planners, but defended the prejudice, that is, the rooted feelings of the non-Muslims in this case, regardless of reason, right, or law.

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