How Not to Beat al Qaeda

I haven’t seen anyone sum up the absurdity of the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy quite as well as Jeffrey Goldberg today:

“Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of the this mosque project are giving him what he wants.”

I don’t have any real problem with those who take offense at the decision to build this project a few blocks from Ground Zero, and particularly those who take such offense having had deep ties to New York on 9/11/01.   

What I do have a problem with is those who have determined that this is an appropriate issue for political activism, and particularly those supposed advocates of “small government” who view it as appropriate that government would step in here to restrict the property rights of a private organization.  What I do have a problem with is those who claim to advocate for “states rights” and federalism insisting that it is the job of the federal government to make sure that what is effectively a zoning decision of the New York City government is overruled.  What I do have a problem with is those who are using this proposed building to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment by branding it a “9/11 Victory Mosque,” and who presume to know more about Muslims than Muslims themselves and in the process create an “inescable trap” wherein all Muslims are either lying about not being jihadi terrorists or are just “bad Muslims.” 

But perhaps the most dishonest claim I’ve seen yet is the claim that those who support allowing the project and who oppose the demagoguery that seeks to use the heavy hand of the government to ban the project “think[] it unseemly for Americans to look after the interests of Americans.”  This sort of claim is, of course, par for the course on this issue.  It is arrogant in the extreme, annointing the speaker and opponents of the project as spokespersons for the victims and families of 9/11, many of whom actually support the building of the project.  It implicitly assumes that opposing the project, regardless of victims’ varying opinions, is “looking after their interests,” while opposing a health care bill for their benefit that has their actual unified support is not.  And it implicitly asserts that a battle over a symbol is “looking after the interests of Americans,” but a discussion about social safety nets and universal health insurance demonstrates a belief that it is “unseemly for American to look after the interests of Americans.” 

I can sympathize with the position advanced by some that, whether or not the project should be permitted, the property owners should choose not to build it in the proximity of Ground Zero.  I may disagree with this position, but it is not for me to decide what does and does not offend others.  But what is not only wrong, but also plays right into the hands of al Qaeda, is the decision by the movement Right to choose this as just the latest battleground in the culture wars with the Left, further dividing the American people in the process, as well as just another battleground in the clash of civilizations with Islam that is precisely what al Qaeda desires.

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19 thoughts on “How Not to Beat al Qaeda

  1. Great post, well said. I would only add that the American People don’t have to be divided on this. If people let themselves be led by the grinch and palin then they are getting what they asked for. A lot of people thrive on Us vs Them as ugly as that is to many of us.

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  2. I would like to point out that in an abnormally sensible and uniform decision the last roadblock to this project has been cleared away. Osama and Sarah both lost on this one. Thank goodness for that.

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  3. I like what (the other) Thoreau had to say about this wayback when.

    highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2010/05/17/11134

    Instead of putting a mosque near Ground Zero, put it right smack at Ground Zero. As to the Imam for that mosque, is there a Muslim equivalent of those dissident Catholic parishes that will sometimes have a woman perform the consecration? (I saw pictures of this in National Catholic Reporter, back when I lived near the sort of church that had National Catholic Reporter available on the literature table.) Or a Muslim equivalent for those protestant sects with gay bishops? Because I’d find the most liberal Imam out there (preferably a Shia, since Al Qaeda is Sunni) and put hir in charge of that mosque.

    This totally makes sense to me. Find a Muslim Imam who sounds like she tokes up all the friggin’ time and says stuff like “you say ‘God’, we say ‘Allah’, they say ‘Buddha’, but they’re just facets of the exact same Celestial Diamond, man!!!!”

    Have her out-Unitarian the Unitarians and then give her a television show.

    Bring back prayers before important events. Give a slot to a Protestant, a slot to a Catholic, a slot to a Rabbi, and a slot to her.

    Have this be the form of Islam “recognized” by the US government. Whenever an official talks about Islam, we’ll know he’s talking about this chick.

    Oh, yes. I salivate at the thought.

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  4. I swear that we don’t really coordinate our writings behind the scenes, but my soon-to-appear column for the Examiner covers much the same territory.

    Which is to say that you’re a man of rare, indeed breathtaking brilliance.

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  5. Pingback: There Are Cordoba Guitars And Cordoba Houses, Part II « Around The Sphere

  6. Of course you are right to call out the demagogues who prey on bigotry and tribalism. And the hypocrisy of small government advocates from around the country rushing in to weigh in on a local zoning issue is deserving of criticism every time it crops up. Ditto questioning the patriotism of opponents, which is what the ‘unseemly for Americans to look after other American’s interests’ position boils down to.

    But I think claiming one supports religious freedom and is merely questioning the choice of the property owners to build the project is not only dishonest, but undeserving of your sympathy. Is something a right if in order to exercise it you have to justify your actions to the satisfaction of everyone who might take offense, for whatever reason? You don’t want to get into the business of deciding what does and doesn’t offend others, yet you have sympathy for those demanding that small-minded offense at the presence of a mosque in a particular location trump the American muslim community’s right of religious freedom?

    I’m all on board with the title of your post. There are all kind of ways to play into OBL’s hand. The sincerity of offense taken at the exercise of our constitutional rights is no mitigating factor.

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    • @Walter McQuie, To be clear – I have absolutely no sympathy for those who think that the project should be banned and stopped with the force of government at any level. At the same time, there are some opponents of the center who have no problem permitting it to be built but nonetheless take offense at its construction and would ask that the organization rethink its plans (even as they won’t try to stop those plans).

      They are not requiring the organization to justify its exercise of its property rights. The organization has no obligation to respond to their complaints and owes them nothing. However, inherent in any concept of rights is the right to criticize how others choose to exercise their rights. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people taking offense at this particular exercise of rights and criticizing it and questioning it, as long as they accept that the organization is literally entitled to follow-through with its plans and owes them absolutely no duty whatsoever.

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    • @Walter McQuie,

      I completely agree. Theo nly reason why anyone could possibly be offended by the mosque near ground zero is if that person feels that all Muslims must answer for the crimes of their co-religionists. This bigoted sentiment does not deserve the courtesy of our consideration, and to the extent that it receives sympathy in otherwise reasonable outlets like this one proves only the sorry state of religious freedom in 21st century America.

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  7. So … wow. I guess there are no American Muslims and that there were no American Muslims who died on 9/11. Whooda thunk.

    Oh, and I positively think the misleading use of quotation marks is a “ten.”

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  8. I don’t have any real problem with those who take offense at the decision to build this project a few blocks from Ground Zero, and particularly those who take such offense having had deep ties to New York on 9/11/01.

    i do. first off, they’re geographically retarded. second off, screw them. it’s absurd to go “well, this bigotry is kinda understandable, because their whackjob co-religionists killed a bunch of people and let’s face it, illiterate guidos from staten island can’t be expected to understand the difference between muslims anyway.”

    bigotry is bigotry, thun. i can understand it in the same way i understand checking jews for horns, you know, just in case.

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  9. Surely you know by now all that small government stuff only applies to the government trying to useful things, like pay unemployment benefits, help sick people, and aid those who respond to disasters. Having the government engage in vain, spiteful, bigotted populist grandstanding doesn’t count.

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  10. I’ve not had the time to read up on this story. I did read this website:
    http://nomosqueatwtc.com/
    and I found it to be really bizarre and then really funny, and then felt sort of guilty for laughing at it. Here are some gems though:
    * “I don’t think I need to tell you that just because something is legal, makes it right. ”
    * “It’s not racist to want to tell a group of people not to place a building somewhere.”
    *”This precept, that “not all Muslims are terrorists” connotes by definition that one should wait until everyone in a group exhibits a behavior before acting to stop them. At what point do you start exercising caution? When 10% are violent? 25? 75? According to the “not all” reasoning, you should wait until it’s all of them, which is simply dangerous and irresponsible.”

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  11. Excellent! And yes!, yes! Why can’t they see what they are doing?

    Two things: “Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of the this mosque project are giving him what he wants.” There are some who call these people the American Taliban because they seem to want the same thing, conservative control of others.
    And: Since they lost this one in court, can we expect conservatives to be calling for the repeal of property rights next?

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  12. When you yield, you become dhimmi. Look it up. My best friend in Turkey asked me in 1995 why Saudi Arabia was funding the building of one mosque a week in Turkey. I had no idea at the time what he was talking about. Now, he is fearful of his country becoming radicalized and taken-over by Islamists. No, this is not al-Qaida, and al-Qaida is not the real threat. Although some may find your title pithy, it is in fact a non sequitur. The Islamist movement is much greater than al-Qaida and few Americans are aware of its history. This is primarily because it is politically incorrect to discuss. Most Americans, and particularly progressives-who often have little knowledge of the power of faith-have no comprehension of the intensity of Islamists’ devotion to prevail. Lest you believe a mosque vicinity ground would not be built to serve as a symbolic gesture, look at the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque built by Saudi Arabia on little Gibraltar for $8 million. This is a message for every ship that passes through the straits. In our Western culture such an idea seems like nonsense, but for those familiar with the Middle East, this represents a very powerful symbol. One need oly look at where I live in the UK to see the erosion of Western ideals and encroachment of Islamism to understand the constricting nature of the Islamist movement. To purposefully chose to become Dhimmi for fear of politically-correct sensitivities also plays into the hands of al-Qaida–but I argue more than that–into the hands of the Islamists. Let us reverse your argument: One way to help avoid losing to AQ is to allow the building of the mosque. If you think it should be phrased another way, please give it a shot-I enjoy logical challenges and a good argument. I am afraid an argument like yours comes from a perspective that is culturally and historically ignorant of the Islamist movement. I do not doubt your argument makes perfect sense to you given your world view, but I encourage you to expand your cultural horizons.

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