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August 16, 2010

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Brendan says Obama's statement about the proposed lower Manhattan mosque is right, but which statement does he mean? The Friday night statement, which was reported by the New York Times under the headline "Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site"? Or the Saturday walkback, which the Times soft-pedalled as a "recalibration"?

Caught up in the recalibration was left-wing Washington Post blogger (and former JournoList member) Greg Sargent. Before the Saturday statement, Sargent had praised Obama's Friday night statement as "one of the finest moments of his presidency." Sargent contrasted Obama's position with that of some opponents of the community center/mosque:

Many opponents of the project have been employing a clever little dodge. They say they don't question the group's legal right to build it under the Constitution. Rather, they say, they're merely criticizing the group's decision to do so, on the grounds that it's insensitive to 9/11 families and will undercut the project's goal of reconciliation. The group has the right to build the center, runs this argument, but they are wrong to exercise it. In response, Obama could have merely cast this dispute as a Constitutional issue, talked about how important it is to hew to that hallowed document, and moved on.

But Obama went much further than that.

Imagine Sargent's dismay when on Saturday Obama adopted exactly the "clever little dodge" Sargent had criticized. Actually, you don't have to imagine his dismay, you can read his subsequent post, in which he claimed not to be dismayed at all and pretended his comment about the "clever little dodge" had never been written. If only JournoList were still around, Sargent might have received some valuable advice on how better to recalibrate his spin.

Personally, I care not at all whether or not the community center/mosque is built. Look, no one complains about St. Patrick's Cathedral being sited next to the hallowed ground of Saks Fifth Avenue. When after her acquittal Imelda Marcos crawled the entire length of the center aisle of St. Patrick's on her knees, is it too far-fetched to imagine she drew comfort from the knowledge that she was only steps away from the pantyhose counter at Sak's? The community center may even provide some protection against terrorism targeting the new construction at Ground Zero, since if the 1776-foot Freedom Tower is toppled, its rubble could easily land on the community center some 600 feet away.

I do favor Greg Gutfeld's plan to engage in outreach to gay Muslim youth by starting a gay bar next door to the community center. In fact, I think it ought to be decorated with large Photoshopped images of the Prophet alongside gay icons like Bette Midler and Judy Garland. For evenhandedness, the bar could also have an image of Joan Crawford scourging Jesus with a wire hanger.

This isn't the first time President Obama has made a statement that he regretted, and his damage control last time might serve as a model. The President should invite Imam Feisal Rauf back from his State Department-funded trip around the Middle East for a White House beer summit with the benighted opponents of the community center/mosque. It could be a teachable moment.

Final question: Will Brendan claim that reminding voters of the President's statements on this issue is equivalent to smearing Obama as a Muslim? Magic 8-Ball says, "Outlook good."

Salon's first sentence: A group of progressive Muslim-Americans plans to build an Islamic community center two and a half blocks from ground zero in lower Manhattan.

Three questions arise:

1. Are they building a community center or a mosque?
2. How does Salon know that the group are "progressive"?
3. What does Salon mean by "progressive" as applied to a group of Muslims?

The answer to #1 is that it's a mosque and a community center. And, it will be quite large. Perhaps Salon's label "community center" was a bit a spin to make it sound less threatening.

Re #2 and #3, the article offers no description of what it means to be "progressive" or how they know that this label properly applies to the group doing the building. Certainly the ordinary meaning of "progressive" can't be what they mean. I don't imagine that the group building the GZM are pro-choice, that they favor gay mariage, or that they consider all religions equal.

Perhaps Brendan or someone else who agrees with him can provide further explanations of what it means for this group to be progressive and how we know that they are progressive.

Salon argues that there is no good reason that this should be a national story, implying (I think) that there is no good reason to oppose this project. Yet surveys show a majority of Americans do oppose it. Harry Reid opposes it. Do all these people really have no reason at all for their belief?

As for Obama being "right" about the GZM, he has already taken three different positions. It's only to be expected that one of them might be right.

Regarding Michelle Obama's trip to Spain: Granted that she didn't travel with 40 friends, what about staffers? She needs her security force, of course, but she also brought along an unknown number of staffers.

Why does she need staffers on a vacation? In my working days, I didn't include my staff on family vacation trips. It sure sounds as if Michelle's lucky staffers may have been brought along to share in this fabulous trip, rather than to work. Note that although Michelle's friends paid their own costs, staffers are government employees, so their entire travel costs are no doubt paid by taxpayers. We also paid them a salary for sharing in this bacation.

Was the number of staffers included on this trip anywhere near 40? We don't know. The East Wing will not say how many staffers are with Mrs. Obama. http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2010/08/michelle_obama_spain_trip_what.html

Do all these people really have no reason at all for their belief?

Of course they have a reason for it. It's the same reason that majorities of Americans used to oppose the right of Chinese to become citizens, the right of Mexicans to buy property, the right of American Indian to travel freely, the right of blacks to sit at the front of the bus, the right of women to vote and the right of Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses to build their own houses of worship in many American cities.

People are often offended when they discover that unpopular minorities have rights in this country. Fortunately for many of us, we're all equal under the law.

Jinchi, I think you're too intelligent to really believe that the 68% of Americans who oppose the GZM all hold that opinion simply because they're bigots. There are two sides to this question, as there are to many questions.

People aren't bad, simply because they come to a different conclusion than the liberal POV. The liberal POV doesn't always turn out to be correct. Even when it is correct, that doesn't mean that the opposing position was based on moral failing.

There are two sides to this question, as there are to many questions.

Please explain the other side of this question.

Then explain which of your rights you'd give up because somebody else found you offensive.

Jinchi -- some of the arguments I've seen against the GZM are

• The huge size of the mosque. It's 13 stories high and (I think) will cover most or all of a city block. It will become a significant NYC landmark.
• The leadership are actually not moderates. (This is supported by a comment made by the Imam more-or-less blaming America for provoking the 9/11 attack as well as the fact that the financial backers are unknown.)
• Strong opposition from most 9/11 victim famililes
• Expressions of support from Islamic terrorist groups who see the Mosque as a radical Islamic victory.
• Those who see the world as portrayed in Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations tend to see the Mosque as a step back in an inevitable struggle that they believe is taking place between Islam and the West.
• Those who say they believe in propriety. Although it was legal for Tea Partiers to have a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, some (such as Al Sharpton) said it was inappropriate. Similarly, many Americans think the GZM location is inappropriate.

Jinchi, these may or may not be convincing, but I believe they're serious arguments.

BTW you attributed opposition to bigoty, thus indulging in the kind of psychoanalysis deplored by this blog. In response, I'll offer a different psychological theory:

Maybe the supporters of the GZM are motivated by a pathological need to prove that they're not bigots.

It should be obvious to all that the US treatment of Muslims is far better than the treatment of infidels in any Islamic country. Furthermore, Muslims are much more welcomed into US society than in Europe. In the area of religious tolerance, the US is far and away the leader.

Despite the US's obvious superiority in not being bigoted, many GZM supporters claim that we must allow the mosque in order to prove we're not bigots. That seems arguably pathological.

Jinchi, among the rights I'd give up to avoid being offensive would be the right to set up a gun shop adjacent to Columbine High School or a KKK office adjacent to the Martin Luther King memorial. I bet you'd give up these rights, too.

The huge size of the mosque. It's 13 stories high and (I think) will cover most or all of a city block. It will become a significant NYC landmark.

The mosque is not 13 stories high. The building would be 13 stories high and there would be a mosque inside it. By the way, a 13 story tall building is hardly a significant landmark in NYC, there are buildings 2 - 3 times taller than that on the same block.

The leadership are actually not moderates. (This is supported by a comment made by the Imam more-or-less blaming America for provoking the 9/11 attack as well as the fact that the financial backers are unknown.)

The Imam is well known for having condemned the 9/11 attacks and was considered a moderate muslim even by conservatives on FOX news before Palin and Gingrich decided to go on their latest rant.

Strong opposition from most 9/11 victim famililes

Most 9/11 families have never been asked their opinion on this question. But in any case, most of the victims of Pearl Harbor probably supported the internment of Japanese Americans in 1941, but it was still racist and wrong.

Expressions of support from Islamic terrorist groups who see the Mosque as a radical Islamic victory.

So terrorist propaganda should dictate who gets rights in the U.S.?

Those who see the world as portrayed in Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations tend to see the Mosque as a step back in an inevitable struggle that they believe is taking place between Islam and the West.

I don't know where you're getting this from, but by that logic, we shouldn't allow any mosques to be built in the U.S.

Those who say they believe in propriety. Although it was legal for Tea Partiers to have a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, some (such as Al Sharpton) said it was inappropriate. Similarly, many Americans think the GZM location is inappropriate.

Maybe you can show me where you agreed with Al Sharpton and demanded that Tea Partiers move their demonstration elsewhere.

I'd give up to avoid being offensive would be the right to set up a gun shop adjacent to Columbine High School or a KKK office adjacent to the Martin Luther King memorial

You just compared a mosque to an office of the KKK. The KKK is entirely a racist organization. Their sole purpose is segregation of and repression of minorities. So what are you arguing that every mosque represents?

Jihchi, I won't the debate the desirability of building the GZM. IMHO some of your arguments could be refuted. My point was only that those opposed to it have valid arguments, so one shouldn't assume that they're motivated by bigotry.

BTW your post could be read as reflecting anti-Islamic bigotry. You seemed to indicate that the Imam's condemnation of the 9/11 attack makes him a moderate Muslim. This shows that you have extraordinarily low moral expectations of Muslims.

What a Mosque represents is in the mind of the observer. Some would see a Mosque as just another temple. OTOH Islam does discriminate against gays, women, and people of other religions, particularly Jews. So some would see a Mosque as representing such discrimination. (However, I will give GZM supporters the benefit of the doubt, and not accuse them of being motivated by religious bigotry, homophobia or prejudice against women.)

A more relevant question is what the GZM represents. The huge GZ Mosque is seen by a great many people on all sides as representing support for violent jihad. People holding this view include Islamic terrorists, moderage Muslims, and a substantial majority of Americans. We don't have to guess about this; they have made public statements.

I don't know whether those erecting the Mosque intend this interpretation. Whether or not they do, that's the way many people see it.

Jinchi,

Doesn't the fact you feel the need to argue with the other reasons cited (on why the majority of US opposing the GZM) indicate that at least some of these are possiblilities for opposing it besides bigotry, even if you disagree with the reasons themselves?

In addition, this exchange:

"Those who see the world as portrayed in Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations tend to see the Mosque as a step back in an inevitable struggle that they believe is taking place between Islam and the West.

I don't know where you're getting this from..."

seems to indicate you haven't really made much of an attempt to understand why some people oppose it?

"BTW your post could be read as reflecting anti-Islamic bigotry."

LOL, says the guy who wrote a post comparing a mosque to a KKK office. No "anti-Islamic bigotry" with that comparison.

daniel, why are liberals so hot to defend Islam? Many key values of Islam contradict liberal values. E.g., rather than support gay marriage, Islam punishes people for gay sex. Eminent scholars of Islam, such as Sheikh ul-Islam Imam Malik, and Imam Shafi amongst others, ruled that Islam disallowed homosexuality and ordained capital punishment for a person guilty of it.

Islam is terribly biased against women. E.g., on March 11, 2002 a fire at a girls' school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia killed at least fourteen students. The event was especially notable due to complaints that Saudi Arabia's "religious police" (aka the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) stopped schoolgirls from leaving the burning building and hindered rescue workers because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress. And, many mosques promote female circumcision.

Islam is biased against other religions, in a way not typified by Christianity (at least not in the last 500 years or so.) Islam teaches the non-Muslims have fewer rights than Muslims.

I don't see liberals out defending Catholocism or Conservative Christianity. Those religions do indeed have certain values that conflice with liberal values. But, Islamic values are a much bigger conflict. So, why are liberals to eager to defend Islam?

"But, Islamic values are a much bigger conflict."

What "conflict" are you talking about, David?

daniel, I thought my post explained what I meant by the "conflict".

E.g., liberals believe gay sex should be treated like hetero sex under the law. OTOH, as I wrote above, eminent scholars of Islam have ruled that Islam calls for capital punishment for a person guilty of gay sex.

daniel, here's a comment I found on another website making a similar point:

America's "Islamophobia" is not a prejudice--it is a judgment.

It is a judgement of a system of religious beliefs and practices that in many of its mainstream applications across the world, involving millions of adherents, practices or supports terrorism, stones women and men, kills homosexuals, hangs and mutilates children, practices honor killings by relatives, inquires whether its hospitals can surgically paralyze a criminal as a punishment, forbids women to drive or go to school, has world-wide riots over cartoons, and that generally seeks to live in a 12th Century world

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