by Eric Martin
Glenn Greenwald makes an interesting observation:
The New York Times, in June, detailed that proposed mosques in multiple locales in New York City -- far away from the Sacred, Hallowed Space of Ground Zero -- are provoking similar backlashes. Two weeks ago, Yahoo News reported on similar incidents from around the country. These are the real sentiments at the heart of this controversy.
That certainly calls into question the notion that opposition to the Park51 community center is rooted in sentimentalities surrounding the 9/11 attacks (as irrational and ill-supported as those sentimentalities may be).
There is something bigger than that. Something very ugly spreading in this country - an anti-Muslim bias that is likely gaining succor from the anxiety that arises in tough economic times. But that is not all.
The Republican Party (with commendable exceptions such as Grover Norquist and Ted Olson - whose wife was killed on 9/11), aided by its major media apparatus, is actively and deliberately whipping up bigotry, hate and anger - pitting Americans against Americans - for little more than electoral gain.
This suggests two conclusions about the Republican Party, and much (though not all) of the larger conservative movement:
First, using bigotry for electoral gain is an acceptable practice. See, also, The Southern Strategy and Gay Marriage.
Second, there is far less concern for crafting effective counterterrorism policy and preserving national security than advertised. While the GOP, and conservative pundits, might talk more bombastically about national security issues than others, and might display a greater willingness to start wars than their peers, in truth, they are willing to greatly compromise our domestic (and foreign) defenses to terrorist attacks in order to pursue a strategy of demonizing a subset of American citizens for the short term goal of gaining more votes in the next handful of election cycles.
Ali Soufan is more right than I'd like him to be:
The furor over the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero makes me think back to one of the most important lessons I learned from al Qaeda terrorists I interrogated--that they have a warped view of America. To them--and this they get from Osama Bin Laden's rhetoric--the U.S. is a country at war with Islam and Muslims, and so they had a duty to fight us.
While I was serving on the frontlines I found that this distorted view of America was common among ordinary Muslims too, and it was only by correcting this image did we encourage locals to help our investigations and turn against al Qaeda. Our efforts were helped by public statements, like from President Bush in the days after 9/11, declaring that America was at war with al Qaeda and not with Islam. I was in Sana, Yemen, on that day, and I remember our military and law enforcement group feeling encouraged that our leadership understood how to frame our battle.
But while we started off on the right note in dealing with the Muslim world, our leadership soon demonstrated that they failed to understand that our war against al Qaeda was not just a military fight, but an asymmetrical battle for the proverbial hearts and minds of Muslims across the world too. We should have been highlighting that al Qaeda has killed thousands of Muslims and blown up dozens of mosques around the world. But instead we failed to appreciate the importance of rebutting al Qaeda's propaganda and of turning ordinary Muslims against the terror network.
When we eventually did this, we had great successes. As commander in Iraq Gen. Petraeus reached out to local Sunni groups and convinced them that al Qaeda was their enemy and America their friend. That led to a remarkable turnaround in our fortunes in Iraq. He is now trying to do the same in Afghanistan. Just this weekend Meet the Pressreported that when Gen. Petraeus learned that the Taliban attacked a mosque near the border with Pakistan, he ordered it to be publicized among the local population.
There are many reasons for supporting the Muslim community's right to build a cultural center and mosque on private property, not least of all the First Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion. But from a national security perspective, our leaders need to understand that no one is likely to be happier with the opposition to building a mosque than Osama Bin Laden. His next video script has just written itself.
The potential damage to our national security is not only to our work abroad, but at home too. Today in America we are facing an increased threat of homegrown terrorism. While Bin Laden couldn't find a single American-Muslim to be part of the 9/11 plot, today, thanks to mixture of poor (and even harmful) leadership within the American-Muslim community and failed strategies from our government in dealing with the threat, some young Muslims are finding themselves increasingly isolated and marginalized--and are becoming easy prey for radicals.
When demagogues appear to be equating Islam with terrorism, it's making young Muslims unsure about their place in the country. It bolsters the message that radicalizers are selling: That the war is against Islam, and Muslims are not welcome in America. As a Muslim-American, I know that isn't true. Whatever some rabble-raising politicians say about one mosque doesn't trump what America really stands for--the values enshrined by our constitution that guarantee equality and freedom for all, whatever your race, religion or creed.
Young American-Muslims need to focus on comments by leaders like Mayor Bloomberg, whose stand on the issue exemplifies the very best in American leadership: educating people and standing up for the values of our Constitution, rather than playing on fear and ignorance.
It is because of the principles enshrined in our constitution that thousands of American-Muslims, like Americans from all races and religions, volunteer to serve our country in the military, intelligence and law enforcement communities. The Pledge of Allegiance, ending "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," is a constant reminder that America is worth fighting for.
Do read the rest.
Standing up for the Park51 project is not only the right thing to do in terms of defending the Constitution, expressing solidarity with our fellow citizens that are being unfairly targeted and garnering greater inclusiveness in general, but it is an absolute imperative in the fight against extremism.
That's really quite remarkable. The GOP is willing to risk American lives in order to sow hatred and bigotry for a short term boost to electoral prospects. Wow.