Re: Imam says violence will ensue if Pk 51 isn’t built

Note: This is a direct reply to a forum post I encoun­tered last Thursday.

The text above the video on the page you linked great­ly mis­con­strues what the Imam said in the video. If the author of that arti­cle has evi­dence to sup­port his claim, he should present it. What the Imam said had noth­ing to do with the pic­ture paint­ed by the author—notice how the author links nation­al secu­ri­ty to the Imam’s com­ments about vio­lent radicals—and every­thing to do with the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of pol­i­tics in this country.

The first point the Imam made dealt with the fact that very few peo­ple took issue with this project pri­or to its being used as a polit­i­cal foot­ball. The only peo­ple who took issue with the project between Decem­ber 2009 and May 2010, accord­ing to the Imam, were some of the 9/11 fam­i­lies. In oth­er words, the only peo­ple who took issue with the project were exclu­sive­ly peo­ple who might be per­son­al­ly affect­ed by this project. It is no one else’s busi­ness (my words, not his)!

The Imam’s sec­ond point dealt with how this issue plays into Amer­i­ca’s inter­ac­tion with the inter­na­tion­al Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty. You see, there are peo­ple in the Mus­lim world who lie inces­sant­ly about Amer­i­ca. They tell their fol­low­ers that we’re evil, that we want to destroy them, and that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are—depending on the fla­vor of the month—either igno­rant fools who don’t deserve to live or con­spir­a­tors that must be elim­i­nat­ed for the safe­ty of all Mus­lims. His point, and it’s a point that should be made every time some ass­hole tries to get some press atten­tion by attack­ing Islam, is that we should­n’t play into the rad­i­cals’ hands by doing things that make them seem right about us. Mak­ing asi­nine state­ments about Islam and mak­ing a big pro­duc­tion of being an igno­rant ass does noth­ing to show the inter­na­tion­al Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty that we’re actu­al­ly thought­ful, con­sid­er­ate peo­ple who don’t give a damn about any­one’s religion.

By the way, he was absolute­ly right. Pro­po­nents of rad­i­cal Islam, regard­less of whether they them­selves are mil­i­tant, have spent the last 40 years twist­ing Amer­i­can actions into a con­spir­a­cy against Islam. You might recall that Rad­i­cal Islam first became a fac­tor in the 1980s, drum­ming up pop­u­lar sup­port because the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary acci­den­tal­ly bombed civil­ians. We apol­o­gized for the inci­dent, explain­ing that it was­n’t inten­tion­al, but none of the rad­i­cals lis­tened. Sim­i­lar to the way Glenn Beck sees that Amer­i­ca is in grave dan­ger and rants to his view­ers about the trou­ble we’re all in, the loud­est voic­es in rad­i­cal Islam spread their own inter­pre­ta­tions of events most of us would­n’t find espe­cial­ly threat­en­ing. Am I call­ing Glenn Beck a ter­ror­ist? No, but I am using him to illus­trate that move­ments can form around fear and anger—without the ben­e­fit of empir­i­cal truth.

I feel I must also point out that Soledad O’Brien’s actions in this video were dis­grace­ful. Has CNN sunk so low that mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion is active­ly avoid­ed? O’Brien always makes sure to get the inter­view back on script, lest we dis­cuss the larg­er aspects of this sit­u­a­tion which need to be dis­cussed. She avoids dis­cussing the fact that this project has been unfair­ly politi­cized. She avoids dis­cussing how this series of events is symp­to­matic of the polit­i­cal machin­ery which has all but end­ed rea­son­able polit­i­cal dis­course in this coun­try. She avoids dis­cussing how the politi­ciza­tion of reli­gion cre­ates fac­tions which only serve to under­mine rep­re­sen­ta­tive democracy.

The ques­tion posed by Soledad O’Brien, at ~3:54 in the video, is prob­a­bly the best exam­ple of just how bad­ly this inter­view was exe­cut­ed. Nev­er mind dis­cussing an issue that is fun­da­men­tal to what it means to be free in Amer­i­ca, instead she uses her voice to give the impres­sion that a great many peo­ple are against this project; then, even worse, she uses hor­rif­ic gram­mar to insert into the debate the con­cept that peo­ple’s “sen­si­tiv­i­ty” to the project is some­how not polit­i­cal. If you lost some­one as a result of the 9/11 attacks, your sen­si­tiv­i­ty cer­tain­ly isn’t polit­i­cal. If a per­son has no direct, per­son­al con­nec­tion to the attacks, how­ev­er, it’s worth dis­cussing the effect of per­son­al pref­er­ence on the pol­i­tics of free­dom. As an illus­tra­tion of that last point, con­sid­er these ques­tions: if 71% of Amer­i­cans decide that they don’t mind being searched at any time, do we lose our Fourth Amend­ment pro­tec­tions? Fur­ther­more, does that mean we should­n’t exer­cise our Fourth Amend­ment rights?

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