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?