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.