Archive for Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

Book Review: Ornament of the World by Maria Rosa Menocal

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2011 by loonwatch

Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain, by Maria Rosa Menocal, ISBN-13: 978-0316566889

Maria Rosa Menocal published this gem of a book just before the events of September 11th, 2001, when a cadre of young Arab Muslim men driven by the politics of occupation, empire and rage combined their grievances with a religio-ideological veneer and flew out of a clear blue sky into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

The infamous day was seared into our collective conscious just as deeply as the burning aftermath that smoldered into the earth at Ground Zero, and with it a whole new era was upon us. One in which our confidence, our ideas, our principles and our policies were shook in a seismic way.

How did we react as a society and as a nation?

We clamped down on civil liberties, expanded surveillance on citizens to unfathomable and previously unheard of levels. We compromised the Constitution, built and invested even more in the Military Industrial Complex and invaded two nations while outsourcing torture. We paid lip service to Democracy while compromising with despots and apartheid regimes.

Initially, politicians, including President George W. Bush made statements to the effect that “we aren’t at war with Islam” and “Islam is a religion of peace.” Despite these fluffy statements, Islamophobia increased and cynical politicians and organizations oiled the machinery that would churn out the new bogeymen: Islam and Muslims.

Fear-mongering, especially amongst the Right continued apace and was given a new impetus with the election of Barack Hussein Obama (the “secret Mooslim”). This past summer 2010 saw the greatest backlash against Muslims since 9/11, the scene once again was Ground Zero.

A group of Muslim developers led by Sharif El-Gamal and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf created a project that according to them would mirror all the best in Islamic values, while also being an inclusive space that welcomed all faiths. It would be designed to facilitate events, programs, lectures, debates, studies, and in theory would be quite similar to the 92nd StreetY– they named the project Cordoba House.

Cordoba House was the perfect name for a project with such lofty aims. It immediately evokes images of the beautiful palm-like arches of the Cordoba Mosque and stirs the memory of Andalusia.

Anti-Muslims opposed to the mosque raised hackles at the name Cordoba, and with their usual blustering ignorance and foolhardy arrogance put forward the bizarre and illogical lie, that, by using the name Cordoba for their project, the developers were trying to build a “triumphal mosque” to mark the conquest of Islam.

Such mendacity is dangerous because it seeks to alter reality by revisiting history and washing it of truth so as to fit a particular agenda. Cordoba was the capital of Andalus, a culture, in fact a civilization that stands as a beacon and a warning to humanity.

Menocal’s book deals with this subject, and in contradistinction to the Islamophobes, relates that Cordoba and Andalus was for a moment in history the epitome of tolerance, culture, civility and harmony.

The story of Andalus is about,

a genuine, foundational European cultural moment that qualifies as “first rate,” in the sense of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wonderful formula (laid out in his essay “The Crack-Up”)–namely, that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time.” (p.10-11)

Cordoba is therefore not separate from the West, it is not the “other” as some wish to cast it, but rather it is quintessentially Western.

Andalusian culture viewed contradictions within oneself and ones culture as having the possibility of being “positive and productive.” These contradictions consisted of differing religions, philosophies, languages, races, etc. Something which we take for granted in our societies but which is under pressure from fanatical and retrograde forces who mirror the forces that brought down the Andalusian civilization.

The founding stone of this culture was one of the last survivors of the Umayyad dynasty, Abd al-Rahman who traversed from Damascus to Muslim Spain “Aeneas-like,”  to become “the first, rather than the last, of his line.”

His arduous journey and homesickness for his native land were evident throughout his life. He wrote in verse his feelings of “exile”:

A palm tree stands in the middle of Rusafa,

Born in the West, far from the land of palms.

I said to it: How like me you are, far away in exile,

In long separation from family and friends.

You have sprung from soil in which you are a stranger;

And I, like you, am far from home. (p.61)

Not for much longer were his descendants to feel like “strangers.” Andalus and its jewel, Cordoba became home to a glorious civilization in which everyone, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike took part:

It was there that the profoundly Arabized Jews rediscovered and reinvented Hebrew; there that Christians embraced nearly every aspect of Arabic style–not only while living in Islamic dominions but especially after wresting political control from them; there that men of unshakable faith, like Abelard and Maimonides and Averroes, saw no contradiction in pursuing the truth, whether philosophical or scientific or religious, across confessional lines. (p.11) (emphasis mine)

Andalus produced such prominent Jewish poets, military leaders, governmental leaders, philosophers, theologians, architects, and intellectuals as: Dunash Ben Labrat, Hasdai Ibn Sharput, Maimonides, Samuel the Nagid, Ibn Ezra, Judah Halevi, Moses of Leon and a plethora of others. I cannot do justice to their contributions to humanity in this short review, for more on their works and lives read Menocal’s book.

These Arabized Jews ushered in a Jewish Golden Age and contributed to the redemption of Hebrew which had become a near dead language, relegated to the realm of liturgy,

The brilliance of the Golden Age came from Hebrew’s redemption from its profound exile, locked inside temples, never speaking about life itself. Maimonides, born in Cordoba just five years before Halevi left al-Andalus, described this post-exilic, pre-Andalusian state of things in his Laws on Prayer: ‘When anyone of them prayed in Hebrew, he was unable adequately to express his needs or recount the praises of God, without mixing Hebrew with other languages.’ It was not that Jews should speak other languages but that the Hebrew they spoke was no longer the language of true love, of complex emotion, of seemingly contrary ideas and feelings: maternal, erotic, spiritual, material, transcendent. Maimonides, Andalusian that he was, believed that God needed and wanted to be spoken to in a language alive with that whole range of possible emotions. It was an attitude that later allowed English to find its voice in the love sonnets of Shakespeare as well as in the prayers of the King James Bible. The prayers prove more satisfying, perhaps even more true, for being in the language of the love songs.

Hebrew’s redemption had come at the hands of writers who were masters of Arabic rhetoric, the Andalusian Jews, men as thoroughly and successfully a part of the cult of Arabic grammar, rhetoric, and style as any of their Muslim neighbors and associates. A century before Halevi took his final leave to find Jerusalem, Samuel the Nagid had first made Hebrew perform all the magic tricks that his native tongue, Arabic, could and did. He had been made vizier because his skill in writing letters and court documents in Arabic surpassed that of all others. He then went on to write poems in the new Hebrew style, among them verses recounting his glories leading his taifa’s armies to victory. In one fell swoop, Samuel’s Hebrew poetry, with its Arabic accents and prosody –the features essential to making alive for the Arabic-speaking Andalusian Jews–vindicated and completely exceeded all the small steps that others had taken in the centuries before him to revive the ancestral language, to reinvent it as a living tongue. Everyone, from Halevi to the nineteenth- century Germans who made the Andalusians into the noble heroes of Jewish history, knew that Hebrew had been redeemed from its exile thanks to the Andalusian Jews’ extraordinary secular successes, first during the several Umayyad centuries and then in the taifas. Because they had absorbed, mastered, and loved the principles that made Arabic easily able to sing to God and Beloved in the same language, they had been able to revive Hebrew so it could, once again, sing like the Hebrew of David’s songs, and Solomon’s songs. It was a great triumph…(p.161-62) (emphasis mine)

One of those whose story I found very intriguing was Judah Halevi who encapsulated all the contradictions and creativeness that was Andalusia. He was a profound poet, much admired by his peers and was considered one of the “greatest champions” of the Andalusian ethic. However, he transformed over time and turned his back on Andalusian culture, “he declared that it was all folly and inimical to Jewishness and had to be forsaken, in spirit certainly and — if possible, as he intended to do — physically. People were astonished, and some of them offended.”(p.163)

This sort of destructive change and move away from the Andalusian ethos afflicted Muslims and Christians as well.

[T]he first significant instances of cultural puritanism in the Iberian Peninsula were imported from places with little of the Andalusian experience. The Berber Muslims of North Africa never quite understood the Andalusian application of the dhimma, and they mostly disapproved of the syncretic culture that resulted from it. From the Berber sack of Cordoba at the beginning of the eleventh century on, a variety of “reform” movements swarming northward from across the Strait of Gibraltar always threatened to remake Andalusian politics and culture in their own image of Islam. At the same time, the Berber obtuseness was mirrored by the incomprehension with which the peninsula’s Christans were viewed by their coreligionists north of the Pyrenees. This was especially evident after Castile began to expand into territories that had been under Islamic rule for three and four centuries, and to incorporate their thoroughly Arabized populations, Muslims, Jews, and Mozarab Christians alike. An often stark difference in worldview separated the Roman Church as it had evolved outside the peninsula from the Christian communities within it. And these differences grew more profound in the decades and centuries that followed the Christian expansion southward…

During the second half of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth, more puritanical visions of these cultures converged in Iberia. The determinedly crusading forces from Latin Christendom and the equally fanatic Berber Almohads became influential parts of the landscape and inevitably met, head-on, on the plains between New Castile and old al-Andalus, at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, with disastrous results for the Almohads. The effects of the long-term presence of two expansive religious ideologies, each originally foreign to the Andalusian ethic, transformed the nature of the conflicts at hand. They made religious-ideological warfare a reality, cultural orthodoxy a real possibility, and monochromatic identity a realizable ideal.(267-68)

I have not recounted the amazing and spectacular contribution of Muslim scholars, philosophers, scientists, poets, musicians, theologians, architects, statesmen and leaders. This review would become very long if we recounted the lives of: Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Tufayl,  Ibn Hazm, Abd al-Rahman, Abd al-Rahman III, Muhammad Ibn Abbad, Ibn Arabi, Ibn al-Khatib, al-Idrisi and the many others.

AlCazar, the Church on top of the hill

Nor have I recounted the glorious arabized Christian production and contribution in this period: the Alcazar, the syncretic identity of theMozarabs, the development of Mudejar architecture, the “for hire” activities and sagas of ElCidPeter of Castile, the Abbot of Cluny’sQur’an, the translations by Christians of Arabic works into European languages and how it effected the diffusion of knowledge in Europe and the age of exploration.

How can I do all this justice, when even Menocal’s book seems to only give us a tantalizing glimpse and a thirst for more?

The dynamic, intellectual, creative, unique output in regards to language, literature, philosophy, theology, politics, and science serves as an ultimate rebuke to the concerted effort of Anti-Arabs and Islamophobes who claim that Muslim peoples accomplished nothing, were intellectually bereft, culturally barren and uncreative. The well worn talking point that makes frequent rounds in Islamophobic circles, the idea that ‘anything of value that Muslims created or invented was stolen’ is forever put to rest and quietly mocked by al-Andalus.

Menocal’s book on Andalusia gives us insight into the possibilities of various religions, ideas, identities to not only coexist but to exalt in differences and to view them positively. It also warns us against the insular, narrow view of nationalism, fanaticism, supremacism, both religious and cultural. It is a warning that we would do well to listen to and comprehend for our own time and place.

For our readers to savor a bit of the Andalusian experience, I provide two beautiful examples of Andalusian Music:

Ibn Arabi–”Her Words Bring Me Back to Life”:

Mozarabic Chant: “Alleluia” and Mauritanian Samaa:

NYTimes: Imam Behind Islamic Center Plans US Tour

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2010 by loonwatch

Imam Plans US Tour

by Paul Vitello

The controversy over plans to build an Islamic center in downtown Manhattan subsided in November, almost abruptly, with the end of an election season that amplified its most emotional underlying issues.

But the imam behind the project has decided to risk reigniting that opposition by setting out on a nationwide speaking tour next month to promote the planned center and to foster dialogue about Muslim life in America.

“Controversy has never been a problem for me,” said the imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, whose proposal to build the high-rise community center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero made him the prime target last summer of opponents who viewed the plan, known as Park51 for its address on Park Place, as a Trojan horse for Muslim triumphalism. “I think the controversy of last summer helped initiate a discourse that has been very good for the country. I’m an American, and I believe that Americans are problem solvers. So I believe further discussion can only be good.”

The tour, which he described in an interview on Wednesday, is scheduled to begin in Detroit, the city with the largest Muslim population in the United States. It will include stops in Chicago, Washington, San Antonio and several college campuses, starting with Harvard, Yale, Georgetown and the University of North Carolina.

Because of death threats that the imam has received, none of his addresses will be open to the general public, though the local news media in each place will be invited to attend, and to ask questions afterward, he said.

Some of the project’s most outspoken opponents welcomed the imam’s plan for a speaking tour, though for reasons of their own.

“I think this will help to revive the opposition, not only from Americans in general but from Muslims in this country, who don’t want this thing built,” said Ryan Mauro, a conservative blogger and the producer of a documentary about the planned community center.

The film, “Sacrificed Survivors: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Mega-Mosque,” focuses on opposition by some families of 9/11 victims.

Pamela Geller, another conservative blogger who organized many of the public demonstrations against the center last summer, said she planned to marshal protests when the City Council meets next month to review Wal-Mart’s proposal to open a store in Manhattan. “Christine Quinn is against Wal-Mart, but she’s in favor of the megamosque. Typical liberal elitist thinking,” she said, referring to the City Council speaker.

Ms. Geller also predicted that the imam’s speaking tour would serve the opposition. “The opposition has never gone away, and will never go away,” she said.

At the height of the controversy over the summer and fall, Mr. Adbul Rauf was on a scheduled speaking tour in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The tour was sponsored by the State Department’s cultural exchange bureau, known as the Department of Public Diplomacy.

He considered canceling that trip in order to confront the opposition and rally support at home to his cause — a job that fell for the most part to his wife and partner in interfaith work, Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement.

“But in that environment, I realized that no matter what I did or said, I would be accused of something,” he said. And as it turned out, he added, the reaction of Middle Eastern Muslims to the controversy over Park51 was encouraging to him.

The idea that in the United States there could be a discussion, even an angry one, about building a mosque that some considered to be too close to ground zero — “that was an amazingly positive thing to people I met in the Middle East,” he said.

“The idea that the Jewish mayor of New York would be our most outspoken defender,” he continued, referring to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, “well, I think that really touched people. It was very positive ‘optics’ for the international Muslim audience, as they say in the State Department.”

If Mr. Abdul Rauf ever entertained thoughts of moving the planned center to a less contentious site — as he has admitted in interviews — Mr. Bloomberg’s support for Park51 has since made that unthinkable.

And to do so now would be “a betrayal of this great opportunity,” he added, referring to the discourse about relations between Muslims in the United States and their fellow Americans, which he plans to take on the road from mid-January until the early spring.

 

Beckel and Rehab Rip Geller a New One

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature, Loon Blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2010 by loonwatch

Bob Beckel and Ahmed Rehab were on Fox Business News’ program Money Rocks with Eric Bolling alongside right-wingers Pamela GellerDavid Webb and Fox host Bill Hemmer. It was an interesting program and I am baffled as to why Pamela brought it to our attention by posting it because she got absolutely butchered and exposed! For the longest time we complained that people weren’t using the information in our articles exposing her crazy, wingnut, moonbat, wacko, and lunatic blogging on Atlas Shrugs.

To our dismay she actually started receiving a wider (Tea Party mostly) audience and influence with the big wigs in the Republican party. The instances that she was on TV no one was adequately challenging her with the exception of the Alyona Show, but the past month or so she has been getting challenged in both print and on TV by people who are using the information we have documented on her.

Video:

She gets called out beautifully in the beginning here by Ahmed Rehab who takes a jab at Bolling for saying that Geller is his “good friend,”

Rehab: You just called her your good friend, and I don’t know if you’ve visited her anti-Muslim blog any time recently, Atlas Shrugs, where you can see a video that she posted where she is implying that Muslims have sex with goats, and suggesting they wear Muhammad condoms, I don’t know if you can call her your good friend…

Geller interrupts: That’s a lie, you know it’s a lie.

Rehab: We have a screenshot of that, you’re a lying bigot.

Geller: You don’t have a screenshot of that. [LW: actually Pamela there is a screenshot, click here.]

Rehab: Do you also deny that you put a picture of the Prophet Muhammad with a pig for a face?

Geller: yea, no…that was part of Everybody Draw Muhammad Day…do you condemn…

Rehab: Don’t evade the question, you are one of the most anti-Muslim bigots out on the internet and your blog consistently is filled with anti-Muslim statements…

[talking over]

Bolling: Pam hold on, Pam hold on, go ahead Rehab,

Rehab: Well, Pamela also suggested we should nuke Mecca, and this was done on her blog February 24, 2010.

Geller: I did not say it. [LW: actually you did Pamela, click here.]

Rehab: She also suggested that Obama is an anti-Semite, pimp and Jihadist…

Geller: Oh yeah, uh, I believe that is true.

Rehab: She is a certified loon. She’s a bigot of the highest order and you’re calling her your good friend Eric, so I don’t know how you feel about that now.

Bolling went on to justify his friendship with nut case Pamela Geller saying he “knows her” and then he goes on to talk about his personal experience with the World Trade Center and how he “was there.” He exposes his bias saying he is “angry” with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his group for building their mosque near Ground Zero, which he thinks is so close you can throw a baseball there. Yeah, maybe if you have the arm of Roberto Clemente! Where is Fox getting these people?

Geller tried to strike back at Rehab with her guilt by association smear tactics, trying to bring up CAIR and repeating Hamas as many times as possible in one breathe, but it seems she hyperventilated and was unable to make the point because Rehab straight up asked her, “what does that got to do with the Mosque?” Her response was epic, bumbling idiocy.

Rehab: Pamela’s at the forefront of those who are claiming this is a victory mosque at Ground Zero, which is a blatant lie, so I am asking her right now, what can she tell us in terms of truth that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf had anything to do with hijackers in a plane?

Bolling: hang on I want to bring in the panel.

Bolling then proceeds to bring in the panel. He immediately hits up Beckel by playing a clip of him saying, “we have to get over 9/11.” They discuss that for a while and he clarifies that what he is saying is that “we shouldn’t forget 9/11″ or “stop grieving” but that we can’t live like it “happened yesterday.”

He also laid into Pamela Geller saying,

Beckel: There are also a lot of moderate Islamists…but you wouldn’t know that from your friend’s (Pamela Geller) web page, who accused the President of the United States of being anti-Semitic which is as about ridiculous a thing I’ve ever heard.

Bolling then shifted to Rehab and asked him his thoughts. Rehab defended Beckel, but it then descended into a free for all talk over and Rehab was unable to answer the original question from Bolling. Bill Hemmer, the totally credulous Fox News presenter tried to stick up for Geller, complimenting her on her performance on 60 minutes and then saying he just found out that “they [Muslims] are praying.” What a douche.

C’mon, seriously Bill, you didn’t know that Muslims were praying in that building?

Hemmer: What I did not know until last night, they’re praying,(pause) inside that building today. I don’t think that’s something that most people even realize.

Beckel: What’s wrong with that?

Hemmer: I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that…there is already a mosque there.

Beckel: There is also a strip joint there.

Now it gets interesting, with quite the exchange between Geller and Beckel. Geller essentially says Beckel is in league with terrorists, supporting them and in a most condescending way says, “you are carrying water” for them. This obviously infuriates Beckel, and he tells Geller to watch what she says. He makes a comment that she is a woman, obviously implying that if she weren’t he would probably knock her teeth out for saying that he was a terrorist water boy. Geller replied in her usual shrill way by saying that Beckel was a women hater. Classic.

Geller: I would like to address Mr. Beckel’s point, I don’t know why you are carrying water for the most radical, intolerant ideology in the world today, there have been 20,000 documented radical Islamic attacks since 9/11, each one with the imprimatur of a Muslim cleric.

Beckel: You better be very careful, you’re a woman, you better be very careful for who you say I carry water for because you have no idea what you’re talking about and don’t start putting me in the middle of your crap!

Geller: Don’t point at me.

Beckel: I’ll point at you all I want.

Geller: You’re a misogynist.

Beckel: You got yourself 15 minutes of fame because you’re picking on a bunch of Muslims.

Geller: You’re picking on a bunch of women. You’re a women hater.

Beckel: A women hater?  A women hater?

Geller: Yes. Look how you are talking to me. It’s outrageous.

Beckel: You are nuts!

Geller: I’m not nuts.

Geller looked pathetic when she said that. “I’m not nuts.” Pamela, you’re nuttier than a bag of Planters roasted peanuts.

Bolling shifted topics and asked Rehab about Rauf being a bad landlord, Rehab responded by saying this is an evasion from the topic.

Rehab: Well, again, what you are trying to do here is evade the central issue which is the principle position of whether we can build a center there or not and whether we should or not and going back to Mr. Beckel’s point we shouldn’t forget about 9/11 but we should move beyond the politicization and the exploitation and memory of 9/11 for personal political gain or for ratings or for notoriety like your certified bigot friend there Pamela Geller is doing.

Geller: Unbelievable.

Man was Geller getting exposed. She is nuts, regardless of her protestations. She hates Muslims, the evidence is there for all to read, and when she is challenged on it she resorts to lying and saying it is not there.

The video ends succinctly with Rehab getting the last word responding to one of David Webb’s only points,

Rehab: I am not saying that they should build because we have the right to build…I am saying they should build because it is the right thing to do

Webb: You just did.

Rehab: …I am telling you it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to build a moderate center that can bring people together, that actually stands against the very ideology of AlQaeda. You know, building this center is the worst thing that could happen to Bin Laden, that’s not why we are doing it, we’re doing it because that’s the best thing we can do for our country.

Bolling: [Laughing] Those are some fairly interesting things you had to say. We’ll bring you back though, we appreciate your time.

Rehab: For interesting things visit Atlas Shrugs, you’ll find a lot of interesting things there.

Bolling and Geller shared a strange and out of place laugh towards the end of the segment, condescendingly and mockingly laughing at Rehab’s final point that this mosque is the best thing we can do for our country. Why is that funny?

Is it because it so shatters your view and perspective on this issue that you are just unwilling to countenance it at all? Even being outnumbered 4-2 by the right-wingers both Beckel and Rehab held it down and destroyed the hate and illogic coming from the anti-Mosque crowd. My last request is that I hope someone will auto tune this video!

 

Mayor Bloomberg: Candidate for Anti-Loon of the Year

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2010 by loonwatch

Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg is a candidate for anti-Loon of the year due to his consistent defense of religious liberty and steadfast support of the political hot-potato issue of the Park51 Cultural Center, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

Bloomberg Launches Another Impassioned Defense Of Cordoba House

by Sam Stein

In a rousing address before a predominantly Muslim audience Tuesday night, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reaffirmed his commitment to the controversial Islamic cultural center near the former site of the World Trade Center.

Bloomberg, who hosted the annual Ramadan Iftar dinner at his official Gracie Mansion residence, did not back away from his position as the most vocal and public defender of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.” If anything, he couched his defense of the project in even deeper moral and political terms, calling the Cordoba House a telling illustration of intrinsic American principles and a valuable tool in the war on terror.

From Bloomberg’s prepared remarks:

But if we say that a mosque and community center should not be built near the perimeter of the World Trade Center site, we would compromise our commitment to fighting terror with freedom.

We would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting. We would feed the false impressions that some Americans have about Muslims. We would send a signal around the world that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen. And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terrorist recruiters, who spread the fallacy that America is at war with Islam.
Islam did not attack the World Trade Center — Al-Qaeda did. To implicate all of Islam for the actions of a few who twisted a great religion is unfair and un-American. Today we are not at war with Islam — we are at war with Al-Qaeda and other extremists who hate freedom.[snip]

The members of our military are men and women at arms — battling for hearts and minds. And their greatest weapon in that fight is the strength of our American values, which have always inspired people around the world. But if we do not practice here at home what we preach abroad — if we do not lead by example – we undermine our soldiers. We undermine our foreign policy objectives. And we undermine our national security.

While some of the cultural center’s other early supporters have backed away from their defense of the project, Bloomberg has emerged as perhaps the least fickle of its supporters. And he’s been hailed for that defense — locally, nationally and among the commentariat — even though a majority of the public opposes the Cordoba House’s proposed location.

Addressing those calling for a compromise location for the center, Bloomberg offered the logical rejoinder. “The question will then become, how big should the ‘no-mosque zone’ around the World Trade Center be?” he remarked. “There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it too, be moved?”

However the debate ends, of course, there will be hard feelings. Still, the Mayor ended his remarks with an appeal to the lessons of history.

I know that many in this room are disturbed and dispirited by the debate. But it is worth keeping some perspective on the matter. The first colonial settlers came to these shores seeking religious liberty and the founding fathers wrote a constitution that guaranteed it. They made sure that in this country the government would not be permitted to choose between religions or favor one over another.

Nonetheless, it was not so long ago that Jews and Catholics had to overcome stereotypes and build bridges to those who viewed them with suspicion and less than fully American.

UPDATE: Video of Bloomberg’s speech is below.

 

Robert Spencer used to be a Communist

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs, Loon Sites with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2010 by loonwatch

Robert Spencer, a Christian crusader who likes to cover his anti-Muslim fanaticism with a pretense to scholarship is fond of saying “Obama may be a Muslim,” and his buddy Pamela Geller often dubs Obama as a “Socialist” and “Communist.”

That’s why it is quite ironic to learn that Spencer himself in a previous incarnation used to be a Communist. In his younger days before he went zealous with Christianity Spencer was a devoted Communist,

Robert Spencer…[a] canny operative who likely has the inside track on the State Department’s Middle East affairs desk should the tea party win the White House in 2012, Spencer nonetheless offered that he had spent part of his youth working at Revolution Books, which is run by the Revolutionary Communist Party (and its cultish leader Bob Avakian), a hard-line Maoist group most sixties-style radicals, like, say, Bill Ayers, would consider beyond the pale.

Not only was Spencer a Commie but he was a hard core Communist, such that even the boogie monster known as Bill Ayers wouldn’t want to touch.

It is also another point of similarity between Spencer and his boss David Horowitz who used to be a Communist and now is a hardcore Conservative. Interestingly enough Spencer’s embrace of capitalism has been quite profitable, he is making six figures for his anti-Muslim work.

The article in the New York Magazine also reveals some other interesting if irrelevant tid-bits about Spencer, his father used to work for the Voice of America.

The following is the relevant portion relating to Spencer in the article, I suggest everyone read the whole thing by Mark Jacobson titled, Muhammad Comes to Manhattan:

Dhimmitude was the state to which Muslim caliphs reduced their “useful” but decidedly second-class subjects, those who had to be made to “feel themselves subdued” (the Koran, Sura 9:29), Robert Spencer told me as we dined in the T.G.I. Friday’s on the scenic lower level of Penn Station. A canny operative who likely has the inside track on the State Department’s Middle East affairs desk should the tea party win the White House in 2012, Spencer nonetheless offered that he had spent part of his youth working at Revolution Books, which is run by the Revolutionary Communist Party (and its cultish leader Bob Avakian), a hard-line Maoist group most sixties-style radicals, like, say, Bill Ayers, would consider beyond the pale. Spencer—whose father worked for the Voice of America during the Cold War—contended that terror, the threat of the A-bomb in the burka, while worth worrying about, was “just one tactic” in Islam’s clash with the U.S. What was afoot was a more insidious thing, a burrowing infiltration of the enemy.

 

“Muslims are the first immigrant group that has ever come to this country with a ready-made model of society and government they believe to be superior to what we have here,” Spencer told me. The thinking was clear to anyone who took the trouble to study the plan, the blogger and author of Stealth Jihad contended. “Muhammad said, ‘When you meet the unbelievers, invite them to accept Islam; if they refuse, offer them the dhimma—second-class status—and, if they refuse that, go to war with them.’ That’s it. Conversion, subjugation, or war. Three steps. Conversion, subjugation, or war … That’s what Muhammad said. And in chapter 33, verse 21 of the Koran, it says Muhammad is the excellent example for the Muslim, you ask any Muslim and they’ll tell you that: That is nonnegotiable, what Muhammad said goes, and that’s not some hijacker extremist Islam, that’s mainstream … This is how it is, you don’t need a bomb. I don’t think Feisal is ever going to blow anything up, because that’s not his game; his game is a societal, cultural penetration … ”

After that, Spencer peered up from his plate of Caribbean chicken and bid me to look around the T.G.I. Friday’s. “Remember this moment and this spot,” he said. “Because the freedoms we enjoy are in danger. You might not know it now, because it is just beginning. But 25 or 30 years from now you’re going to think of this place and say to yourself, Spencer was right.

 

Taking Bin Laden’s Side

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2010 by loonwatch

An excellent article by Nicholas Kristof on the issue of the Park51 Islamic cultural center and mosque. He portrays accurately how those fighting this are feeding into the ideology of Bin Laden and company.

Taking Bin Laden’s Side

Is there any doubt about Osama bin Laden’s position on the not-at-ground-zero mosque?

 

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

Osama abhors the vision of interfaith harmony that the proposed Islamic center represents. He fears Muslim clerics who can cite the Koran to denounce terrorism.

It’s striking that many American Republicans share with Al Qaeda the view that the West and the Islamic world are caught inevitably in a “clash of civilizations.” Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who recruits jihadis from his lair in Yemen, tells the world’s English-speaking Muslims that America is at war against Islam. You can bet that Mr. Awlaki will use the opposition to the community center and mosque to try to recruit more terrorists.

In short, the proposed community center is not just an issue on which Sarah Palin and Osama bin Laden agree. It is also one in which opponents of the center are playing into the hands of Al Qaeda.

These opponents seem to be afflicted by two fundamental misconceptions.

The first is that a huge mosque would rise on hallowed land at ground zero. In fact, the building would be something like a YMCA, and two blocks away and apparently out of view from ground zero. This is a dense neighborhood packed with shops, bars, liquor stores — not to mention the New York Dolls Gentlemen’s Club and the Pussycat Lounge (which says that it arranges lap dances in a private room, presumably to celebrate the sanctity of the neighborhood).

Why do so many Republicans find strip clubs appropriate for the ground zero neighborhood but object to a house of worship? Are lap dances more sanctified than an earnest effort to promote peace?

And this is an earnest effort. I know Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan — the figures behind the Islamic community center — and they are the real thing. Because I have written often about Arab atrocities in Darfur and about the abuse of women in Islamic countries, some Muslim leaders are wary of me. But Imam Feisal and Ms. Khan are open-minded and have been strong advocates for women within Islam.

The second misconception underlying this debate is that Islam is an inherently war-like religion that drives believers to terrorism. Sure, the Islamic world is disproportionately turbulent, and mullahs sometimes cite the Koran to incite murder. But don’t forget that the worst brutality in the Middle East has often been committed by more secular rulers, like Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad. And the mastermind of the 1970 Palestinian airline hijackings, George Habash, was a Christian.

Remember also that historically, some of the most shocking brutality in the region was justified by the Bible, not the Koran. Crusaders massacred so many men, women and children in parts of Jerusalem that a Christian chronicler, Fulcher of Chartres, described an area ankle-deep in blood. While burning Jews alive, the crusaders sang, “Christ, We Adore Thee.”

My hunch is that the violence in the Islamic world has less to do with the Koran or Islam than with culture, youth bulges in the population, and the marginalization of women. In Pakistan, I know a young woman whose brothers want to kill her for honor — but her family is Christian, not Muslim.

Precisely because Palestinian violence has roots outside of Islam, Israel originally supported the rise of Hamas in Gaza. Israeli officials thought that if Gazans became more religious, they would spend their time praying rather than firing guns.

President George W. Bush was statesmanlike after 9/11 in reaching out to Muslims and speaking of Islam as a religion of peace. Now many Republicans have abandoned that posture and are cynically turning the Islamic center into a nationwide issue in hopes of votes. It is mind-boggling that so many Republicans are prepared to bolster the Al Qaeda narrative, and undermine the brave forces within Islam pushing for moderation.

Some Republicans say that it is not a matter of religious tolerance but of sensitivity to the feelings of relatives to those killed at ground zero. Hmm. They’re just like the Saudi officials who ban churches, and even confiscate Bibles, out of sensitivity to local feelings.

On my last trip to Saudi Arabia, I brought in a Bible to see what would happen (alas, the customs officer searched only my laptop bag). Memo to Ms. Palin: Should we learn from the Saudis and protect ground zero by banning the Koran from Lower Manhattan?

For much of American history, demagogues have manipulated irrational fears toward people of minority religious beliefs, particularly Catholics and Jews. Many Americans once honestly thought that Catholics could not be true Americans because they bore supreme loyalty to the Vatican.

Today’s crusaders against the Islamic community center are promoting a similar paranoid intolerance, and one day we will be ashamed of it.

 

The Untold Story Behind the “Mosque at Ground Zero”

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2010 by loonwatch

A powerful piece by Ahmed Rehab in the Huffington Post laying the bottom line about the swelling controversy surrounding the “mosque at Ground Zero.”  (hat tip: Schmorgus)

The Untold Story of the Mosque at Ground Zero

by Ahmed Rehab | Huffington Post

Americans have a right to assemble and worship freely in this country, period. It’s not only a founding principle of this nation, but a main justification for its founding. It is why many White Christians flooded to this country in the first place.

Those opposed to American Muslims practicing their right to build a religious and cultural center on their private property near Ground Zero and in concordance with all laws and regulations reluctantly concede that they have no legal grounds to challenge it. So they argue instead that they should voluntarily forgo their right out of sensitivity for the sacredness of that site.

2010-08-20-nomosquesign.jpgThis is a particularly disingenuous line.

If it is about sensitivity for the sacred, then why aren’t those same people opposing the deli, bar, coffee shop, and offices, or strip club for that matter, that are open for business in that same sacred vicinity?

What is particularly indecent or insensitive about American Muslims building a house of peace, community, and worship that doesn’t apply to the New York Dolls gentlemen’s club?

Let’s be blunt: it is only indecent and insensitive if you buy into the canard that American Muslims are somehow collectively guilty for 9/11. That is the coded message at the heart of opposition to the center. It is a message we reject on its face.

American Muslims bear no collective guilt or blame for the crime of 9/11. We have nothing to apologize for and everything to be proud of, including our loyalty and hard-earned livelihoods. We are not guest citizens, we are not second-rate citizens; we reject marginalization and require no validation. We are equal citizens living and worshipping in our country.

We are part and parcel of the diversity of America including the diversity of the 3,000 people who died on 9/11. We are part of the diversity of the hundreds who were injured and those who were first responders to Ground Zero. We are part of the diversity of the millions who grieved and still grieve. When “they” attacked “us,” we were attacked. We are part of the “us” not the “they.”

The whole brouhaha about the “Mosque at Ground Zero” is frankly bogus. It has little to do with sacred ground, or sensitive hearts. It does however have everything to do with the exploitation of the sacred and the sensitive for the furtherance of the sacrilegious and the insensitive: the phenomenon of Muslim-bashing that is ravaging our nation today.

The Cordoba House, now Park51, is an old story. In fact, it was reported on in the New York Times and other mainstream media as far back as two years ago. Why the frenzy now?

That’s not all: Muslims have been worshipping at Mosque Manhattan a few blocks away from Ground Zero, long before Ground Zero was Ground Zero; in fact, since 1970, before the twin towers were the twin towers.

So again, why the sudden frenzy?

Failure to ask “why” is a collective indictment of the media establishment (with a fewnotable exceptions). Just as the media shirked its responsibilities in questioning the Bush administration on the justifications for the war in Iraq, now too it fails to properly investigate, scrutinize, and report the origins of this controversy. Here is what it failed to tell you:

2010-08-20-spencer_geller.pngThe”Ground Zero Mosque” fiasco is a fabricated controversy that traces its origins to a couple of long-time anti-Muslim goons from the annals of the hate blogosphere by the names ofRobert Spencer and Pamela Geller as a flagship campaign of their newly founded organization,Stop the Islamization of America(SIOA). SIOA is part of an emerging phenomenon ofastroturf anti-Muslim organizations that seek to project any public expression of Muslim life in this country as tantamount to a stealth “Islamization of America.” (Except it’s not so stealth since everyone and their mother is talking about it).

It was SIOA that first coined the misnomer “Mosque at Ground Zero,” purposely twisting the reality that the proposed Muslim cultural center near Ground Zero is neither a Mosque nor at Ground Zero. It was the SIOA that sought to redefine Imam Rauf as a radical Imam even though he was heralded by the Bush administration, the FBI and others as a moderate voice of reason. It was the SIOA and its partners that ruthlessly sought to stoke the fears and suspicions of otherwise good, unsuspecting Americans.

The fact that bigots see fit to peddle sensational drivel for a living is not shocking.

The fact that the media is unwilling or incapable of calling it out is disturbing.

The fact that a significant segment of this population stands to be duped by it is disappointing.

And the fact that public officials who should know better are all too content pandering to the bigoted, misguided, and confused in search of votes this election season is outright nauseating.

Here’s another under reported fact:

The battle raging on now is not one that pits Muslims on one side and non-Muslims on the other as critics would have you believe. It is in fact a showdown between Americans of all backgrounds (Muslim and otherwise) who are fighting for the freedom and dignity of what it means to be American, on one side; and those who are willing to throw those values under the bus in exchange for publicity, notoriety, ratings, or votes, on the other.

It is a struggle between those wishing to affirm our pluralism and our equality as color-blind, race-blind, and faith-blind citizens and those wishing to immerse us into identity politics that make some more equal than others.

The Park51 battle is a microcosm of this generation’s struggle for the soul of America.

That’s the untold “Mosque at Ground Zero” story any red-blooded American journalist who still has respect for the integrity of the profession should be telling.