Park51 and Islam in America
Lawrence Wright pens an article that will resonate with many:
When a dozen cartoons satirizing the Prophet Mohammed appeared in the conservative Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, in September, 2005, there was only a muted outcry from the small Danish Muslim community, and little reaction in the rest of the Muslim world. Six months later, however, riots broke out and Danish embassies were burned; more than a hundred people died. Assassination threats were made, and continue to this day.
Last year, when plans were announced for Cordoba House, an Islamic community center to be built two blocks north of Ground Zero, few opposed them. The project was designed to promote moderate Islam and provide a bridge to other faiths. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Sufi cleric leading the effort, told the Times, in December, “We want to push back against the extremists.” In August, the Landmarks Preservation Commission granted Park51, as the center is now known, unanimous approval. A month later, it is the focus of a bitter quarrel about the place of Islam in our society.
The lessons of the Danish cartoon controversy serve as an ominous template for the current debate. One reason for the initial lack of reaction to the cartoons was that they were, essentially, innocuous. […]
Wright is making the point that controversy is engineered, as he goes on:
So what happened? A group of radical imams in Denmark, led by Ahmed Abu Laban, an associate of Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian terrorist organization, decided to use the cartoons to inflate their own importance. They showed the cartoons to various Muslim leaders in other countries, and included three illustrations that had not appeared in the Danish papers. One was a photograph of a man supposedly wearing a prayer cap and a pig mask, and imitating the Prophet. (He turned out to be a contestant in a French hog-calling competition). Another depicted a dog mounting a Muslim in prayer. The third was a drawing of the Prophet as a maddened pedophile gripping helpless children like dolls in either hand. The imams later claimed that these illustrations had been e-mailed to them as threats—although they never produced any proof that they hadn’t made the drawings themselves—and so were fair representations of European anti-Muslim sentiment. The leaders saw them and were inflamed. The Sunni scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi demanded a Day of Rage. So far, we have had five years of rage.
This recounting of history is important - the outrage over the Danish images was engineered by falsely portraying the original claimed offenses.
In the dispute over Park51, the role of the radical imams has been taken by bloggers and right-wing commentators. In this parable, Pamela Geller, who writes a blog called Atlas Shrugs and runs a group called Stop Islamization of America, plays the part of Ahmed Abu Laban. Geller has already contributed to the phony claim that President Obama is a Muslim (which twenty per cent of the American public now believe is true), by promoting a theory that he is the bastard son of Malcolm X. Because of Park51’s location, Geller compares the community center (or the “9/11 Monster Mosque,” as she terms it) to Al Aqsa, the ancient mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—a flash point for Jewish extremists in Israel.
Kudos to Wright for pointing out Geller’s guilt in the current brouhaha. Geller is indeed playing the role of troublemaker, analogous to those radical Imams who played so loose with the truth about the what the Danish cartoons were originally.
Geller framed the argument for the New York Post, which added the false information that Park51 was going to open on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Deliberate misrepresentations of Imam Abdul Rauf as a supporter of terror further distorted the story, as it moved on to the Fox News commentariat and from there to political figures, such as Newt Gingrich, who compared Abdul Rauf and his supporters to Nazis desecrating the Holocaust Memorial Museum by their presence. These strident falsehoods have undoubtedly influenced the two-thirds of Americans who now oppose Park51. […]
Wright goes on to indict several players other than Geller and further explains how the anti-Muslim culture war is proceeding.
Recommend reading the whole thing, but it does seem like the author has been following what LGF has been posting for months now and has summarized what many of the posts here have been saying. At least that standard of up-scale (dare I write “liberal elite”?) magazines The New Yorker has seen fit to publicize how the Park51 imbroglio came about.