July 24, 2010

Rauf, The Ground Zero Mosque, and McCarthy

A number of people have emailed me today saying I had to look at Andy McCarthy's article in NRO about Feisal Abdul Rauf and the Ground Zero Mosque. After reading it, I'm underwhelmed.

If the point of the article is that the ISNA is an extremist organization who's values are incompatible with fundamental freedom and liberty, then it's well taken and you'll hear no disagreement from me.

But if the point is that since one edition of Rauf's books is printed by the ISNA, then Rauf must be a secret supporter of political Islam then, frankly, McCarthy is acting the part of a Charles Johnson where tenuous associations are proof of some deeper and hidden agenda. It's bad logic, bad argumentation, and downright spurious. And I'm saying this as a fan, generally, of McCarthy.

But what conclusion would Andy have us draw by his lengthy article about the ISNA and the Muslim Brotherhood in the US based solely on the fact that Rauf allowed the group to circulate one of his books -- a book which, as I understand it, undermines the Brotherhood's Islamism? It's like saying that Jimmy Carter secretly supported pornography because he once was interviewed in Playboy.

If there's something in the book which supports, say, the general worldview of an Azzam or a Qutb then let's hear it. If not, then what's the point?

The only other piece of evidence offered in the article of something nefarious is that Rauf once said that Yusuf Qaradawi is the most influential and well respected Sunni scholar in the world. Again, so what? Hell, I've said that. It's a fact. While it might say a lot about Islam and the views of so-called "moderate" Muslims, it says nothing about Rauf's views of Islam and its relationship with secular governance and civil society.

If Rauf supports the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, or even a liberal version of Islamism then let's see the evidence, and let it be something more than this or the fact that Rauf once appeared at a conference put on by some very shady characters -- the same irrational type of guilt-by-association charges which have come from Charles Johnson and have been leveled at Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Stacey McCain.

Rauf, I am told, does support Israel as a Jewish state. Which makes him a liberal in the Muslim world. Again, this says less about Rauf then it does about "moderate" Muslims.

The worst of the accusations against Rauf that I've been able to corroborate is that he won't condemn Hamas. This does not mean he secretly supports terrorism. The best explanation I've heard for this was given by Aaron Klein after he had Rauf on his WABC radio program. Rauf can't openly condemn Hamas because it would alienate too many Muslims, especially those in the Middle East who might otherwise contribute to the mosque's building.

Sure Rauf should come out and condemn Hamas. He's a coward for not doing so. But if condemning Hamas was a prerequisite for a building permit in the US then I should think that scores of college campuses would be forever doomed to languish in older buildings.

McCarthy never really makes any point about the Rauf-ISNA connection. If there is one, then I'm at a loss to find any central thesis in his article. What I am afraid of is that people will use the implied guilt-by-association nature of the narrative about the ISNA's less than admirable goals to fuel the fire of the statists who want to stop the mosques construction through governmental force. I don't want to read anything into what he's saying, or unfairly accuse him of being in the same camp as those who believe that the government should be used to interfere in the mosque's construction. Perhaps he, like me, just doesn't like the idea of the mosque and what it represents but has no sympathy either for those who want the government to pull the plug on it.

But unless I miss my mark, the article is already being used to that very end.

I have no sympathy for Islam. I believe Muhammad was a thief, a mass murderer, and guilty of child molestation.

Religious freedom, however, must mean that people are free to believe stupid and even evil things. Like Islam.

Political freedom means that people must be free also to believe stupid and evil things. Like communism or political Islam.

This means that governments have no right to forbid the practice of religion or political assembly. Both of these fundamental freedoms were in the First Amendment the last time I checked.

If you don't want the Ground Zero mosque to be built I have every sympathy in the world with you. I don't want it built either.

But our personal opposition to religious and political constructs that we despise cannot and should not be translated into government interference in religious and political movements. Freedom of assembly and of religion mean nothing if the majority have veto power over buildings that offend us.

One of the reasons that sharia is evil is because it is not religiously neutral. Christians can become Muslims, but Muslims are legally prohibited from leaving Islam. Muslims may do dawah towards Christians, but Christians are forbidden from spreading the gospel to Muslims. Muslims may construct new houses of worship, but Christians may not. Which sounds to my ears a lot like what some opponents to the mosque are proposing.

As I've said before, the answer to the Ground Zero mosque is not the government forbidding it from being built. Those that oppose it should stop agitating for government action and start raising funds to buy the building next door. Then they should open a museum dedicated to the millions of people killed in the name of Islam starting with Muhammad himself and continuing all the way to Osama bin Laden.

Offensive? You bet. But just as political and religious offensiveness are not grounds for stopping the mosque, the same neutrality principle would protect our museum of Islam.

This doesn't make me a dhimmi. It makes me a lover of freedom, an American. In American we fight words with words, bad ideas with better ideas, not with the force of government.

So, if any of you have any evidence that Rauf is really an Islamist with sympathies for the implementation of sharia law, I'd love to see some better evidence. But even if Rauf was an Islamist, so what? If he was a Communist, so what? If he was a member of the KKK, so what? This is America. If you want the government to outlaw offensive ideas then move to Riyadh. Or Europe.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 06:31 PM | Comments |