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Why Didn’t Obama Grasp What the Ground Zero Mosque Is All About?

Bill Kristol reports that a major Muslim figure is coming out against the Ground Zero mosque. In London’s newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, director of Al-Arabiya TV and  the previous editor of the paper, explains why the mosque should not be build at Ground Zero:

I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime. At the same time, there are no practicing Muslims in the district who need a place of worship, because it is indeed a commercial district. … The last thing Muslims want today is to build just a religious center out of defiance to the others, or a symbolic mosque that people visit as a museum next to a cemetery. …  The battle against the September 11 terrorists is a Muslim battle … and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.

This is extraordinary on many levels.

First, as Bill points out, the Ground Zero mosque is likely kaput. If even a prominent Muslim can articulate why it’s such a bad idea, it seems as though the political pressure will mount, and the funders may sense that their project has revealed them not to be the face of moderation but rather provocateurs and promoters of religious strife.

Second, it reveals that Imam Rauf is no “moderate” and that his liberal cheerleaders have a deficient understanding of the range of opinion within the “Muslim World.” The left chose to champion someone who was blind or indifferent to the damage he was causing to the alleged goal of “religious reconciliation.” The chattering class labeled as “bigots” the mosque opponents, who voiced precisely the same objections as Al-Rashid. Is Al-Rashid a bigot, too?

Third, and most important, it reveals how lacking in sophistication about the Muslim World, about which he claims great expertise, is Obama. Why wasn’t he making Al-Rashid’s argument? Why didn’t he stand up for those Muslims who truly understand that “building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam”? Perhaps Obama’s understanding of the Muslim World isn’t as nuanced as his boosters claim. Maybe his default position is to capitulate to whatever the left’s Islamic pets of the moment want (e.g., flotilla “activists,” the PA, the mosque builders).

I think it is safe to say that all of the Democrats and liberal pundits (yes, more overlap) who posited that the mosque’s opponents were engaged in the sort of bigotry that “has always fueled pogroms and race riots” (that’s the genius of Richard Cohen) were themselves not as enlightened as second America. The latter, like Al-Rashid, correctly grasped that the majority of Muslims might not “want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.” It’s reassuring to know that 68 percent (I suspect that number will go up soon) of Americans got it right and demonstrated (again) why the common sense of average voters is infinitely more valuable that the spewing of the elite class.



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