Monday, August 9, 2010

Washington Post’s Greg Sargent on the Ground Zero Mosque


In other news, Washington Post writer Greg Sargent writes that the argument against "the Ground Zero mosque" is irresponsible.

Let's look at some of his arguments. His first argument is, "As you know, the Anti-Defamation League says it's adamantly opposed to bigotry against Muslims. But it's opposing the construction of the Islamic center near the site of the attacks on the grounds that it will cause pain to relatives of 9/11 victims, undermining the center's stated goal of promoting reconciliation."

Not true, Sargent. For the Anti-Defamation League to oppose a group infamous for its bigotry (Radical and Traditional Islam) is utterly consistent with their opposition to bigotry. As to promoting reconciliation with this bigoted ideology, I would think that would undermine their stated intention.

Sargent condemns Chris Caldwell for an "irresponsible" argument, but does he quote him? I would if I were going to attack someone's argument. Look, here I am in this note quoting Greg Sargent. What Sargent does is put the "responsible" argument (in quotes because he believes it irresponsible). Then he goes on with the "argument" but he doesn't have it in quotes. He has it in italics. He doesn't have it in quotations so we have no assurance this is what Caldwell really said. This is innuendo, rather than argument, Sargent.

Okay, here is the strawman that Sargent has created in order to burn down. [I'll put it in quotes because I'm quoting Sargent] "Those who are opposing the mosque as part of an effort to conflate all Islam with the 9/11 attacks are bigoted and wrong. But there are vague associations between Islam and the attacks -- Osama said he carried the attacks out in Islam's name, and the attackers were Islamic -- and this is hurtful to 9/11 families. Proceeding with the center will only undermine efforts to achieve the reconciliation the center is designed to achieve. Therefore, all legal niceties aside, it must be opposed."

You're right, Sargent, that is a stupid argument, but I think you made it up. Even if someone was dumb enough to make that argument, it isn't the "responsible" argument against building the Cordoba Mosque. It isn't an argument I would make, and since I first began posting on this subject I've examined quite a few arguments for and against the Cordoban mosque and I never heard Sargent's, the one he implies is the most important one.

Sargent goes on, "Here's the problem with this argument: it doesn't reckon with the question of whether it's legitimate to see the construction of an Islamic center near Ground Zero as an inherently provocative act. Either it's legit to see the building of the center as provocative, or it isn't." More nonsense, Sargent. There are a lot more problems with your strawman argument than this one. Who cares whether it is "inherently provocative" or not?

Why not take on something meaty, Sargent. If there is an act, provocative or not, it is the product of an actor, and the actor in this case is named Rauf. He is the actor behind the Cordoban mosque. Rauf wrote a book with the rather benign name of What's Right with Islam, but Journalist Andrew McCarthy reported that the original Arabic title was A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9-11. McCarthy tells us that "Dawa," whether done from the rubble of the World Trade Center or elsewhere, is the missionary work by which Islam is spread." The guy Mayor Bloomberg thinks is wonderful, Rauf, the guy behind the Cordoban Mosque doesn't think the mosque is going to be a great bridge between America and Islam, as some have said. Rauf calls it furthering the spread of Islam, in "the World Trade Center Rubble." Now that is provocative. You can read about this man Feisal Abdul Rauf (whom Mayor Bloomberg admires) at

Sargent goes on, " The only way to see this as a provocative act is to buy into the notion that the building of a center devoted to Islamic heritage is, by accident or by design, tantamount to rubbing the victims' noses into what happened on 9/11 -- that it is inescapably a "victory mosque." To believe this is to legitimize -- wittingly or not -- the world view of the center's bigoted foes." Okay, Sargent, what would you call Rauf's book? Its title is the very thing you are describing -- unless Andrew McCarthy is lying, and he seems to have a copy of the book in Arabic; which I don't read, but maybe you do.

Sargant goes on, "In fact, it is not legitimate to see the building of a center devoted to the study of Islam near Ground Zero as an inherently provocative act. You can't endorse the idea that it's provocative to study the heritage of Islam in the vicinity of Ground Zero while simultaneously arguing that the bigots are wrong to conflate the 9/11 attacks with Islam as a whole. Period. It's not a coherent or sustainable argument." As I discussed in a previous note ( ), one must examine the motives of the builder of the original Mosque. Rauf chose to pattern his new Cordoban Mosque after the original one. Does Sargent have it right? Is it merely "a center devoted to the study of Islam"? That wasn't the motive of the original builder. Let's consider the original mosque:

"But the glory of Cordova, surpassing all its other Moorish or Christian buildings, is the mezquita, or mosque, now a cathedral, but originally founded on the site of a Roman temple and a Visigothic church by Abd-ar-Rahman I. (756-788), who wished to confirm the power of his caliphate by making its capital a great religious centre. Immigration from all the lands of Islam soon rendered a larger mosque necessary, owing to the greatly increased multitude of worshippers, and, by orders of Abd-ar-Rahman II (822-852) and Al-Hakim II. (961-976), the original size was doubled. After various minor additions, Al-Mansur, the vizier of the caliph Hisham II. (976-1009), again enlarged the Zeca, or House of Purification, as the mosque was named, to twice its former size, rendering it the largest sacred building of Islam, after the Kaaba at Mecca." from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, volume 7.

We see here that one of the motives of Abd-ar-Rahman was to confirm the power of his caliphate. He was a proud man and wished his mosque to surpass all of Cordova's "other Moorish and Christian buildings." Note also that Rahman destroyed a Visigothic church and built his mosque on top of its ruins. Is that a coincidence? What do you think, Sargent? Is it a coincidence that Rauf is claiming the same thing in the Arabic title of his book, A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9-11? Abd-ar-Rahman would have been "justified" in writing a book entitled A Call to Prayer from the Visigothic-Church Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of conquered Southern Spain.

Sargent concludes, "People need to choose sides. Either it's justifiable to see the act of building an Islamic center near Ground Zero as provocation, intentional or not, or it isn't. If you choose the former, you are in effect supporting the view that it's defensible to vaguely associate Islam as a whole with the attacks. If people want to endorse that view, fine. Just say so. No fudging here. It's one or the other."

So it's your strawman or nothing. Is that what you hope for, Sargent? Let's take your word "justifiable." From Rauf's perspective, the Cordoban mosque is justifiable as an element of Dawa. He is by means of this mosque spreading Islam. Also, it is no doubt wonderful in his mind that he can follow the pattern of the original builder. Just as the Rahman built his Cordoban mosque on the rubble of the most important symbol of the people he was conquering; so is Rauf building his Cordoban mosque on the rubble of what Islamists view of the most important symbol of American power.

I wouldn't use the word "justifiable" to represent the opposition I feel for Rauf's plans. Other more appropriate words come to mind, like "not letting an enemy get away with thumbing his nose at us," or not letting a sworn enemy have one more center from which to attack us. Israel is way ahead of us on matters like this. They have learned the hard way that if you let an enemy build up his forces in your backyard, he will use them to attack you sooner or later.

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