This past weekend, Quinnipiac and the nation marked the 9th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Although the duration of time since has been long, the void left unfilled by the tragic murder of these 3,000 innocent lives is perpetual in the hearts of loved ones, which includes many in the Quinnipiac community.
Following United Flight 175’s crash into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, America and the world learned that two loaded jetliners did not accidentally fly into these Towers filled with vibrant, resourceful, and brave Americans. 9/11 was the work of radical Islamists, including the 19 hijackers, the Taliban who gave them haven, support from global private and clandestine sources, and Al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden.
After the attack, President Bush vowed revenge on the terrorists and those who harbored them, but also distinguished Islam and ordinary Muslims from the terrorists who murdered 3000 people. I concur with most Americans that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people. I fervently disagree with those who would label all Muslims responsible for 9/11, or decree that all mosques are breeding grounds for terrorism. Likening mosques in general to Nazi shrines, as Newt Gingrich’s comment has, is wrong and hateful. I call on him to “refudiate” (Sarah Palin-style) that comment.
However, to deny that there is a small but sizeable yet potent portion of Muslims who seek transnational caliphate under Sharia-based law, religious freedom abolished, women’s and gay rights curtailed, and an ideologically vanguard political order, accomplished through violence against “infidels,” is to deny reality. Islamist terrorism is the world’s greatest danger today, being responsible for deadly attacks on every inhabited continent, with deadlier attacks more widespread than other ideological terrorisms. The actors seek similar ends, acting not only in US allied countries, such as Britain, Spain, Jordan, and Egypt, but also in countries which have little to no connection with US foreign policy or Israel, such as Sudan, Algeria, Indonesia, Russia, and China.
Recently, businessman and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has come under fire regarding his planned Park51 project, a 13 story mosque and cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero. Rauf has attempted portray himself as a moderate who opposes radicalism. However, his words and opinions call into question his “moderation,” and thus sensitivity for the victims of September 11, their families, friends, and their compatriots.
Shortly after 9/11, Osama bin Laden declared “God has blessed a group of vanguard Muslims, the forefront of Islam, to destroy America,” and then justified attacks on the West with the then-80 year old decline of the Ottoman Caliphate. However, instead of blaming radical Islamist ideology for September 11, Rauf chose to blame the victim first, America, as an “accessory” to the mere “crime” “that happened.” What is disturbing is that Rauf clearly ignores bin Laden’s stated reasons for masterminding September 11. When bin Laden declared war on America in 1996, his top two stated reasons that it was “God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it” were American presence in Saudi Arabia following Iraqi threats, and US-led sanctions on Iraq following Desert Storm. Although sanctions likely prevented Saddam Hussein’s acquisition of WMDs, Rauf morally equalizes them to Al-Qaeda. Clearly, bin Laden was not “made in the USA,” as Rauf claims. Although America armed Afghan resistance to Communist occupation, there is no proof that Osama himself received American support nor was he among the indigenous Afghan groups the US used to help bring down the Evil Empire. Although America failed to help stabilize post-Soviet Afghanistan, we did not spawn the Taliban or “make” Osama.
Aside from blaming America for 9/11, when confronted with pressing issues, he dances around the question more than Michael Jackson danced around stage with a hand on his crotch. His response to Western concerns about Sharia law, a legal system typically accompanied by stoning adulterers, hanging homosexuals, punitive amputation, leniency for honor killings, a requirement of four male witnesses to prove a woman’s rape, oppression of non-Muslims, and death sentences for converting from Islam, falls flat. Sharia was the law in pre-2001 Afghanistan, and currently is in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, Gaza, amongst other Gulf/North African countries. Even in countries which don’t practice full Sharia, the legal codes of Syria, Egypt, amongst other Muslim countries incorporate many harsh aspects of Sharia. Rauf’s indifference toward this brutality is best displayed in a Huffington Post opinion piece, entitled “What Shariah Law Is All About.” Rauf briefly mentions these things in the first paragraph, but spends the next six paragraphs attempting to liken Sharia to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Gee, I didn’t know the Founding Fathers would have stoned Benjamin Franklin (The identity of his love child’s mother is unknown, but I hope she was prettier than Monica!) Not coincidentally, radical Islamists, from Indonesia to North Africa have sought to implement Sharia wherever they seek power.
Another typical tome from Rauf is that America’s unpopularity in the Muslim world stems from her “support for dictators and tyrants” in the Middle East. Imam Rauf’s blatant hypocrisy manifests itself in another HuffPo piece suggesting Obama proclaim support for the principles of the illegitimate, despotic, and anti-American Iranian regime following the stolen 2009 election. Nowhere was a denunciation of this fixed contest to be found. While critical of the US for supporting various Middle East leaders, he fails to address the lack of viable secular democratic alternatives. Directly in contradiction to the US State Dept, Rauf also refuses to call the terrorist organization Hamas as such, despite its undeniably “tyrannical” rule in Gaza. Why did Nidal Hasan shoot up Fort Hood again? Imam Rauf’s support for a one-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, in other words, the elimination of the Jewish State, meshes quite well with Hamas, Hezbollah, bin Laden, and other extremists.
Furthermore, would any sensible person build a 13 story Serb Orthodox Church in Bosniak regions of Bosnia, a 13 story Shinto shrine near Pearl Harbor, or for that matter, a 13 story McDonalds in My Lai? If Pat Robertson attempted to build a 13 story giga-church near the site of an abortion clinic bombing, I would oppose such a project. However, just as I don’t believe for a minute that most Muslims laud 9/11, I also don’t believe most Serbs laud Srebrenica, most Japanese laud their actions in WWII, most evangelicals condone clinic bombings, or that most Americans are happy about Vietnam. The aforementioned examples would simply rub the identity of the perpetrators in the victim’s faces, as would Park51 at this Hallowed Ground.
Therefore, it is no wonder polls have consistently shown that the vast majority of Americans oppose this divisive attempt to “build bridges,” and believe it should be moved. Yet, given Rauf’s extreme views, it is obvious that only one such as Rauf, who minimizes, rationalizes, and justifies Islamist extremism, and blames America for 9/11, would build a 13 story mosque deliberately so close to where those acting in the name of Islam killed nearly 3000 Americans for being American. He won’t consider moving it, declining Gov. Paterson’s offer of state land. In turn, Rauf, his supporters, and the talking heads have attempted to make the issue one of religious freedom by depicting opponents as “racist bigots.” Indeed, to deny the constitutional right to build a mosque is un-American. However, given that roughly the same amount of people support the legal right to build the mosque, the attempt to change subjects rings hollow. Prominent Muslims have spoken out against Park51, including board members of the Muslim Canadian Congress, Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic studies at American University, Abdul Al-Rashid, chairman Al-Arabiya TV, and Gamal Abd Al-Gawad, director of Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
Defenders have claimed Park51 isn’t a mosque, despite the mosque planned for inside, to be used for both five times a day prayer and weekly sermons. I doubt anyone is missing work to go play basketball five times a day. However, they miss the point: it’s not about just any mosque; it’s about this mosque. The two smaller and older mosques nearby yet further from Ground Zero already accommodate the small Muslim community in the area. When supporters liken Park51 to building a church in Oklahoma City, again they miss the point: McVeigh didn’t expressly act as a Christian, whereas the 9/11 perpetrators expressly acted in their religion’s name.
America, the last best hope of man on Earth, is a nation of courage, liberty, and tolerance. America is not “Islamophobic:” most Americans oppose Park51 for its size, location and builder’s views, not because of a hate of Islam or Muslims. America’s aid to the Muslim world includes liberating Kuwait from Saddam, stopping genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo, and liberating Afghanistan from the Taliban. Polls show most Americans would not object to a mosque/Islamic center near their home. Opposition to Park51 transcends partisan, geographical, and racial lines, rendering cries of “racism” as mere left-wing blather, similar to right-wingers who label all they oppose as “communism.” To the small contingent which does use racist epithets against Muslims, attacks Muslims for simply being Muslim, vandalizes mosques, or protests all mosques as “terror havens,” you don’t represent me, the vast majority of those who oppose Park51, or America. Your company in this debate is unwelcome. However, to Imam Rauf, your radical views, your refusal to discuss Park51’s funding, and blaming America for September 11 reflects your insensitivity for those who fell with our Towers and thus the bad faith in which you act. We the people, including myself, say Park51 is unwelcome.