Some Common Misconceptions laid to rest


Feisal Abdul Rauf
Image via Wikipedia

This is a very good article by the man who was at the center of the Park 51 masjid, or the euphemistically named World Trade Center mosque.  Feisal Abdul Rauf  addresses many of the concerns Americans may have legitimately had which blew up into large scale myths that took on a life of their own that have no basis in reality.  Take a look

 

I founded the multi-faith Cordoba Initiative to fight the misunderstandings that broaden the divide between Islam and the West — each perceived as harmful by the other. Millions of American Muslims, who see no contradiction between being American and being Muslim, are working hard to bridge this gap. It is therefore not surprising that they have become the target of attacks by those who would rather burn bridges than build them, and the subject of recent congressional hearings exploring their “radicalization.” What myths are behind the entrenched beliefs that Muslims simply do not belong in the United States and that they threaten its security?

1. American Muslims are foreigners.

Islam was in America even before there was a United States. But Muslims didn’t peaceably emigrate — slave-traders brought them here.

Historians estimate that up to 30 percent of enslaved blacks were Muslims. West African prince Abdul Rahman, freed by President John Quincy Adams in 1828 after 40 years in captivity, was only one of many African Muslims kidnapped and sold into servitude in the New World. In early America, Muslim names could be found in reports of runaway slaves as well as among rosters of soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Muslims fought to preserve American independence in the War of 1812 and for the Union in the Civil War. And more than a century later, thousands of African Americans, including Cassius Clay and Malcolm Little, converted to Islam.

Currently, there are two Muslim members of Congress and thousands of Muslims on active duty in the armed forces. Sure, some Muslim soldiers may have been born elsewhere, but if you wear the uniform of the United States and are willing to die for this country, can you be really be considered a foreigner?

2. American Muslims are ethnically, culturally and politically monolithic.

In fact, the American Muslim community is the most diverse Muslim community in the world.

U.S. Muslims believe different things and honor their faith in different ways. When it comes to politics, a 2007 Pew study found that 63 percent of Muslim Americans “lean Democratic,” 11 percent “lean Republican” and 26 percent “lean independent.” Ethnically, despite the popular misperception, the majority of Muslims in the United States (and in the world, for that matter) are not Arabs — about 88 percent check a different box on their U.S. census form. At least one-quarter, for example, are African American. Anyone who thinks otherwise need look no further than the July 30, 2007, cover of Newsweek magazine, which featured a multicultural portrait of Islam in America.

Muslim Americans are also diverse in their sectarian affiliation. And whether they are Sunni or Shiite, their attendance at religious services varies. According to the State Department publication “Muslims in America — A Statistical Portrait,” Muslim Americans range from highly conservative to moderate to secular in their religious devotion, just like members of other faith communities.

With above-average median household incomes, they are also an indispensable part of the U.S. economy. Sixty-six percent of American Muslim households earn more than $50,000 per year — more than the average U.S. household.

3. American Muslims oppress women.

According to a 2009 study by Gallup, Muslim American women are not only more educated than Muslim women in Western Europe, but are also more educated than the average American. U.S. Muslim women report incomes closer to their male counterparts than American women of any other religion. They are at the helm of many key religious and civic organizations, such as the Arab-American Family Support Center, Azizah magazine, Karamah, Turning Point, the Islamic Networks Group and the American Society for Muslim Advancement.

Of course, challenges to gender justice remain worldwide. In the World Economic Forum’s 2009 Gender Gap Index, which ranks women’s participation in society, 18 of the 25 lowest-ranking countries have Muslim majorities. However, as documented by the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality , Muslim women are leading the struggle for change through their scholarship, civic engagement, education, advocacy and activism in the United States and across the world.

4. American Muslims often become “homegrown” terrorists.

According to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, more non-Muslims than Muslims were involved in terrorist plots on U.S. soil in 2010. In a country in the grip of Islamophobia — where Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) can convene hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims — this has been overlooked. In 2010, the Triangle Center also found, the largest single source of initial information on planned terrorist attacks by Muslims in the United States was the Muslim American community.

As an American Muslim leader who worked with FBI agents on countering extremism right after Sept. 11, 2001, I fear that identifying Islam with terrorism threatens to erode American Muslims’ civil liberties and fuels the dangerous perception that the United States is at war with Islam. Policymakers must recognize that, more often than not, the terrorists the world should fear are motived by political and socioeconomic — not religious — concerns.

5. American Muslims want to bring sharia law to the United States.

In Islam, sharia is the divine ideal of justice and compassion, similar to the concept of natural law in the Western tradition. Though radicals exist on the fringes of Islam, as in every religion, most Muslim jurists agree on the principal objectives of sharia: the protection and promotion of life, religion, intellect, property, family and dignity. None of this includes turning the United States into a caliphate.

For centuries, most Islamic scholars around the world have agreed that Muslims must follow the laws of the land in which they live. This principle was established by the prophet Muhammad in A.D. 614-615, when he sent some of his followers to be protected by the Christian king of Abyssinia, where they co-existed peacefully. Not only do American Muslims have no scriptural, historical or political grounds to oppose the U.S. Constitution, but the U.S. Constitution is in line with the objectives and ideals of sharia. Muslims already practice sharia in the United States when they worship freely and follow U.S. laws.

In his 1776 publication “Thoughts on Government,” John Adams praised Muhammad as a “sober inquirer after truth.” And the Supreme Court building contains a likeness of the prophet, whose vision of justice is cited as an important precedent to the U.S. Constitution.

“nuff said!

Florida Minister says he won’t back down-UPDATE


The minister in Florida who wants to have a burn the Quran day on September 11 says he won’t back down from doing it and I say good for him!  It is his constitutional right to burn copies of the Quran, the religious book of Muslims.  Let’s not forget we live in a country where  it is the right of any American to burn the US flag, and we all remember the turmoil  reaching that decision caused America. It is one of the “hazards” of living in a free society; protested speech against patriotic or religious symbols is not illegal. American Muslims more than any other group, should understand that,  and  should register their disagreement with the burning  of Qurans act,with thoughtful and or provocative editorials like this one ,  or planned  peaceful  protests like this,  for even though what Jones wants to do is legal it is morally reprehensible.  That’s as far as his opponents should take it, however.

It is this type of dissent  Muslims should expect from  those who oppose their building of a masjid near the site of the former WTC buildings; one may disagree with the building of the Cordoba House at Park 51, and may protest the  building going up there, however it is the right of the supporters of that project, codified by the legal authorities responsible, for the house to be built there and Cordoba House’s supporters should proceed with resolve to see it through  even during times of  intense opposition to it AND  the opponents should resign themselves to the inevitability of its completion .  What will then become a true battle of ideas a distinction between those who oppose book burning versus those who oppose a religious house of worship will be how the different groups express their opposition and accept the rule of law.  In other words, the behavior of the opposition will have more of an impact on the public debate about the presence of Islam in America than the action which spurs that opposition.   America will have to choose between those who promote racist, stereotypical, violent reaction to protected speech and religious freedom and those whose opposition is principled, respectful or thoughtful.

Given America’s past inclination to mob/racist rule the outcome is not so certain and definitely not in the near future.  One of the reasons why we must have this frank discussion about race in this country is because the racist template we’ve set for ourselves over the years  allows us to insert whatever group of the day we want to hate into  it and then hurl invective and discriminatory actions at them which we try to make into law to suppress them.  We still have not managed to steer clear of this disease because we haven’t really tried to cure it. Saddle up America, here we go again; we’re in for another  protracted campaign for the soul of this country.

UPDATE

Jones did back down and if anyone can understand the reasons why he did so, please explain them to me.  The man who claimed to have received messages from God  is unfathomable, sick, crazy in the head and one as intimately  familiar with him as his own daughter has come out and said so.  There’s even mention of  a mental disorder here as well. Why we, citizenship media as well as corporate media gave him so much of our time, bandwidth and news print is one of the mysteries of life.  A “pastor” with a minuscule congregation of about 50 managed to hold the entire world hostage with his delusions of grandeur and his fear injected venom which paralyzed a nation, diverted its attention from a more pressing national agenda than his personal dementia and left us, after his ‘never mind’ moment feeling used and abandoned from it all.  We deserve it….we put in way too much time feeding the ego of a man whose ego is as large as any other megalomaniac or larger, being called by a US Army general, the Secretary of Defense, the FBI, the NYC police chief and countless others who otherwise wouldn’t give you the time of day can be very gratifying, but what did all of that give us, the People?  It revealed for us that dark side of our collective nature that loves to be frightened and angered; it allowed the haters in our midst to feed us their daily ration of  hatred and loathing for “others” who are really “we”, “us”.  Someone wrote on their headline, ‘Florida Pastor Makes National Jackass of Himself’….and my answer would be no he didn’t.  He made jackasses out of us.

Pam Gellar and Park51 Opponents embrace fascists


There was never any doubt that most of the rabid opponents to the Cordoba House were fueled by racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, but the lengths they’ve gone to embrace these groups while rationalizing their lapse in judgment/sanity is an exercise in gymnastics only they could pull off.  Pam Geller, pictured left, is just one of many Americans who’ve sided with European racists and brought their polemic to the shores of America.  It’s strange that such racists are allowed entry onto the shores of America, with their proven record of participating in violence against their own social order, when Muslim activists in the past were denied entry to America for espousing non-violent ideas.  That is also a commentary on American government; Bush’s regime was against the ‘free market place of ideas’, whereas Obama’s administration seems to allow them even at the peril of its own existence.  This is also an indication at the depths at which American Islamophobes will go to demonize American Muslims and why these demagogues are so  dangerous.  If 21st century Americans want to identify with the likes of the English Defence League in expressing opposition to religious freedom, it will be a lot easier to know who the terrorists really are.

Cordoba House’s Developer in exclusive interview


Please take 18 minutes of your time to look at this unedited interview with Sharif El-Gamal, the developer of the        proposed Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero, who ripped his critics and said he has no plans to move the proposed location of the project.

Letter from a Birminham jail revisited


Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Party is the latest person in Obama’s party to undercut the commander-in-chief by saying the supporters of Cordoba House, while they have the RIGHT to build their community center where they want, should  build it elsewhere.  Harry Reid, running for reelection in Nevada as well as Dean are more concerned about their party’s health than the health of the Nation and are the worse examples of political hacks, people who live to advance the cause of a special,narrowly defined  interest not taking into account the greater good of the citizenry of the entire country.

In the face of such flight from principle it is apparent  that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may acknowledge the legitimacy of the Constitution’s right to religious expression  but when these very same individuals begin identifying with a group other than the entire citizenry of America they tend to dilute their position with the caveat ‘but they should build elsewhere’ thereby negating completely their concession and in the process become immoral.

Such was the conclusion arrived at by Martin Luther King as he sat in a Birmingham city jail in 1963, confronted by fellow white Christians who wanted to encourage him to go slower in his quest for overthrowing segregation in racist America.  The people he addressed in his letter  who agreed with the principle of desegregation were not throwing their weight behind King’s action of non-violent protest and social agitation because they didn’t want to upset the status quo, although that is exactly what they were doing  by agreeing segregation shouldn’t exist.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

In the parallel universe between 1960s  Birmingham, Alabama and 21st century America, “freedom” becomes freedom of religion and religious expression and “segregation” becomes denial of a place to worship at the place of one’s choice.  The comparison is real, palatable, and in all the fervor caused by the controversy very few people have spoken out against the Islamophobia that has embraced the opposition  movement to build the Cordoba House at another location.  Some people have even taken to a wholly unconstitutional position of building the cultural center on land provided to the developers by the state of  New York in what would clearly be a breech of separation of religion and state.  No one has thought for a moment about the ramifications this has for other faith communities that may be considered more main stream?  What would you say to a evangelical church that has permission to build on a property while government officials insist they build elsewhere or prominent members of society insisted such abrogation of that church’s decision.  Would that be considered coercion?

For those who say it is insensitive to build such an establishment close Ground Zero, that it’s presence exacerbates emotions towards Muslims and this should be avoided King answered that concern while sitting in a Birmingham jail so many years ago

I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

If you remove the adjective “white” every time it modifies moderate and replace “Negro” with Muslim, and where you find names of obstructionists who opposed King in his day you replaced with the Republican or Democratic party you would have the essence of the argument against those who say Muslims have the right, but……

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.

Dean, Reid, Clinton and Bush (the latter two having not made any statement on this issue) have done a disservice to citizenship and betrayed the trust they have to America to represent all of its citizens.  The rights given to all of us were unconditional and that as long as the citizen was in good standing with the law they are expected, nay encouraged, to practice those rights to the utmost of their ability.  Those who say, ‘yes, but……”  are the same obstructionists faced by King during the dark days of American segregation.  It is up to Muslims and other freedom loving Americans, freedom riders/fighters to agitate for total and complete freedom of expression for which they are entitled.  Nothing less is acceptable now as it wasn’t acceptable then.

Newt Gingrich is an idiot


This is what Newt Gingrich has said

The folks who want to build this mosque – who are really radical Islamists who want to triumphally prove that they can build a mosque right next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by radical Islamists – those folks don’t have any interest in reaching out to the community. They’re trying to make a case about supremacy. That’s why they won’t go anywhere else, that’s why they won’t accept any other offer.

This is the reality

“Imam Feisal has participated at the Aspen Institute in Muslim-Christian-Jewish working groups looking at ways to promote greater religious tolerance.  He has consistently denounced radical Islam and terrorism, and promoted a moderate and tolerant Islam. Some of this work was done under the auspices of his own group, the Cordoba Initiative. I liked his book, and I participated in some of the meetings in 2004 or so. This is why I find it a shame that his good work is being undermined by this inflamed dispute. He is the type of leader we should be celebrating in America, not undermining.”

Isn’t it  clear that the Republicans are not grounded in reality?

Destroying the hallowed ground myth


Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog does an awesome job of destroying the race baiting Islamophobes’ objections to the Cordoba House being built in close proximity to the 911 disaster because it somehow will upset the sensitivity of those who suffered loss there.  And while there really were never any legitimate  objections to this project to begin with, and each one that the opponents have raised has been seriously knocked down or derailed they keep popping up because there are some in America who want to ascribe any and all failure to the present administration or want to maintain an obstructionist agenda in order to win elections in November.

So here we go again……the hallowed ground scenario.  This is also what’s going up in and around the “sacred” ground of the World Trade Center complex, some would say the same distance from it as the Cordoba House.   The New York Dolls Gentlemen’s Club on 59 Murray Street, where you can have all of your emotional needs met.  If you want to reflect on what happened at WTC on 911 the New York Dolls club is the place to go to do just that.  No doubt the likes of the one above will be glad to give you a hand, at a price of course, to come to grips with what took place on that awful day and hold the memories of loved and cherished ones who died on that day.  A titty bar, that’s what we call them down South, is more deserving of occupying that holiest of ground in the American psyche than an interfaith institution that wants to bridge gaps and promote brother/sisterhood among people.  That’s just what the country needs.

Hat tip to Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog

The New War of the Christian Crusaders


By David Rosen

The building of a Muslim community center in an abandoned building two blocks from the site of New York’s former World Trade Center has become the latest controversy in America’s long fought religious wars. The construction of the center, often referred to as a mosque, has become the latest rallying issue for the Christian right, Tea Party proponents and Republican operatives in their war to impose moralistic and corporatist values on America.

It is too early to know how the Muslim center issue will be resolved, but it is clear that the rantings of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Abe Foxman (of the Anti-Defamation League) and others have played an important role pushing a local issue into the center-stage of national politics. Since the horrendous attacks of 9/11, Muslims in general and American Muslims in particular have been the targets of an undeclared religious war promoted by Christian fundamentalists and self-serving Republicans. For some among these religious zealots, Islam is a threat to their belief that the U.S. is a white Protestant nation. Over the last four centuries, Quakers, Mormons, Catholics, Jews and many others have been targets of religious persecution, often the victims of imprisonments, hangings, lynchings and other acts of violence.

Rightwing ranters might well not know the history of religious intolerance in America, but they are surely aware that they are fueling a deep-seated rage among a certain scary segment of the Christian populous. This round in the ongoing religious culture wars has yet to explode into the ugly violence that took place in the aftermath of 9/11, and one can only hope that the current controversy will not lead to attacks on Muslims.

Sadly, like the attacks the followed 9/11, rightwing ranters like Palin and Gingrich will act “shocked” by the violence if it occurs and will claim innocence as to their roles fomenting it. With a knowing sneer, they will wash their hands of the blood they have caused and seek out other innocent victims.

In an excellent article on Tomdispatch, Stephen Salisbury details the current Manhattan Muslim center controversy and the spreading anti-Muslim hysteria being whipped up around the country over the opening of new local mosques. As Salisbury opines, “The angry ‘debate’ over whether the building should exist has a kind of glitch-in-the-Matrix feel to it, leaving in its wake an aura of something-very-bad-about-to-happen.” [tomdispatch.com, August 11, 2010]

Salisbury discusses the ongoing protests against mosques also taking place in New York’s Brooklyn and Staten Island as well as in California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wisconsin. He connects these controversies to the headline-grabbing opportunist comments by Palin (in true Palin-speak, “peaceful Muslims” need to “refudiate” the center) and Gingrich (who calls on Saudi Arabia to open churches and synagogues).

He also draws attention to the pernicious role played by Rick Lazio, New York State Republican gubernatorial candidate, who assails the center as subverting the right of New Yorkers “to feel safe and be safe.” Because New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Attorney General (and likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Cuomo have come out in support of the Muslim center, it will like be a major issue in the November election.

Most importantly, Salisbury provides an invaluable overview of the anti-Muslim campaign that arose in the wake of 9/11, reminding readers just how alarmingly vicious good-old Christian love can be.

Part of the “glitch-in-the-Matrix feel” that Salisbury notes is the absence of a recognition that the current Muslin center controversy is part of a long history of religious intolerance in American.

In the days following the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush, a born-again Christian, in a spontaneous and unscripted statement blurted out the unspoken truth that guided the U.S.’s initial military counter-attack campaign in Afghanistan: “This crusade,” he said, “this war on terrorism.” While Bush’s admission was later repudiated and disappeared from the public discourse, it define the unstated goal of the ultra-reactionary Christians who were his core-constituency and knew full well what he meant.

At the heart of Bush’s crusade agenda was an invocation of the “shock and awe” tradition that defined religious wars since the grand crusades of the Middle Ages and an acknowledgement that they needed to be applied in Afghanistan. The grand crusades waged by the Roman Church were against Muslims and Jews to capture and hold ancient Jerusalem and the Holy Lands, and to defeat Orthodox or Eastern Christianity. Many perished. Similar, crusaders were waged against Christian heretics, including early Protestants, and done so in the name of their absolutist god.

This tradition was brought over to the New World with the Pilgrims and other early British settlers. The worst and most sustained form of religious war in America has been waged against the Native people. For all the annual whitewashing that takes place at Thanksgiving Day parades, early Puritans fought the Pequot Indians in Eastern Connecticut until 1637 when the General Courts of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Colony launched a war of extermination against them. (Native people found that the Pilgrims stunk, literally; Europeans rarely bathed, believing it unhealthy, and seldom were naked, believing it immoral.) The white Christian race and religious crusade against Native North American people persisted for centuries.

Pilgrims also imposed religious intolerance on themselves. Early Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers were aligned with the Church of England and looked badly upon those who contested their orthodoxy. Those challenging Calvinist dogma were subject to banishment, whipping, branding, ear-lobbing and even hanging. Early leaders like Thomas Hooker, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were banished. Early Quaker settles in Plymouth were also banished and four were hung publicly.

Over the subsequent centuries, Americans have witnessed repeated bouts of religious intolerance. Not surprisingly, these episodes were often accompanied by the same shrill rhetoric we find shouted today by those opposing the Muslim center.

The Know Nothing movement grew out of the Second Great Awakening or the Great Revival of the 1830s and became the American Party that flourished during the late-’40s and early-’50s. It got its name when members where asked the party’s positions and simply said, “I know nothing.” It drew together Protestants who felt threatened by the rapid increase in European immigrants and, most especially, Catholics, flooding the cities. It felt that Catholics, as followers of the Pope, were not loyal Americans and were going to take over the country. It had strong support in the North that witnessed large-scale Irish immigration after 1848. The American Party captured the Massachusetts legislature in 1854 and, in 1856, backed Millard Fillmore for president, who secured nearly 1 million votes, a quarter of all votes cast.

The Ku Klux Klan was established in 1866 and, during Reconstruction, began a systematic campaign against freed African Americans. However, by the ’80s, it had lost its way as a racialist organization. It was revitalized in the wake of the Atlanta trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman who had been falsely charged and convicted of murdering Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old white Christian girl, in 1913. In 1915, after the Georgia governor commuted his sentence, Frank was forcibly removed from the state penitentiary where he was being held by a mob of white Christians and lynched. Subsequently, many of those who participated in Frank’s murder came together to re-launch the Klan.

In the late-’10s, the Klan aligned with nativists, eugenicists and the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) to not only promote temperance but racialist and anti-immigrant policies. As WWI hysteria mounted, ASL’s New York representative, William Anderson, equated being pro-German with being anti-American: German beer, saloons and breweries were the unnamed enemy. He had a deep antipathy toward Catholics, accusing the Church of mounting an “assault on law and order,” of opposing Prohibition because it was promoted by Protestants and accusing it of engaging in “efforts to destroy [the Prohibition] victory and bring back the saloons.” Anti-Catholic antipathy contributed to the defeat of the country’s first Catholic nominee, Al Smith’s, in the 1928 presidential election.

Many other episodes of religious intolerance have taken place since the ’20s. However, John Kennedy’s 1960 presidential victory marked the moment in American history when anti-Catholic appeals in national election were no longer acceptable. Similarly, the growing acceptance among Christian evangelicals of the notion of the “last days” has lead to a weird embrace of Jews and Israel and may have contributed to a moderation in anti-Semitism.

In the days before 9/11, most informed people accepted Islam as a variant within the Abrahamic tradition. However, in the aftermath of the attacks, even this claim came under suspicion. Earlier this summer, Ron Ramsey, a Republican candidate for governor of Tennessee, claimed that Islam is a “cult” that did not deserve First Amendment protection: “You can even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, a way of life, or a cult — whatever you want to call it… .” Challenged by a diverse assortment of Tennesseans, including traditional conservatives, Ramsey has backed off this assertion.

If truth be told, the Manhattan Muslim center is both a real issue and a fictitious spectacle. It is real in the sense that its being built at the designated site on Park Place will be a victory for religious tolerance. America is undergoing a profound economic and cultural realignment. Traditional white society is giving way to a truly multi-cultural America; conventional Protestantism is giving way a significant increase in the Catholic populous (mostly Hispanics) and growing Muslim, Hindu and Sekh communities.

The Muslim center story, like that of Michelle Obama’s holiday in Spain, is a false issue, a spectacle promoting social deception. Since Obama’s victory, the Republican right has implemented a very effective wrecking-ball strategy, attempting to destroy every issue considered. Its guiding principle is simple: Obama and the Democrats can do no right. To realize this goal, it did anything and everything in its power to make sure as little as possible got through Congress, got honestly assessed in the media and got to help ordinary Americans. Sadly, the Christian Republican right is succeeding and the Obama leadership remains clueless.

A century-and-a-half ago white Protestants came to accept Irish immigrants as white. While hard to imagine today, early Irish immigrants, those who came to America in the wake of the 1848 famine, were seen by many traditional Protestants as “niggers,” not really different from African Americans. Faced with the inevitabilities of post-Civil War modernization, old-world Protestants changed. And with it, racism changed.

The challenge that faces today’s Anglo-American Protestant descendents, those who see Muslims as “niggers,” is whether then can change and accept America as a multi-cultural society.

Carpetbaggers and Scalawags


Minstrels is another name that comes to mind for these people in modern day America who travel the country inciting and inflaming people’s passions about Islam and Muslims in America.  I’m especially piqued at the prospect that a southerner from the state of Georgia who no doubt understands full well the historical role carpetbaggers played in  his state’s history, a role he no doubt would describe as detrimental,  would himself take up that calling.

I’m talking about Newt Gingrich, in another life he was a congressman from Georgia who had a rather ignominious reputation relating to personal integrity, who has gone on to New York City and weighed in on the Cordoba House which is slated to be built near the location where the World Trade centers stood before being destroyed on 9/11/01.  Nevermind the fact that this establishment in the heart of one of the most culturally diverse cities in America will have facilities for people of all faiths to pray, Muslims, Christians or Jews, or that it will have recreational facilities for all  an interfaith YM/YWCA, or that the democratically elected Mayor of New York city which will house Cordoba House has gone on record with a very constitutionally correct statement

I think our young men and women overseas are fighting for exactly this – for the right of people to practice their religion and for government to not pick and choose which religions they support, which religions they don’t

Gingrich has inserted himself in the debate with the really inappropriate analogy of the US and Saudi Arabia by saying

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.

Of course it didn’t take long for carpetbagger Sarah Palin to join in the fracas and with her appearance the usual scalawags, locals from among the New York landscape joined in with their unhealthy doses of Islamophobic paranoia.  If you remember anything about American history you would know that “carpetbaggers”, was a derogatory term applied to Northerners who moved to the South during the post Civil War era between 1865 and 1877  looking for opportunism and exploitation of the area in which they moved. The outsiders often formed alliances with freed slaves and southern whites of like mind  nicknamed scalawags who then  politically manipulated and controlled former Confederate states for varying periods for their own financial and power gains. Carpetbaggers were viewed as dubious outsiders whose objectives were to disrupt the status quo for their own political gain.  As time went on, the terms changed, so that people who came to an area of the South, especially during the Civil Rights era, were called outsider agitators, or communists.  (I assert there is no moral equivalency between the people who agitated for change brought on during the time post Civil War era to now and the Islamophobes of today; the former was inclusive in aspiration as well as participation while the latter is exclusive)

Gingrich comes from a place in America that knows all to well how people react to outside influences, positively and negatively and seizing on that experience has allowed himself to be swept up in the racism of the Islamophobic reactionaries.  It is especially relevant because he is considering running for President in 2012, and recognizing there is a tidal backlash against Muslims and Islam has gathered his surf board and is now riding that wave.  His co-partner in crime Palin, equally ambitious and cash crazed has joined him as has the scalawags of the movement, some of them you can find mentioned here.  They are all political opportunists, demagogues whose rhetoric appeals to a segment of the population they hope will catapult them to political power.  They are segregationists in the sense they envision a limited participation of certain segments of America’s population into the everyday affairs of the public.  Gingrich and his ilk are driven by a bloodlust that has seeped into America’s conscious, in part due to two wars being fought by American troops and in part by a war of propaganda that has permeated the airwaves attaching all the necessarily repugnant stereotypes of a people in order to influence public opinion.  The people of NYC and surrounding areas would do well to listen to the patriotism of Mayor Bloomberg, whose appeal is to the rule of law and social order.  Gingrich and his band of scalawags hold such noble callings in contempt and therefore should be dismissed.