Well I’ve got some bad new for y’all. Looks like I’m backing to selling my skills on the open market, which means *much* less posting (if history is any indication). That being said, here’s the stuff that I found interesting lately and some quick blurbs and all that. You know the drill.
First up is some more reading on the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” (first mentioned here, here). It’s the latest in a long line of “scare the base about the brown people” tactics that seems to work wonders at the polls. As the best antidote for bigotry and ignorance is exposure and information, here’s some interesting reading in that direction.
Here we have a nice dissection of Newt Gingrich’s (and other commentators) understanding of history regarding the name of the group building the mosque.
This is the important fact that Newt hopes those who read his polemic will be ignorant of: for a ruler to be legitimate in Muslim eyes in the tenth century, during the time when the Great Mosque was being expanded into its present-day dimensions, it was important to emphasize the peaceful succession of Islam from the other religions in the area. A caliph was expected to have arrived at an accord with the Christians and Jews over which he ruled.****** Far from “symboliz[ing] their victory” the Mosque was held up by Muslim historians a symbol of peaceful coexistence with the Christians–however messier the actual relations of Christians and Muslims were at the time.*******
So what should modern Christians think when they hear a Muslim use the word “Cordoba”? Well, I know that Newt hasn’t been a Catholic for very long now, but maybe his priest ought to direct him to read a little thing called “The Catholic Encyclopedia“. Allow me to quote from the 1917 edition (which has the virtue of being in the public domain and easily searchable) and its entry on Cordoba:
In 786 the Arab caliph, Abd-er Rahman I, began the construction of the great mosque of Cordova, now the cathedral, and compelled many Christians to take part in the preparation of the site and foundations. Though they suffered many vexations, the Christians continued to enjoy freedom of worship, and this tolerant attitude of the ameers seduced not a few Christians from their original allegiance. Both Christians and Arabs co-operated at this time to make Cordova a flourishing city, the elegant refinement of which was unequalled in Europe.
Yes, yes, I know, history can be a bit boring and dauting at times, but my what it does for context.
Along that same line of thinking, here’s a long and detailed history of the curiously named city of Elkader, Iowa.
Elkader, Iowa was founded in 1846. It remains today as the seat of Clayton County, with a population of around 1500. It is the only city in America named after an Arab.
There’s a long and detailed history of the intereactions between Muslims and Christians, and it’s five times longer than the history of the U.S. When someone wants to use a reference that calls to mind the positive and peaceful interactions between the popular Abrahamic faiths, and is instead smeared with the very broad brush of “terrorism”, it’s time to break out the history books.
Unfortunately this type of informed, measured response goes against the tide of the time. That tide, to my mind, is very much along the lines of this piece, entitled: “The state of America? Hysteria“.
If you reengage the American media after a month out of the country, as I’ve done this week, it’s hard not to conclude that hysteria is now the dominant characteristic of our politics and civic conversation.
How else to explain the fact that questions like secession and nullification — issues that were resolved in blood by the Civil War more than a century ago — have come alive again and are routinely tossed around, not just by fringe figures but by Republican officeholders and candidates?
For example, Zach Wamp, a Tennessee congressman who opposes the recently enacted healthcare reforms and is running for governor, told an interviewer that he hopes “the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government.”
The most popular such movement involves abolishing or gutting the 10th Amendment as a way to deny American citizenship to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. Even the ostensibly moderate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has signed on to that one, while Rep. Louie Gohmert (R- Texas) speculates that such children actually are terrorist moles planted here to grow up as U.S. citizens as part of a long-range plot.
Nothing quite tops the anti-Muslim hysteria, which has led people to organize opposition to the construction of new mosques in places from Lower Manhattan to Temecula. One candidate for statewide office in Tennessee — somebody should examine their water supply — argues that the 1st Amendment does not cover Muslims.
The piece ends with what I think is probably the single best description of the modern politics landscape.
In the midst of moral panic, inchoate indignation stands in for reason; accusation and denunciation supplant dialogue and argument; history and facts are rendered malleable, merely adjuncts of the moral entrepreneur’s — or should we say provocateur’s — rhetorical will. As we now also see, a self-interested mass media with an economic stake in the theatricality of raised and angry voices can transmit moral panic like a pathogen.
I think that sums it up nicely. It takes cooler and wiser heads to prevail in such a situation, and given the volume and reach of the provocateur’s mouthpiece (my local Fox news affiliate ran a hit piece of the First Lady tonight, something they usually reserve for their cable outlet), it’s dang hard to get a wise word in edgewise.
Humor works as well, occasionally, although sometimes the subtlety can be a bit much for the morally outraged.
Why is this an insult to the victims of 9/11? The answer, I think, is obvious. Among the titles published by Conde Nast is the fashion magazine Vogue. Vogue publishes an Italian edition. Italy, of course, was the incubator of fascism. The terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center were Islamofascists. I think the connection is clear.
It is not only the presence of Vogue at Ground Zero that is such an awful affront and insult. The Fairchild division of Conde Nast is the publisher of Women’s Wear Daily. The initials of Women’s Wear Daily are WWD. WWD sounds almost exactly like WMD. The Islamofascists who attacked our country on 9/11 are part of an Islamofascist movement that seeks to use WMD against Americans. Also, they want to use IEDs. IED also sounds like WWD, though not as much. Also, IED sounds like IUD, and many of the women-oriented magazines published by Conde Nast advocate the use of IUDs as a method of birth control. Those who advocate the use of IUDs cannot be allowed to sully the memories of the dead by building their headquarters on the site of Ground Zero.
And, of course, an interview with Foreign Policy in 2007 explored both the depths of [Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s] ongoing contact with the Administration and his so-called radical views.
I have had meetings with Karen Hughes. However, I would welcome the opportunity to have further, deeper, and more nuanced discussions with other members of the Bush administration on how they need to understand religion and how it intersects with political affairs. To not understand the role of Islam and faith as a motivator is to be incapacitated in shaping a foreign policy that achieves the objectives of the United States.The perception in the Muslim world is that the West wants to impose a secularism upon it, which to them is equivalent to the erasure of religion in society. As an American, I know that is not the intent of the United States at all. But thats the perception. The perception in America is that when people say they want an Islamic state, they want something like the Taliban. And that is not true at all.
Rauf added that, during Ramadan, it was important to remember the love that Jews, Muslims and Christians agree that their gods preach, adding, “It also means do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you.” Guess that’s one thing Rauf’s critics forgot.
This whole issue is, largely, one based on those perceptions and on clarifying the reality of the situation. Asshats like this ain’t helping.
“Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero,” Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association wrote this week on the AFA website. “This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.”
That’s a bit too Palin-American for even the most xenophobic folks, one would hope.
That said, ADL’s misguided excess of feeling in a case in which clear thinking was requisite is not part of a pattern, which is why it stands out so clearly as a mistake. In fact, since 9/11 the organization has spoken out frequently and clearly against discrimination toward Muslims.
As Amanda Susskind, who directs ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region, told me this week, “ADL is not in the business of promoting an anti-Muslim agenda. Our original statement focused on the issues of location and sensitivity of the Islamic Community Center. The debate on those issues was hijacked by bigots, Islamophobes and those who wanted to promote their own political agendas.”