Cliff May

Wow! The Washington Post has identified “rabble-rousing outsiders!” I don’t think I’ve heard language like that since southern segregationists complained about young civil rights activists descending on Mississippi. So who are these interlopers stirring up the unwashed masses? No need to guess: It’s anyone who dares criticize plans for an Islamic center near Ground Zero in Manhattan. According to Jason Horowitz, the author of a story on the front page of the Post’s Style section, New Yorkers take a “dim view” of them.

Mr. Horowitz informs us that the planned Islamic center has become “the prime target of national conservatives who, after years of disparaging New York as a hotbed of liberal activity, are defending New York against a mosque that will rise two city blocks from Ground Zero.”

The hypocrisy! Have they no shame?

Mr. Horowitz was no doubt so busy reporting this big story that he missed the bulletins about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean – no nasty national conservatives they! -- also opposing the Ground Zero Islamic project.

However, Mr. Horowitz did score an interview with Ali Mohammed who sells “falafel over rice” in the besieged neighborhood and who has “reached his saturation point.” Opponents of the project, he says, “got nothing to do with New York and they don’t care about New York. They are trying to create propaganda.”

Yes, of course, this is a New York thing. Foreigners wouldn’t understand. The terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers had a bone to pick with the Big Apple. That explains why Mr. Horowitz doesn’t ask Mr. Mohammed who he thinks attacked us on 9/11/01, their ideology and goals. Indeed, there is not a single sentence in his article relating to such matters.

Besides, New York City’s “entire political establishment” thinks the Islamic center is a dandy idea. And when a political establishment speaks, who has the right to question them? Certainly not politicians and reporters and bloggers from outside the five boroughs! The noive of some people!

Mr. Horowitz also interviews Oz Sultan, a spokesman for the project, who sings from the same hymnal: “The people behind this [Islamic center] are New Yorkers. These are local yokels.”

How does that square with Mr. Sultan’s refusal to rule out the possibility that funds for this $100 million project may be raised in Saudi Arabia and Iran? Inquiring minds may want to know; Mr. Horowitz does not even ask.

Instead, he makes clear whom he does not view as local yokels or even real New Yorkers: “the city’s tabloids” whose reporters and editors “know they have a good thing going” – in stark contrast to Mr. Horowitz and the prestige media which cover stories like this strictly from a sense of civic obligation.

If this piece were exceptional, it would be unfair of me to give it such a tongue lashing. But, as I’ve argued before, it’s part of a pattern, a trend -- one that, despite criticism, continues to strengthen. A companion piece in the Post exclaims that the Islamic center will contain “a Sept. 11 memorial (!)” but never bothers to question what that memorial might say about the 9/11 attacks. Will they be described as an atrocity or merely a tragedy? Who will the memorial say was responsible and on behalf of what belief system were they acting?

Similarly, a Washington Post interview with Daisy Khan, the wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the key organizer of project, is headlined: “When Will Muslims Be Accepted?” Ms. Khan tells the veteran journalist Sally Quinn: “The Republicans are really going after us."

Quinn responds by asking Daisy Kahn point blank: nothing -- nothing about the project’s funding, nothing about the Imam’s past statements regarding 9/11 (American policies were an “accessory”), Osama bin Laden (“made in America”), Hamas (the Imam would prefer not to characterize the group), terrorism (“complex”) – nothing. It’s as though Daisy Kahn has purchased an advertisement.

Another interview with Ms. Khan, this one by Tamer El-Ghobashy in the Wall Street Journal, also consisted of one soft ball question after another. For example:

How did you react to the Anti-Defamation League registering their opposition to the location of the center?

What are the features of the planned center that people may not have heard about?

What element of the fallout from this proposed center concerns you most?

A New York Times piece on the controversy similarly avoids all and any uncomfortable questions. Its reading of recent history: “On top of the fear and confusion in New York about Islam after 9/11, a movement had begun to spring up against Muslims seeking a larger role in American public life.” What movement would that be? Who leads it? Where do they meet? Shouldn’t the Times – the Times! – include some attempt to substantiate the announcement of the birth of such a terrible “movement”?

Last week, I was a guest on “To the Point,” a radio show broadcast on public stations around the country and moderated by Warren Olney whom I consider both professional and fair. But, to my chagrin, he asked not a single question about Imam Rauf’s beliefs and when I tried to quote the cleric he cut me off saying that was a distraction from the real issue. Which is what? Warren later told me he thinks it’s “America’s tradition of religious freedom.” But I – and most critics of this project – have never argued that Imam Rauf doesn’t have a First Amendment right to build a mosque anywhere he owns property. I’ve argued that he should not be above scrutiny.

To some, that makes me an Islamophobe and, according to Time magazine, I have plenty of company. A cover story titled “Is America Islamophobic?” asserts that “many opponents” of the Islamic center “are motivated by deep-seated Islamophobia.” Not a shred of evidence is offered, though Time does cite a poll that finds 46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers.

Goodness, why would anyone think that? Could it have something to do with the fact that there have close to 16,000 terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam since 9/11/01? Just last month, Time had on its cover the photograph of an 18-year-old Afghan girl whose nose and ears were sliced off by members of the Taliban because she had violated Islamic religious law as they interpret it by “running away from her husband’s house.” The word “Taliban” means “the students.” Students of what? Engineering? Dentistry? No. Of Islam.

Let’s say it one more time loudly for the media moguls in the cheap seats: Most Muslims are not terrorists. But in the 21st century, most of those slaughtering women and children in the name of religion are Muslims. This is a movement. This is a reality. And it is a problem. It ought to be seen by Muslims as very much their problem – a pathology within their community, within the “Muslim world,” within the ummah.

Instead, the richest and most powerful Islamic organizations – often financed by oil money from the Middle East -- incessantly play the victim card. Daisy Khan tells ABC’s Christiane Amanpour that in America, it’s “beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims."

Time encourages this grievance mentality (or tactic) by asserting that “to be a Muslim in America now is to endure slings and arrows against your faith — not just in the schoolyard and the office but also outside your place of worship and in the public square, where some of the country's most powerful mainstream religious and political leaders unthinkingly (or worse, deliberately) conflate Islam with terrorism and savagery.”

No, they don’t. What they conflate with terrorism and savagery are al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba, al-Shabaab, Abu Sayyef, Fatah Al-Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood and dozens of other groups that justify their terrorism and savagery based on their interpretation of Islamic doctrine.

Many of the country’s religious and political leaders would like to hear more of their Muslim neighbors say plainly: “Not in my name! Not in the name of my religion!” They are distressed when they learn – not through the mainstream media – that Imam Rauf has said instead: "The United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda."

He said that some time ago when he was still answering questions from the media. In recent weeks, as a national controversy has swirled around the biggest project in which he has ever been involved, he has been “unavailable.” Time does not criticize him for stonewalling as they would criticize any non-Muslim who declined comment for a cover story. Instead, Time excuses him, saying he seems to have been “stunned into paralysis” by the unfairness of it all.

Is this moral posturing or cowardice or self-delusion or the byproduct of the multi-culti ideological mush that so much of media have been both eating and dishing out? Whatever the cause, they really have gone mad. Small wonder that the rabble is becoming roused -- with our without the help of those pesky outsiders.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.