Inflaming an already heated debate, the imam behind the proposed Ground Zero Mosque claimed in a CNN interview Wednesday that moving the site of his project would be a victory for “the radicals.” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s statement was steeped in irony, though, as the dangerous narrative he predicts would result from moving the mosque—that “Islam is under attack” from the U.S.—is precisely the story line he has put forth himself multiple times since Sept. 11, 2001.
What should trouble all Americans is that those comments echo the most powerful motivation for young Muslims who embrace terrorism.
Should Rauf succeed in erecting a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero, it is at least plausible that he will use that pedestal to promote the same paranoid delusions of Islamic victimization—albeit in softer tones—that no doubt inspired most of the very terrorists whose legacy he says he wishes to fight.
He could face pressure from financial backers to be more anti-American—behind closed doors, of course—if he cannot raise much of the projected $100 million from inside the United States. His likeliest funding sources are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—the two principal funders in the 1990s of the Taliban.
While there is no evidence to suggest he has ever explicitly encouraged violence, he has uttered potentially more insidious rhetoric. Rauf in 2005 reportedly told a largely Islamic audience in Australia that the United States had more Muslim blood on its hands than “al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims.”
His defenders note that the imam was referring to the United Nations-approved sanctions levied against the Saddam Hussein regime following the first Gulf War. This actually puts his argument directly in line with the rationales articulated by the likes of shoe bomber Richard Reid, East Africa embassies bomber Mohammed Al-Owhali, and Osama bin Laden - all of whom cited the Iraqi sanctions as a primary justification for attacking the United States.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Rauf could have been a beacon shining light to expose the Big Lie that the United States is the enemy of the Islamic world. Instead, he told “60 Minutes” that U.S. foreign policy was “an accessory to the crime.”
Although it is undoubtedly true that the United States made many grave mistakes—most pointedly, the decision not to oppose actively Taliban rule in the late 1990s—Rauf had to know that the best path to combat terrorism would have been for him to squarely attack the false narrative of Islamic victimization.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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