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OPINION

The Times, the Mosque and Islam -- No Moral Nuance

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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One of the most common self-assessments of the left is that conservatives rarely see nuances in moral questions, while liberals always do.

That this is a false conceit can be demonstrated with regard to almost any position held by the left. There is no nuance in liberal positions on abortion, race-based affirmative action, capital punishment, embryonic stem cell research or just about any other social issue.

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Two such issues are the current Cordoba House Islamic center controversy and Americans' perceptions of Islam.

To liberals commenting on these issues, all that needs to be said are two things: First, Islam is a religion of peace and even the most sophisticated questioning of that claim is an expression of nativism, bigotry, xenophobia and Islamophobia. Second, the Muslim imam in New York City has a right to build his $100-million Islamic center two blocks from the spot where thousands of Americans were incinerated by 19 Muslims in the name of Islam. That no conservative spokesman has challenged the imam's right to build the center, only the rightness of the act, is ignored whenever The New York Times, for example, discusses the issue.

The truth is that the Right's views of Muslims, the Cordoba House, and Islam are considerably more nuanced than those of the Left.

Remember -- we are comparing elite with elite, not the elite left with dregs like the Gainesville "pastor" of a "50-member church" who planned an "International Quran Burning Day" and who was universally dismissed on the right as a publicity seeking jackass.

The elite right -- the leading conservative columnists, editorial pages and vast majority of major talk-show hosts -- readily and regularly distinguish between jihadists and their American Muslim neighbor across the street.

But the left rarely distinguishes between bigoted haters and Americans who have questions about contemporary Islam and oppose the building of a $100 million Islamic center two blocks from ground zero.

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This past Sunday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offered another example of left-wing nuance-free attacks on Americans who have any moral reservations about the world of Islam today.

Kristof began his column with an attack on the "venomous and debased discourse about Islam" in America.

He gives one example: New Republic publisher Martin Peretz, a rather thoughtful lifelong liberal, who actually had the temerity to raise moral concerns about Islam in a recent article. Peretz asked, for example, "Is not western society, imperfect as it may be ... immensely more liberal than the domains of Islam?"

And this: "This intense epidemic of (Islamic) slaughter has been going on for nearly a decade and a half...without protest, without anything. And it has been going for decades and centuries before that."

Kristof ignores every issue raised by Peretz and quotes one sentence to cite Peretz's article as an example of the "venomous and debased the discourse about Islam" permeating America. To The New York Times and the rest of the left, the question here is not whether what Peretz wrote is true -- because when it comes to the right, the left is concerned with finding bigotry, not truth.

"Nativists are back on the warpath," Kristof went on to write.

Question: Can Kristof name any opponents of the Cordoba center or anyone else who vocalizes any questions about the moral state of the contemporary Muslim world whom he does not consider a nativist or bigot?

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Kristof: "In America, bigoted comments about Islam often seem to come from people who have never visited a mosque and know few if any Muslims."

Question: Would Kristof agree that those on the left who declare that "Islam is a religion of peace" and who claim to see no moral differences between the contemporary Muslim world and the contemporary Christian, Jewish and Buddhist worlds, also have "never visited a mosque and know few if any Muslims?"

Kristof: "In their ignorance, they mirror the anti-Semitism that I hear in Muslim countries from people who have never met a Jew."

That is about as non-nuanced, as unsophisticated a statement as one can make on this is or any issue. In many Muslim countries, the media are saturated with "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" type Jew-hatred, with popular TV shows depicting Jews as killing Muslim children for their blood, and calls for extermination of the Jewish state. Nowhere in America is there anything regarding Muslims remotely analogous to the anti-Semitism in the Muslim world.

Another lack of nuance:

Kristof: "One American university professor wrote to me that 'every Muslim in the world' believes that the proposed Manhattan Islamic center would symbolize triumph over America. That reminded me of Pakistanis who used to tell me that 'every Jew' knew of 9/11 in advance, so that none died in the World Trade Center."

Here is the (nuanced) truth: Vast numbers of Muslims believe that Jews stayed away from the World Trade Center on 9/11. That is a lie -- not one Jew on earth knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance. But it is not a lie that there are millions of Muslims who believe that a giant Islamic center and mosque near ground zero would be a sign of Muslim victory.

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The same day Kristof's simplistic view of the mosque issue was published, AOL News reported on a demonstration against the mosque. It quoted a man named Ron Silverados, identified as "a 57-year-old road striper from Long Island:" "I'm tired of saying this but this isn't a religious issue ... it is a moral issue."

There was more moral nuance in the road striper's comment than in all the liberal columns and editorials of The New York Times.

If the left were primarily concerned with bigotry, it would be preoccupied with the most bigoted places on earth -- many Islamic nations. But in general, the left hates the right more than it hates bigotry. And that leads to a world devoid of moral nuance.

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