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Monday, August 09, 2010

The Hate Americans Crowd

It's what they do. Faced with accusations of bigotry, the right always defend themselves by finding token members of the group they're attacking. They aren't racist; look, black teabaggers! They aren't homophobic; see? Here's an anti-equality gay. It's supposed to be proof that the problem isn't their prejudices, because even hated _insert group here_ buy into their unconvincing rationalizations for those prejudices.

And so it is with the right's jihad against mosques. It's not about anti-Islamic sentiment and paranoid wingnut fantasies, it's about the weak justifications for those sentiments and fantasies. As accusations of bigotry rise, the right finds Neda Bolourchi, a Muslim woman whose mother died on 9/11. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Bolourchi defends the position of the prejudiced -- that a Muslim community center in Manhattan should not be built. Not now, not ever.

[A] mosque near Ground Zero will not move this conversation forward. There were many mosques in the United States before Sept. 11; their mere existence did not bring cross-cultural understanding. The proposed center in New York may be heralded as a peace offering -- may genuinely seek to focus on "promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture," as its Web site declares -- but I fear that over time, it will cultivate a fundamentalist version of the Muslim faith, embracing those who share such beliefs and hating those who do not.

The Sept. 11 attacks were the product of a hateful ideology that the perpetrators were willing to die for. They believed that all non-Muslims are infidels and that the duty of Muslims is to renounce them. I am not a theologian, but I know that the men who killed my mother carried this message in their hearts and minds. Obedient and dutiful soldiers, they marched toward their promised rewards in heaven with utter disregard for the value of the human beings they killed.

It's hard for me to read the op-ed and not see, "Don't let them build the center, because we are terrible people." For some reason, this one anti-mosque Muslim is supposed to outweigh all the other Muslim voices. We're supposed to mistake the contrarian for the majority and conclude that even Muslims don't approve of a community center within walking distance of Ground Zero. People unwilling to think about it will do just that.

Meanwhile, a New York Times article makes the anti-"Ground Zero mosque" crowd's real agenda clear; no mosques -- nor Muslims -- anywhere in the US.

At one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise — the same reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the gloves are off.

In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself. They quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law.

So, if Neda Bolourchi thinks these people are her friends, then Neda Bolourchi is a fool. The people she's defending think she's a terrorist. "What's different is the heat, the volume, the level of hostility," Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky told NYT. "It's one thing to oppose a mosque because traffic might increase, but it's different when you say these mosques are going to be nurturing terrorist bombers, that Islam is invading, that civilization is being undermined by Muslims."

These anti-mosque campaigns are happening all over the country. And the campaigners are pretty much identical in each case -- fairweather patriots who love the Constitution until they don't. The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion only applies to their religion. Other religions -- and Islam especially -- should be banned. Let's be clear about one thing; this is Anti-American. It's the worst kind of demagoguery and staggeringly hypocritical for a group who compares everyone and everything to Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. Singling out a religious group for persecution is inexcusable and, if you're one of those doing it, you get to shut up about what a big-time patriot you are. "Patriot" is not a synonym for "dick." You might as well burn a flag, while you're at it.

And once again, I'm disappointed -- but not surprised -- by the seemingly bottomless cowardice of the Republican base. All you need to do is point to someone and say, "fear them!" and the wingnuts are diving under the furniture like there's a tornado on the way. The right is far, far too ready to be afraid and far, far too unwilling to embrace courage. At no time will a talk radio blowhard, FOX News personality, or Republican politician ever call on you to be brave. No, they'll massage that mile-wide yellow streak down the average teabagger's back to stimulate their overly-sensitive panic reflex. But don't worry, the Republican Party will protect you. You just need to go out and vote.

And, of course, the paranoia becomes fulfilling. Treat people like crap for long enough and they'll start to get the idea that you might just be cruel and stupid and unworthy of consideration. Shout insults at someone long enough and the thought of punching you in the mouth becomes more and more welcome.

Raw Story:

The efforts by some groups to prevent the construction of mosques could backfire, suggests a recent study that urges the building of Muslim community centers and mosques as a way of preventing Islamic radicalism.

The two-year-long study (PDF), which was brought to public attention in Sunday's New York Times, states that "the creation of robust Muslim-American communities may serve as a preventative measure against radicalization by reducing social isolation of individuals who may be at risk of becoming radicalized."

It asserts that "the stronger such communities are, in terms of social networks, educational programs, and provision of social services, the more likely they are to identify individuals who are prone to radicalization and intervene appropriately."

Oh wow. Hate and stupidity and jerking knees and demagoguery aren't really constructive.

Imagine my shock.


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