Let me tell you about two very different mosques in Lower Manhattan.
The first is a proposed mosque, one that will look down on Ground Zero, close enough to be built over the possible remains of the victims from that fateful day. The radical imam behind it is connected to Jihadists, running an organization named after a famous conquest of a European city by Muslims. The purpose is to place it there as a sign of victory for militant Islam, slipping under the wire of guaranteed American religious freedoms.
The second is a proposed cultural center with space to be used sometimes as a mosque, replacing a building already being used for such religious services. It is over a football field outside the area where remains have been found and not anywhere near within sight of Ground Zero. The imam behind the project has worked with the federal government to fight Islamic extremism around the world, and his organization is named after a European city that under Muslim rule was a center for learning with peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims. The top of the proposed structure will have a 9-11 memorial.
What is the fundamental difference between the two? The first one DOES NOT EXIST. It is the purposeful fabrication of a fringe bigot blogger, Pamela Geller. Referring to the second mosque, the painted picture was based in nothing more than assumptions, half-truths, and rhetorical implications, none of which when scrutinized have been found to be true.
And it was a sensational propaganda campaign! A local television station interviewed her as an “expert” without checking her credentials. And this took place many months after the locals knew about the proposed center with no concern or controversy — and turned it into a national urban legend overnight.
The Hate Club Awakens
It didn’t end there. Her blog articles went viral and blatant hate sites, such as JihadWatch.Com and ReligionOfPeace.Com, became constant citations for people’s fears of an impending “Islamification” of the whole world. It became the rage to quote pseudo-historian authors, and any video someone could make “exposing” Islam was guaranteed vast viewership. People and organizations that would otherwise be written off as no better than the Klan were no longer an embarrassment to talk about or even support.
One site, FaithFreedom.Org, purports to be run by ex-Muslims. It puts Muhammed in the same boat as Hitler. Jumping on the bandwagon against “unlimited mosque construction”, they make their own Hitleresque intentions clear: “Islam can’t be reformed, but it can be eradicated. It can’t be molded, but it can be smashed.”
I even had a friend become a fan on facebook of Dutch politician Geert Wilders for his support of Geller and the growing Islamophobic propaganda army — at least until she realized he is considered the most dangerous neo-fascist in European politics. The politics of tribalism and fear of losing one’s own cultural identity had gone mainstream — bigotry became acceptable, justified. It always does. Many have even taken to the notion that Islam isn’t a religion but only a political philosophy, so as not to see themselves as religious intolerants.
Arabia and Zion?
But what I found most disturbing were the common connections between these people and groups. Apart from the Dutch Connection, one organization or person was found to be related to another, and within very few degrees all came to the same people. And the most centrally connected to them all is the anti-Islamic David Horowitz and his respective organization and publication. JihadWatch is associated with Horowitz’s “Freedom Center” and run by Robert Spencer, a blogging partner of Geller. And Horowitz is hardcore — anyone who challenges his own prejudices is promptly threatened with being marked an anti-Semite.
One video purporting to be a documentary about “Sharia Banking” featured a banker who talked about the horrors of Islamic law with generous images and video of violence and gore, never even explaining what Islamic banking actually is. The organization that made the video traced through association easily back to Horowitz. Other pieces of the puzzle include David Yerushalmi, who runs the “Society of Americans for National Existence”, an anti-Sharia not-for-profit who has represented and worked with Geller.
I’m not generally prejudiced enough to notice such things, but after a while it became too apparent to ignore: almost all the prominent voices against Islam were Jewish, specifically conservative Zionists. Those that were not Jewish, such as author Brigitte Gabriel, a racist against Arabs in particular, are virtually all staunchly pro-Israeli.
It seems as if the whole public has been played a fool. The hate and resentment a half-world away between the State of Israel and it’s Arabic neighbors is being templated upon America as our own cause. Our views of Islam are being written by people with not only grave bias, but an agenda worthy of a conspiracy novel.
But I don’t Mean ALL Muslims …
The common thread of those who oppose Islam is the most disturbing — the denial of bigotry as a mere affectation of a “political incorrectness”. Most of the above people and organizations make statements that they are only against radical or militant or political Islam, yet will prove time and again by other statements their disclaimer is a sham. I’ve even seen acquaintances of mine do this, if not about Islam then about African-Americans. “I have friends who are Black and I don’t mean all of them are bad, but …”
The agenda is all the more clear when those things that define Islam broadly are attacked, such as Muhammed or the Quran. One-sided history rears it’s ignorant head. Misinterpretations of dogma make all Muslims out to be religiously-mandated liars, sealing one’s ignorance off from any contest of real truth or productive dialogue.
But in the end, it is a tale of two mosques. Two imams. Two Prophets. Two Qurans. Two Islams. If we follow the ones that are manufactured by those who have little concern for the truth, we should be ready to accept the consequences and ridicule by those who do.