In “Balancing rights and prudence” at the Washington Post’s On Faith panel, July 20, Tom Flynn not only comes out against the mega-mosque at Ground Zero, but admits that Islamic supremacism in its political manifestation is “not a distortion of Islam; it is a particular understanding of Islam that crops up far too frequently to be so casually dismissed.”
This is in the Washington Post, people. I am going to step out of my hotel room now and I expect to see the lion lying down with the lamb and swords everywhere being fashioned into plowshares.
This controversy has to be viewed in the context of New York City’s 9/11 trauma — and the context of one uncomfortable truth: 9/11 was a faith-based initiative. The hijackers were operating on strongly, perhaps primarily, religious motivations, and the religion that motivated them was Islam. To be sure, it was Islam as they understood it, and millions of Muslims do not understand their faith in that way. On the other hand, the number of Muslims who do understand their faith as Muhammad Atta did is far from insignificant. What we sometimes call “political Islam” is not a distortion of Islam; it is a particular understanding of Islam that crops up far too frequently to be so casually dismissed.
I’m willing to grant that the Cordoba House organizers have a very different understanding of Islam. For them it may truly be (pardon the politically correct phrase) a religion of peace. But Islam is not always so. (Not that Christianity has clean hands in this regard, not when the Catholic-Protestant war in Northern Ireland, to cite just one example, remains in living memory.)
Of course, unlike the global jihad with its deep roots in Islamic texts and teachings, the Irish conflict had nothing to do with any Christian texts or teachings, but this is, after all, the Washington Post.
It’s time to acknowledge that the understanding of Islam that made Ground Zero into Ground Zero lies within, not outside, the spectrum of Islam as it is understood and practiced around the world.
In the abstract, Cordoba House has the right to build its mosque. When complete it would probably provide downtown New Yorkers with excellent neighbors. But there’s a profound cultural tone-deafness in pursuing this project at this time and in that place.