By Morton A. Klein, Dr. Daniel Mandel
In the debate surrounding the Cordoba mosque planned for a site near Ground Zero, one canard should be immediately knocked down: the idea that opposing this it is the result of ‘Islamophobia.’
‘Islamophobia’ is a misleading term. Consider, terrorism carried out by Muslims, acting in the name of Islam, has struck innumerable societies, non-Muslim (Britain, India, Israel, Philippines, Spain, Thailand, U.S.) and Muslim (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey). Those who have knowledge of it – or, in the case of New Yorkers, direct experience – do not suffer from an irrational fear of an imaginary threat, which is what the word ‘phobia’ denotes. The vast majority of global terrorism in the recent years has been carried out by Islamists.
To state that is no insult to law-abiding, peaceful Muslims who abhor the terrorism carried out in their name. Precisely such Muslims in the Middle East are themselves likely to be among the targets and victims of jihadist terror.
If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the driving force behind the Cordoba mosque, is a moderate Muslim, why is he promoting this idea? How can he have difficulty comprehending that building a 15-story Muslim mosque center 600 feet from the site of 9/11, where nearly 3,000 people were murdered by Islamist terrorists, is insensitive to the grieving families of the victims?
Imagine the insensitivity if one proposed building a Japanese cultural center at Pearl Harbor. One would automatically wonder at the motives of those proposing the project.
The 9/11 site is not a holy site, but inasmuch as it is mass grave of innocents, it is hallowed ground. As such, special sensitivity is needed.
As an example of latter, Carmelite nuns sought in the 1980s to establish a convent at Auschwitz, a massive cemetery filled overwhelmingly with the remains of Jewish victims of Nazism. Even though Nazism was a profoundly anti-Christian movement, it drew, among other things, on a history of Christian anti-Semitism and its ranks included many professing Christians. The late Pope John Paul II understood that building a Christian institution on a mass Jewish grave would be an unacceptable act of appropriation. He called upon the Carmelite nuns to relocate.
Here, there is an important, relevant history of appropriation. Building mosques adjacent to or upon another group’s sacred and holy sites is a time-honored Muslim supremacist tradition. The Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques, standing today atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, where the former Jewish temples once stood, are only two prominent examples among dozens of this historical practice that can be found in many lands from North Africa to Indonesia that fell to Muslim conquest.
Even if such was not the intention of those involved with the Cordoba mosque, its construction near the site of 9/11 may well be interpreted by some Islamists as a victory over non-Muslims, inadvertently encouraging more terrorism.
But in any case, Imam Rauf – who refuses to condemn Hamas, a terrorist organization which has murdered hundreds of Israelis and whose charter calls for murder of Jews and Israel’s destruction; his calling U.S. policies an “accessory” to Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 horror; and his writing that “Israel will become one more Arab country, in our lifetime, with a Jewish minority” – does not come to this issue with clean hands.
Nor, for that matter, does his wife, Daisy Khan, who described opposition to the mosque to be “like a metastasized anti-Semitism.” With this, Ms. Khan told a double untruth: she used the horror of anti-Semitism to malign legitimate opponents as bigots and perverted the meaning of anti-Semitism beyond recognition.
Anti-Semitism demonizes Jews; it is not mere bigotry or nastiness towards Jews, let alone legitimate criticism of them. It is not based on Jewish conduct. The Nazi extermination was a campaign against defenseless people who posed no threat and had committed no crime. In contrast, Islamism is a standing scourge and threat. Combating it must involve what neither Rauf nor Khan have done: condemning Islamists by name, without equivocation. Honesty demands that it also involve opposing the supremacist tradition of building on the ruins of non-Muslim sites.
9/11 mosque opponents are not dehumanizing Muslims. They are not advocating their forcible suppression or elimination. They are not opposing the construction of mosques and the practice of Muslim worship. Rather, they oppose a deeply suspect and breathtakingly insensitive proposal to build this mosque in this place.
Neither Jews nor Christians have committed any assaults upon Saudis – to the contrary, in 1990, U.S. servicemen came to their defense. Yet Saudi Arabia refuses to permit the building of a single church or synagogue and the practice of Christianity or Judaism anywhere in the country. That is genuine anti-Semitism and anti-Christian bigotry, pure and metastasized. But Ms. Khan has never seen fit to summon up outrage, or even interest, in that subject.
Such is the shameless cynicism of Muslim supremacists and their fellow travelers, libeling Americans who oppose this project as Islamophobes and metastasized anti-Semites.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America. Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Establishment of Israel: The Undercover Zionist (London: Routledge, 2004).