Fight Them All Together, The Sequel: On Allahpundit’s Questions
posted at 6:10 pm on June 6, 2010 by CK MacLeod
Citing the New York Post in a post at HotAir, Allahpundit discusses apparent links between Cordoba Initiative founder Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and the “Gaza flotilla.” As AP is creditably careful to note, the linkage at this point remains tenuous: Rauf is a member of… a group that… made the single biggest contribution to… the group that… helped organize the flotilla which… included one ship on which… some passengers ambushed Israeli commandos.
One might hope that, if and when Rauf seeks to explain himself, his political adversaries will apply the same rules of extenuation, attention to context, and open-mindedness that they demand when one of their own is under scrutiny. As welcome as a clearer picture on Rauf might be, however, it would not bear directly on the piece of mine that AP linked and discussed. My post was entitled “Fight Them All Together: The Conservative Reaction to the ‘Ground Zero Mosque,'” and I provide the title in full to emphasize a point (not for the first time in recent days): The piece was only secondarily about the “Ground Zero Mosque” – Cordoba House – at all.
AP provides his interpretation of my position as follows:
A few days ago, Greenroomer CK MacLeod accused the mosque’s critics of playing into jihadists’ hands by conflating radical Muslims with all Muslims. Why punish all members of the faith collectively by denying them a mosque near Ground Zero, asked CK, when it’s the Bin Ladenites who are culpable for bringing down the towers?
The first sentence summarizes one major theme of my post. I say “one major theme” because I do not argue only that many Cordoba House critics have “play[ed] into the jihadists’ hands.” As if that would set them apart from everyone else! I’d like to think I’ve said much more damning things than that.
The emphases in AP’s second sentence also aren’t mine, but his rhetorical question does go to my central argument, whose basis should be obvious to anyone who does not favor collective judgment as a doctrine or policy – anyone who, for example, supports the Nuremberg approach of holding individuals responsible for what they have done as individuals, neither allowing them to hide within a collective (“I was only following orders”), nor holding them or anyone else responsible for things that others did “in their name.” At that critical moment following the end of World War II, as victorious Americans sought both to exercise and to show themselves worthy of moral leadership on a global and historical scale, we rejected any species of moral collectivism because it conflicted with our traditions, precepts, and interests. Put more simply, we rejected collective judgment because embracing it would have turned us into what we had fought against for so long, and had defeated at such great cost, and knew we were already facing again.
In recent days I’ve read confounding and dispiriting attempts, some from friends or possibly former friends, to reject that tradition by in effect denying that Muslims are included among those “created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” (And, no, I’m not concerned about, afraid of, or offended by Muslim pride in Ummayyad Cordoba – nor do I presume a right to judge.) Much more frequently, I see expressions of opinion that imply such a view.
I won’t provide a handy catalog of derogatory, intentionally blasphemous and offensive, calculatedly extreme remarks of the sort that are easy to search up at HotAir and allied sites. (Others may prove less hesitant in this regard than I am.) I’m not just saying that religious bigotry and lesser related offenses appear “permissible” under lax enforcement of whatever Terms of Service or, more charitably, a zealous commitment to freedom of speech. I mean that such sentiments are common, while protests and counter-arguments are rare and weak, and, when offered at all, are more often energetically denounced than even meekly seconded. I can’t imagine an average Muslim, or anyone sensitive to religious hatred and blasphemy, feeling comfortable on Islam-related discussion threads at many conservative sites. What discussions are not taking place that could be – either because people are reluctant to speak up, or have long since moved on? At what point does a failure to respond – and condemn – become tacit communal approval?
One reason for self-disfiguring and self-destructive insensitivity, aside from common xenophobia and ignorance – amplified by reaction to 9/11 and terrorism more generally, as of course intended – could be the insensitivity and aggressive stereotyping of Muslims practiced by opinion leaders, as represented, for instance, in the material I examined in “Fight Them All Together.”
Now having returned to the actual thesis of my prior post, we can also look at AP’s final question referencing “CK’s logic”:
If some imam decided he wanted to build a mosque on Ground Zero itself, at the foot of the never-to-be-completed Freedom Tower, shouldn’t we indulge him per CK’s logic? And if he decided he wanted to build it in the shape of an airplane — just to “reclaim the symbol” from the evil jihadists who attacked on 9/11, mind you — shouldn’t we indulge him that, too? At what point is it okay to question motives here?
I want and really don’t want to answer “yes,” “yes,” and “for us, maybe never” – to say that we’ve become such irretrievably pathetic mockeries of what we pretend to be, we don’t deserve a Freedom Tower; to say that at most we deserve a “Freedom” Tower or Freedom* Tower – or a burlesque airplane mosque; to conclude that we are in no position to question anyone else’s motives; and to wonder if there are deeper reasons why current progress at the site seems to say “unfulfilled promise.”
AP’s formulation does acknowledge what the convenient shorthand on this issue usually doesn’t. Cordoba House is not really (planned to be) a “Ground Zero mosque.” Even if we preserve the incessant and exclusive focus on the mosque, the mosque, the mosque, the actual location presents a difficulty for opponents – or should – in the form of a different question that once upon a time I would have presumed repugnant to an American patriot: How far does the “Islamic worship exclusion zone” have to extend to be “OK” – maybe a mere yellow on the Outrage Scale? (And I’ve seen attempts to answer that.)
What I mainly have against AP’s three questions, however, is that they don’t have much to do with “CK’s logic” at all. CK appealed, in passing, to a conventional sense of proportion about Cordoba House: “You’re getting this excited about a 15-story building in Manhattan?” CK can consistently apply the same man-on-Park-Place standard regarding absurd or exclusionary or absurdly exclusionary uses of the actual WTC site. Additionally, following prior appeals to a conservative’s local preference, CK could consistently, and confidently, defer to the Manhattan Community Board and others if anything resembling AP’s hypothetical ever came up. CK’s screwy Islamophilia and unfair, unkind, condescending etc. up to evil, morally depraved, and treacherous judgments of good, solid conservatives don’t even enter the picture.
Nor does CK claim any copyright on the logic that tells him the following: Those upset about any perceived absurd, insulting, or imprudent initiative – for their own sake, for the sake of those in whose name they’re arguing, for the sake of the larger community, and eventually for the sake of the political life of this country and for the sake of its particular aims and mission in the world – should consider how their words and actions are taken by those who are not already inclined to agree with them, and even by some who are or were. They should consider how they themselves would like to be treated or would like to have their public representatives treated. They should consider what their words and actions turn them into.
Peace be upon you.
cross-posted at Zombie Contentions