In a recent Wall Street Journal article, terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann said that anti-Muslim rhetoric in America is bad news for anti-terrorism efforts: “We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup.”
By many accounts, the man who could blunt the power of that coup is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the religious leader behind the planned Islamic Center near Ground Zero. The imam has been surprisingly mum on the issue while he travels in the Middle East. What message of faith could he offer to Muslims and non-Muslims alike that could turn this moment of division into a time of healing?
The question is not what Imam Rauf should say to counter anti-Muslim prejudice whipped up by Fox News distortions about plans to build an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, many blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center destruction. The people who are whipping up anti-Muslim frenzy aren’t listening to him or anyone else who is speaking truthfully and rationally. Imam Rauf is a moderate Muslim, a member of the mystic Sufi order, who has written a book called What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right With America. As Time Magazine says: “Park51’s main movers, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, are actually the kind of Muslim leaders right-wing commentators fantasize about: modernists and moderates who openly condemn the death cult of al-Qaeda and its adherents — ironically, just the kind of “peaceful Muslims” whom Sarah Palin, in her now infamous tweet, asked to “refudiate” the mosque.” Equating Imam Rauf with terrorism is like conflating Martin Luther King with Timothy McVeigh, just because they both happen to be Christians.
Time Magazine link:
No, the question is, what should every other religious leader be saying? And the answer is-stop it, folks! Turn off the hate-spewing commentators and go out and meet your neighbors. Practice the tolerance, love and compassion that every religion at its best preaches. Remember–if we fail to support the right of any one religion to meet, worship and educate, our own rights are jeopardized.
Pagans know that when politics and public discourse descend to a hate-fest of blame and condemnation, we could be next. And as someone born Jewish just six years after the defeat of the Nazis, when you start burning books and demonizing religions, I start asking, “When will you be coming for me?”
Imam Rauf has already spoken. It’s up to the rest of us to stand with the voices calling defending the foundational American value of religious freedom.