At first blush, the full throated defense of Islam generally, and the Ground Zero Mosque specifically, by the progressive left is passing strange. Given that the battle over the GZ Mosque is centered in New York, the leftist precincts of that city, notably the Upper West Side, hard by the Hudson, are particularly strident in their attacks on the mosque’s critics.
The progressive argument is couched in terms of religious tolerance, opposition to religious bigotry, and the importance of property rights. But the progressive left has long been extremely antagonistic to the believers of other religions, especially evangelical Christians, traditional Catholics and Jews, and Mormons. The antagonism often clearly degenerates into outright bigotry, which seldom brings a peep of protest from other progressives. Ridicule, mockery, and insult are routine.
And progressives are stalwart defenders of property rights? Who knew?
Moreover, many of the beliefs and behaviors shared by large numbers of Muslims, especially about women and homosexuality, are antithetical to strong progressive views. Indeed, many progressive attacks against the adherents of non-Muslim denominations emphasize their benighted views on women and gays, even though those views are benign compared to those common in the Muslim world.
In this regard, it is particularly illuminating to note that the Reagan administration made common cause with Saudi Arabia and other reactionary Muslim states to oppose United Nations initiatives on reproductive matters (read: abortion) and women’s and gay rights that were the pet causes of the transnational progressive left. Progressives were scathing in their criticism of Reagan for this alliance.
So any intellectually consistent and honest progressive would have to admit that the strange new respect for Islam is contradictory, and indeed, hypocritical.
What explains it then? I think the answer is straightforward. The progressive left is defined in the United States by its opposition to the beliefs of the majority of other Americans. The progressive left detests the idea of American exceptionalism. Most Americans are American exceptionalists. Funny thing, that. The progressive left believes that the United States is a deformed and malign nation, an oppressor. (Don’t believe they believe that? Read Howard Zin sometime, or the encomiums to him. Or the recent cringe-making State Department report to the UN Human Rights Counsel.) Most Americans admit to the nation’s flaws, but believe that it is truly the last, best hope of mankind, whose contributions to human freedom and dignity–and yes, progress–far outstrip its failings. Most progressives identify themselves as elite who are intellectually and morally superior to the great unwashed, especially those living away from the coasts.
So, if the vast majority of those whom the progressive left loathes are offended by the thought of a mosque headed by an imam of troublingly ambiguous views being located so close to Ground Zero, as surely as night follows day, the progressives will rise in defense of the mosque and the imam. All the more because said imam has expressed critiques of American policy and actions that sound eerily like those that are staples of the left’s bill of indictment against the US. And American exceptionalism is an anathema to Islam as well. The endless Muslim complaints–whines, really–about the transgressions of the West generally, and the US in particular, resonate loudly with progressives. In this regard, progressives and Muslims–even the most reactionary of them–have a meeting of the minds.
In brief, the left’s alliance with Islam on the matter of the GZM and other matters, is purely an opportunistic one, and completely unprincipled.* They share a common opponent. A common enemy. And it is us. On virtually every other issue, they have nothing in common, and indeed hold completely contrary views. But progressives have no problem putting those differences aside in order to use the mosque issue as another front in their continuing war against a mainstream American that remains stubbornly wedded to the belief that America is a pretty good country, damn it.
And I say go for it! The left is wallowing in its self-righteousness, self-anointed moral superiority, and disdain for vast swathes of the American public: if you doubt that, just take a gander at Bloomberg’s speech (but only if you have a very strong stomach). Hardly the recipe for political success in a country where such views are held by a decided minority. What’s more, this particular issue stirs such intense passions among so many people. Indeed, there are few other issues on which progressive lectures are likely to engender such an intense backlash.
So go right ahead. Keep poking the big dog with a stick. You all and Imam Rauf can have one big pity party when the big dog wakes up and does what big dogs do, when poked with a stick.
* And don’t even get me started on the sudden solicitude on the left for General Petraeus and the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. As if the Taliban and Al Qaeda et al don’t have more than enough things that they hate about us that one more will make a difference. After all, depriving them of “reasons to fight us” would require adoption of shariah and submission to the caliphate. Is that what Bloomberg and Frank Rich and others that have raised this argument are proposing?; it is certainly the logical implication of their argument. What a strategy! Win a war by acceding to the enemy’s demands. And where were these people when many of their political allies (and funders) were calling Patraeus “General Betray-us”?