Streetwise Professor

August 14, 2010

Alienated and Alienating

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 9:33 am

By coming out in favor of the Orwellian-named “Cordoba House” Ground Zero mosque, Barack Obama took a huge leap in his relentless effort to alienate himself from the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose the building.  (As for Obama, I suspect he has been alienated from the American people for his natural born life).  I appreciate his honesty, and from a purely political perspective should probably welcome this development, as it will only speed his political marginalization.

But on the substance he is wrong.

Obama started out fine, recognizing that Ground Zero is hallowed, and acknowledging that the events of 911 were traumatic, and traumatize Americans still.


The inevitable but, folded into that annoyingly repetitive, Nixonian formulation: “But let me be clear.”  He then launched into a legalistic defense of the right to build a mosque on private property in New York.

Nobody disputes the legal right.  What people dispute is whether it is right and proper.

What Obama should have said is that given the sacred nature of the place to Americans, if the builders are sincere in their claim that they want to erect bridges between Islam and America, they should put their mosque elsewhere.  As in anywhere else.  He should have given voice to the heartfelt beliefs of hundreds of millions of Americans, and used the bully pulpit to persuade Rauf and his sponsors that they were unnecessarily inflaming deep wounds, and that if they were to proceed they would actually achieve results exactly contrary to their professed aims.

But no.  Rather than representing the strong beliefs of the vast majority of Americans, Obama indulged his own multi-culti, transnational progressive preferences.  Which is his right.  May he pay the price.

Look, our self-anointed “betters” never cease to lecture us on the necessity of sensitivity, on the imperative of never giving offense.  The PC police prowl perpetually, pillorying those who bruise the tender feelings of this group or that.  But when it is our deeply felt beliefs that are traduced, when it is our scabs that are ripped open, we’re told in tones dripping with condescension: Deal with it.  They have a legal right to do it.  You are being intolerant for having the temerity to ask that your heartfelt sentiments be respected.  Shut the hell up and do what you’re told.

It is exactly this attitude, this condescension, which is contributing to the steady drift of the country to a pre-revolutionary situation (as I’ve been saying for some time, and which others like Democrat pollster and iconoclast Pat Caddell said a couple of weeks back).

With respect to the mosque itself, the determination of its sponsors to proceed despite the intense hostility of a very large majority of Americans seriously undermines the credibility of their claims that they aim to build bridges and increase understanding.  For the actual effect of their actions is the exact opposite.  So to proceed in the teeth of such fervent opposition, either they are ignorant the effects of their actions, or they have another, far more sinister, agenda altogether.

Under either interpretation, they are not to be trusted with the stewardship of hallowed ground.  Under the former interpretation, they do not have the knowledge of America and Americans necessary to be trusted with the care of a place so sacred to us.  The implications of the latter interpretation are so obvious as to need no elaboration.

And there is plenty of reason to believe that they have another agenda altogether.  Mosque building has been, from the beginning of Islam, an act of triumphalism, a way of memorializing victory.  (Think St. Sophia in Constantinople as just one example.)  Even if Rauf et al do not conceive of the mosque as an end zone dance, there are tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world who will; there were certainly many who celebrated the immolation of the Twin Towers on 911.   Moreover, so many mosques throughout the West, not to mention Islamic lands proper, have two faces.  Outside, they project an image of ecumenical tolerance and understanding.  Inside, they are seething centers of jihadist hate.  The Koran-sanctioned practice of Taqiyya–lying, concealing and deceiving in order to advance the interests of Islam–is well known, and should make anyone take the public pronouncements of any Muslim proselytizer with a healthy dose of suspicion.  The choice of the name “Cordoba House” only reinforces the suspicion, given that the whole Cordoba narrative is ahistorical malarky, and mendacious malarky at that.

Maybe Rauf and his supporters are quite genuine.  Maybe Obama and Bloomberg and the rest are right.  But maybe they are not.  But there is a huge asymmetry in the costs of their being wrong and being right.  If they are right, what is the big deal if the mosque is located a few blocks away?  If they are wrong, the harm, and the insult, of locating the mosque on Ground Zero will be incalculable.

There is something else about Obama’s post-Ramadan speech that deserves comment.  Obama follows in the footsteps of too many in presuming to lecture us on just what Islam is, and what it isn’t.  Look.  There is no Muslim Pope, and if there was, Obama ain’t it.  Nor are George Bush, Tony Blair, Michael Bloomberg, John Brennan, nor any of those on the too long list of worthies that have presumed to instruct us on the fine points of Islamic theology.

These persistent and insistent homilies on Islam are just another insult to our independent judgment.  Another “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” moment.  Anyone who is even intermittently sentient knows that Islam’s borders are, as Samuel Huntington wrote, bloody.  That far from being serenely united on matters of politics and theology, Islam is in virtually perpetual civil war, a seething cauldron of dispute contested far too often by violence of the most sickening and indiscriminate sort.

Don’t insult us by trying to pretend that these things are not true.   Don’t belittle us by giving us palpably misleading lectures about what “true” Islam is.  There is no single “true” Islam, any more than there is a “true” Christianity or a “true” Judaism.  Anyone claiming to know the “truth” is likely a fanatic, intent on imposing his or her vision on those who dispute it.

And given the realities of Islam; the undeniable connection between Islam and 911; and the intense meaning of 911 to the vast majority of Americans; the risks of building a mosque at Ground Zero are too great to be contemplated.  Obama should recognize this, and use all of his powers of persuasion, and all of the symbolic weight of the office that he holds as representing the entire American people, to make that point as forcefully as possible.

He decided to do the exact opposite.  Duly noted.  Consequences to follow.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Craig pirrong, Craig pirrong and Craig pirrong, Craig pirrong. Craig pirrong said: Updated my SWP blog post: ( ) […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Streetwise Professor -- — August 14, 2010 @ 8:38 am

  2. As always, Professor, you are right, so right! I am from New York and my heart literary hurts when I think that there might be a mosque near Ground Zero.

    Comment by voroBey — August 14, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

  3. If the mosque plan is ever begun, there should be a new American tradition begun, the 24hr 365d/yr continuous silent picketing of the site. I personally would fly to NY to get into the picket line.
    I am quite sure the NYPD would place a security detail at the site to insure the protection of peaceful protest. It will be useful to see who comes out to protest the protest.

    Comment by SR — August 14, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  4. Gosh, Prof. This is something that you clearly feel really, really strongly about. From reading your posts, I have come to think of you as a reasonable person, and yet this post is passionately and, forgive me for being blunt, unreasonably worded.

    Now I might have missed some important information, but what I think is this:
    1. The mosque is not at Ground Zero. It’s about a half mile away. It’s not on hallowed ground.
    2. There is a mosque on hallowed ground – in the Pentagon.
    3. There has been a mosque at that site in lower Manhattan for years.
    4. Your perception of Islam seems to be that it’s all about conquering the world despite what some sneaky imams say. I don’t believe that is true. And what’s that bit about mosques being triumphalist? I’ve been in lots of Islamic countries, where there are little mosques all over the place, in every village. I don’t see any triumphalism there. Yes, St Sophia is painful for me personally (raised in Orthodoxy). But that’s what folks did for centuries: the Christians turned pagan temples into churches, they turned mosques into churches, the Muslims turned churches into mosques.
    5. I don’t think it’s at all hard to talk about the “truth” of Christianity. The “truth” of Christianity is that God loves the world and the people in it, and salvation is available to anyone who seeks it and truly repents his or her sins. If someone told me that Christianity was forcible conversion, the Inquisition, and killing doctors who perform abortions, I’d tell them what the truth of Christianity is. I don’t think that’s arrogance, and I don’t think it’s complicated. It’s the same thing with Islam and Judaism and just about every other religion. There are those who corrupt the truth, but there is an essential message in the teaching. So I don’t see anything the least bit arrogant in what Obama said, unless (see point 4) you really think the main truth of the message of Islam is destruction.
    6. Is public opinion really against this? If it is, until now the public hasn’t given a hoot about the mosque on that site. So would Muslims be bowing to public opinion, or would they be knuckling under a whipped up, wrong-headed frenzy?

    Come on: it’s wrong to blame all for the few. The only way your point makes sense is if Al Qaeda=Islam. And that certainly isn’t true.

    I respect your passion, but please think about this more.

    Comment by mossy — August 14, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

  5. Well, at least the “New Tower” or whatever is going to be built on ground zero won’t be blow up again. Isn’t the Mosque somewhat like a hostage?

    Comment by michael webster — August 14, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

  6. Congratulations on the progression into unbridled Islamophobia!

    More than anything else, it demonstrates a new low in your hypocrisy and double standards. Rule of law for big corporations and exploiters. Bully pulpits against those whose opinions you disagree with – and rule of law and property rights can go to hell! Thanks for clearing that up.

    Cordoba – appropriate name. The most advanced medieval European civilization (along with Byzantium), destroyed by Western crusaders and their people ethnically cleansed – only to be further demonized by their ideological descendants like SWP, voroBey and SR. Frankly, we deserve their hatred.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 14, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

  7. S/O–Take your “phobias” shove them. Again, read the fucking piece–how many times do I have to tell you that? I said–explicitly, in the 6th paragraph–that I do not dispute the legal right. I dispute the rightness, propriety and wisdom. I dispute the motives. So your hypocrisy point, per usual, is complete bilge.

    Re Cordoba–whataboutism, again. Do some research about the wonders of El Andalus and Cordoba. WRT the latter in particular, the massacres (plural) in the 9th century.

    And the interpretation of what Muslims mean when referring to Andalus or Cordoba is hardly, hardly unambiguous. Recall that bin Laden repeatedly refers to the need to restore the glories of El Andalus. To many Muslims, Andalus and Cordoba/Cordova are symbolic of conquest and righteous Islamic dominance, and their loss is a grievous injustice to be avenged.

    And you start history in the middle. As someone of our mutual (virtual) acquaintance has said, the Muslims didn’t arrive in Spain on the Peace Train.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 14, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

  8. @Mossy. Yes. It is a big deal to me. It was a searing experience. I can play that entire day in my head, like it was a movie, from the minute I heard about a plane crashing into the TT until I went to bed that night. And two of my Naval Academy classmates, in my company, died on 911. One in the Pentagon, one in the TT. That’s 2 guys out of 70 that I went through plebe summer with. Two guys with wives and kids.

    I disagree with many of your arguments, but I appreciate the genuine tone, and the Christian care for me evident in what you wrote. I will endeavor to respond in kind.

    I’ll just make a few comments. The crucial thing is that there are mosques and there are mosques. WRT to “Cordoba House”–it is not a random mosque that just happens to be located in NY. It is 2 blocks from Ground Zero. It is intended to be 13 stories high. And its creators have quite clearly tied it to 911. Most notably in their intention to open the mosque on the 10th anniversary of 911. The connection to 911 is deliberate and explicit, unlike the pre-existing mosque you mention. The would be founders are making the connection: people like me are not imagining it or projecting it.

    I also suggest that you read this. It says a lot about “getting it,” the meta-meanings, and says it very well.

    And yes, not all mosques are triumphalist; I never said so. But many are. The Cordoba Mosque specifically, the memory of which Rauf et al consciously invoke, was erected on the ruins of a Catholic cathedral pulled down by conquering Muslims. A clearly triumphalist statement, a symbol of power, dominance, and submission, built in stone–many of the stones being pulled from the despoiled church. The ostensible message of “Cordoba” pushed by Rauf et al is that it was an oasis of interfaith tolerance (not true, exactly). But to many Muslims, it evokes a very different message. I re-iterate: bin Laden repeatedly venerates El Andalus, Cordoba, and states that one of his objectives is to restore Muslim suzerainty over it. The implications of the name “Cordoba House” is hardly unambiguous.

    With respect to the “mosque in the Pentagon”–this is a meme that is going viral as part of the campaign to defend the mosque. In fact, the “mosque” in the Pentagon is an interfaith chapel. My daughter was there Thursday. She saw it with her own eyes. It is quite different than a mosque created by adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Public opinion is indeed against this. Polls indicate opposition at 70 percent. And if you want evidence of how intense the feelings are, just witness Obama’s dervish-like spinning in response to the firestorm of protest that erupted after his remarks. I know you are far away. I can tell you that this is a big deal here. A big deal. I very much value your on-the-spot characterizations of what is transpiring in Russia/Moscow. I can offer similar perspective as to what is happening here.

    I also think that your use of the “=” sign illustrates a key problem with many of the arguments, including those that I addressed in my post. Islam is not one thing that can be equated to, or not, one other thing; what I object to is Obama or Bush or Blair saying that they know what it is, and what it is not. I certainly do not make that equation, nor does my argument depend on it in any way. Quite the reverse.

    Mathematically, set theory would be a more accurate way of representing things. Al Qaeda is a strict subset of Islam. There is no denying that. And there are many other subsets of Islam that are intent on establishing a caliphate, and who view the West–and New York in particular–as Dar al Harb. The House of War to be conquered to force it to submit to Islam.

    I acknowledge in my post that it is not clear that Rauf and the supporters and funders are members of these sets. But it is not clear that they are not. And there are reasons to suspect that they are. To me, and to many Americans for whom 911 is a defining event, the risk inherent in the ambiguity of their affiliations and intentions is unacceptable.

    And if those creating the mosque were indeed people of good will, they would recognize the sensitivity of the subject, and show the appropriate respect and deference. The fact that they have not casts serious doubt on their motives. They have even suggested that they are the victims. That is disgusting.

    With respect to Christianity, there is a certain common denominator in believers’ understanding of Christianity. Yours is a reasonable characterization of that. But beyond that, virtually everything is a matter of dispute and conflicting interpretations.

    Thank you again for your comment and your kind words. I am sorry if the intensity of my feelings on this issue are shocking to you, but I do think my reason is still in control of my passions, although the intensity of my feelings on the subject may add unusual and unexpected force to my words.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 14, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

  9. First comes the lifestyle, then a religion to justify it. What was Mohammed’s occupation? Too bad McVeigh was born too early.

    Comment by So? — August 14, 2010 @ 11:29 pm

  10. Prof, I wrote that I might not have all the information, and since I trust that you are a sensible person (although in the end I might not agree with you), I’ll read your links and more information.

    But I would again like to say that I think you are misinterpreting Obama’s words and possibly mine. I don’t think Obama is talking about one particular Muslim denomination (if that’s the correct word), as I am not talking about one particular Christian denomination. The message of Christ is non-violence. Anyone who commits violence under the banner of Christianity has missed the “truth.” It doesn’t matter to me if that person is Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox (like, for example, the St George brigade that seeks out homosexuals to beat up, or the friggin’ idiot at Russkoye Moloko who is making employment contingent on strict observance of Orthodoxy). You’re right that I don’t know as much about Islam as I know about Christianity. And I don’t argue with you that Sharia law as practiced in many countries is a horror. But I’m not at all convinced that the “truth” of Islam is violent.

    Comment by mossy — August 15, 2010 @ 2:55 am

  11. I’ve got to take the stance that it’s private property and they can legally do what they want with it. By building now it is only showing that ‘bridging the gap’ is not the goal of the facility. We are all entitled to the right to agree or disagree with the propriety of putting this facility so close to Ground Zero, but the rights that let us disagree with this are the same rights that let them build the facility. In turn, they are the same rights that let the vast majority of Americans rise up in protest to the facility. I don’t really know what point I’m trying to make other than that I’m entitled to my opinion, but that I don’t have the right to unilaterally impose that opinion on others outside of the spectrum of the law.

    Comment by Jack — August 16, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

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