As the usual RWS™ keep adding to the crazy over the Cordoba Initiative (which, by the bye, was just given initial approval), it's worth hearing the occasional voice of sanity. Information-based sanity. (I apologize for using those three words together, in a way that several of my readers -- and we all know who they are -- will be unable to comprehend. Sorry. I wish I could help.)
This seems like such an obvious point, but it is apparently not obvious to the many people who oppose the Cordoba Initiative's planned mosque in lower Manhattan, so let me state it as clearly as possible: The Cordoba Initiative, which is headed by an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an enemy of al Qaeda, no less than Rudolph Giuliani and the Anti-Defamation League are enemies of al Qaeda. Bin Laden would sooner dispatch a truck bomb to destroy the Cordoba Initiative's proposed community center than he would attack the ADL, for the simple reason that Osama's most dire enemies are Muslims. This is quantitatively true, of course -- al Qaeda and its ideological affiliates have murdered thousands of Muslims -- but it is ideologically true as well: al Qaeda's goal is the purification of Islam (that is to say, its extreme understanding of Islam) and apostates pose more of a threat to Bin Laden's understanding of Islam than do infidels.
I know Feisal Abdul Rauf; I've spoken with him at a public discussion at the 96th street mosque in New York about interfaith cooperation. He represents what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country. Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of the mosque project are giving him what he wants.
To put it another way:
If Osama bin Laden were to write a script for what he'd like to see happen here, it'd be identical to the one Gingrich & Co. are following. This isn't intended to question their patriotism, but rather, their sanity.
I'd not be that kind. If one's so-called patriotism is so misguided; namely, where there is no religious tolerance, where (briefly to raise another issue) nativism trumps the Constitution, where a democratically-elected president doing exactly that on which he campaigned is seen as fascism -- in short, when that patriotism is directed at a country that doesn't exist -- then it's hard to know the meaning of the term.
The problem is, in order to give that impression of immediacy, Newt elides three-hundred years of Christian and Muslim history. Three-hundred years. The Muslims conquered Cordoba in 712... and the mosque only became "the world's third-largest" late in the tenth century, after a series of expansions by much later rulers, probably around 987 or so.
[...] Muslim historians writing about the Great Mosque don't point to it as a symbol of Muslim triumph over Christians; rather, they treat it primarily as a symbol of Muslim victory over other Muslims.
The mosque was indeed begun in the wake of a Muslim conquest--just not the conquest of the Christians. Rather, it was ordered built by the Umayyad emir Abd-ar-Ramman I, probably in part to commemorate his successful conquest of Cordoba in the 750's, fought against otherMuslim chieftains loyal to the rival Abbasid Caliphate, and his successful repulsion of subsequent Abbasid attempts to dislodge him by force throughout the 760's.[...]
Muslim historians of the late tenth century tell that Abd-ar-Ramman bought the church from the Christian congregation after sharing it with them for fifty years "following the example of Abu Ubayda and Khalid, according to the judgement of Caliph Umar in partitioning Christian churches like that of Damascus and other [cities] that were taken of peaceful accord". The Christians, we're told, took their money and relocated their church to the outskirts of Cordoba. Now obviously, these are Muslim historians writing two-to-three-hundred years after the events they describe, so we must always take their accounts with a grain of salt (as we would with any historian's work, Muslim or not) and consider the political motivations responsible for their histories.
This is the important fact that Newt hopes those who read his polemic will be ignorant of: for a ruler to be legitimate in Muslim eyes in the tenth century, during the time when the Great Mosque was being expanded into its present-day dimensions, it was important to emphasize the peaceful succession of Islam from the other religions in the area. A caliph was expected to have arrived at an accord with the Christians and Jews over which he ruled. Far from "symboliz[ing] their victory" the Mosque was held up by Muslim historians a symbol of peaceful coexistence with the Christians--however messier the actual relations of Christians and Muslims were at the time.[...] So it's easy to see why a group of Muslims creating a community center in the heart of a majority Christian country in a city known for its large Jewish population might name it "The Cordoba House" They're not, as Gingrich hopes we would believe, discreetly laughing at us because "Cordoba" is some double-secret Islamist code for "conquest"; rather, they're hoping to associate themselves with a particular time in medieval history when the largest library in Western Europe was to be found in Cordoba, a city in which scholars of all three major Abrahamic religions were free to study side-by-side.
Newt is as screamy a RWS™ as they get. His bullshit just smells a little better at first whiff, because he drapes himself in academe like a bacon-wrapped date stuffed with Boursin. Which is delicious, by the way, and can be done over a campfire as my wife recently demonstrated.]