Thursday, August 19, 2010


Anathema to the RWS™ and to all of those who sup at their untidy table, there follow some facts about the Cordoba Initiative. As I mentioned recently, the leader is Sufi. To those who, at the urging of the demonstrably mendacious and venal Newt Gingrich, mindlessly repeat the notion that the center would be a symbol of terrorist triumphalism, I say (recognizing it'll make no difference, as facts are like rubber bullets on a mylar vest to these people) read this informative piece:
The problem with such claims goes far beyond the fate of a mosque in downtown Manhattan. They show a dangerously inadequate understanding of the many divisions, complexities and nuances within the Islamic world — a failure that hugely hampers Western efforts to fight violent Islamic extremism and to reconcile Americans with peaceful adherents of the world’s second-largest religion.

Most of us are perfectly capable of making distinctions within the Christian world. The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn’t mean he’s in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers, just as not all Orthodox Christians have ties to Serbian war criminals or Southern Baptists to the murderers of abortion doctors.

Yet many of our leaders have a tendency to see the Islamic world as a single, terrifying monolith. Had the George W. Bush administration been more aware of the irreconcilable differences between the Salafist jihadists of Al Qaeda and the secular Baathists of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the United States might never have blundered into a disastrous war, and instead kept its focus on rebuilding post-Taliban Afghanistan while the hearts and minds of the Afghans were still open to persuasion.

Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam, which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. But in the eyes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he is an infidel-loving, grave-worshiping apostate; they no doubt regard him as a legitimate target for assassination.

For such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam — accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and nonbelievers — and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West.

It's just another example of how our mindless and simplistic approach to our problems is leading us to self-destruction. As Sarah Palin continues to laugh at thinkers, and as Newt presents his non-thinking as the Republican version of intellect, teabaggers and people like them empower their own destruction.

How sad. For letting it happen, in the case of most of our media, and for making it happen, in the case of the rest, and for our unwillingness to speak up, we deserve what we're about to get. Long since, we've abdicated our place in the world as a voice of reason, innovation, and education. It's assisted suicide.

And Rauf helped the FBI in its fight against terrorists.


  1. There was an interesting perspective from a Muslim who opposed the mosque on a CBC program last week.

    I personally did not find her convincing, and feel that she's just exercising a subtler form of bigotry, however her argument about the potential for Saudi Wahhabist money funding the project is the closest thing to persuasive I've heard so far.

  2. Well, if what I read about Sufism and its relation to radical forms of Islam is true, it seems highly unlikely that Wahabbist money would find its way there. Nor does it change the fundamental points: it's a local matter; it's consistent with the US's most basic values; it's entirely opposite the message the radicals spread, ie that the US is at war with all of Islam.


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