|Protestors at Park51
[source: The New York Times]
In which intelligence and counter-terrorism experts agree that the litany of demagogues and bigots who are so successful in riling up public animosity against Muslims on the subject of the Park51 Islamic cultural center (misleadingly labeled “Ground Zero Mosque”) are actually playing right into the hands of the very Islamic radicals and extremists they claim to oppose:
Opposition to the center by prominent politicians and other public figures in the United States has been covered extensively by the news media in Muslim countries. At a time of concern about radicalization of young Muslims in the West, it risks adding new fuel to Al Qaeda’s claim that Islam is under attack by the West and must be defended with violence, some specialists on Islamic militancy say.
“I know people in this debate don’t intend it, but there are consequences for these kinds of remarks,” said Brian Fishman, who studies terrorism for the New America Foundation here.
He said that Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric hiding in Yemen who has been linked to several terrorist plots, has been arguing for months in Web speeches and in a new Qaeda magazine that American Muslims face a dark future of ever-worsening discrimination and vilification.
“When the rhetoric is so inflammatory that it serves the interests of a jihadi recruiter like Awlaki, politicians need to be called on it,” Mr. Fishman said.
Evan F. Kohlmann, who tracks militant Web sites at the security consulting firm Flashpoint Global Partners, said supporters of Al Qaeda have seized on the controversy “with glee.” On radical Web forums, he said, the dispute over the Islamic center, which would include space for worship, is lumped together with fringe developments like a Florida pastor’s call for making Sept. 11 “Burn a Koran Day.”
“It’s seen as proof of what Awlaki and others have been saying, that the U.S. is hypocritical and that most Americans are enemies of Islam,” Mr. Kohlmann said. He called the anti-Islam statements spawned by the dispute “disturbing and sad” and said they were feeding anti-American sentiment that could provoke violence.
This should all be patently obvious to anyone possessing a modicum of common sense, but then again, with the state of the Republican Party as it is, it’s perhaps almost expected that the usual dishonest demagogues such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, two chief rabble-rousers on the subject of Park51, would ramp up falsehoods and thinly veiled bigotry and actually end up doing the terrorists’ work for them. Several high-ranking politicians and officials have already spoken out against all this stigmatizing of Muslims, including President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But this simply isn’t enough to counter the blind (right-wing demagogues) leading the blind (increasingly intolerant masses). What we’d really need to end this bullshit is for the Right to acquire some sense of religious tolerance and intellectual honesty.
But then, I’m not one to believe in miracles.