To hear conservatives and Tea Party brewers tell it the "Ground Zero mosque" is a Trojan horse that will be the headquarters of al-Qaeda to take over America. The irony of this religious intolerance is that it is coming from mostly people on the conservative end of the political spectrum in America, which means that most likely a large portion of them are Christian. And of course, Christians came to America in the early days to flee religious intolerance in 17th-18th century England!! One of the big reasons for religious freedom in a democracy like in the United States is so minority religions have the same chance to worship how they want without being oppressed by the majority. The other irony around this issue is that the Imam who is poised to head up this cultural/interfaith center and mosque is that he was part of a Bush administration's outreach to moderate Muslims to show that not all Americans are intolerant of Muslims!!
If one were to hearken back to the halcyon days of the Bush Administration, one would remember that, when Bush adviser Karen Hughes was appointed Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, the Bush Administration saw improving America's standing among Muslims abroad as a part of its national security strategy. And, as such, Hughes set up listening tours, attended meetings and worked with interfaith groups that -- shocking, by today's Republican standards -- included actual Muslims. One of those people was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.
Contemporary press accounts indicate that Rauf and Hughes were part of the February 2006 U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. He was part of a delegation that met with her in March 2006 and held a joint press conference. A letter to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in November 2007 indicates that contacts with Hughes and Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns had continued apace.
TPJ: To quote the Imam:
I have had meetings with Karen Hughes. However, I would welcome the opportunity to have further, deeper, and more nuanced discussions with other members of the Bush administration on how they need to understand religion and how it intersects with political affairs. To not understand the role of Islam and faith as a motivator is to be incapacitated in shaping a foreign policy that achieves the objectives of the United States.
The perception in the Muslim world is that the West wants to impose a secularism upon it, which to them is equivalent to the erasure of religion in society. As an American, I know that is not the intent of the United States at all. But thats the perception. The perception in America is that when people say they want an Islamic state, they want something like the Taliban. And that is not true at all.
TPJ: If the good Imam was acceptable, American and peaceful enough to be apart of a Bush administration group seeking to improve relations between the United States and Muslims then I think his heading up a mosque near Ground Zero isn't worrisome. Remember, Bush was the president who went to Ground Zero to stand on the rubble of the twin towers to put the perpetrators of those attacks on notice that we were out to take them down. I don't think a conservative, Evangelical like Bush would allow a "radical," "al-Qaeda in disguise" Imam to work with his administration on improving dialogue with the Muslim world. The Tea Party conservatives who are attacking this Imam and this mosque and cultural center are bad for America's image abroad. What kind of "defense" of America are they offering when they are fighting moderate Muslims?!! The moderates are the very people we want to win over to show Muslims that we aren't their enemy!! The LAST thing we should be doing is pushing them away and into the hands of the radical Muslims!!
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