My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, hails the brilliance of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the “Cordoba Initiative”, the group seeking to build the Ground Zero Mosque.
1. First the name of the group takes advantage of the historical illiteracy among the chattering class elites of our society:
Start with the notion of a “Cordoba Initiative.” In the elite modern Western mind, Cordoba has been transmogrified into a mythical Lala Land of interfaith tolerance. To invoke the city is to prove one’s ecumenical credentials. Just ask our president, who, in his June 2009 Cairo speech, fantastically claimed that the Muslim city taught us tolerance while Christians were launching the Inquisition (1478) — quite a feat two and a half centuries after most of the Muslims of Cordoba had fled, converted, or been cleansed during the city’s fall (1236) to the Christian forces of the Reconquista. But no matter, we got the president’s drift about who was supposedly tolerant and who was not.
In truth, apart from a brief cultural renaissance, Cordoba, during its five centuries of Islamic rule, was not especially tolerant of nonbelievers. And, like most medieval cities, it was plagued by coups, assassinations, and right-wing clerical intolerance; it was a place where books were both burned and written. But that is not the point of citing Cordoba. Surely Feisal Abdul Rauf knows all that and more: Cordoba is as much a mythical construct of a long-ago multicultural paradise so dear to elite liberals as it is a fantasy rallying cry to Islamists to reclaim the lost Al-Andalus.
So Cordoba is a two-birds-with-one-stone evocation: in the liberal West proof of one’s ecumenical bona fides; in the Middle East proof of one’s Islamist bona fides. It would be easy to find a city emblematic of interfaith outreach other than the Andalusian Cordoba — from Jerusalem to Ann Arbor — but then the irony would be lost.
2. Then we come to the Imam himself who specializes in presenting one face to credulous Western elites, and another face to the Arab world:
To his liberal defenders, he is a sort of respectable Deepak Chopra who at respectable places like Aspen mouths pop platitudes of interfaith tolerance — so much so that our own State Department has employed him, apparently for quite some time, for goodwill gallivanting abroad.
But to those in the Middle East, he is known equally well for doing what he can, as a Western liberal, to contextualize terrorism, bin Laden, and Islamic extremism within the tired Western postmodern tropes of cultural relativism: “The United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened” on 9/11; “In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.A.”; “The U.S. and the West must acknowledge the harm they have done to Muslims before terrorism can end”; “The issue of terrorism is a very complex question”; “The Islamic method of waging war is not to kill innocent civilians. But it was Christians in World War II who bombed civilians in Dresden and Hiroshima, neither of which were military targets” — blah, blah, blah, like all the thinkery that one hears in the faculty lounge.
If the now mysteriously absent Mr. Rauf were not cynical, he simply could do the Oprah/Katie Couric circuit and convince the public that all of the above is taken out of context and that the implications are belied by his longstanding efforts at interfaith outreach. But then he tried that once, on 60 Minutes, with disastrous consequences; and, anyway, the irony of speaking obliquely to two audiences would surely be imperiled.
3. The third point raised by Mr. Hanson is where I really take my hat off to the Imam. A great con artist can sell anything to anyone. It takes a true master however to sell the same commodity to two groups simultaneously, each of which have directly contradictory beliefs as to the item:
He grasped at once the brilliant cynicism involved: Here at home well-meaning liberals would applaud the audacity of hope in positioning a mosque near the 9/11 site in order to “commemorate” the “tragedy,” as a token of tolerance where all could come together and thus avoid another misunderstanding of the sort that sent two airliners crashing into two skyscrapers.
Abroad, the message would, of course, be interpreted quite differently: To the radical Islamists, a mosque rising near Ground Zero well before a new World Trade Center is constructed is a message of Islamic triumphalism — in the long tradition of minarets on the conquered Santa Sophia in Istanbul, the eighth-century Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem rising on the site of the destroyed Jewish Second Temple, and the great mosque at Cordoba retrofitted from the gutted Christian Church of St. Vincent.
Go here to read the rest at Hanson’s blog Private Papers. This whole farce has nothing to do with religious tolerance, multi-culturalism or any of the other bromides that defenders of this spit in the face to America reach for. It is simply a test run by a grifter of an Islamic cleric to see just how many Americans should have “Chump” permanently tattooed on their foreheads.