So What If Park51 WERE a Mosque?

Over at the indispensable Religion Dispatches, Aisha Ghani critiques what she contends is a disturbing tactic of  certain liberals/progressives defending the so-called ‘Ground Zero Mosque’:

In the past weeks, we have seen how liberal defenders have responded to the ‘fear and trembling’ that the mere idea of a mosque induces, through a series of disavowals. Instead of challenging the racist assumptions that buttress such rhetoric, many liberals have decided to offer ‘clarifications.’ Time and again, the public is being reminded of the fact that Park51 is not in fact a mosque but an Islamic community center that promotes ‘interfaith’ dialogue.


In all of this, it is clear that the kindergarten logic of “hear no evil, see no evil” is being utilized in order to sway public opinion in favor of the Center, but while the success of these maneuvers remains to be seen, its damage is immediately apparent. The message being sent is loud and clear: if Park51 ‘sounds’ nothing like mosque, claims to ‘be’ nothing like a mosque, and, ‘looks’ nothing like a mosque, then, and only then, does it emerge a defensible endeavor within the United States.


As a Muslim, I take no pleasure in stating that I see no part of myself in what the Park51 initiative has become. The precise public identity that has enabled it to emerge a defensible endeavor in liberal discourse, has also had the damaging effect of alienating many Muslims—particularly those of us who do not wish to describe our relationship to Islam through language that seeks to ‘moderate’ not simply words, but the very conditions of our existence. To accept this insidious terminology would be tantamount to reinforcing the spurious claim that Islam, as it stands on its own—‘un-moderated’—is always already problematic.

IOW, get over your goddamn Sensible™ squick about calling fucking bigoted asshats ‘fucking bigoted asshats’, or else this sort of xenophobic mass hysteria over Islam is going to continue to consume the nation. It is not a crime to be Muslim in America (yet). And it’s sure as shit not racist to call racists ‘racist’, no matter what Andrew fucking Breitbart and Co. would like us to believe.

But it damn sure IS dangerous to allow nativist paranoia over the amorphous Islamic Other to reign unfettered [insert Godwin violation here].

Related: One wonders if Howard Dean has ever bothered to consider the *ahem* feelings of  Americans like Abdur’Rauf Campos-Marquetti?

Update: Allison Kilkenny:

Defenders of the Park 51 protesters claim that not all of their members are racist. Of course not. In any bigoted movement, I’m sure you can find at least a handful of individuals who really believe what they’re doing will protect the motherland, and they don’t have anything personally against _____, but maybe if ______ just tried a little harder to assimilate, this wouldn’t be a problem at all. And then there are the people protesting ______ because their granddaddy hated _____, and their daddy hated ____, and now they’ve taken taken up the mantle of hating _____ because it’s something of a family tradition, but they would never hurt a _____, or anything, and to tell you the truth, they once worked a job with a _____, and he was a nice enough guy.

But the occasional non-racist within a racist movement doesn’t excuse the larger body. The right’s hatred has become so conflated and muddled that it’s difficult to figure out who they hate the most. Is it liberals? Hispanics? Teh Gayz? Blacks? Muslims? Atheists? Feminists? Their hatred runs deep and broad, and it’s why I tend to label it as a hatred for otherness – anything that doesn’t fit into the white, Christian model.

THIS is how you do it.

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