Wealthy Colorado Republican health care scion, Muhammad Ali Hasan, wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post Tuesday supporting the building of the controversial mega-Mosque next door to Ground Zero, the site of the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks. Hasan, the founder of Muslims for Bush, sweepingly portrayed the project’s opponents as bigots:
I deeply support building this mosque. To my fellow conservative leaders who say they are against this project, yet claim to not be bigoted, I have news for you: you are a bigot.
Hasan, who now appears to be a blogger for the left-leaning Huff-Po, employs some logically specious arguments in trying to make his case for the mosque. One, is that in addition to being a mosque, an entire community center called the Cordoba House, which would include bookstores, a swimming pool, and other amenities, would be part of the development, and open to all. Objection – relevance?
Even worse, is this non-sequitur:
Shame on Republican leaders for criticizing such a fine project. After all, I believe many of these conservatives were the same leaders who supported the bailouts of 2008 and turned blind eyes to the book-cooking that kept companies like Enron in business?
Perhaps the founders of the Cordoba House should abandon the project, convert to Christianity, and invest their $100 million into a more modest building, closed to the public, that will instead house an oil company that cooks its books to reflect fake profits? History dictates that the same conservatives criticizing the Cordoba House project would probably give this new oil company a large bailout — provided that the good oilmen are white and Christian.
And Hasan has the hubris to cast stones at other Republicans for bigotry? With imaginative economic reasoning like this, we should all be grateful to J.J. Ament for singlehandedly knocking Ali out of contention for Colorado Treasurer.
Can it be possible that fellow conservatives could agree that the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause permits the mosque, are not bigoted, but think the mosque project shows poor judgment? Yes and no, according to Hasan.
While Hasan finds himself unable to conjure up any legitimate basis for the opposition, he acknowledges that his friend and mentor, Newt Gingrich, is not a bigot (nor is Sarah Palin). How does Hasan explain Gingrich’s outspoken and well-argued opposition to the Cordoba mosque-mall project? He doesn’t. Nor does he bother to engage readers rhetorically by presenting the best arguments of the opposition, then countering them.
That leaves me to present the other side for purposes of this post. As I prefer the Newt Gingrich side of the debate, however, I’ll present his argument and cut down Ali’s points instead.
First, just because something is constitutional doesn’t make it sound. The free speech clause, to use an example, protects lots of nasty things, and I defend anyone’s legal right to say them or write them. But would I support a politician who wanted to demonstrate in favor of racial segregation or who runs around burning flags? Of course not. Muslim leaders, including Hasan, should be using sound judgment, appropriately targeted to achieving their aims. Instead, Hasan jumps aboard the left wing of the debate, and instead of providing a compelling conservative argument, simply draws on his own credentials as a card-carrying Republican.
Gingrich pointed out on Fox News Tuesday night that Ground Zero is the most emotionally charged locale in the country. If the mosque developers wish to project a message of tolerance and inclusion, Gingrich suggests a center featuring all three of the Abrahamic religions, not just Islam. I wonder why Hasan fails to engage his mentor’s thought-provoking idea?
And I would be remiss if I ignored the elephant in the room (no pun intended). Radical Islam certainly does not represent any but a small minority of Muslims in the U.S., but it is also a small minority of Muslims who speak out against radical Islam – very small. And they can be quite sensitive about their own sensibilities, as exemplified with the Danish cartoon fanaticism.
So picture this. A site of mass casualties of Muslims somewhere in say, western Europe. A Jewish group decides they’d like to open a synagogue next door. How many cries for tolerance do we think we’d be hearing from Muslims about that one?
Ali Hasan has the potential to build better understanding of Islam among conservatives . To do that effectively, however, he needs to speak in the same breath about the need for American Muslims to speak out, or they will continue to receive the skepticism about their intentions with which they’ve been greeted so far. Hasan might call that bigoted. I call it reality. He can’t reserve all his wrath for conservatives – especially with arguments as weak as those on display in the Huffington Post op-ed.
Hasan is wasting his enormous potential as a man of persuasion and bridge building if he merely tosses rhetorical grenades at fellow conservatives in what seems more like pandering to leftist readers than a genuine attempt to win conservative hearts and minds.