Not At Ground Zero Mosque Gets Interesting

The debate over Cordoba House has seemed overwrought to me. Some interesting elements have been added, however. That "Pastor" down in Florida (his church has about 30 followers and has had run-ins with the IRS according to reports) who's going to bbq the Koran on Saturday may be nutty, but he raises an interesting question. Would we say he has the right to burn the Koran --but that decent and peace-loving people wouldn't? Isn't that the argument against the mosque near Ground Zero? What makes the cases different?
An obvious moral distinction is that Cordoba House purports to be a service to the community whereas Pastor whatsit is simply playing provocateur. That's if you accept Feisal Rauf's explanation of the center.
At Cordoba House, we envision shared space for community activities, like a swimming pool, classrooms and a play space for children. There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
I am very sensitive to the feelings of the families of victims of 9/11, as are my fellow leaders of many faiths. We will accordingly seek the support of those families, and the support of our vibrant neighborhood, as we consider the ultimate plans for the community center. Our objective has always been to make this a center for unification and healing.
Cordoba House will be built on the two fundamental commandments common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam: to love the Lord our creator with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength; and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We want to foster a culture of worship authentic to each religious tradition, and also a culture of forging personal bonds across religious traditions.
Rauf makes an interesting claim about the political support for the center.
President Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg both spoke out in support of our project. As I traveled overseas, I saw firsthand how their words and actions made a tremendous impact on the Muslim street and on Muslim leaders. It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims. Their statements sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations.
The wonderful outpouring of support for our right to build this community center from across the social, religious and political spectrum seriously undermines the ability of anti-American radicals to recruit young, impressionable Muslims by falsely claiming that America persecutes Muslims for their faith. These efforts by radicals at distortion endanger our national security and the personal security of Americans worldwide. This is why Americans must not back away from completion of this project. If we do, we cede the discourse and, essentially, our future to radicals on both sides. The paradigm of a clash between the West and the Muslim world will continue, as it has in recent decades at terrible cost. It is a paradigm we must shift. 
That comports with a point Tony Blair makes in his new book and which he elaborated on the Charlie Rose show last night. He says he has come to a deeper understanding of the challenge posed by radical Islam: namely that the problem is much broader than he originally understood. It's not just extremism that poses a challenge to the West, but a broader narrative accepted by much of the Muslim world, including many who abhor terrorism. That narrative is that the West is hostile to Islam and oppresses it. Blair says extremism has to be fought through a combination of hard and soft power --the latter by forthrightly confronting that narrative both within and without Islam. Muslims have to be challenged to believe, "we are capable of solving our own problems."

In that light, Cordoba House would be a good thing, supposing we take Rauf's words at face value. Thanks to the tenet of Islam that it's not necessary to be honest with infidels, many sensible people think Cordoba House is merely an act of provocation, and the nice words merely taunts. There's obviously no way to look into a man's soul (unless you're George Bush). Rauf promises to reveal all funding, however -- so trust but verify?

Here's a second interesting wrinkle. Gen. Petraeus has weighed in against the Koran burning, saying the images will harm our cause in Afghanistan. Duh. He no doubt has in mind "Korangate" in 2005, when Newsweek published a story --which turned out to be utterly false-- of Americans flushing Korans down the toilet. American soldiers died as a direct result of that story.

Here's the usually sensible Spengler complaining Petraeus has no business shushing civilians.
If the obnoxious and misguided Rev. Jones can be bullied into silence, who else will be told to shut up?
Robert Spencer agrees. Eh. I take the point, but don't see how pointing out how the pictures will play overseas while we're at war constitutes bullying; the general has no power to make them stop, nor has he suggested any threat to them if they don't. What's the difference between that and the ubiquitous "Loose lips sink ships" posters of World War II? Washington put a stop to Guy Fawkes celebrations...though admittedly that was among soldiers, not civilians, which is a different matter. But the point was the same: consider how what you're doing affects our allies.

Nanny McBloomberg is at least consistent: he supports the pastor's right to burn the Koran. Will that undo the good will allegedly built by supporting the mosque?

Update: Hmmm. Now Rauf regrets the project...but it must go forward as a matter of national security?