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August 23, 2010

Will Moving the Park 51 "Mosque" Empower Extremists?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Some liberals are arguing that failing to build the Park 51 "mosque" will somehow empower extremists. Jon Chait's coverage of the "ground zero mosque" controversy has been excellent. But I'm not really sure what to make of this claim of his:

The key fact is that we are fighting a war for the hearts and minds of non-radical Muslims, and the Park 51 uproar is helping drive potential allies into the arms of the enemy. It is madness.

Elsewhere, Ruth Massie, a supporter of Park51, puts it this way:

It would be giving in to bigotry and intolerance to demand that it be moved and I think in the end, it makes us less safe because we need to show the world that we are a tolerant, open society.

I don't really understand this. Will the mosque/community center send a powerful message that America is a land of freedom for Muslims, even 2.5 blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks? There are good arguments in support of Park51. This, I suspect, is not one of them. No one ever decided to join a terrorist group in Egypt because they were reading New York Times articles about civil liberties abuses against Muslims in Alabama. If this is about helping diffuse Muslim anger abroad, then I wish supporters of this odd hypothesis would clarify the causal mechanisms involved. Arabs aren't angry at us because American Muslims get racially profiled in airports. They're angry at us because our policies in the region, um, are pretty bad. 

So let's not pretend that we can build a better relationship with the Muslim world by "cultivating moderates" like Imam Rauf, or that America can lead by example by peppering fuzzy mosques all over Manhattan. Arabs aren't concerned about our lack of freedom in America. They're concerned about the lack of freedom in their own societies, something which we haven't been particularly helpful with.


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