Hitchens and Manji
Hitchens explains what’s really worrying about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (it’s not the location of the planned Islamic cultural center):
For example, here is Rauf’s editorial on the upheaval that followed the brutal hijacking of the Iranian elections in 2009. Regarding President Obama, he advised that:
He should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution—to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faquih, that establishes the rule of law.
Roughly translated, Vilayet-i-faquih is the special term promulgated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to describe the idea that all of Iranian society is under the permanent stewardship (sometimes rendered as guardianship) of the mullahs.
In other words, totalitarian theocracy. Imam Rauf was saying Obama should say his administration respects the guiding principle of totalitarian theocracy. No he shouldn’t. No, he really really should not say that, anywhere, ever.
Emboldened by the crass nature of the opposition to the center, its defenders have started to talk as if it represented no problem at all and as if the question were solely one of religious tolerance. It would be nice if this were true. But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject were that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything “offensive” to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …
And no, this kind of thing is not part of the glorious patchwork of benign multiculturalism, it’s the entry point for communal theocracy.
If Park51 gets built, thanks to its provocative location the nation will scrutinize what takes place inside. Americans have the opportunity right now to be clear about the civic values expected from any Islam practiced at the site.That means setting aside bombast and asking the imam questions born of the highest American ideals: individual dignity and pluralism of ideas.
• Will the swimming pool at Park51 be segregated between men and women at any time of the day or night?
• May women lead congregational prayers any day of the week?
Of course, people who make a fetish of “tolerance” without really thinking about what it should mean tend to think questions of that kind are none of their business. That’s why they need, as Manji points out, to think about all this, not just emote about it.