Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | September 1, 2010

The Park 51 Imam: But Wait — There’s More

The Wall Street Journal today highlights (subscription required) a letter written by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in 1977 after Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Israel. WSJ quotes:

“For my fellow Arabs I have the following special message: Learn from the example of the Prophet Mohammed, your greatest historical personality. After a state of war with the Meccan unbelievers that lasted for many years, he acceded, in the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, to demands that his closest companions considered utterly humiliating. Yet peace turned out to be a most effective weapon against the unbelievers.”

Says the author:

He’s referring to a treaty in the year 628 that established a 10-year truce between the Prophet Muhammad and Meccan leaders and was viewed by Muslims at the time as a defeat. But Muhammad used that period to consolidate his ranks and re-arm, eventually leading to his conquest of Mecca. Imam Rauf seems to be saying that Muslims should understand Sadat’s olive branch in the same way, as a short-term respite leading to ultimate conquest.

Also interesting is Rauf’s view of Israel:

“In a true peace it is impossible that a purely Jewish state of Palestine can endure. . . . In a true peace, Israel will, in our lifetimes, become one more Arab country, with a Jewish minority.”

On the Iranian revolution, in a letter written in 1979:

“The revolution in Iran was inspired by the very principles of individual rights and freedom that Americans ardently believe in.”

The piece juxtaposes this with the Rauf’s widely reported advice to Obama in 2009 (after the Green Revolution protests) to:

“…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.”

WSJ points out that Vilayet-i-faquih “means Guardianship of the Jurist, which in practice means that all power resides with the mullahs.”

Queried for comment, Rauf responded as follows:

“It is amusing that journalists are combing through letters-to-the-editor that I wrote more than 30 years ago, when I was a young man, for clues to my evolution. As I re-read those letters now, I see that they express the same concerns—a desire for peaceful solutions in Israel, and for a humane understanding of Iran—that I have maintained, and worked hard on, in the years since those letters were published.”

Rauf is absolutely, 100% entitled to his opinions, just as the rest of us are.  He is not, however, entitled to have his opinions whitewashed, by the media or by himself, nor is he entitled to hold them without incurring public opposition.

I disagree with him on every particular here:  I do not regard it as a good thing for Muslims to see the Israeli-Egyptian accord as an “effective weapon against the unbelievers”; I do not agree that peace means Israel losing her status as a Jewish state, and her Jews becoming a minority in an Arab state; I do not agree that the Iranian revolution was inspired by the American idea of rights and freedom; and I do not agree that Vilayet-i-faquih is a predicate for the “rule of law” as Americans or other Westerners understand it.

Rauf repudiates none of those assertions, just as he has declined to criticize the terrorist organization Hamas. If he were a freckled blond from Ottumwa named Joe Smith, I’d disagree with him and regard his positions as wrong and potentially dangerous, should too many of my fellow Americans adopt them.

Rauf is no more entitled to the assumption that his opinions have changed than is any other public figure who has made his name in the intellectual realm:  as a cleric, academic, philosopher, political leader. If his opinions have changed, he could simply say so – as many others have done.  People switch from Democrat to Republican and from socialist to libertarian.  People become Christians, or reject their Christian upbringing as adults.  People convert to Islam, and away from it.  People start out embracing Marxism and end up quoting Hayek and Friedman.  When they do any of these things, they acknowledge their changes of mind and heart.

Nothing about Rauf’s opinions – at least what we know of them – should prevent him from founding an Islamic center and putting a mosque in it.  But to insist that the public has no equity in the location or political prominence of such an enterprise, and that the public is wrong to care what Rauf’s opinions are, given those factors in the case of the Park 51 center, is to assert an idea of the public interest that is decidedly out of character for the American polity.  It is abstractly and extremely ideological, to suggest that the people are not allowed to care about the implications of their community’s public face.  We don’t apply that principle in other cases.  We are, rather, pragmatic and generally in favor of compromise, with the understanding that no one – most certainly not majorities of Americans across demographics – starts out ineligible to have his views taken into account.

Update: The WSJ post contains no author attribution; this post is updated to reflect the officially posted version.

Cross-posted at Hot Air.



  1. The interesting thing is that his proposal to build a large scale triumphalist mosque near Ground Zero is mobilizing opposition to the Imam’s intended slow and quiet implementation of Sharia here in the U.S. Sometimes the cause of freedom from oppressive ideologies is fortunate in it’s enemies.

  2. What’s a “triumphalist mosque” and how the heck can sharia law be imposed here and what does it all mean?
    Will liquor stores be ordered closed on Fridays?

    What could be worse than this heathen temple with Moroni statues and fortress-like walls?

    • A triumphalist mosque is one that helps 70% of the American people understand that most publicly visible “moderate” Muslims are proponents of an evil ideology. Which is why I’ve been in favor of the idiots behind it proceeding with their plans, as you know.

      How’s the mosque working out for the cause of interfaith dialogue, do ya think?

  3. If you’re right and there is something evil about the mosque, I agree that it should proceed so that the evil becomes apparent.

    How it’s presently working out seems to be as a means of making apparent the level of ignorance, unreasoning opposition, and opposition based on religious bigotry.

    I’m not particularly closed to seeing the evil wrought by people hiding under a self-raised banner of Islam, but I’m not unmindful that other religions, more heavily represented in this country, have histories filled with murderous barbarism.

    • “. . . other religions, more heavily represented in this country, have histories filled with murderous barbarism.”

      A very tired old trope whose repetition only highlights how the current actions and words of “moderate” Imams parallel those of “holy men” who provided the ideological basis for the conquests of other expansionist religions in the past.

  4. If it’s not triumphalist, why would a religion want to place it at Ground Zero, the exact place where twice in a decade adherents of their religion committed acts of terror against the American people? That ties them forever and always to the terrorists, and they have to know it.

    • it’s not at the site, but near it. and your question is both leading and odious.

      the mosque has not a thing to do with Al Qaeda. it was not a religion that attacked the WTC, but a group of fanatics.

      • The mosque has everything to do with Al Quaeda. It’s directly equivalent to the basilica in Mexico City, which was erected over the torn down Aztec temples by priests who, like the “moderate” Imams, decried the slaughter that had been necessary to erect it. Likewise they decried the ensuing enslavement of the native population after the conquest that their ideology had facilitated.

        No doubt there were also “moderates” among the Israelites who felt very very bad for what they had to do to the Midianites.

      • Fanatical whats, Fuster?

  5. A bunch of fanatics screaming “Allahu Akhbar” and rushing headlong for their 72 virgins. Or 72 raisins. Whatever.

    It is common sense that peaceable Muslims would take every opportunity to disassociate from murdering fanatics acting in their name.

  6. Last I checked, Sully, NYC hasn’t been conquered, our temples haven’t been torn down, and Al Qaeda was leading anything except lives of misery in their hideouts.

    All the crap in the world about “triumphalist” can’t cover that you’re talk is semi-hysterical when you attempt to portray this building as some kind of threat to the US.

    It’s one building among the many thousands in Manhattan and has no magical power to enslave the millions of Manhattanites who’ll go about their business unaffected by it.

    • “you attempt to portray this building as some kind of threat to the US.”

      You’re misrepresenting me fuster. I don’t see the building as a threat to the U.S.

      I have always seen the attempt to build the Mosque of the 19 Martyrs as a benefit to the U.S., rallying opposition to the real threat, namely the quiet growth of an ideological movement that intends the demise of the U.S. constitutional system. The actual building will catalyze even more opposition, so I hope it is built. It’s a gift with the potential to keep on giving for a very long time.

  7. “I’m not unmindful that other religions, more heavily represented in this country, have histories filled with murderous barbarism.”

    fuster, I think you miss a big point here. While other religions do have a barbaric history, their barbarism is historical (much of it a response to Islamic jihad’s barbarism). Islam’s barbarity is not merely historical, but theological. If a Muslim takes the Koran at its word, that Muslim must subjugate or kill a non-Muslim. Regrettably, millions of Muslims accept this (which includes those who commit the barbaric acts and those who sympathize with them).

    One can certainly argue that there are violent passages in the bible. Leviticus has some especially nasty punishments. However, no one curently pays any attention to those punishments any more. More over, there is no worldwide movement to forcibly and violently impose Christianity on the rest of the world. Islam however is also a political ideology, which is why we have Mulim terrorist attacks that supposedly further that political goal. There is no Ceasar. (And perhaps someone who is less religiously ignorant than I am can help here? Is the violence that’s permitted/required in Leviticus and any other part of the bible supposed to stretch across to other religions? My impression was that it’s just for Chhristians when they “stray” and not for Buddhists or any other religion. But someone else here must have a better grasp of this than I do.)

    As for Park 51 being a “threat,” I’d say that is there is one, it’s pretty far off into the future. However, parts of Europe now recognize sharia law as some Muslim neighborhoods have been permitted to use sharia to settle disputes. How many people in Europe would have thought that possible in the earlier 1900’s..? That being said, this mosque is not a question of whether it’s a threat. It’s not even a question of legaility, but simply a question of decency. If Rauf truly was about “understanding,” he would graciously move the site elsewhere – especially after such an uproar. I suspect though that he has “triumphalist” desires in his heart.

    I think fuster that you and your left leaning ideological comrades improperly and unfairly toss out the “bigotry” label. For what it’s worth, if Mormons had flown those planes into the WTC, I and I think most others would object to a Mormon shrine being put up at this address. It’s simply not a case of me/us being “anti-Muslim.”

  8. RE — regarding your question about the punishments of the Mosaic Law and Christians, it’s not just that nobody pays attention to them any more. It’s that the New Testament says Christians are no longer subject to them. There’s a specific reason why Christians don’t apply the punishments of the Law now (or, for that matter, observe its ritual animal sacrifices). Paul wrote about it in the books of Romans and Galatians. The Law identifies what things are “sinful,” and its punishments are a guide to the seriousness of sin. But what Christians believe, as outlined in the gospels and the epistles, is that Jesus took on himself all the condemnation implied under the Law — for everyone, for all time — and obviated any further application of the Law’s punishments. The requirement under the “new covenant” is to believe in Jesus and accept the grace. Sin is still sin, but the earthly punishments of the Law have been lifted.

    When sophomoric kids taunt Christians about why we don’t stone homosexuals to death, even though the Old Testament says to, they’re displaying ignorance rather than cleverness. The short answer is that Jesus is why Christians don’t advocate executing homosexuals.

    Another point about the history of Christian Europe is that the church never killed and enslaved people. It wasn’t the priests accompanying the Spanish conquistadors who killed and enslaved the inhabitants of the New World, it was the armed conquistadors, the representatives of the state.

    This doesn’t excuse the church for often colluding in the enterprises of the state, and agreeing to let Jesus’ name be used for them. The most egregious examples were often the measures taken against Jews in Europe, including, of course, the Inquisition (but not forgetting the pogroms of Eastern Europe). People have been incorrectly taught today that the church launched the Inquisition, but it didn’t. No monarch of Europe ever ceded the church that power. The Inquisition was a project of the state in which the church, to its shame, willingly participated.

    The Crusades were very much a geopolitical enterprise, undertaken for political and economic reasons but using the transcendent excuse of a “Christian mission.” Liberating the Holy Land was as much about securing the Eastern Mediterranean and reestablishing Western rule over it — the “great crossroads” of the Eastern hemisphere — as it was about reclaiming the birthplace of Jesus.

    The earthly church has a lot of history that sets a BAD example, but much of it is a history of collusion with the intentions kings and emperors developed all on their own, and used the church and the name of Jesus to “justify.”

    It’s never clear what the knee-jerk “tu quoque” argument, like the sentence from fuster, is supposed to imply anyway. Who cares what anyone did in the past? How can that be adduced as a factor in our decisionmaking today? If I see a Muslim wanting to insist that I wear a veil and not hold property in my name, I’m going to resist him and prevail over him, regardless of what Spanish priests did when they went along for the ride with the king’s conquistadors in 1515.

    • “Who cares what anyone did in the past? ” she says now.

      seems to me, I remember some jerker writing about a long string of drivel about how Cordoba House must mean no ” peaceful coexistence of Islam and the West. ”

      a post of June 3 too far in your past to be worth a care?

      • A fair criticism, fuster, at least at a superficial level. I should have worded that differently, rather than putting it so generally. I’m not sure I’ll get back to a thoughtful rewording today, but doing so would involve pointing out that no one’s past civilizational misdeeds disqualify him from insisting on moral ideas of liberty for himself today.

        I brought up the historical meaning of Cordoba to Islamism because it illuminates why the name would be chosen, and gives us reasonable cause for concern as to what the Cordoba Initiative has in mind.

        My question for you remains: what is your purpose in bringing up the past sins and misdeeds of the Christian West? Are they supposed to disqualify us from insisting on preserving our own liberties today?

  9. Thanks a lot for taking the time to explain about all this J.E. That was very informative.

  10. there is no worldwide movement to forcibly and violently impose Christianity on the rest of the world.

    there was, RE.

    and I would like you to point out any current worldwide movement to impose, forcibly and violently, any religion upon the rest of the world.

    I’ve not noticed much in the way of transnational forced conversions of late.

    Last big movement seemed to be spearheaded by them danged atheistic Commies.

  11. what is your purpose in bringing up the past sins and misdeeds of the Christian West?

    My slender point is to remind the folks here that constant reiteration of events from the bloody past of Islam are events from the bloody past.

    “They conquered Spain and now they want to build a mosque in Manhattan” is what I keep reading and it keeps me wondering why people don’t notice that there’s some space between the events and that there are some differences.

    I ask you and the others how this mosque is going to be a hindrance to our liberties instead of a demonstration of them and also a demonstration of our confidence in our ability to enforce that preservation.

    I see the people assailing us as quite distinct from the Manhattan mosque-builders and also rather weak in comparison to ourselves.

  12. “and I would like you to point out any current worldwide movement to impose, forcibly and violently, any religion upon the rest of the world.

    I’ve not noticed much in the way of transnational forced conversions of late”

    Give it a name fuster. You’re splitting hairs here.

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