Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Bloomberg's Newly Discovered Piety

We always thought that Mike Bloomberg was strictly a numbers guy-and, except for an ideological passion for health hectoring, kept his emotions in check. That was then, but this is now-and the mayor's outpouring of lachrymose cheap sentiment over the building of a mosque at Ground Zero has us re-evaluating our previous misconception. Adam Lisberg has the story: "An unusually impassioned Mayor Bloomberg said New York struck a blow for religious freedom Tuesday as officials cleared a path for a mosque to arise near Ground Zero. "We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else," Bloomberg said on Governors Island, the Statue of Liberty behind him in the distance. "There is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God's love and mercy."

Bloomberg and religious freedom, who knew? But seriously, this ain't a case of religious freedom, it is a case of propriety-and if the mosque men have a right to build here-which by law they do-why exactly did they choose this particular site? And if they wanted to strike some kind of blow for religious tolerance and sensitivity, why did they do something that they had to know was going to cause a great deal of folks serious emotional pain?

The builders chose this site for a reason-and like everything that is done in the Arab world, there is always a double meaning. The message to the West is one of inter faith tolerance; and to the Arab world-where there is little strong push back in so many quarters for the Islamists that want to send us all back to the 14th Century-the message is understood differently; and will be perceived as a real gotcha moment for the most extreme Muslim elements.

But the emotional reaction of the normally staid mayor needs an equally passionate response. This was the same guy who wanted-at least before he was given the bill-to try KSM a few blocks from Ground Zero-and, as Dorothy Rabinowitz reminds us in the WSJ:

"The same cannot be said for Mr. Bloomberg, who has gone on to deliver regular meditations on the need to support the mosque, and on the iniquity of its opponents. In the course of a speech at Dartmouth on July 16 he raised the matter unasked, and held forth on his contempt for those who opposed the project and even wanted to investigate the funding: "I just think it's the most outrageous thing anybody could suggest." Ground Zero is a "very appropriate place'' for a mosque, the mayor announced, because it "tells the world" that in America, we have freedom of religion for everybody. Here was an idea we have been hearing more and more of lately—the need to show the world America's devotion to democracy and justice, also cited by the administration as a reason to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. Who is it, we can only wonder, that requires these proofs? What occasions these regular brayings on the need to show the world the United States is a free nation?"

The mayor's defense of tolerance devolves from the same mindset that had problems identifying just who and what Major Nidal represented-after he had killed 13 Americans at Fort Hood: "Such values were the rationale for the official will to ignore the highly suspicious behavior of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who went on to murder 13 Americans at Fort Hood. A silence maintained despite all his commanders and colleagues knew about his raging hostility to the U.S. military and his strident advocacy on behalf of political Islam. Those who knew—and they were many—chose silence out of fear of seeming insensitive to a Muslim. As one who had said nothing in the interest of this higher good later explained, Maj. Hasan was, after all, one of the few top-ranking Muslim officers the army had."

Always concerned about what the Others will think of us-blinding us to the reality of who these others are, and what they have done in the name of their religion. And remember the mayor's speculation about the Times Square bomber? As we pointed out: "But when it comes to public safety observations-and what could be more urgent a public safety concern than, "weapons of mass destruction," in Times Square?-Mayor Mike 's predictions turn out to be cheap talk: "New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg put his ignorance of the situation and the suspect to great use last night jumping to conclusions that might earn him a long-jump spot in the London Olympics if he decides not to put his dough toward a presidential run that year: Bloomberg later told CBS Evening News Anchor Katie Couric that the suspect behind the bombing attempt could be a domestic terrorist angry at the government who acted alone. "If I had to guess 25 cents, this would be exactly that. Homegrown, or maybe a mentally deranged person, or somebody with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something. It could be anything," he said."

Could we find a more clueless leader? But, thank God he's tolerant-and, as we went on to point out, echoing Rabinowitz here: "Is he serious? "Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the arrest should not be as used as an excuse for anti-Muslim actions. "We will not tolerate any bias or backlash against Pakistani or Muslim New Yorkers," he said." So, we could be in the middle of an ongoing plot to do some serious damage to New York, but the mayor's concerned with a backlash against Muslims? Even after 9/11 the city stayed calm and no one went on any vendettas against Islam or its followers. This guy seriously wants to run for national office with this mindset? Even Eric Holder sounds tougher than Bloomberg-go figure: "Based on what we know so far, it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country," Attorney General Eric Holder said in Washington."

Make no mistake about it, putting forward tolerance a a kind of absolute value when we are in the middle of confronting Islamist enemies, is simply nuts. If Bloomberg wants to make a blow for tolerance, why doesn't he lead a march-and bring the peaceful folks from CAIR along-up to the Saudi embassy, and demand an interfaith center in Riyadh? Let's hold the world to some of our great standards; we have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to defending certain basic individual freedoms-if this mosque isn't built we won't lose a single fan, or immigrant to these shores.

Ann Althouse makes the point on the location of the mosque-and the intentions of the builders: "But what should not be lost, in understanding that, is that the owner's freedom means that the owner has a choice. The owner is certainly not required to build a Muslim center and mosque on that site. Because it is a choice, it's not wrong for the community to ask: Why are you making this choice? Why are you doing something that feels so painful to us? The community isn't wrong to plead with the owner to choose to do something else with that property. It's not enough of an answer to say we are doing it because we have a right to do it."

And then Althouse takes on the NY Times and all of those who only see bigotry in the opposition to the mosque: "What troubles me about the way the NYT presents the problem is that it tries to make it seem as though the people who question the choice to build the mosque don't understand or don't support the principle of freedom of religion — that they just hate (or dislike) Muslims and, for that reason, would deny them the same freedom other religious persons enjoy. Rights don't work like that. But we can completely understand and support a principle of freedom and still be critical of the way someone chooses to behave in this world. For example, I'm a big supporter of freedom of the press, and I don't feel the slightest bit hypocritical condemning something stupid I read in the newspaper."

What we should never lose sight of is the fact that there is a virulent strain of a certain religion that has politicized its scriptures and grafted them onto a fascist ideology that wants to bring America down-precisely because of its freedoms. And this virulent strain is often quite good at camouflage-see the writing of Tariq Ramadan, for instance. So, we do want to know exactly who Imam Rauf is-and where the $100 million is coming from; precisely because the Imam has said contradictory things about these issues.

What Mike Bloomberg's full-throated emotional defense of the mosque signifies is just how far our progressive bien pensants have been neutered-and, it is because of this neutering that the mayor and all of his liberal cohort can't comprehend what the building of this mosque will symbolize. We'll give Rabinowitz the last word: "Dr. Zuhdi Jasser—devout Muslim, physician, former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy—says there is every reason to investigate the center's funding under the circumstances. Of the mosque so near the site of the 9/11 attacks, he notes "It will certainly be seen as a victory for political Islam."