- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2010

Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, mastermind of the Ground Zero Mosque, warns that moving the proposed structure somewhere less controversial would generate a barrage of negative press in Muslim countries. America is regularly demonized in that part of the world anyway, and Islamic radicals already hate this country. A mega-mosque in Manhattan won’t change that.

In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. Rauf claimed that if he’d known the controversy the mosque proposal would stir, he “would never have done it,” but reversing course after having come this far would only fuel anti-American sentiment. “[T]he headline in the Muslim world will be, Islam is under attack in America,” he predicted. Moving the mosque would “strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people - our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens - under attack.” In other words, build the Ground Zero Mosque or else.

Mr. Rauf’s argument is disingenuous and mirrors his comments in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “In the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA,” he said. In his view, whatever grievances Muslims have against America are justified, and Islamic radicalism is a justified response to American insensitivity. Proponents of the Ground Zero Mosque see no reciprocal need to be sensitive to the feelings of the vast majority of Americans who oppose their project. Muslims deny any link between their offensive behavior and the Koran-burning response it generated. In the interests of placating foreign Islamic radicals, they require Americans to ignore their own history and sense of place. The hallowed ground where the World Trade Center stood must accept a mosque or risk offending people who habitually show contempt for the United States and riot at the merest presumed slight.

Citizens of Muslim nations rarely hold the United States in high regard. Even President Obama’s much heralded and embarrassingly obsequious outreach-to-Islam effort has not improved matters. A June 2010 report from the Pew Research Center’s Project on Global Attitudes showed U.S. favorability ratings among most Muslim-majority countries surveyed were either close to or below the levels they were in the final year of George W. Bush’s administration. Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt are in a three-way tie for the world’s least favorable opinion of the United States, at 17 percent. These people need no excuses to despise America, and building a mosque near Ground Zero simply to placate their most radical elements would be cowardly and ineffective.

Mr. Rauf’s claim that the failure to plant a mega-mosque in Lower Manhattan would incite a new wave of anti-Americanism and give fuel to terrorism must be examined against the continual anti-U.S. vitriol that emerges from the Middle East. Headlines already condemn the United States for a variety of imagined crimes. The slightest perceived criticism of Islam drives mobs into the streets. The ritualized burning of American flags is so common in some parts of the world that flags are manufactured locally just to be torched. Last week, a suicide bomber was apprehended in Copenhagen; his presumed target was the office of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that depicted Muhammad in cartoons five years ago.

In the era of globalization, when cultures increasingly collide and tolerance is an important watchword, Muslim countries and mobs are demonstrating they aren’t ready for prime time.