Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.
FP: Victor Davis Hanson, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to talk to you today about the proposed mega-mosque next to Ground Zero and how Obama is handling it.
First, what do you make of the controversy surrounding the mosque in general?
Hanson: Thanks Jamie.
Almost everything about the controversy is disingenuous. Mr Rauf, the Kuwaiti born, Western educated physicist, and self-described Sufi cleric, heretofore has had a successful career contextualizing everything from gender apartheid in the Middle East to Sharia law and jihad, in the sense that the onus is always on Westerners not to take radical Islamists at their word or to believe what they see and hear in the Middle East.
The problem is that Mr. Rauf is more apt to fault Western perceptions of Islam when he resides in the U.S., but not so eager to discuss Islamic extremism when he visits his familiar turf in the gulf. He knows well that candid criticism of America earns accolades among the cultural elite here while candid criticism of radical Islam in the Middle East can earn something not so nice. By the way, that is called a sort of heroic “bridge-building.”
Take even the silly evocation of Cordoba: in toto it was not really a utopian medieval city of understanding, much less was it a city of tolerance during the Inquisition as the president alleged in Cairo (dates a little off, Mr. President). Mr. Rauf, the supposed Sufi version of Deepek Chopra, knew that, but he knew well also it was a rally cry of radical Islam to recapture al-Andalus. How wonderful—Cordoba sends a tingle up the legs of both Western liberals and radical Islamists, and for the opposite reasons!
If Mr. Rauf were intellectually honest and concerned with Islamic-Christian relations of the sort that surround 9/11, he would come up with something like the ‘Riyadh initiative’ where the problem is real and the stakes are high. But then in Saudi Arabia, he would have to drop the Sufi holy man character, and revert back to his other persona of contextualizing bin Laden and blaming the U.S. for, well, being the U.S.
One also does not build bridges by plopping down an Islamic center two blocks from ground zero, or raising the money from the autocratic Gulf sheikdoms. Mr Saif, again, knows all that—and that’s why he threw his cherry bomb and then sped abroad with chaos in his wake—on a state-department mission, no less, to bridge build (all this is the stuff of a Tom Wolfe novel).
Maybe the Spanish could allow a mosque to be constructed at the train-station site of the Madrid bombing, or perhaps we could ask the Indonesians to put some minarets on something at the Bali sites, or the Saudis might build an Islamic center at Khobar Towers. I’m sure the Muslim community of Lebanon could build a Cordoba House near the Marine barracks site. The strange thing about all this is that Muslims abroad probably think their counterparts in the U.S. are a little crazy to do such a provocative thing.
Finally, note now what we are not talking about: everything from France banning the burqa and Germany shutting down mosques, and Russians leveling Grozny and Chinese at war with Islam and the occasional Islamic hunt-down in India, to the insane asymmetry of the way Christians are treated in most of the Middle East. Plopping down a 100-million dollar, 13-story, “Constantinople House”, say, in Cairo, near a site of radical Christian-inspired violence by self-described Christian zealots against Egyptians—funded from abroad by Christian evangelical groups—for the purpose of Christian contemplation and interfaith outreach would be of course beyond fiction.
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