Alex Massie

Faisal Abdul Rauf: Neoconservative?

Text settings
Comments

I continue to be impressed by how thin the case against Faisal Abdul Rauf is. You'd have thought that by now the

staunch defenders of liberty

crazies would have found either a smoking gun or a ticking bomb. To be fair, Pamela Geller* certainly thinks she has found evidence that he's just as bad as his critics would have us believe. Or maybe even - and this may make your (my!) weak dhimmi-flesh creep - worse...

But, actually, all she has unearthed from a 2005 talk Rauf gave to, of all places, the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, is evidence that Faisal Abdul Rauf could be considered a neoconservative. That is, he shares a central neoconservative insight:

How many of you have seen the documentary: Fahrenheit 911? The vast majority - at least half here. Do you remember the scene of the Iraqi woman whose house was bombed and she was just screaming, "What have they done." Now, I don't know, you don't know Arabic but in Arabic it was extremely powerful. Her house was gone. Her husband, I think, was killed. What wrong did he do? I found myself weeping when I watched that scene and I imagined myself if I were a 15-year old nephew of this deceased man, what would I have felt?

Collateral damage is a nice thing to put on a paper but when the collateral damage is your own uncle or cousin, what passions do these arouse? How do you negotiate? How do you tell people whose homes have been destroyed, whose lives have been destroyed, that this does not justify your actions of terrorism. It's hard. Yes, it is true that it does not justify the acts of bombing innocent civilians, that does not solve the problem, but after 50 years of, in many cases, oppression, of US support of authoritarian regimes that have violated human rights in the most heinous of ways, how else do people get attention?

There were - and are - good, or to put it differently, expedient, reasons for US policy and true too the evangelism of the Bush administration might have been both too optimistic (or naive) and, in the end, awful precisely because in the end it accepted that the bastards we know, for all their bastardy, may be better than the bastard nutters that might follow them.

Nevertheless, Imam Rauf shares at least some of the Bush administration's diagnosis of the pathologies afflicting much f the middle east.

So how does Pamela Geller characterise this statement? "And the Imam is conspiracy theorist - 911 was an inside job." I don't actually understand how you get from watching Fahrenheit 9/11 (for all its many faults) to here. Then again, Geller does seem to have a curious interpretation of these matters. So when Rauf says:

"We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims. You may remember that the US-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, said it was worth it.

No mention of the 270 million victims of over a millennium of jihadi wars, land appropriations, cultural annihilation and enslavement

Needless to say Andy McCarthy thiks this means Rauf is saying US Worse than al-Qaeda when, clearly, he's not saying that at all. It is, I think, incontestable that the United States and its allies have killed more Muslim civilians than al-Qaeda have killed non-muslims since 9/11. Noting this has precisely zero impact on one's views of the wars or their righteousness.

Rauf, in fact, seems to have some understanding that empathy - which is not the same thing as either agreement or, for that matter, "appeasement" - is a useful quality when it comes to foreign policy:

The West needs to begin to see themselves through the eyes of the Arab and Muslim world, and when you do you will see the predicament that exists within the Muslim community.

not

agree

I suspect that I'd disagree with Faisal Abdul Rauf on a good number of issues. But his opponents - who have had ample opportunity to discover all that's bad about him - have, to my mind, singularly failed to produce any real and damning evidence against him. Surely they can do better than this and if, in time, they do then I'll be happy to change my mind even if my understanding of the First Amendment would require me to support his plan even if I were more strongly disapproving of it.

Not everything Ron Paul says here is good or wise or sensible but his part certainly is:

The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque.

Instead, we hear lip service given to the property rights position while demanding that the need to be “sensitive” requires an all-out assault on the building of a mosque, several blocks from “ground zero.

[...] The justification to ban the mosque is no more rational than banning a soccer field in the same place because all the suicide bombers loved to play soccer.

Conservatives are once again, unfortunately, failing to defend private property rights, a policy we claim to cherish. In addition conservatives missed a chance to challenge the hypocrisy of the left which now claims they defend property rights of Muslims, yet rarely if ever, the property rights of American private businesses.

and

*Who, I grant, writes with a certain brio.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Comments