Juan Cole makes reminds us of some crucial points refuting the Islamophobia revolving around the 9-11 attack. Mainly, we should recall that the dark vision and ruthless tactics of a marginalized sect called al-Qaeda have virtually nothing to do with the religion called Islam, not any more than the recent militia groups plotting bomb attacks in a US metropolis represent Christianity.
Cole is writing in response to an idiotic Sarah Palin web tweet, to the effect that the building of a mosque anywhere near ground zero should be regarded as offensive to an ambiguous “us.” The religious bigotry implicit in her tweet is unforgivable. On a rather funny note, her tweet is so grammatically faulty that it is nearly nonsensical:
Dear Ground Zero mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, please refudiate.
Now I’m guessing she meant something like refute or repudiate, and decided she should coin a new word rather than decide which one.
Here is Juan Cole’s excellent response:
The further errors in the tweet have to do with substance. A tiny fringe cult destroyed the Twin Towers in New York, not Islam in general (a religion of 1.5 billion human beings which could well be the religion of 3 billion human beings by mid-century). A monument to Usama Bin Laden or al-Qaeda would be in poor taste. A mosque, built anywhere in the United States, is not.
The classical Islamic law of war forbids sneak attacks. It forbids the killing of non-combatants. It forbids the killing of women and children. War is a collective duty declared by the duly constituted authorities, not an individual duty, and so not just any Ahmed or Moustafa can wake up in the morning and declare war on, say, Europe. See Khaled Abou El Fadl. [Prof. at UCLA]
Al-Qaeda cultists reject these principles of Islamic law and they have been roundly condemned for doing so by all the major Muslim authorities– the rector of Al-Azhar Seminary in Egypt, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq, television preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Qatar, Tahir al-Qadri in Pakistan, etc., etc., etc.
Finally, forbidding the building of a mosque in New York is inconsistent with the ideals of the Founding Generation of the United States of America, who explicitly mentioned Islam among the cases when they spoke of religious freedom:
‘George Washington asked in a March 24, 1784, letter to his aide Tench Tilghman that some craftsmen be hired for him: “If they are good workmen, they may be of Assia, [sic] Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans, [Muslims] Jews, or Christian of any Sect – or they may be Atheists …”
Cole goes on to cite numerous examples of the founding fathers’ explicit acceptance of Islam among other religions when they coined the principles of religious freedom in this country, citing Jefferson, Franklin, et al.
For those who have not yet reviewed the global Islamic response to 9-11 and to terrorist (al-Qaeda) tactics in general, it has been massive, concerted, and unambiguous: a total rejection of terrorist tactics and of the principle of killing civilians or waging individual crusades. (See a host of the most important examples cited by Cole here.) This is at least as much, and probably more, than the US, which regularly practices terrorist tactics and regularly kills civilians (see, for examples of both, recent drone attacks, which include the repeated bombing of wedding parties killing dozens of civilians; for the targeting of civilians, one could cite the example of the 1990s decade of a US-imposed total embargo on Iraq, which had the primary effect of slowly killing, through starvation and malnourishment, half a million children).