Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Sarah Palin, Koran Burning, and the "Ground Zero Mosque"

Sarah Palin has put up a Facebook posting expressing her opposition to the Koran book burning stunt being proposed by a Christian church in Florida. Her opposition to this Koran book burning seems like a noble gesture, but it's anything but. It's a qualified statement of mild opposition that uses the occasion cynically to try to demagogue the "Ground Zero Mosque" project ever more by making a kind of moral equivalence between the "insensitivity" of the mosque builders and the "insensitivity" of the Koran book burners.

The title of her Facebook posting is the following: "Koran Burning Is Insensitive, Unnecessary; Pastor Jones, Please Stand Down"

So, by calling on Pastor Jones to stand down, and then by linking Pastor Jones's call for a Koran book burning to the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero, Palin positions herself to claim a moral perch upon which to argue that she is being an equal opportunity critic of two expressions of "insensitivity." If she calls for Pastor Jones to stand down, well, by golly, isn't she justified in calling for the Imams behind the "Ground Zero mosque" project to stand down? How noble of her!

Pshaw! I say: How disingenuous and cynical of her.

She starts off the posting with this paragraph:

People have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation – much like building a mosque at Ground Zero.
And then she ends her brief posting again with mounting an equivalence between the construction of the mosque near ground zero with the Koran book burning.
In this as in all things, we should remember the Golden Rule. Isn’t that what the Ground Zero mosque debate has been about?
To which I answer ... NO, NO, and EMPHATICALLY NO! The Koran book burning is not simply "insensitive" and "unnecessary" (as the title of her posting claims) -- it is intentionally destructive, demeaning, and hateful. The construction of the ground zero mosque is nowhere near in the same category of intent. Opposition to the Koran book burning is not about "The Golden Rule" (because what intentional harm are the mosque builders
seeking to do to Americans in the building of a house of worship and an interfaith community center? What are the mosque builders doing unto others that they would not accept being done unto themselves by others?)

I would hope that everyone is against the Koran burning stunt not because it is "insensitive," but precisely because it is an act of intentional violence, destruction, and debasement. The book burning actively seeks to do harm! It actively seeks to destroy! It actively seeks to debase the foundations of another religion! Try having a group of radical Islamic fundamentalists in the United States engage in an intentionally vicious public Bible burning and see if people like Palin think of this as nothing more than something that is simply "insensitive and an unnecessary provocation."

What is disingenuous about Palin's disavowal, and that of other conservatives, is the equivalence that is being made between the perceived "insensitivity" of the ground zero mosque builders and the "insensitivity" of the Koran burners.

Let me state unequivocally right here and now: There is no equivalence, so conservatives should stop making it so.

In fact, making such an equivalence is rather consciously insidious. By equating opposition to the construction of the mosque as coming from the same motivation as opposition to an intentional burning of the Koran, the goal is to make mosque building next to ground zero and Koran burning in Florida as parallel expressions of "insensitivity." It ignores any evaluation of intentionality of the acts themselves. Let me characterize this distinction in two ways. First, the mosque builders themselves have said their intention in building the mosque is to foster greater harmony between Islam and the other religions that are practiced in our country. Their intention is positive and constructive (as represented in building a place of worship and interfaith community programming). The intentions of the Koran burners are clearly negative and destructive. They are being intentionally inflammatory and intentionally hateful. Second, let's look at the root of opposition to both the ground zero mosque and the Koran burning. My understanding of opposition to the ground zero mosque is its location, not the act of constructing a mosque itself. So if the mosque were moved some "respectful" distance from the site of ground zero, then presumably opposition to it would dissipate. But a Koran burning could happen anywhere in the U.S. and opposition to it would, one presumes, remain. As I mentioned previously, a fairer comparison would be if a group of radical fundamentalist Muslims engaged in a provocative Bible burning in the U.S. as a statement about Christianity. And we can certainly see the difference between the "insensitivity" of that kind of action relative to the construction of a mosque near to ground zero. So creating a kind of equivalence between the building of the mosque near ground zero to that of burning the Koran is absurd on its face. And those like Sarah Palin who can't oppose the burning of the Koran without making such an equivalence are just engaging in more anti-ground zero mosque demagoguery. It makes her pretend equanimity stand out as hollow and cynical, and only confirms her as the morally vacuous demagogue she is.


eric said...

Here's the only equivelence I see: A solid majority of Americans are offended by both the Ground Zero mosque and the Koran burning.

You can argue that their offense is not equivocal, or that it shouldn't be, or that they are too dumb to know the difference.

But to me, the interesting part of this debate is what the polling illustrates: A majority of Americans seem to be suspiscious, resentful, or at least not entirely trusting of Islam, but also protective of the religious freedom and rights of conscience of American Muslims (i.e. most people think the Ground Zero Mosque is offensive, but also wouldn't use the force of law to prevent it from being built). And whatever else you may think of her, that includes Sarah Palin.

You can make it about partisan politics if you want; there are some real stories there, and the news services are always more interested in stirring controversy than reporting useful information.

But what I find is a bit of refreshment that religion in America still works the way it is supposed to: tolerance, sometimes begrudging tolerance, rules the day... even if some idiot in Florida burns the Muslim holy book.

Huck said...

The simple question I have, Eric, in response to your comment is to wonder why people are offended by the Ground Zero mosque and why they are offended by the Koran book burning. I suspect that the answer lies in two very different beliefs and attitudes.

Misha said...

Sarah Palin is The Web’s Most Wanted Sarah!
(Check your score for your name too.)
Baby Names Alert.