City of Brass

I’ve been visiting my parents this weekend in Chicago and immersing myself in Ramadan at our masjid – there’s a serenity and a rigour to arriving at the masjid two hours prior to sunset, reading the Qur’an, engaging in communal recitation of sipara (chapters), and then offering the maghrib (sunset) salaat with the imam leading the prayer, prior to breaking the fast with some flavored milk, dates, and cookies. It’s a dream of mine to one day spend the full 30 days of Ramadan in Egypt or India and fully immerse myself in these rhythms for the entire month. 

Of course, politics does not fast during Ramadan and so the Park51 project continues to engender controversy. A few links of note:
Two stories in Politico do a great job of detailing the emergent consensus of the Republicans as the anti-Islam party in American politics. From the first, “GOP Takes Harsher Stance Towards Islam“, 
Republican leaders have largely abandoned former President George W. Bush’s post-Sept. 11 rhetorical embrace of American Muslims and his insistence — always controversial inside the party — that Islam is a religion of peace. This weekend, former Bush aides were among the very few Republicans siding with Obama, as many of the party’s leaders have moved toward more vocal denunciations of Islam’s role in violence abroad and suspicion of its place at home.
(emphasis mine). Where I take issue is the suggestion that Obama’s defense of the Park51 project’s right to build was somehow the catalyst for this. In fact, the GOP War on Muslims has had a long, steadily increasing increase for quite some time. And there’s been a unanimity of opposition from all the 2012 Republican presidential contenders as well, predating Obama’s comments. 
The second Politico article does go into some detail on how the GOP is exploiting Obama’s comments, which was not unexpected given that the President basically flouted all political considerations (and unlike Glenn Greenwald, I don’t really fault him for the partial walk back.)
Polling indicates that the mosque proposal is unpopular among voters, with a recent CNN survey showing that 68 percent of voters disapproving of the plan. But a top White House official told POLITICO Obama was determined to raise the issue, even though he knew polls were decisively against the mosque.
“We had no illusions about this. He didn’t take this on as a political strategy. He took it on because it was a matter of fundamental principle. One of the reasons we work for him is that he doesn’t sit there with a political calculator on these big, tough issues that come along. There was never any hesitation about the decision, and he has absolutely no regrets about it,” the official said.
“He understands the emotions swirling around it and the horrific events that occurred there. But he doesn’t believe shifting from our moorings as a country on questions like religious freedom — treating one faith differently than another — is the right answer. It would be a betrayal of who we are.”
Betraying core American values is unfortunately good politics nowadays. Josh Barro has a tremendous essay which points out how Republicans are indeed betraying conservative principles with their opposition at all costs strategy to the Park51 project:
Conservatives rightly bristle at the federal government’s micromanagement of land in the American West, with the highest profile example being the closure of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. So why should we invite the feds into land use review in Manhattan? What New York allows to be built in its Financial District is not the federal government’s business.
What I find bizarre about some of the conservative response to Cordoba House is not just the objection to the construction of the mosque, but the conviction that it should be stopped by any means necessary–even if that means violating conservative principles about property rights, rule of law, and federalism. 
He also goes on to demolish several conservative talking points about the project being “at ground zero”, the height of the building, and the conflation of American muslims with foreign terrorists. It’s a must-read essay – if only for the line, “Islam has 1.2 billion adherents and is not going away.” Indeed. 
All of this makes the minaret in the 2012 RNC Convention logo rather ironic 🙂
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