It seems like just as the Ground Zero mosque controversy was receding, NBC has decided to stoke the flames of passion again by naming the project’s developer Sharif El-Gamal a “Person Of The Year“. Gee, NBC once again demonstrates how far out of touch it is with mainstream America? There’s a shock.
Having not seen the interview which airs Thursday it would be irresponsible of me to make a blanket assertion that it was a softball slug-fest. But knowing the political leanings of the interviewer Matt Lauer, and then folding them into the decidedly left of center overview of NBC itself, it’s pretty safe to say that Gamal was not exactly reduced to tears by the time the cameras stopped rolling.
Still, in the one clip that I have seen Gamal seems somewhat disingenuous and makes me wonder whether there were any hard-hitting questions at all. After reciting the usual talking points of how this mosque will really be more like a YMCA wrapped around a Knight’s Of Columbus enclave inside a Catholic bingo hall, he makes the astounding declaration that he had no idea the mosque’s location would raise eyebrows. Seriously? Could this possibly be a practitioner of that same religion whose hair-trigger sensibilities to even the slightest perceived offense are often enough to ignite murder in the streets, set buildings ablaze and compel death sentences issued against cartoonists and novelists across the globe?
As the expression goes, I was born at night, but not last night. This man, who clearly is an intelligent and worldly fellow, has to know exactly what he was doing…certainly the chosen Imam, Feisel Abdel Rauf, gets it. And he doesn’t care. (Rauf, if you recall, authored a book “A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Da’wah From the Heart of America Post-9/11″ — before cleverly changing the title to the more banal “What’s Right with Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West.”)
I’m not going to rehash the debate itself. Too many trees have already sacrificed their lives at the altar of discourse over the subject. But I will say this. An admission of ignorance so stunning and suspect coming from a man who seems so astute prompts the question: How is one to believe any of the pacifist/inclusionist sentiments being promulgated by the mosque’s backers when such a seemingly mendacious statement can be uttered with such suave affectation?
In a statement that just reaks of either pathological denial or cynical parsing, Gamal insists that “Not once have I held my faith accountable for the horrific events of 9/11. I am an American. I am an American who has a specific belief system, and my belief system, in order to be a Muslim you have to be a good Jew and a good Christian.” Whatever that even means. Personally, I don’t think being a good Catholic means I have to be a good Muslim or good Jew and I wouldn’t hold anyone else’s faith so accountable to mine. Still, his emphatic belief that Islam had nothing to do with 9/11 would probably come as a surprise to the men screaming “Alluhu Akhbar!” as they went full throttle in their blood-splattered cockpits and in the name of their Islamic god obliterated the lives of 3,000 innocent Americans that morning.
A key ingredient to being taken seriously in any discussion is to at least appear to be in command of the issues at hand. Certainly if Gamal’s implorings that he is above all an American are to be taken at face value, then he should understand one of the cornerstones of our society is to show some respect for your fellow citizens and to avoid giving unnecessary offense. Heck, we in the non-grievance community are constantly reminded of this core tenet and are swiftly rebuked as racists, bigots and ignoramuses should we stray outside the narrow lines of p.c. sensitivities. If Gamal sincerely cannot understand why the mosque’s location is offensive, then perhaps his intuition about his country is a little less honed than he would like to think. Personally, I ain’t buying it.
As for Matt Lauer, the job of a journalist is to ask tough questions. So I’m hoping against hope that he had the intestinal fortitude to inquire about the radical Imam Rauf and his influence on the mosque’s message; about Pope John Paul II’s decision to move a convent away from Auschwitz despite its legal right to be there out of respect for the feelings of those most directly effected by that place and why Gamal cannot do the same; about why fanning the flames of resentment by placing the mosque so close to where so many died at the hands of Islamic fanatics is so vitally important to its sponsors; and how could Gamal possibly think his project coming to fruition will help Muslim-Western relations…or is that a goal he really cares about at all?
Unfortunately, if this short clip is any indication, Gamal wasn’t challenged at all but rather was given a national stage from which to forward his own selfish aims with the happy assent of the limousine liberal playing politically correct pat-a-cake and passing it off as a hard-hitting interview. I hope I’m wrong, but I think I’ll wait an hour after my last slice of turkey before watching the show just in case.