Asharq Alawsat runs a couple of pieces today that look at the 51Park cultural center and its main promoter, Imam Feisal Abul Rauf.
The first is an op-ed by Adel Al Toraifi, current Editor-in-Chief of Al-Majalla magazine. He takes a look at the dispute over the center through the eyes of Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th C. French diplomat who wrote an important work analyzing American culture and society. Al Toraifi correctly notes that the US Constitution, through its Bill of Rights, seeks to put limits on ‘the tyranny of the majority’, i.e. mob rule, in order to protect the rights of minorities and individuals. He also notes that in times of tension—today’s economic crises fit the bill—Americans have strayed from the ideals put forth in the Constitution. They do, he concludes, come back from the extremes.
I do disagree with him, however, about whether the US is ‘suffering from a case of Islamophobia.’ The disease may not have reached every corner of the body politic, but the infection does exist and it is purulent. As I pointed out in an earlier post, it is not just the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ that is being questioned.
Tocqueville…and the Ground Zero Mosque Crisis
Adel Al Toraifi
In his historically important book “Democracy in America” (1838) Alexis de Tocqueville writes that “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.” This description put forward by the French diplomat brings to mind the escalation in the dispute in the US over the issue of building an Islamic community center and mosque close to the site where the World Trade Center collapsed in New York. In just a few weeks, the mosque issue has become a major public opinion issue in which everybody has had their say – including the US President – whether in favor of or against. However the issue has taken a negative turn both inside and outside of America due to the approach of the US mid-term elections, with the issue now being portrayed as a debate over America’s position towards Islam. This issue would not have reached this level of controversy if this project was scheduled to be built on any other street in New York or in any other US city; so is the US truly suffering from a case of Islamophobia?
Asharq Alawsat also runs an article from the Associated Press that gives an overview of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. The article notes the controversy over him, over the questions of how 51Park will be funded, and arguments made, in good faith or bad, about him.