From TPM Reader HK, an American Muslim …
What has been conspicuously absent from most coverage of the “Ground Zero Mosque” has been actual Muslim American perspectives on it. I wonder how much of this is simply because of foresight, or rather because of a semi-willful lack of touchpoints between the political blogosphere and Muslim community leaders and activists.
I mean, think about it: America’s interactions with the Muslim world has been the defining foreign policy issue of this generation, and will continue to be so indefinitely, but when it comes to actual American Muslim perspectives in the media, most bloggers have to rely on the (usually very heterodox) Fareed Zakaria, or radical niche bloggers like Asaad Abu Khalil (“The Angry Arab”) to get something resembling a composite “Muslim” perspective . Obviously, an Iraq War supporter and a ardent Marxist do not a representative depiction make (that Reihan Salam’s noncommittal word fog of a few days ago was given any kind of currency is another example of this).
Issues at the fore of Muslim American political activism-like the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War (to a lesser extent), Israel-Palestine, secret evidence, Guantanamo, immigration-are hashed out, discussed, and reified to death at places like Kos, DU, and elsewhere, but discussions here are facilitated mostly by bloggers who come at these issues from the perspective of political identity, and not religious or cultural identity. It goes without saying that the latter is a much more potent and visceral solidarity good than the former (think of it this way: the Tea Party is first and foremost a cultural movement, and not a political one).
I credit the organizers of Park51 for not taking the bait, and engaging with those bodies who are actually relevant to the task of building a mosque in Lower Manhattan. One’s religious identity should never be a question of PR. But, I cannot begin to tell you how vexing and hurtful this incident has been for American Muslims. I cannot. We now have an entire political party, in the span of less than two years, commit themselves with full conviction to the idea that we are not a part of our society in the same way that other groups are. This is the approach of Daniel Pipes writ large: there is simply no such thing as a Moderate Muslim. Worse now are Democrats willing to validate this conclusion by supporting the same end which it purports to seek: having the mosque built elsewhere. This is tacit acceptance of the normative argument that American Muslims are not really a part of this country in the purview of many and are, at best, an inappropriate presence in lower Manhattan. Gays have a similar experience-faced by weakness from one party and outright bigotry from another- but there is no shortage of Andrew Sullivans, and Andy Towles on the internet to provide the critical perspective that goes largely ignored by both parties .
Obviously, there needs to more of a mainstream and media-savvy Muslim presence in the blogosphere. But given the paucity of touchpoints the mainstream blogosphere seems to have with Muslims, and the superficiality of those already existing, I don’t know how much of a difference it will make. Our politics simply doesn’t know very many Muslims, and it shows in our political reportage at nearly every level.