Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Journalistic Malpractice: Time Magazine, 'Does America Have a Muslim Problem?'

I've not published anything about the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, simply because I'm still trying to think about it in a detached and objective manner. As a strong proponent of religious liberty, I can see the reasonableness of the pro-Mosque position. But as someone who will never forget what happened on September 11, 2001 -- the consequence of Islamic terrorists putting their beliefs into practice -- I fully understand the objections raised against the Mosque. However, when a magazine like Time attempts to paint one side of the debate as consisting of nothing more than bigots moved by an irrational fear, I see Rhetorical McCarthyism. It is a shameful and undemocractic way to conduct a discussion in a Constitutional republic, since its purpose is to end the discussion rather than to advance it, to shut people up rather than to treat them with equal respect and dignity. It is the plagiarized cultural cliff notes of the intellectually lazy. — Francis J. Beckwith, Return to Rome, "My Rhetorical McCarthyism Beats Your Islamophobia."

Is America Islamophobic?

If I was contemplating teaching a seminar on ideological bias in the contemporary press, Time Magazine's recent cover story on the Ground Zero mosque controversy would be hard to beat. And keeping with dead tree media ethics, the full article's available only in print. Perhaps the editors were hoping to avoid a savage thrashing at the hands of bloggers. I started reading the essay at my son's orthodontist's, then finished it at Barnes and Noble on the way home (no way would I fork over cash for such a pathetic hatchet job, sheesh). There's absolutely no mention of or engagement with any of the arguments Mega Mosque opponents have offered. And at one point the piece argues that Imam Rauf and Daisy Khan are leaders of the U.S. Muslim community's "interfaith outreach." The only problem, of course, is that throughout the controversy the developers have shunned any dialogue with "interfaith" critics of the project. And then there's this passage, available at the homepage:

You don't have to be prejudiced against Islam to believe, as many Americans do, that the area around Ground Zero is a sacred place. But sadly, in an election season, such sentiments have been stoked into a political issue. As the debate has grown more heated, Park51, as the proposed Muslim cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is called, has become a litmus test for everything from private-property rights to religious tolerance. But it is plain that many of Park51's opponents are motivated by deep-seated Islamophobia

That's blanket condemnation. And it's too bad. I'd be perfectly happy to condemn outright hatred and bigotry toward Muslims (and I have at American Power). But folks are barking up the wrong tree with Pamela Geller. Mostly, she's just doing a fabulous job at calling these people out. Leftists don't like it, and they're lashing out the only way they know how: with allegations of RAAAACISM! From the Imam's excoriation of the United States to Little Miss Daisy's Islamic anti-Semitism, the Cordoba developers are offering up a whole lotta fodder for opponents. And as you have the press so completely in the tank --- and so oblivious to the manifestly non-bridge-building aims of the initiative --- it's no surprise that conservatives are even more outraged at the shameless indignity of building a jihadi worship center on sacred ground.

Americans are not prejudiced against Muslims. It's more likely that the families of the fallen and their grassroots supporters are now subject to a broad-based pattern of harassment and discrimination, from the White House all the way down to the communists on the streets screaming anti-Semitic epithets at the "Jewish Zionist" state.