Some guy named Steven Emerson, who appears to be some kind of freelance antiterrorism expert who makes a living hyping the threat of scary Muslim people, claims to have audio tapes of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf spouting pro-jihadist opinions. No one has heard these tapes but Emerson, but of course a big chunk of the Right Blogosphere is now uncritically repeating Emerson’s claims as facts. The only blogger I’ve found so far who even suspects the claims about what the Imam actually said might be bogus is James Joyner.
My concern is that mainstream news media also will uncritically repeat these claims before anyone has had a chance to fact check. And given the mob mentality gripping most of the nation on the Islamic Center issue, I hope the Imam has a bodyguard, and the NYPD is keeping an eye on the Park Place property before somebody blows it up in the name of fighting terrorism.
On the other hand, there is some indication that some politicians who originally sided with the mob are backing off a bit, possibly sensing the mob is becoming uncontrollable. Even Newt Gingrich and Peter King seem to want to dissociate themselves with organized protests of the Islamic center.
In the case of Gingrich, some of his rhetoric was so over-the-top that Pat Buchanan said he had gone too far. This is a bit like being judged sick and depraved by Charles Manson.
Last summer it was mobs breaking up town hall meetings; this summer it’s mob hysteria over Muslims. Maybe we should just cancel August.
Some counterterrorism experts say the anti-Muslim sentiment that has saturated the airwaves and blogs in the debate over plans for an Islamic center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan is playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam.
Opposition to the center by prominent politicians and other public figures in the United States has been covered extensively by the news media in Muslim countries. At a time of concern about radicalization of young Muslims in the West, it risks adding new fuel to Al Qaedaâ€™s claim that Islam is under attack by the West and must be defended with violence, some specialists on Islamic militancy say.
â€œI know people in this debate donâ€™t intend it, but there are consequences for these kinds of remarks,â€ said Brian Fishman, who studies terrorism for the New America Foundation here.
Ah, but they do intend those consequences. Maybe not consciously, but what the mob wants more than anything else is another big strike on American soil by Islamic terrorists. That would give them license to do what they really want to do, which is to unleash murderous violence against Muslims.
And, of course, that’s what al Qaeda really wants them to do, too.