Fareed Zakaria Says No to Muslim American Collective Guilt for 9-11 and Yes to the Ground Zero Mosque

Rafiq Zakaria, a politician and Islamic scholar in India, was a voice of moderation in Islam, and raised an extraordinary son, Fareed Zakaria.

Fareed Zakaria is a Yale and Harvard trained political scientist, and has become a prominent voice for reason and the Enlightenment in the United States. And in the below clip, he asks us to treat Muslim Americans, in keeping with our Bill of Rights, as individuals, not as cartoonish vessels for the reception of collective guilt for 9-11:

Fareed Zakaria is an example of why you should treat people as individuals, and not make hasty generalizations about them based on their skin color, the language that they speak, or their religious upbringing. Real people are complicated, and they have always been. Laying on a group of individuals collective guilt is contrary to the central principles of the Enlightenment, which are that citizens are individuals, endowed with reason, with certain inalienable and universal human rights. Among these rights are that of peaceable assembly and the presumption of individual innocence until proven guilty of a crime.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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31 Responses to Fareed Zakaria Says No to Muslim American Collective Guilt for 9-11 and Yes to the Ground Zero Mosque

  1. Paradigm says:

    I think people distrust this project and the people behind because of the location. You don’t improve relations by building a mosque at ground zero – anyone with a shred of sensitivity would realize that. And on top of that they name it Cordoba, a symbol of Islamic conquest and oppression. Mr Zakaria does nothing to explain this.

    • santitafarella says:


      Mr. Zakaria doesn’t explain the two facts that you address because they are not facts (in so far as I can tell). The mosque is not at ground zero. It is a couple of blocks away and will not even be visible from Ground Zero (there are much taller buildings blocking the mosque). Secondly, from what right wing site are you deriving the symbolic meaning of Cordoba? My understanding is that Cordoba means precisely the opposite of what you’ve heard, that the name was chosen as a symbol for people getting along in an urban environment.

      And can I ask you how you imagine the United States stays an Enlightenment oriented nation, focused on individualism, if it treats its Muslim American citizens as collectively guilty for 9-11 and the symbols of Islam generally as symbols of terrorism?


  2. Paradigm says:

    Looking at the whole NY area it is in very close proximity. There is no way around that.

    The Caliphate of Cordoba were the rulers of occupied territory, the result of the moorish invasion of southern Spain. Anyone proclaiming their Christian faith in public was executed, the most notable known as The Martyrs of Cordoba. Non-muslims were also taxed, basically for the protection they received from outside enemies – meaning their Christian neighbors.

    These are – and correct me if I’m wrong – the historical facts. It hardly makes a fitting symbol for “getting along in urban environment”.

    Collective guilt is wrong, but the name and the place of this mosque remains a provocation.

    And looking at the bigger picture, America must ask itself how much enlightenment and invidualism will be left if the influx of Muslims continues. There are numerous examples of how Muslims in Europe, once they have the strenght of numbers, attack and harass other groups, especially the Jews.

    • santitafarella says:


      I have no wish to take sides between competing Herderite religious fanatics and imperialists (Christians v. Muslims) or their provocations toward one another. My understanding (but I’ll do more research on it) is that the Cordoba mosque, over time, became a symbol of religious diversity in Spain, not a sinister alien within.

      But let’s stipulate that the name “Cordoba” is a rhetorical shot over the bow, so what? It is a word, not a deed. New York City is a cacaphony. Its strength is in its cacaphony and it’s ability to absorb the cacaphony without a dominating voice. That’s the Enlightenment genius of a city like New York. You punch it and it keeps going and can absorb lots and lots of stupidity.

      Herderian nationalists hate cities because they represent places where their preferred grand narrative cannot be driven as the ONE TRUE NARRATIVE above the cacaphony. In many ways, this is a city v. heartland rural issue (and exactly the way Republicans are playing it: those city liberals don’t know how to sustain the 9-11 narrative against the enemy within).

      And so the error of the Tea Party Herderites is to read the presence of the mosque (which, again, I emphasize is invisible to the ground zero site and blocks away) as a singular message somehow endorsed by the city. It’s not. It’s just one more group of individuals practicing their rights to free and peacable assembly and association. Proximity is not endorsement or agreement. It’s respecting individual rights, property rights, freeom of speech and association, and equal treatment under the law.

      Christians are free to build a giant center of their own within a few blocks of ground zero and place a big cross on top. Who cares?

      And there is no alarming influx of Muslims into the United States. Demographers do not look out into the future (a hundred years from now) and see an American population that is, say, 25% Muslim. Muslims are always going to be no more than 1-3% of the American population, and a hundred years from now it won’t matter one way or the other. Religion will be so generally defanged, urbanized, and tepid by then that people will wonder what all the fuss and intolerance was about.

      Did you know, for example, that half of all human beings on the planet live in cities? And demographers suggest that the other half is heading that way. Religion has enormous difficulty controlling the narratives within cities, and the trend is against them. Neither Christianity nor Islam is ever likely to theocratically dominate the world because the world is moving into the cacaphony of the city and its subsequent global interconnectedness. That means you have to let everybody build their religious buildings and, if you don’t like them, pass by on the other side.

      9 billion people. That will be the population of the world half a century from now, and most of them will live in cities. The Enlightenment and the city are natural allies, and so the Enlightenment future can only be disrupted if the dynamics of city liberty are disrupted. Grand narratives are drowned in the city’s swarm. The mosque’s presence in that swarm guarantees that other grand narratives are equally made weak.

      What this is about is not an emerging Muslim narrative that threatens to engulf weak Western civilization, but the frustration of an emerging Herderian Christian nationalist narrative (a far, far more probable threat to the American Enlightenment tradition and the Bill of Rights).


  3. Paradigm says:

    Cordoba did become a symbol of diversity and tolerance – among liberal academics. This on the basis that it was worse in many other places, but that is a false argument. Occupation and oppression can never become a positive value by downward comparison. And sure, it’s a word not a deed. But words instigate deeds. That’s how it starts. Using the word Cordoba – main city of the Muslim invasion of Spain – means something, it does in fact contain a message. As does the location. This is clear for no other reason than the outroar it caused. They don’t even pretend to act surprised. They knew this was a provocation, it was their choice.

    It’s not that I hate cities, only multiculturalism – and only the degree of multiculturalism that we see today.

    If you somehow managed to stem the influx of Muslims then good for you. The situation here in Europe is much worse. Just look at Holland, the most liberal and tolerant land in Europe and possibly the world. People with money and education are emigrating. It has become a country of conflicts, extremism and intolerance. If the ideas of Enlightenment made these things crumble you’d expect the opposite.

    And to say that we will be there in a hundred years or so doesn’t wash. That is what liberals said a hundred years ago. It’s sadly similar to the Marxist notion of historical necessity.

    “What this is about is not an emerging Muslim narrative that threatens to engulf weak Western civilization, but the frustration of an emerging Herderian Christian nationalist narrative (a far, far more probable threat to the American Enlightenment tradition and the Bill of Rights).”

    Tell it to the people leaving Holland, the Jews leaving France and so forth. Tell them that it is those pesky Christians, who never bothered them a bit, that is the real threat. I think they will reply that your words are just words and not deeds.

    • santitafarella says:


      You’ve hit the cusp of the difficulty.

      Your thesis is that the mere declaration of an individual as “Muslim” carries with it the strong and reasonable presumption that neither that person, nor that person’s children, can be relied upon to uphold, protect, and defend the values of liberty in the Western home country to which he or she belongs.

      In other words, a Muslim is sui generis among all peoples in the world, and simply cannot be assimilated into Western culture. Period. A universal human reason open to rational adjustment is not what we encounter when we encounter a person who declares himself “Muslim.” The whole Enlightenment presumption about universal human reason and progress is utopian and flawed.

      You then cite examples throughout Europe that prove your point, and tell me how lucky Americans are not to have a lot of Muslims.

      Perhaps that’s the hint. Maybe Europeans are trying to assimilate Muslims too quickly?

      I recognize that the whole issue is tricky. I’m not trying to downplay the complexity. I myself have opposed burka wearing in France.

      But I guess what I’m salivating to, and that has my red light twirling, is that you don’t indulge accusations of collective guilt on individuals. And you don’t shred the constitution for behavior or beliefs that may seem vile to you but thoroughly managable. The hard cases are the ones that test your commitment to the Bill of Rights, not the easy cases.

      But this may be my view because Muslims are not an overwhelming presence in my country.

      I’m still thinking.

      Your thoughts?

      And if you think I’m overreacting, what should be my response to Christian nationalists salivating to scapegoat a minority?

      Also, I think of the complexity of individual Muslim Americans—people like you and me—who pay their taxes, serve in the military, vote Democratic, open businesses—and then are told that they can’t open an Islamic center. And the law is clear: we are individuals in the United States, not members of groups deemed collectively guilty of things. It seems deeply wrong to me not to treat American citizens on a case by case basis and to manage the bad seeds via law enforcement (not broad human rights restrictions).


    • I may be completely wrong on this, but it seems Europe is more liberal in a sense but very herderite in the other, as in most of Europe’s countries citizenship and nationality are based on ethnical ascendence. A kid who’s born in Germany, son of parents that are also born in Germany, but happens to be the grandson of a turkish imigrant, isn’t accepted as German, but a brazillian born kid who don’t speak german, but happens to be the grandson of a german immigrant, has easily an EU passport. ‘German is who have German blood’ isn’t what they say?
      And Germany isn’t an isolated case. This is the general rule in Europe, AFAIK.
      So, if it’s true that some (many?) people go to Europe and try to build an enclave, it’s also true tha some (many?) others don’t have the choice to do otherwise, namely to became fully integrated european citizens.
      In countries like US and Brazil where people, with contradictions yes, but nevertheless where immigrants can make it through fully integration, the rule is that by the 2nd or 3rd generations, these grandsons/daugthers, and grandgrandsons/daugthers are not immigrants anymore. They don’t see themselves as belonging to anywhere else.

  4. concerned christian says:

    Here is another example of the lack of reciprocity between Western world and Islam. While USA is sending Halal meat to Pakistani suffering from the recent natural disaster, have anyone wondered why rich Muslim countries are not as generous especially with recent disasters in Christian nations. I know somebody will point out to the photo op set up by CAIR which probably sent a million dollar in aid, just to cover up the lack of real help from countries such as Saudi Arabia. But the reason Muslims do not help non-Muslims is that the Zakat which is one of the five tenants of Islam, and the one strongly defended by the president in a recent speech, can be only given to needy Muslims otherwise God will not reward for it. So let’s talk about Muslim assimilation in the West!
    Here’s the white house Halal meat donation

  5. Paradigm says:

    In all fairness The United Arab Emirates did donate a substantial sum to help Haiti (which has 3000 Muslims or 0.04 percent of the population). But overall you’re right. Now we may see a trend where West donates less to Muslim countries, as seems to be the case with Pakistan.

    • concerned christian says:

      The United Arab Emirates is one of the most liberal Islamic state, Qatar and Kuwait are other relatively tolerant States. Of course these countries are also strongly dependent on the United States for their security and protection against Muslim hardliners. The flag bearer of real Islam is Saudi Arabia for Sunni Islam and Iran for Shi’ite Islam, I wonder how much these two countries gave to Haiti?

  6. concerned christian says:

    To save you searching for an answer, I did a quick Google search and here’s the sum total of donation from the Arab world by January this year. That is about half of the cost of Ground Zero Mosque.

  7. Paradigm says:

    Santi: I’m not speaking of single individuals but groups. But yes, I suspect that Muslims are a breed of their own. As you know they account for practically all the major terrorist attacks with multiple causalties. But being a conservative I think the limits of human reason are in no way an exclusively Muslim issue.

    Wether we can assimilate them or not is a very hard to say for sure. American Muslims are better adjusted and are less extreme than European Muslims. It may be as you say a matter of pace. But it may also be that moderates are more inclined to settle in USA, which by many radicals are seen as the big enemy.

    But even if your assimilation works better, fact remains that a 13 percent of American Muslims are ok with suicide bombings against civilian targets. And that is a low estimate since 9 percent did not want to answer the question. It’s much better than most European countries but I doubt there is any other ethnic or religious group that comes close to this attitude.

    I understand your concerns about the constitution and the rights of the individual. And of course they have the right to build it. But I wish liberals would at least ask them why it has to be so close to Ground Zero and why name it after the center of Muslim occupation of Europe. If indeed they can be assimilated it would be through such a dialogue.

    • santitafarella says:


      Why close to ground zero? Because Islam does not represent suicide bombing any more than the cross represents abortion clinic bombing. The conflation is not owned by them, and it shouldn’t be owned by us.

      And the name, if it means what you claim—the surrender of the West one day to Islam—is at worst a religious affirmation (as in, “Come, Lord Jesus”). It is a pipe dream, as Christian fundamentalist apocalyptic longing is a pipe dream. It doesn’t constitute a threat or a sinister master plan, but a fantasy. When John Lennon imagines no religion, we don’t say, “Ooh, John Lennon has a plot for global atheist domination!” We say, “John Lennon would like what he sees as good to be universal.”


  8. Paradigm says:

    “Because Islam does not represent suicide bombing any more than the cross represents abortion clinic bombing.”

    But it does! Remember that at least 13 percent of American Muslims are ok with suicide bombings (9 perscent won’t answer). This is not a handful of crazy individuals. For your statement to be true it would require just as many Christians in favor of bombing abortion clinics – and that is hardly likely.

    It may be a pipe dream, but tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands if you count the Algerian civil war) have died for it, 3000 at Ground Zero. Put the name and place together and it is very hard not to get the message. This worries me, when liberals insist they can’t see the elephant in the room. It looks an awful lot like denial.

  9. Paradigm says:

    And BTW, John Lennon never killed anyone, he never said he was ok with killing anyone either.

  10. Colin Hutton says:


    This is partly a continuation of our discussion under the Niemoller post, but I thought I’d continue here because Paradigm has covered, better than I could have, a great deal of what I myself was planning to say.

    Zakaria’s presentation is impressive and reasoned. A question, however :- why does he use the description “community centre” throughout and never the word ‘mosque’? And a comment:- I think it is reasonable for me to infer from the clip that he is religious. As an atheist I conclude that he is deluded. He protests that the cleric behind the community centre is a moderate. He may be deluding himself – again.

    As regards provocation, I agree with Paradigm’s understanding of “Cordoba”. A further point is that after the christians had defeated the muslims in Spain they then committed an aesthetic (from my perspective) desecration by inserting a cathedral into the middle of the architectural gem that was the mosque at Cordoba. I suspect that many muslims may view that as a religious desecration, deserving of revenge. In addition, from my reading of the reports, I believe that the muslim groups who protested against Pawlenty, misrepresented him. He did not, as they claim, say “…….all Muslim activities and images anywhere near Ground Zero are degrading and disrespectful”. That is a quite inflammatory exaggeration. Given that, as a ‘despised minority’, they would be aware of the sensitivities, and the risks of exaggeration, are they courting martyrdom?

    Paradigm (and for that matter also Concerned Christian, here and elsewhere) present the case well for my view that (to summarise) muslims do not come to Australia (or other countries) as ‘immigrants’ – they come as colonisers.

    In one of your recent posts, Santi, you raised the issue of the Iranian woman facing death by stoning. I am unaware of any protests organised by Australian or US muslims. Or protests about the incidence (greater than 50% in many countries in Africa) of female genital mutilation. On issues such as this Muslims (obviously there are exceptions, but they are rare), in my opinion, ‘condemn themselves with faint criticism’ (with apologies to Shakespeare).

    As regards your conviction that the US will never have more than a tiny minority of muslims, that may prove correct. But geography and technology are not the protections they once were. You face populous nations mired in 16th century belief systems, developing 21st century weapons.

    What would Darwin say? How about: “The analogy between evolution of species and societies must not be carried too far; but is still instructive. It is a good idea for societies to recognise and deal with existential threats if they aspire to survive beyond the fossil record.

    What would Nietzsche say? How about:- “Faced with an existential threat do not allow a slave morality to get in the way of eliminating it” and “I pointed out 120 years ago that god was dead. Why would the most powerful nation in the world still make concessions to religion in its constitution today? Change the constitution”.

    I watched on our TV news, earlier this evening here in Australia, a very pathetic attempt by Democrat Harry Reid to square his position (that the mosque should be built elsewhere) with your constitution.

    At this stage, I agree with you, Santi, that the mosque must be allowed, even if provocation is a motive. However, Paradigm is right when he accuses liberals of refusing to see the elephant in the room. They are going to have to deal with it sooner rather than later.

    (A hypothetical question. If the WTC site and buildings had been owned by the UAE sovereign fund and they proposed now to build a huge mosque on the WTC site, should that be allowed? I think the answer remains ‘yes’. Your pointing out that the proposed site is a couple of blocks away and out of sight is not relevant, and weakens your principled stance).


  11. Paradigm says:

    It’s possible that nations built on immigration can assimilate people more easily. But a lot has to do with wether a group wants to be assimilated or not. Where I grow up in Sweden there were kids of Italian ancestry. They really wanted to be we the rest of us and we got along fine. Most of the time you didn’t even reflect on their heritage at all.

    But Muslims are different. They do not want to be a part of the countries they live in. Their values are so unlike ours it just isn’t possible. So they stay in their ghettos and blame us for their misfortune and become radicalized.

    • santitafarella says:

      Paradigm, Colin, and Concerned:

      All three of you have a view of Muslims that is very, very bleak. Colin’s idea is especially jarring (that Muslims do not immigrate, they colonize).

      My Enlightenment idealism rebels against your pessimism. I think that it is ideological pessimism, not the facts on the ground, that is driving your analysis.

      Here’s my Enlightenment-based faith. I think it accords with reality:

      1. People are universally endowed with reason.
      2. All people are complicated, and though they may be in the grip of syllogisms that lead them to poor or strange conclusions, they are creatures capable of evolution in dialogue. In exposure to life’s demands and to others, people can and do moderate and change and make their lives match the general rhythms of a larger community. And their children do this even more obviously.
      3. Human beings have much more in common than they have that is different. Religious and nationalist templates superficially have vast differences, but the reality is that atheists, Muslims, Pakistanis, Americans, Hindus, and Christians all can talk to one another and understand one another perfectly well. There is not an incomprehensible cultural barrier between people. People are not opaque to one another because we all, beneath the skin, bear identical natures. We all know love and compassion and justice, and the pains of injustice and the fear of death and separation. We all ask the same big questions of the universe and struggle with what to tell our children.
      4. Most people make their religious views fit their temperaments. In other words, it doesn’t matter what their books say, it matters who they are (in genetically inherited inclinations to temperament). Mellow people are mellow about religion; authoritarian personalities are authoritarian; passive people are passive, social people are social, bookish people are bookish.

      Anectdotally, I think of my own community. A prominent surgeon in my area is Muslim. One of my wife’s best friends is Muslim (they grew up together in England and now both live in the United States), every semester I encounter Muslim students in my classes, etc.

      Guess what? These folks are exactly like you and me in their walking around lives. They’re good neighbors, they’re complicated, they’re not cartoons for projection and scapegoating. There’s nothing going on about them that makes them incompatable with American citizenship (unless you think that one cannot be a good American without being a Christian. By that standard, then I too am the alien within).


    • Paradigm

      I think it run both ways. A lot has to do with wether a group wants to be assimilated as well as a lot has to do with wether the society wants to assimilate that group. Both movements reinforce one another. As a society rejects some particular group, that rejection reinforces those on that group who don’t want to integrate, and that reinforces those who don’t wanted them to be integrated in the first place. And that goes on and on and on.
      Muslims are people. And people move, immigrate, in search for a better life, or even some possible life. People who have a good living in their homeland have very few incentive to move abroad. So, to talk about “colonization” it’s just silly, conspiracy-theory-paranoia. Or the worst type of self-fullfiling prophecy.

  12. Colin Hutton says:


    I have no argument with your points 1 – 3. I hadn’t ever thought of point 4. Might take it further after doing so. In the meantime, your final two sentences remind me of what (I read somewhere) Bush (1st) once said : “I doubt that atheists are citizens. They are certainly not patriots. After all we are one nation under God”. Scary.


  13. Paradigm says:

    Its’ not a question of wanting to integrate as being able to do so. If your values conflict with that of your new country then it’s impossible. And it’s equally impossible for your new country to accept your values.

    In they case of Muslims they set themselves up in ghettos where police and even ambulances are attacked, and where men patrol the streets making sure women act and dress according to their own values. Such a place is not unsimilar to a colony.

    • Paradigm

      Please decide. Either it

      …has to do with wether a group wants to be assimilated or not…


      Its’ not a question of wanting to integrate

      . It can’t be both don’t you think?

  14. concerned christian says:

    Santi, I will respond to your Enlightenment idealism with my empirical pessimism. I grew up in Egypt when it was governed by Nasser who was pushing for Arab Nationalism vs. Islamic Fundamentalism. He had tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood followers in concentration camps, and he was fighting a proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Christians in Egypt were treated fairly and I have enjoyed my life there and then. After the 1967 6-day war defeat, Muslim fundamentalist start moving forward and Sadat used them to fight the socialist parties, but he paid the price of aligning with them when he was assassinated by Muslim fanatics, one member of this group is Al Zawahri, the second man in Al Qaeda. During Sadat time and until today Christians in Egypt have been living under conditions similar to Jews in Nazi Germany. While there are rich Christians, poor Christians are subjected to random acts of violence. Just the last ten years Christian homes and businesses in many villages have been burned; tens of Christians have been killed by Muslim fanatics without any punishment. This Christmas Eve in our calendar, January 6 2010, six Christians and one Muslim who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, were gunned down after leaving midnight mass. The attackers were arrested but the case is still in court with no hope that a just verdict will be passed. More and more judges in countries like Egypt rule use Islamic Shariah and totally disregard the legal rules. I have given up totally on any chance that Egypt and many other Muslim-majority countries will go back to being secular societies that uphold the rules of the law in any foreseeable future.
    You may say what this has to do with us in America, and here’s the real disaster. Muslims are instructed in their religion by none else than Mohammad himself to outbreed the non-believers, and they are following this instruction religiously! This would not have been a problem if they stayed home, but they are actually using Europe and Australia as a relieve valve where all the overflow of Muslims move there and work actively to take over the host countries. How would America deals with Islamic Europe.
    As for the United States, after 1967 defeat, Arabs recognize the Jewish influence in the States and started to pay attention to American politics. Organization such as CAIR started as a defender of the Palestinian cause but soon recognized that it can play a more influential role by pushing an Islamic agenda that mixes religion with political and social goals. Ultimately what will prevent a successful assimilation of Muslims in the West is that Islam for fundamentalists is an integration of a religion and a political system. The slogans of Muslim Brotherhood which is very influential in many Islamic groups including student organizations in America are; Islam is the solution. Islam is a religion and a state, Islam is a Book and a Sword. Anyone who believes such slogans will not be interested in assimilating in a secular society.

  15. Colin Hutton says:


    Your point 4 in above reply rings true. However:

    There is evidently a personality type, call it X, which in conjunction with Islam produces suicide bombers. Type X may, in conjunction with christianity, produce a Jim Jones or other weird outcomes, but not, apparently, suicide bombers. (Atheists get pretty fed-up with both outcomes, of course, especially when we get cought in the cross-fire.)


  16. Paradigm says:

    What I meant was that those not wanting to integrate do not have to ability to do so. These coincide – at least for the group in question. You can deduce this from what I wrote if you make an effort:

    “They do not want to be a part of the countries they live in. Their values are so unlike ours it just isn’t possible.”

  17. Paradigm

    Ok, so they don’t want to be part of the countries they live in, with the exception of US and Brazil, where they fit just as anybody else, for no particular reason.
    Yeah, riiiight….

  18. Paradigm says:


    Muslims who choose to settle in America – the country which along with Israel is the most hated in the Muslim world – are probably less radical than the average. Also the fact that they are very few in comparison to the whole population may a reason they keep a low profile. European Muslims are much more aggressive and hostile.

    And as I recently pointed out, one of seven American Muslims are ok with suicide bombings that target innocent civilians. Is that your idea of fitting in?

  19. Colin Hutton says:


    In my earlier comment I said of Zakaria that “I think it is reasonable for me to infer from the clip that he is religious. As an atheist I conclude that he is deluded. He protests that the cleric behind the community centre is a moderate. He may be deluding himself – again”

    I read in our paper today a commentary by Hitchins, (hardly a ‘Herderite Republican’), in which (while supporting the centre) he pretty much demolishes the cleric’s “moderate” credentials .


  20. santitafarella says:


    I’m dubious of Hitchens’s broadside toward Abdul Rauf. I seriously doubt that Hitchens has bothered to read Rauf’s 2004 book, “What’s Right with Islam.” I’ve started it, and I find it life affirming so far, and a voice of moderation.

    Rauf is clearly caught in a double bind: he is expected to share the neoconservative consensus on American foreign policy or consign himself to being “immoderate.” I’m not buying it. You can hold the foreign policy views of Michael Moore (for example) and still, in the broad scheme of things, make a moderate contribution to a larger dialogue (you don’t advocate violence, you support pluralism, etc.).

    Hitchens, and those who are applying a fine tooth comb to every public statement that Rauf has ever made, parsing his sympathies in an uncharitable way, are missing the forest for the trees. It’s a form of quote mining that atheists and evolutionists recognize when unfairly applied to them, and they ought not cynically apply it to others. Context is always important, and staying in dialogue is important. Rauf is a good American and a good Muslim. They’re not incompatible. And people like Rauf should be dialogued with, not set up as straw men for defamation.

    If a thoughtful man like Rauf is too extreme for the conversation, then what you’re saying essentially is this: “Give up. Islam cannot ever be compatible with the West, and we will always be opaque to one another. We may as well meet in the desert street at high noon and settle our differences once and for all.”

    I reject such a narrative completely: it is contrary to the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment faith is that we share universal human reason, we have more in common than what divides us, and we are thus not opaque to one another—we can understand what motivates us, and we can recognize each other’s inalienable rights and dignity. If this Enlightenment faith is wrong, then America is wrong. And I don’t think America is wrong. Rauf, of all people, should not be treated with McCarthyite suspicion.


  21. Colin Hutton says:


    ” It’s a form of quote mining that atheists and evolutionists recognize when unfairly applied to them, and they ought not cynically apply it to others”- I liked that! I think I’ll have to retire defeated on this one. (I should also, for the good of my soul – but don’t quote me – try and get around to reading Rauf’s book).

    – Colin

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