You may know Feisal Abdul Rauf, then again you may not. He’s made something of a name for himself as a follower of Islam while promoting a better understanding of Islam to America and from what he says, promoting the idea that being a good American, is also the best of being a good Islamic follower. Whether I’ve phrased his intent properly or not, there is no doubt that he is a strong follower of Islam and it seems a believer of the American way of life, his interpretation of it anyway.
He caught my eye, as he may have caught yours several years ago, when promoting the construction of a new Mosque a few blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. The thing that worries me about his comment is not his religion. It's more the ego of his belief that he knows what is best for others through the zealotry of his faith.Having spent some years in the Middle East it’s not uncommon to come across zealot type personalities such as his.
When I say zealot I don’t mean the sociopathic fundamentalism we think of such as coined in the news as an Islamic terrorist. I think of a zealot somewhat like the hard core Christian groups that give you time and condescension such as the Pentecostal groups, the 7th day Adventist and so on. A zealot, at least the type I’m talking about, are those individuals or groups of individuals who have core beliefs that deign the possibility of error and for whom tolerance is not easily found.
The key to understanding America, isn’t just the conceptual ideals of freedom defined within the Constitution, but the process of American Exceptionalism whose very nature also means personal responsibility, tolerance, and an understanding into the nature of the Constitution.
It also means taking a step back from one’s personal beliefs long enough to recognize the possibility that others have a different take on things. It does not mean you have to agree, but it should mean that you are objective enough about your own life to accept another’s right to be different.
You may be asking what this has to do with Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man I talked about at the beginning of this diatribe. To put it bluntly he is the type of zealot I was referring to. He’s courteous, well mannered, speaks mildly but with convection. I heard a talk from him a couple of years ago and to be honest I was impressed. Since before 9/11 I’ve been looking for the Muslim community to take a step back from their beliefs out of respect for our choices, to condemn unequivocally the wonton sociopath’s that have abused Islam in the name of their personal views, but it hasn’t come.
Even Feisal Abdul Rauf does not completely condemn the terrorist without saying that much of the fault lays in the hands of American Foreign Policy. I grant you we have our problems, but you don’t blame the gun, or how it got there, you hold the individual that did the shooting accountable. Maybe it is simplistic, but then the important things in life are rather obvious and simplistic by definition. Most of us know where the path to the higher road lies, but the nature of the trials in life for some blinds them to the path they use to see rather clearly.
I believe that Feisal Abdul Rauf is a good man, but he doesn’t understand the nature of being an American, for he sees it through the lens of religion, not unlike many Christians and others who read the words of our constitution, but lose the context.
He was giving an interview about why, with so many people against a mosque so close to Ground Zero, he was pushing to build it anyway. Most of his answer revolved around the need to protect New York from another attack by putting a Mosque close by, so that a devout Muslim terrorist would not bomb one of their own places of worship. A dubious concept since many of the bombings around the world, have destroyed any number of Mosque sites and the devout Muslims within.
Para-phrased, he went on to say that he was not insensitive to the complaints but that his faith pushed him to do the right thing. There in line lies the problem I have, the major one anyway. His interpretation of his faith drives him to be insensitive to the pain of those who lost family and friends on 9/11. To feel that he has the right to choose what is best for us, instead of understanding that if he truly understood the insult, he would not make it and would defer to those in pain, instead of those who have an agenda to expand.
It’s the same condescension that any mild mannered zealot has when they show up at your door, preaching their beliefs to the point of abuse. You want to be courteous, you don’t want to be rude, you want to be tolerant, but at some point you start seeing that you are the only one being tolerate. At some point to have to push back until they also learn tolerance, or failing that, learn the needful limits of their rhetoric.