Monday, August 16, 2010

Endorsement/Kiss of Death

I’ve written in support of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque before. The project has since been approved by the local zoning board, and defended by President Obama. Despite this progress, the center’s backers just got what is sure to be an unwelcome surprise today in the form of an endorsement from Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a founder of Hamas.

I can think of very few worse groups to have on your side, and I can think of very few worse ways to phrase one’s support. Particularly damaging:
"Mahmoud Al Zahar said Muslims "have to build everywhere" so that followers can pray"
For pundits and talking heads worrying about an Islamic “takeover” of America, this is a rhetorical godsend. I can hear the talking points now: "Muslims have to build everywhere? Can't you see? They want to take over everywhere, and spread shari'a everywhere!" This is very bad news for the already-embattled project.  

Damaging though this endorsement is, in my view, it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics of the case. The Islamic center is still an issue of religious freedom in a country that is built on this very concept. It is unfortunate that Mr. Zahar chose to speak out on the issue, as support from a terrorist group like his is sure to harm both the center’s prospects as well as those who bucked the tide of public opinion to support the project. Our political leaders have previously condemned or simply ignored other terrorists when they spoke out on American political issues, as they did with Osama bin Laden’s input in our 2004 presidential elections. Perhaps, as Senator Chuck Schumer suggested in the article, we can hope to ignore these comments as well.