Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

The Ground Zero Mosque, the Failure of Education, and Irreconcilable World Views


Writing yesterday in The New Republic, Martin Peretz made an interesting observation:

In my view, the really modest struggle against the mosque is probably the closest thing we’ve had to a genuinely grass roots effort against the casual and elitist First Amendment fundamentalists. “No” to admitting in schools that Christmas has something to do with Christianity. But “yes” to public financing of what looks to me like a sleazy venture combining religion, marriage catering, sports activity, political propaganda and what would pretend to be kultcha. 

This statement is incomplete. The “modest struggle” (I love that formulation) is more about most Americans’ ability to see what is plainly in front of them versus a postmodern elite’s fixed ideological view of history and culture.

The majority of Americans see thousands of suicide bombers, tens of thousands of armed jihadists, hundreds of millions of dollars of private funding for terror, widespread support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and the shocking approval ratings for Osama bin Laden in the Arab world, and quite logically worry about systematic cultural and religious problems. The cultural elite either writes off global jihad as the work of “a few extremists” or sees the same facts and asks, “What has America and Israel done to make them so angry?”

Yet the same cultural elite looks at the tea-party movement and expresses deep concern that it is somehow fomenting violence. Even a single act of alleged violence brings an indictment of the entire movement.  

The cultural elite trusts Imam Rauf’s professions of moderation and goodwill despite his support for the end of Israel, his moral equivocation between al-Qaeda and America, his failure to denounce Hamas, his declaration that Osama bin Laden was “made in the USA,” his declaration that America was an “accessory to the crime” of 9/11, and his explicit association with shady characters. At the same time, this same elite mistrusts the motives of opponents, calling them “crusaders” and accusing them of “paranoid intolerance.”

Reflexive hatred for America, contempt for ordinary Americans, appreciation for Islam, disgust for American conservatism, and acceptance of anti-Semitism as ultimately Israel’s fault are all characteristics of the modern American academic mindset. These are a set of attitudes not so much based on facts as based on a strange kind of cultural consensus. Of course Americans who oppose the mosque are bigots. Of course Islam is not the problem. Of course Imam Rauf is a moderate. Of course this is all just whipped up by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.

Have the people holding these views closely examined Imam Rauf’s background? His associates’ backgrounds? Are they familiar with the extent of Muslim extremism? Do they know how jihadists are recruited, trained, and funded? Not likely. Yet this ignorance can’t shake convictions formed in the ideological monoculture of their academic past and the reinforced in the urban monoculture of the present.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review