As those following the mosque debate may recall, I am an admirer of Irshad Manji, a real Muslim reformer. But I was disappointed in her op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, beginning with her above-it-all pronouncement that both the opponents and proponents have it wrong. (After painting the opposition as “antimosque crusaders” and the advocates as “warriors for tolerance,” it’s a bit rich to find Irshad decrying the “bombast” in the debate.)
Omitting any mention of Imam Feisal Rauf’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, his praise for the prinicples of Khomeini’s 1979 Iranian revolution, his refusal to condemn Hamas, and his promotion of sharia (and mind you, Irshad expressed consternation about the Brotherhood, Khomeini, and sharia in her book), Irshad conclusorily asserts that Rauf is “not an Islamist” but “a man of dialogue.” Then, after blasting Rauf’s “insensitivity” in insisting on having the mosque near Ground Zero — because she is “offended by its proximity to the site of 9/11″ (does that make Irshad an “antimosque crusader”?) – she lists several the things about which we are suspicious, but in the dark, regarding Rauf’s project: Will it discriminate against women? Will it extend reciprocal tolerance to non-Islamic religious rites? Will it reaffirm Islam’s intolerance of homosexuals, apostates, and non-believers? Will it make gestures of inclusion to the likes of Salman Rushdie, condemned to death by Khomeini’s fatwa?
This is incoherent. Every Muslim terrorist is an Islamist, but not every Islamist is a terrorist. You can be a “man of dialogue” and still be an Islamist if your agenda is to spread sharia. Does Rauf want to spread sharia? His record certainly suggests that he does. To know with certainty, though, we would need straight answers to the questions Irshad poses. But we don’t have them, do we? And Rauf is obviously not anxious to provide them, notwithstanding that answers displaying enlightened tolerance could assuage a lot of people’s concerns. Meaning … we’re entitled to infer that, if he would deign to respond, Rauf would give Islamist answers — although he would no doubt do it in his clever, ingratiating manner.
Irshad’s got the cart before the horse. Wouldn’t it be better first to press Rauf on the important questions she has posed, and then to decide whether he’s an Islamist?