With America deeply entrenched in a battle against extremism around the world, President Obama has enough on his plate when it comes to the threat of terrorism.
In this context, a fringe group of radicals are grossly twisting the Holy Qur'an in an effort to conduct total war against the West in the name of Islam. By all accounts, this is a generational struggle that ultimately rests in the hands of moderate Muslims--the majority of Islam's 1.4 billion followers--who must themselves reclaim the purpose and peacefulness of this great religion.
A key component of reclamation relies on the engagement and integration of American Muslims. Therefore, any layman can deduce that if such domestic moderates--on the order of 6 to 7 million--were alienated, disgraced, and equated with terrorists and Nazis, the Republic herself has yet another storm brewing. And the fact that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich couldn't fathom (or could care less) about this potentiality should have Americans infuriated.
Yesterday, Gingrich compared the mosque and community center planned to be built blocks away from ground zero in Manhattan to Nazis protesting next to the Holocaust museum. As Pat Buchanan commented earlier today on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Gingrich is simply trying to outdo Sarah Palin: the uneducated, inaccurate, and perhaps the most popular Facebook politician in the country.
Widely seen as a potential 2012 presidential candidate--and conceivably running against Palin for the nomination--Gingrich has to be even more outrageous to swing the electorate. While there are a whole host of moral and ethical issues associated with willfully spreading misinformation, scaring the American people into equating all Muslims with terrorists, and prioritizing political points over the safety and security of the nation, Palin and Gingrich are fertilizing the very seeds of radicalization at home and abroad that U.S. policy is being designed to counter.
Comments such as those by Gingrich continually carve the canyon that separate Muslims from Americans and America from the Muslim World. They are dangerous and deplorable, and are tantamount to inviting the next terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Bridging this divide starts with education, basic education. As William Dalrymple noted in today's New York Times, "Most of us are perfectly capable of making distinctions within the Christian world. The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn't mean he's in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers, just as not all Orthodox Christians have ties to Serbian war criminals or Southern Baptists to the murderers of abortion doctors."
Such distinctions about the Islamic faith, here in the West, are few and far between, and it is this kind of education we must blanket the airwaves, newsprint and scholarship with in order to rectify this absence of knowledge. Failing to integrate basic education of Islam and that of the Muslim World will cost the United States much more blood and treasure.
We must take the threat of violent Islamic extremism seriously, but we must also quickly internalize the realities of the solution in order to make any sort of substantive progress. Part of that solution is getting the facts right on Feisal Abdul Rauf, one of the most respected moderate Muslim leaders in the country and the Imam behind the proposed Islamic Center in Manhattan.
Short-term politicking by loud-mouth politicians wishing to secure a 2012 presidential run is hurting America's interests at home by tearing at the seams of social cohesion and tolerance, and abroad by playing into the hands of terrorists and extremists. Gingrich's comments are so despicable that it may be the only thing moderate Muslims and al-Qaeda extremists agree upon, and that's a divide we must continue to carve rather than bridge, don't you think?
Cross-posted with RahimKanani.com