Adam Serwer's link-o-riffic piece is right on the money, mostly:
The New York Times has a new piece up on Faisal Rauf and Daisy Khan, the couple behind the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero that has brought rank Islamophobia into the Republican mainstream:
"Daisy Khan, who immigrated, also as a teenager, to Jericho, on Long Island, from Kashmir, married Imam Feisal in 1997. They founded a Sufi organization advocating melding Islamic observance with women’s rights and modernity. After 9/11 they raised their profile, renaming the group the American Society for Muslim Advancement and focusing on connecting Muslims and wider American society. They spoke out against religious violence; the imam advised the F.B.I.; his wife joined the board of the 9/11 memorial and museum."
These are the people whom Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney smeared as "connected to terrorism" and having "dubious ties to radical Islamist organizations," whom National Review falsely portrayed as unwilling to give a "full throated denunciation of terrorism" and Newt Gingrich, with his faulty understanding of history, accused of "Islamist triumphalism."
The Times report, however, descends into a kind of "liberal" media known-nothingism when it comes to how this became a controversy, suggesting that " a combination of arguable naïveté, public-relations missteps and a national political climate in which perhaps no preparation could have headed off controversy." This is a remarkable formula that manages to place the blame everywhere except where it belongs — on a right-wing smear machine that went into overdrive in an effort to portray Rauf and Khan as terrorist sympathizers, an experience no one outside of contemporary partisan politics could have possibly been prepared for. The conservative media lied about the location of the project, they lied about Rauf's background, they lied about the project's funding, they lied about when the project would be built, and they lied about Rauf's political beliefs. And it would have been one thing if it had just been a small group of people lying, but they had an entire cable news station to lie for them, and politicians who were willing to amplify their smears. This controversy isn't about the "political climate." It's the fruit of a conscious, deliberate, and sustained effort.
I'm sure that the intensity of emotion shared by some of the projects' opponents are sincere. But where they hold Muslims collectively responsible for the actions of a few extremists, they are mistaken, and where their feelings are the result of falsehoods spread by the conservative media, they are misguided, and where they believe the First Amendment does not extend to American Muslims, they are simply wrong.
The reason this became a national controversy is because Republicans see a political advantage in harnessing anti-Muslim sentiment, particularly if that forces Democrats to defend an unpopular minority group.
That's certainly true. I suspect a lot of the mosque controversy is political, with the goal trying to create a wedge issue.
But some of it is based on pure good-ol-fashioned racism and hatred — i.e., ignorance. Case in point, Bryan Fischer, head of the American Family Association, who just this morning upped the ante by declaring:
Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero. This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.
That's right. No mosques….anywhere.
How's that for religious freedom and tolerance?