ISLAMIC AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
Why America is rejecting the liberal left’s response to 9/11.
By JAMES TARANTO
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE/
THE BEST OF THE WEB TODAY
September 16, 2010
Richard L. Connor, editor of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, penned a groveling apology Sunday for a front-page story that had appeared the previous day.
Here’s an excerpt:
We made a news decision on Friday that offended many readers and we sincerely apologize for it.
Many saw Saturday’s front-page story and photo regarding the local observance of the end of Ramadan as offensive, particularly on the day, Sept. 11, when our nation and the world were paying tribute to those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks nine years ago. We have acknowledged that we erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page.
Connor reports that readers complained “en masse” about the Ramadan story, and that “most” were “courteous and polite.” In case one apology isn’t enough, he adds: “Again, if you were offended, I apologize.” He is a very sorry man!
We gave the Sept. 11 Ramadan story a read, trying to find something to criticize. It wasn’t easy. The piece was inoffensive human-interest fluff. The only thing that bothered us at all was this passage, which quotes Abdullahi Ahmed, president of the Islamic Society of Portland:
Ahmed, a science teacher at Deering High School who lives in Westbrook, came dressed in a business suit and a paisley tie. He is working on his doctorate at the University of Maine. He and his wife, a nurse, have four children.
He said that as an American Muslim, he has a sense of belonging that eclipses the hostility of the Rev. Terry Jones, the pastor in Florida who threatened to burn copies of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The support of national leaders and assurance from the community have been important, Ahmed said, but there is still work to be done to reach a mutual understanding and acceptance.
We have no objection to the passage itself, but we do note a double standard: Can anyone imagine a mainstream newspaper covering, say, an Easter service and taking such a solicitous attitude toward a priest or minister’s feelings about “Piss Christ,” that elephant-dung painting or various other public desecrations of Christian symbols? (Would a mainstream newspaper even put an Easter service on the front page?) [Emphasis added]
The Maine meshugas reminded us of a Connecticut kerfuffle, reported by Hartford’s WVIT-TV:
Hartford’s City Council revoked its offer for an imam to say a prayer at Monday’s meeting, but outside City Hall on Monday night, Imam Kashif Abdul-Karim prayed for the city, in Arabic and English.
“We beseech you to help our leaders to decide with wisdom,” said Imam Kashif.
The Hartford City Council had invited imams to start its two September meetings with prayer, including the meeting on Monday. It was meant to show solidarity with Muslims at a time of controversy over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero and the possible Koran burning. Instead, it brought on a slew of hateful emails and phone calls. Amid the public outcry, the council revoked that decision after public outcry.
Some who protested said the timing was simply too close to the September 11th anniversary.
The station adds that Councilman Luis Cotto, a member of the hard-left Working Families Party, was “choking back tears” over the council’s decision to nix the Muslim prayer and replace it with a moment of silence. The Press Herald, meanwhile, has a series of letters today from upset readers–some objecting to the Ramadan story, some to the apology. When did flinty New Englanders become so damn excitable?
It will not surprise you to learn that elite liberal journalists see in these events a confirmation of their own prejudice, namely that Americans–even in states like Maine and Connecticut, which gave Barack Obama 58% and 61% of their vote, respectively–are anti-Muslim bigots.
James Poniewozik of Time–the magazine that has pushed the “Islamophobia” narrative harder than just about anyone else–published a lament on the Time.com website sarcastically titled “Paper to Readers: Sorry for Portraying Muslims as Human.” Poniewozik faults the Portland publisher for has “craven attitude,” and it’s hard to disagree. But he also faults our country:
Here’s where we are in America, 2010: There is now one group of Americans whose peaceful religious observance cannot be noted by decent people, unless it is “balanced” by the mention of a vile crime committed in 2001 by people, with a perverted idea of the same religion, from the other side of the world.
This is a depressing statement about the state of dialogue in America. Nine years after 9/11, there is now a widespread belief that, for one religious group of law-abiding Americans, the boundaries of acceptable behavior are narrower than for everyone else.
Here’s the problem with this: If Americans–and Mainers–are so “Islamophobic,” how is it that no evidence of this appeared in the original Sept. 11 story? How is it that, as the Press Herald reported in that story, the head of the Islamic Society of Portland “has a sense of belonging that eclipses the hostility” of the media’s favorite crazy pastor? The readers who complained “en masse” really seem to have been angry at the Press Herald, not at Muslims.
It seems clear that in both Maine and Connecticut, as in the case of the Ground Zero mosque, what offended people was the combination of solicitude for Muslims and proximity to 9/11. In the case of the Ramadan story, the temporal proximity was but a coincidence; this year the Muslim month happened to end just before Sept. 11. The proposed mosque’s geographic proximity to the site of the atrocity, by contrast, was deliberately chosen to make a point, and the Hartford prayer plan was an outgrowth of the mosque mess.
The real problem here is that the liberal elite has responded to 9/11 in a totally inappropriate way. When the only tool you have is a hammer, the cliché goes, every problem looks like a nail. To American liberals, every problem looks like the civil rights struggle, the original one of which was their last real moral, cultural and governmental success.
That is why the liberal elite sees 9/11 less as a national security challenge than as an imperative for a kind of affirmative action aimed at ensuring that “inclusiveness” extends to Muslims. That’s what the Maine readers saw, perhaps mistakenly, in the Press Herald’s Ramadan story. It’s what the Hartford constituents correctly saw in the plan to open council sessions with a Muslim prayer. And of course it is what Americans everywhere see in the obnoxious plan to build a fancy 15-story mosque adjacent to the site of an Islamic supremacist atrocity.
But whereas white Americans collectively had a great deal to atone for in their historical treatment of blacks, it is perverse and offensive to suggest that 9/11 leaves Americans with an obligation to atone to Muslims. The anger in New York, Portland and Hartford is a healthy response to this false imputation of guilt, even if, especially in the Portland case, it is somewhat misplaced.
The groveling by the Portland publisher–in the manner of a university president facing a militant minority sit-in–isn’t pleasant to watch, but it does suggest that the liberal left is losing its confidence in its own moral authority. When the New York Times and Time magazine feel obliged to take account of ordinary Americans’ sensibilities, the process will be complete.