The Real Ground Zero

By Zakaria, Fareed | Newsweek, August 16, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Real Ground Zero


Zakaria, Fareed, Newsweek


Byline: Fareed Zakaria

Let's promote Muslim moderates right here.

Ever since 9/11, liberals and conservatives have agreed that the lasting solution to the problem of Islamic terror is to prevail in the battle of ideas and to discredit radical Islam, the ideology that motivates young men to kill and be killed. Victory in the war on terror will be won when a moderate, mainstream version of Islam--one that is compatible with modernity--fully triumphs over the world view of Osama bin Laden.

As the conservative Middle Eastern expert Daniel Pipes put it, "The U.S. role [in this struggle] is less to offer its own views than to help those Muslims with compatible views, especially on such issues as relations with non-Muslims, modernization, and the rights of women and minorities." To that end, early in its tenure the Bush administration began a serious effort to seek out and support moderate Islam. Since then, Washington has funded mosques, schools, institutes, and community centers that are trying to modernize Islam around the world. Except, apparently, in New York City.

The debate over whether an Islamic center should be built a few blocks from the World Trade Center has ignored a fundamental point. If there is going to be a reformist movement in Islam, it is going to emerge from places like the proposed institute. We should be encouraging groups like the one behind this project, not demonizing them. Were this mosque being built in a foreign city, chances are that the U.S. government would be funding it.

The man spearheading the center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is a moderate Muslim clergyman. He has said one or two things about American foreign policy that strike me as overly critical--but it's stuff you could read on The Huffington Post any day. On Islam, his main subject, Rauf's views are clear: he routinely denounces all terrorism--as he did again last week, publicly. He speaks of the need for Muslims to live peacefully with all other religions. He emphasizes the commonalities among all faiths. He advocates equal rights for women, and argues against laws that in any way punish non-Muslims. His last book, What's Right With Islam Is What's Right With America, argues that the United States is actually the ideal Islamic society because it encourages diversity and promotes freedom for individuals and for all religions.

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