There is a situation brewing down in the Florida sticks which could ruin a good bit more than a few Korans before it’s done, and the disingenuous treatment of Islam by its apologists in the “moderate” Muslim community as well as the American Left is on the verge of being completely exploded.
All thanks to a cracker with a goofy moustache and a pair of boulders in his pants.
In case you missed the day’s events with the Dove World Outreach Center’s plan to burn Korans on Saturday as a memoriam to the 9/11 attacks nine years ago, plenty happened.
First, as we posted earlier today, pastor Terry Jones has been promoting the publicity stunt for a week in order to boost attention and membership of his 50-strong congregation in Gainesville, Florida – and in doing so making himself a household name worldwide overnight. Jones is being discussed by everyone – Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gibbs, Robert Gates (who personally called Jones today to plead with him not to go through with his plan), David Petraeus, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck being just some of the hifalutin personages drawn to Jones’ idea. Of course, EVERYONE has counseled, cajoled and begged Jones not to go through with his little bonfire.
The problem is, Jones’ plan isn’t unfolding in a vacuum. He happens to be taking advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cause important people to reach for the Pepto-Bismol.
See, while Jones is gaining his 15 minutes of fame all hell is breaking loose in New York surrounding the Ground Zero mosque.
Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam of that mosque, has returned from a two-month government-funded junket to the Middle East that everyone swears wasn’t a fundraising trip for his Cordoba House project. He immediately took to the CNN airwaves and said that if he’d known what a poopstorm (my word, not his) this thing would turn into he wouldn’t have pushed the project but that if he agreed to back down now he’d be risking attacks on America’s national security by “radicals” and “extremists.” This, of course, sounds like blackmail to the ears of the 70 percent of the country who hold Rauf’s project in disdain, and it’s the talk around every water cooler in America.
But earlier this week the primary investor in the building Rauf’s mosque is supposed to occupy, an Egyptian-American named Hisham Elzanaty, said he was really just in it for the money and if somebody was willing to buy him out he’d be happy to walk away.
So today, Donald Trump bit. Trump sent a letter to Elzanaty offering him a 25 percent bump on his investment (some $4.85 million, apparently, making Trump’s offer somewhere around $6.5 million) as a buyout price. But with breathtaking speed Elzanaty turned Trump down flat, saying through his lawyer that if Trump didn’t come to the table with at least $20 million he was wasting his time. It will be interesting in the next few days to see whether Trump – who could drop off $20 million to Elzanaty out of the spare change from his chest of drawers – takes the Egyptian up on his number. And even more interesting to see, if Elzanaty continues to look this gift horse in the mouth, what public perception of his statements would then result.
Amid this, Jones was approached today – either before or after Gates called him to plead for the survival of the pastor’s stash of Korans – by Imam Muhammad Musri, the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, with an offer to intercede in the kerfuffle. Jones represented, with Musri standing next to him at a presser outside the Dove World Outreach Center, that the Orlando imam had guaranteed Jones the Cordoba House mosque would be built elsewhere. As such, said Jones, he was suspending his bonfire so as to travel to New York to meet with Rauf on Saturday.
Musri qualified his remarks after Jones’ speech, saying he merely offered to set up a meeting with Rauf.
With the situation thus understood, the Fox News All-Star panel discussed it like this…
But Rauf, perhaps taken by surprise, threw cold water all over the concept. He put out a statement…
“I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans,” Rauf said. “However, I have not spoken with Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement.”
“We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we here to barter. We are here to extend our hand to build peace and harmony,” he said.
Jones was a bit miffed at all this, as one might imagine, since he looks like an even bigger doofus for today’s events having happened than he did before. And as a result, after first expressing how hurt he was that it appeared Musri had overpromised he then veered into a position just as inflexible as Rauf’s – namely, that his bonfire was back on. He said that Musri “clearly, clearly lied to us” – after having previously noted that there were several witnesses in the room when Musri supposedly guaranteed the mosque would be moved.
Meanwhile, into the fray stepped the notorious Fred Phelps, leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church congregation known for picketing military funerals and creating a First Amendment conundrum of their own. Phelps happily volunteered to torch a few Korans himself if Jones’ feet got cold. In a news release, Phelps’ church said…
“WBC burned the Koran once – and if you sissy brats of Doomed america bully Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center until they change their plans to burn that blasphemous tripe called the Koran, then WBC will burn it (again), to clearly show you some things.”
Chauceresque prose aside, the WBC release indicated how badly out of control the entire situation has spread for the administration and the rest of America’s ruling class. Several things appear at hand at this point.
First, Jones may be a bumbling rustic far over his head. That said, he has stumbled into a situation which threatens to unravel the entire narrative put forth by the Washington-New York ruling class on Islam, religion and the First Amendment. While that sounds a bit vast, consider that the difference between what Jones proposes to do and Rauf’s mosque is essentially semantic. Both have a constitutional right to do as they propose, both projects are thoroughly insensitive to those affected, both are unwise to proceed with their plans based on the feedback they’ve already received and both will inflame the conflict between Muslims and Western Civilization.
And then consider the differing treatment each has received. In Rauf’s case, our president and his acolytes had nothing to say about his mosque other than it was his constitutional right to build it. This despite better than two-thirds of the American public who agree on the constitutional issue and nevertheless oppose the decision for Rauf to build his mosque. But in Jones’ case, the same powerful people who don’t oppose the mosque are pleading for Jones to desist. That they’re joined by people like Palin, Beck, Mitt Romney and others is interesting, but not dispositive; conservative opposition to Jones’ bonfire is based on the same preference for civility and public harmony that informs opposition to the Ground Zero mosque.
Jones has now exposed this double standard in technicolor. Is it proper for Americans of Christian persuasion to hold themselves to a higher standard? Perhaps, but after years of such treatment the patience of the average citizen has worn thin. Jones won’t say it, but he clearly sees a path to stardom of sorts by taking on the role of the radical Christian who acts just like the unhinged Islamic clerics so prevalent in the Muslim world. By creating this equivalence, he exploits the same free-speech construct so obsequiously slathered on Muslims by the Left – with none of the same results.
Jones isn’t likely to gain sympathy from the public, who won’t likely appreciate his rocking the boat and stirring up anti-American animals from Casablanca to Jakarta and elsewhere, but he doesn’t need popularity to achieve fame or to embarrass his politically correct betters.
And if Jones’ situation is a nightmare for the White House and the media elites, what of Phelps? The American people have been routinely outraged by Westboro Baptist’s congregation harrassing the families of fallen military personnel, only to be told by our ruling class that the freedom of speech is absolute, Phelps must be borne and we should have thicker skin than to be worked up by the ravings of lunatics – regardless of how offensive their antics may be.
Does that formula still apply when Phelps is roasting Korans rather than berating the bereaved? Does anyone want to attempt to explain to Phelps that burning Korans threatens the American military personnel whose funerals he pickets?
It’s a shame Heath Ledger has passed on. His brilliant portrayal of The Joker has come to life in the persons of Jones and Phelps.
As it seems impossible to prevent Jones – or Phelps – from burning Korans on Saturday using reasoned argument, how will they be induced not to do so? Will our tax dollars be involved in placating them? Should the rest of us get in on the action? Will the grounds of Dove World Outreach Center be teeming with enemies – like the New Black Panthers, who swear they will prevent him from acting – on Saturday? Will there be violence? And if so, what will the consequences be? Will Jones be arrested for inciting a riot? How will the resulting Trial Of The Century play out? One envisions a Ron Kuby/William Kunstler type taking on the case and turning it into a sensation.
And if the Muslim world breaks out into violence a la the Danish Cartoon disaster, what then? How will the American people react to the Ground Zero mosque in the wake of Muslim attacks on American embassies and other targets over some rube in the piney woods burning a book or two? And what reaction to the ruling class continuing to excuse Muslim barbarity while blaming Jones for provoking the animals?
Jones has another course available to him, of course. He could choose not to burn the Koran. That obviously would be the polite thing to do. But he’s already said that the entire purpose of the exercise is to show defiance to Islam as a response to 9/11; with those stakes having been posted and with his having tied his bonfire to the moving of the Ground Zero mosque not achieving the promised results, what consideration might he extract in turn in order to save face?
The obvious, of course, would be for Rauf – who styles himself an interfaith healer – to take a meeting with Jones on Saturday in order to at least keep him from burning Korans in Gainesville that day. Even if Rauf has no intention of negotiating on the location of the mosque, a meeting alone might serve to placate Jones. So far, he has refused. What effect to his credibility from that refusal? Has the urbane, well-connected and patrician Rauf nothing to offer to the primitive pastor from the fever swamp in the name of brotherhood and peace? Does he fear the wrath of the Muslim street for agreeing to make a deal of some sort with Jones? And if so, what does that say about the practitioners of Islam the rest of us are expected to accomodate?
Again, how will the American people process these permutations? And what will we expect from our leaders – and in particular, our President, whose statement on Jones’ bonfire was far more urgent and considerably stronger than he offered on Rauf’s mosque:
“I just hope he understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values,” Obama said in the ABC interview. “I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan.”
I don’t suppose a Beer Summit is in the offing, and I suspect a Tea Party between Obama, Rauf and Jones is somewhat unlikely. If the president were to bring Jones to the White House for any purpose disaster seems the only likely result. But inaction as this controversy morphs from amusing spectacle to dangerous conflict will only indict Obama’s leadership and drain much of what’s left of his current approval – with consequences in November. Heavy-handed action against Jones as the president seeks to diffuse Muslim anger while the Ground Zero mosque project continues apace will serve Obama little better with the average American whose patience for the president’s coddling Muslims (one in five of us already thinks Obama is a Muslim anyway) is now theadbare.
Commentators have for years identified the refusal of the ruling class to recognize the inherent incompatibility of Islam with Western civilization as an unsustainable, politically correct kabuki. It is perhaps fitting, then, that a politically incorrect, obscure flyover-territory eccentric styling himself a devout Christian might be the instrument to bring those carefully crafted delusions to an end.