I remember it as though it was yesterday: John Kerry, when explaining why it was wrong to go into Iraq, declared that there should be a “world standard” of what constitutes an acceptable cause for war. In doing so, he was arguing that the causes for going to war aught to be morally defensible and garner the support of other free nations, so as to strengthen the hand of the war’s protagonist. But in doing so, he also opened himself up to criticism by every Conservative and Republican politician, politico and pundit for “surrendering” the sovereign right of America to fight a war on her own terms in her own time. That criticism came from all corners of the Republican “big tent,” including Newt Gingrich. No other nation, they said, should be able to tell the United States that we shouldn’t go to war; no nation, they said should hold the standard for what we as Americans can do.
And during the Health Care Reform debates, equal umbrage was given to those who pointed to France or Canada as models of what nationalized health care could look like in the United States. This criticism came from all corners of the Republican “big tent,” including Newt Gingrich. America, they said, was different; America’s standards are her own, they said, and no other standard applies to our “greatest health care system in the world.”
Now the new controversy being used to whip up support on the Right is the plan to raise a new Muslim center in downtown Manhattan. Not on Ground Zero, as you’ve heard it reported in the media, but two blocks away. Those who have been to Manhattan know that “two blocks away” is not the same in New York City as it is in Mayberry. Two blocks away from the site of the Twin Towers may as well be in another city. Nevertheless, this has raised hairs on the backs of Conservatives, who think it’s a grave injustice to put a Muslim center so close to the site of the 9-11 attacks.
I will not bother to address why a new Muslim center in the middle of culture-rich, heavily-ethnic New York City is so concerning to Conservative Americans. I will not ask the question, “have any of these people ever been to New York in the first place?” or wonder why the Conservative American’s favourite whipping boy – New York City, the wretched hive of scum, villany and Democrats that it is – should be of such terrible import and sanctity once Muslims “move in.” What I will address is this statement, from Newt Gingrich, himself:
Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.
And they lecture us about tolerance.
If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom. They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.
To abbreviate his statement: there are no Christian churches in Saudi Arabia, and so by that standard, there should be no Muslim center in Manhattan. Got that? America’s standards have now sunk in the eyes of Newt Gingrich and his supporters – in a mere eight months, mind you – to Saudi Arabian standards.
Wow. That’s a pretty steep drop. Not even the Dow – not even the Dow during the Bush Administration – can follow an act like that. Saudi Arabia, a nation ruled by the very same Sharia Law that raises such a panic among the good Christian Conservatives raising the objection, is now the standard by which we measure our religious tolerance as a society.
At least, to hear Republicans tell it.