The ground zero mosque (Park51) controversy has cleaved the media and the public along predictable partisan lines in the US. The Left is screaming “First Amendment” and “Islam does not equal terrorism”, and the Right screams “sure they have the right to build the mosque, but it is insensitive.” Cracked.com pretty much dismisses the whole deal with three simple and sensible arguments. Kathy Kattenberg doubts the validity of the insensitivity argument. I have a different take on the issue. This might border conspiracy theory, but bear with me.
After reading this exposition on the issue by Great Bong. I realized that if Park51 were actually an effort by terror-loving organizations, then it’s a master stroke indeed! I find it hard to believe that Soho Properties did not foresee any issues or controversies with announcing a major construction project to benefit Muslims so close to Ground Zero. Knowing the tea baggers, Fox News, Sarah Palin, and their ilk. It is preposterous to claim innocence to not having anticipated such a backlash. So what forced them to proceed ahead with the plan?
Consider this: let some radical Islamic terrorist organization X want to indulge in a negative PR campaign against the US. Specifically, create a propaganda that depicts US as an intolerant nation, thereby denying US its moral high-ground in the so called “war on terror”. All X has to do is create a political catch-22 situation for US by capitalizing on the severely polarized political atmosphere near an election season. The Park51 fits the bill perfectly. The Right and the republican party simply plays into X’s ploy and is vituperative in its opposition to the construction despite having no constitutional or legal basis for doing so, whereas the Left and Libertarians play their part by opposing the Right. The catch-22 here is that if Park51 does not come through, the the US is demonstrated as a bigoted nation with none of the freedoms that it is putatively defending through its “war on terror”: bad PR. On the other hand, if Park51 does come through, then Islamic organizations like X can claim victory in Islamization of the US (again potentially bad PR if not handled well), which will further enrage the Right to act Islamophobic (definitely bad PR!).
So are the entities responsible for Park51 unfortunate victims of the far Right’s bigotry? It is entirely possible. But are we sure that there not more than what meets the eye here? That’s something to think about.
P.S.: Even if my conspiracy theory was true, IMHO pulling the curtains on Park51 is a far worse proposition then letting it go through and then engaging in a careful discourse and PR campaign to mitigate the damage from the far Right’s Islamophobia.