August 24, 2010
Rauf, the Peter Principle ImamBy Jack Kemp
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has achieved fame and notoriety in America based on his effort to build a mosque at a Ground Zero site that sustained damage from the attack. If we take him at his word, that his intention is to build bridges not to aggravate tensions, then his rise illustrates the Peter Principle.
The 1969 bestselling book The Peter Principle contends that people get promoted at work until they finally are assigned a job they cannot grow into, resulting in competent people eventually becoming incompetent as they rise, ironically, to a position of failure. Readily available data suggests this may be the case with Imam Rauf.
In a Washington Post article about Imam Rauf, leader of the Ground Zero mosque project, Michelle Boorsteen states:
So Imam Rauf was trained as an engineer in college and has no formal religious education. One could speculate that the State Department had great need of a moderate Muslim spokesperson after 9/11 and chose an industrial filter salesman turned imam. This lack of depth may be the real reason behind his famous quote on WABC Radio in New York, "I'm not a politician. I try to avoid the issues. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question. "I do not want to be placed, nor do I accept . . . being put in a position where I am the target of one side or another."
The Washington Post has this interesting statement as well:
What this remark essentially means is that Imam Rauf is not up to doing his current job. Rauf said on ABC Radio he doesn't want to (cannot?) mount an intellectual defense of his position, but he does seem to have an uncanny ability to heighten Westerners concerns about his being too aloof to answer their legitimate questions. After all, by mostly traveling in State Department circles and having the support of the media, perhaps the Imam has convinced himself he has reached a position where he doesn't have to answer to "mere" radio talk show hosts and others who aren't members of the liberal elite.
But anyone who wants to be a public figure, particularly on an international stage while being based in America, had best learn how to "be a politician," satisfactorily answering the public's questions very fast. Rauf also appears to have no concept of the current mood in America, a country where millions of people have lost their jobs, hear constant stories of nuclear threats from Iran, and have lost their confidence in both Congress and their President (according to polls) to find any solutions. President Obama's Iftar speech -- and its subsequent walkback -- did not make the Imam any less suspect to wary Americans. Neither do calls for property rights. As Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute has stated, from leftists who have done everything they could for a century to advocate the public or government "good" over those of property owners. The number of Americans willing to give Imam Rauf the benefit of the doubt with his Ground Zero mosque project is smaller than those that will not. Both street protesters and writers say, "Would the Muslims tolerate a church in Mecca?" (no) and Imam Rauf -- and even more skilled and experienced "diplomats" and debaters have no answer.
What could have passed for a good enough explanation by Imam Rauf in less threatening times a few years ago isn't good enough to satisfy the requirements of the current situation. And an interfaith dialogue appears to be something he sees as occurring between two highly paid professionals and not something one has -- indirectly or directly -- with regular working people. Let the Imam, if he is truly interested in an interfaith dialog, meet with the parents of those who died on 9/11 -- or meet with the hard hats who dug up the rubble in the months after it. THAT would be an interfaith dialog.
Rauf acts as if these very real people are beneath him, darting off on a trip out of town like some self important government official -- and it shows. The truth is, the people whose questions he refuses to answer are a lot smarter than he gives them credit for. Yes, he appears to believe in dialog -- as long as it is with friendly elites and their agents. He has no inclination to meet the concerns of construction workers and nurses because those people are not significant to him. That is part of his problem. He claims to be creating an Americanized version of Islam while treating regular people as unworthy of his attention, either indirectly or directly. I'll have more to say about the word "unworthy" later in this piece.
Another part of Imam Rauf's problem is that -- assuming, for the sake of argument -- even if he is an authentic "bridge builder," al Qaeda and Hamas would see his mosque near Ground Zero as a propaganda victory, a sign of Western weakness, not tolerance but an incentive to greater attacks.
Imam Rauf may have believed that everyone who counts in the West, namely the elites , have lost their sense of history and the regular people, who are much more patriotic and tied to their land and culture, don't count for anything because they are more easily controlled, as he has seen in most Islamic countries. Those Americans who lost family and friends on 9/11 are a backlash force to be reckoned with in a democratic society. The elites here cannot so easily compel people to pour concrete in New York. At the protest this past Sunday near the proposed mosque site, one construction worker wrote a dramatic homemade sign stating, "As an out of work union carpenter, I'd rather starve then earn a bloody check from this job." That is why New Yorker Andy Sullivan, a long time construction worker and manager, has organized The 911 Hardhat Pledge by both workers and suppliers to not contribute to this proposed mosque. Perhaps one doesn't have such problems with workers in Saudi Arabia or Yemen, but Imam Rauf doesn't appear to fully realize that he is not addressing a country with a very different social structure than what is typically found in a Middle Eastern regime. As for me, I'll take Andy Sullivan over the Andrew Sullivan who writes for the Atlantic any day of the week.
In his most recent travels to the Middle East, Rauf, in the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain, refused to discuss the uproar over plans for the community center two blocks from the World Trade Center site. His spokesman, Oz Sultan, then followed Rauf's political and public relations stumbling template in the same vein by not disavowing possible donations for his proposed mosque from Iran. Unlike his movie namesake predecessor, this Oz pulled back his own curtain to reveal his shortcomings. Iran, a nation under sanctions from the US and on its official State Department list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, the country that held Americans hostage for 444 days in the late 1970s. This is the public relations campaign of an autocratic personality. If Imam Rauf is a bridge builder, I'd call this the new "Bridge to Nowhere."
Not to be outdone, the Imam's wife, Daisy Khan, stated on ABC's "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour that "This is like a metastasized anti-Semitism," Khan said. "It's not even Islamophobia, it's beyond Islamophobia -- it's hate of Muslims." Anti-Semitism is an old European politically correct term commonly used to half cover the fact that it means anti-Jewish hatred and is not some commonly used as some generalized term to describe hatred of all Semitic people. Considering Islamic regimes record of trying to destroy Israel, of Islamic terrorists trying to attack synagogues in the US and elsewhere, these remarks are the worst phrase Ms. Khan could have uttered, from a political and public relations point of view during an attempt to raise the issue of tolerance. She reminded the viewer of the Islamic intolerance towards Jews at the same time she histrionically claimed a new intolerance to Muslims. She attempted to redefine the word "anti-Semitism" and inadvertently revealed what this mosque project is really all about: an attempt to redefine the English language and American values and culture into terms more to the Rauf's worldview and liking. An example is the fantasy claim that the American Constitution is compatible with sharia law, a claim that Dr. Frank Gaffney Jr. disputes every day.
And Ms. Khan's "crying "wolf" -- racism -- against Americans is not the potent political weapon it used to be. With many, many mosques already in the New York area, this just rings hollow. Muslims also are not all of one race, so she has once again misstated the terms of her argument. Whether this was out of ignorance or poor phrasing or takia, we can only speculate.
Need we remind Ms. Khan, once again, that no non-Muslim is allowed to visit Mecca or build a church or synagogue there, that US forces stationed in Saudi Arabia are told not to wear religious symbols such as crosses outside their shirts? Ms. Khan has a tough sell trying to be a travel agent for this "racism" guilt trip, a one-way demand for tolerance for her only.
The proposed Ground Zero mosque has the worst spokespeople for a public "tolerance and understanding project" that we have ever seen until now.