Thursday, August 26, 2010

In the Mideast, the peace process is only a mirage

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Thursday, August 26, 2010; A13

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Menahem Kahana, Abbas Momani, AFP/Getty Images / August 20, 2010)

JERUSALEM- Immersion in this region's politics can convince those immersed that history is cyclical rather than linear -- that it is not one thing after another but the same thing over and over. This passes for good news because things that do change, such as weapons, often make matters worse.

A profound change, however, is this: Talk about the crisis between Israel and "the Arab world" is anachronistic. Israel has treaties with two Arab nations, Egypt and Jordan, and Israel's most lethal enemy is Iran, which is not an Arab state. It and another non-Arab nation, Turkey, are eclipsing the Arab world, where 60 percent of the population of 300 million is under 25, and 26 percent of that cohort is unemployed. The prerequisites for Arab progress -- freedom, education and the emancipation of women -- are not contemplated.

Syria's Bashar al-Assad, a dictator buttressed by torture, recently called Israel a state "based on crime, slaughter." Imagine what Israelis thought when, at about the time Assad was saying this, a State Department ninny visiting Syria was tweeting to the world, "I'm not kidding when I say I just had the greatest frappacino [sic] ever."

Israel has changed what it can, its own near neighborhood. Since 1967, faced with unrelenting Palestinian irredentism, Israel has been weaving the West Bank into a common fabric with the coastal plain, the nation's economic and population center of gravity. Withdrawal from the West Bank would bring Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport within range of short-range rockets fired by persons overlooking the runways. So, the feasibility of such a withdrawal depends on how much has changed since 1974, when Yasser Arafat received a standing ovation at the United Nations when he said Israel had no right to exist.

Thirty-six years later, Israelis can watch West Bank Palestinian television incessantly inculcating anti-Semitism and denial of Israel's right to exist. Across the fence that has substantially reduced terrorism from the West Bank, Israelis see Ramallah, where Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, lives and where a square was recently named in honor of Dalal Mughrabi. In 1978, she, together with 11 other terrorists, hijacked an Israeli bus and massacred 37 Israelis and one American. Cigarette lighters sold on the West Bank show, when lit, the World Trade Center burning.

The Obama administration, which seems to consider itself too talented to bother with anything but "comprehensive" solutions to problems, may yet make matters worse by presenting its own plan for a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Barack Obama insists that it is "costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure," although he does not say how. Gen. David Petraeus says Israeli-Palestinian tensions "have an enormous effect on the strategic context." As though, were the tensions to subside, the hard men managing Iran's decades-long drive for nuclear weapons would then say, "Oh, well, in that case, let's call the whole thing off."

The biggest threat to peace might be the peace process -- or, more precisely, the illusion that there is one. The mirage becomes the reason for maintaining its imaginary "momentum" by extorting concessions from Israel, the only party susceptible to U.S. pressure. Israel is, however, decreasingly susceptible. In one month, history will recycle when the partial 10-month moratorium on Israeli construction on the West Bank expires. Resumption of construction -- even here, in the capital, which was not included in the moratorium -- will be denounced by a fiction, "the international community," as a threat to another fiction, "the peace process."

This, even though no Israeli government of any political hue has ever endorsed a ban on construction in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, where about 40 percent of the capital's Jewish population lives. Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, who says "the War of Independence has not ended" 62 years after 1948, says of an extension of the moratorium: "The prime minister is opposed to it. He said that clearly. The decision was for 10 months. [On] Sept. 27, we are immediately going to return" to construction and "Jerusalem is outside the discussion."

Predictably, Palestinian officials are demanding that the moratorium be extended as the price of their willingness to continue direct talks with Israel -- which begin Sept. 2 -- beyond Sept. 27. If this demand succeeds, history will remain cyclical: The "peace process" will be sustained by rewarding the Palestinian tactic of making the mere fact of negotiations contingent on Israeli concessions concerning matters that should be settled by negotiations.


By Ann Coulter
August 25, 2010

MSNBC's Monday programming was dedicated to denouncing Sen. Mitch McConnell's response to a question about whether Obama is a Muslim.

McConnell said: "We all have to rely on the word of (Barack Obama) -- something about as reliable as a credit default swap."

No, I'm sorry, that's what The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan said about whether Trig Palin was really Sarah Palin's child.

McConnell responded by demanding that Obama be fired -- or at least have his security clearance suspended.

No, no -- wrong again: That was Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Chuck Schumer, respectively, not taking Karl Rove at his word when he said he had not released Valerie Plame's name to the press. (It turned out Rove was telling the truth; it was Richard Armitage, and it wasn't a crime.)

What McConnell actually said in response to the Muslim question was: "The president says he's a Christian. I take him at his word. I don't think that's in dispute."

Over at MSNBC, that's Republican code for: "He's a Muslim!"

North Korean TV's Ed Schultz hysterically babbled: "McConnell gave cover. That's what he did. He gave cover to all those low information voters out there who still believe this garbage about President Obama being a Muslim. ... The Republican leadership just loves to feed the fire."

Chris Matthews was so impressed with Schultz's nonsensical argument that he spent the entire hour on NKTV's "Hardball" making the same one: McConnell had expressed insufficient fervor when he said he believed Obama was a Christian! (Perhaps if McConnell had added something about a thrill running up his leg ...)

The statement "I take him at his word," Matthews said, was a "pitch-perfect dog whistle to the haters." He continued: "Yes, sure, whatever he says. Right. This is not about belief. It's an accusation that President Obama is not one of us. The right wing's attempt to de-Americanize the president."

What else is there besides Obama's word? If Obama suddenly announced that he was a Muslim -- or a Buddhist -- what evidence would Matthews cite to prove him wrong?

Meanwhile, liberals absolutely refuse to take Republicans at their word when they identify their own children. Or deny leaking a low-level CIA functionary's name to the press.

Or when they deny they are racists.

Indeed, Matthews' guest, Howard Fineman of Newsweek, accused the entire state of Kentucky of bigotry to explain McConnell's "crafted" words.

Kentucky, Fineman said, is "a state where the nativist appeal outside of Louisville really works big-time." The Republicans, he said, are "going to use whatever fear message they can. It's aimed at Kentucky, for sure."

I believe the Bluegrass state has just been called "nativist" without any evidence at all! Was Kentucky's father a nativist? Was it educated in a nativist madrassa as a child? Did Kentucky just endorse the idea of a nativist cultural center at Ground Zero?

On the following night's "Hardball," Tuesday, Matthews and his guest, The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page, refused to take Glenn Beck at his word when he said that he picked the day for his Lincoln Memorial rally without realizing it was the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. (Everybody knows the 47th anniversary is the big one!)

Accusations of racism apparently do not require the ironclad proof demanded for accusations that someone is a Muslim.

And there's a lot more evidence that Obama's a Muslim than Republicans are racists. Let's compare:

Evidence for the Proposition That Obama's a Muslim: His father was a Muslim; his mother, an atheist, married two Muslims; he attended a Muslim school in Indonesia from age 6 to 10; and, during the campaign, he proudly posted on his webpage his statement that America is "no longer" a Christian nation, a statement he has repeated as president, while announcing on French TV that America is "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world."

Evidence for the Proposition That Republicans Are Racist: (Nothing so far.)

Evidence for the Proposition That Liberals Lie About Republicans Being Racist: Video of a supporter of Rand Paul's opponent pretending to be a racist Paul supporter; Oregon public school teacher Jason Levin caught operating a website asking liberals to show up at Tea Parties pretending to be right-wing racists; The New York Times' Maureen Dowd claiming she heard Rep. Joe Wilson shout, "You lie, boy!" when he shouted "You lie!" during Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress; and the mainstream media lying about civil rights hero John Lewis being called the N-word 15 times at an anti-ObamaCare protest, with no one ever being able to produce a videotape, despite a $100,000 reward.

If Republicans played by liberal rules, they'd just call Obama a racist, who leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press, is not Sasha's father, and smokes Newports, not Kools.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Islamophobia? Not Really

And when will the media cover the Left’s Conservative-ophobia?

By Jonah Goldberg
August 25, 2010

Here’s a thought: The 70 percent of Americans who oppose what amounts to an Islamic Niketown two blocks from Ground Zero are the real victims of a climate of hate, and the much-ballyhooed anti-Muslim backlash is mostly a myth.

Let’s start with some data.

According to the FBI, hate crimes against Muslims increased by a staggering 1,600 percent in 2001. That sounds serious! But wait, the increase is a math mirage. There were 28 anti-Islamic incidents in 2000. That number climbed to 481 the year a bunch of Muslim terrorists murdered 3,000 Americans in the name of Islam on Sept. 11.

Now, that was a hate crime.

Regardless, 2001 was the zenith or, looked at through the prism of our national shame, the nadir of the much-discussed anti-Muslim backlash in the United States — and civil libertarians and Muslim activists insisted it was 1930s Germany all over again. The following year, the number of anti-Islamic hate-crime incidents (overwhelmingly, nonviolent vandalism and nasty words) dropped to 155. In 2003, there were 149 such incidents. And the number has hovered around the mid-100s or lower ever since.

Sure, even one hate crime is too many. But does that sound like an anti-Muslim backlash to you?

Let’s put this in even sharper focus. America is, outside of Israel, probably the most receptive and tolerant country in the world to Jews. And yet, in every year since 9/11, more Jews have been hate-crime victims than Muslims. A lot more.

In 2001, there were twice as many anti-Jewish incidents as there were anti-Muslim, according to the FBI. In 2002 and pretty much every year since, anti-Jewish incidents have outstripped anti-Muslim incidents by at least 6 to 1. Why aren’t we talking about the anti-Jewish climate in America?

Because there isn’t one. And there isn’t an anti-Muslim climate either. Yes, there’s a lot of heated rhetoric on the Internet. Absolutely, some Americans don’t like Muslims. But if you watch TV or movies, or read, say, the op-ed page of the New York Times — never mind left-wing blogs — you’ll hear much more open bigotry toward evangelical Christians (in blogspeak, the “Taliban wing of the Republican party”) than you will toward Muslims.

No doubt some American Muslims — particularly young Muslim men with ties to the Middle East and South Asia — have been scrutinized at airports more than elderly women of Norwegian extraction, but does that really amount to Islamophobia, given the dangers and complexities of the war on terror?

For ten years we’ve been subjected to news stories about the Muslim backlash that’s always around the corner. It didn’t start with President Obama or with the “Ground Zero mosque.” President George W. Bush was at his most condescending when he explained, in the cadences of a guest reader at kindergarten story time, that “Islam is peace.”

But he was right to emphasize America’s tolerance and to draw a sharp line between Muslim terrorists and their law-abiding co-religionists.

Meanwhile, to listen to Obama — say, in his famous Cairo address — you’d think America has been at war with Islam for 30 years and only now, thanks to him, can we heal the rift. It’s an odd argument given that Americans have shed a lot of blood for Muslims over the last three decades: to end the slaughter of Muslims in the Balkans, to feed Somalis and to liberate Kuwaitis, Iraqis, and Afghanis. Millions of Muslims around the world would desperately like to move to the U.S., this supposed land of intolerance.

Conversely, nowhere is there more open, honest, and intentional intolerance — in words and deeds — than from certain prominent Muslim leaders around the world. And yet, Americans are the bigots?

And when Muslim fanatics kill Americans — after, say, the Fort Hood slaughter — a reflexive response from the Obama administration is to fret over an anti-Islamic backlash.

Obama and Co. automatically proclaim that such orchestrated terrorist attacks are “isolated” events. But when it comes to mainstream Americans, veterans, Obamacare opponents or (shudder) tea partiers, there’s no generalization too broad or too insulting for the Left.

It’s fine to avoid negative stereotypes of Muslims, but why the rush to embrace them when it comes to Americans?

And now, thanks to the entirely avoidable “Ground Zero mosque” controversy, we are again discussing America’s Islamophobia, which, according to Time magazine, is just another chapter in America’s history of intolerance.

When, pray tell, will Time magazine devote an issue to its, and this administration’s, intolerance of the American people?

— Jonah Goldberg is an editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Cashing In On Ground Zero

By Claudia Rosett, 08.24.10, 12:01 AM ET

Among the prime planners of a $100 million Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero, it's not just Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who is visiting the Middle East this summer at U.S. taxpayer expense. The State Department is also about to send Rauf's wife and Cordoba Initiative fellow director, Daisy Khan, on her own taxpayer-funded "public diplomacy" trip to the United Arab Emirates. Khan (pictured at right) is scheduled to visit the UAE from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2, overlapping there with Rauf, for whom it will be the final leg of a three-country trip including Bahrain and Qatar.

The U.S. Embassy in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi has posted on its website an announcement of the impending visit by this husband-wife team. Rauf and Khan will be there, the announcement says, "to engage foreign audiences and build people-to-people ties" and to "discuss their experiences as Muslims living and working in the United States."

What might their discussions entail? Rauf, since his Cordoba Initiative's Ground Zero mosque project triggered a national uproar, has spent the summer as an enigma. Before embarking on his State-sponsored tour, he walled himself off for weeks in Malaysia, where he has longstanding ties and keeps an office. His Cordoba website now features a note that Rauf could not be available (apparently not even by phone) to explain himself to the people of New York because "he travels the world in his life-long endeavor to bring the message of moderation, peace and understanding to both Western and Islamic countries."

In Rauf's absence, Daisy Khan has been speaking prolifically from New York about the Cordoba House mega-mosque project (which the developer recently re-dubbed Park 51, and the Cordoba House is now describing as a "community center"). Her message, like the name of the project, has been morphing at speed. When Rauf and Khan won approval for their 15-story mosque-topped Cordoba House from a Manhattan community board this spring, they advertised their project as all about doing their part for harmony and healing near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks.

When it turned out that a majority of New Yorkers, and Americans generally, think this project is more like rubbing salt in a wound, Khan shifted focus. She's now talking about the Cordoba project as a test of American religious tolerance. If a majority of Americans--cognizant that the Sept. 11 attacks were carried out by Muslims, in the name of Islam--think it's inappropriate to stage that test near the edge of Ground Zero, Khan's retort is that they must be bigots. In an interview last week with the Washington Post's Sally Quinn, she lamented: "When will Muslims be accepted as plain old Americans?"

On Sunday, interviewed on ABC TV's This Week by Christiane Amanpour, Khan ratcheted up her complaints. Amanpour asked, "Is America Islamophobic?"

Khan replied, "It's not even Islamophobia, it's beyond Islamophobia. It's hate of Muslims."

For the State Department to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars sending someone with those views on a "public diplomacy" trip to the Middle East is a curious exercise. Rauf's trip is costing $16,000. Khan's will cost $12,000. If Khan will be collecting the same $496 per diem that Rauf will be getting in Abu Dhabi, this will include a joint $982 per day for creature comforts, as Khan spreads her opinions about Muslim life in America--and builds people-to-people ties in an Islamic state loaded with billions in oil wealth. State has told Rauf and Khan to refrain from conducting "personal business" while rubbing shoulders on the taxpayer dime, but how they follow up on any of those ties is presumably up to them.

A broader issue here is why Daisy Khan, self-proclaimed healer and bridge-builder of Ground Zero, is now styling herself as an aggrieved victim. America has delivered to both Rauf and Khan a life in which they have freely practiced their religion and been free to convert others--including a sister-in-law of their real-estate partner, Sharif El-Gamal. Both arrived in this country as immigrants, and had conferred upon them the full panoply of American rights and freedoms.

Rauf is of Egyptian descent, born in Kuwait. Khan hails from India's Islamist hotbed of Kashmir. Rauf by his own account has held forth for more than 20 years at the Al-Farah mosque in lower Manhattan (there has been no outcry for the removal of mosques already extant in the area on Sept. 11; the issue is their plan to build a new one, provocatively close to the site of the destroyed Twin Towers). Rauf sits on the board of trustees of the Islamic Center of New York, a large facility established on Manhattan's Upper East Side by his father, who also ran a big Islamic center in Washington. Rauf serves as an advisor to the Interfaith Center of New York, and, like Khan, has been welcomed to spread his messages by a long list of foundations and institutions, including Jewish centers, churches and schools. Under both the Bush and Obama administrations, Rauf has been tapped for three previous taxpayer-funded "outreach" jaunts to the Middle East, two in 2007 and a third earlier this year.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, far from being shunned as Muslims, Rauf and Khan have enjoyed a boom business in "outreach." Their lifestyle includes at least two homes in the U.S. and one in Malaysia, fancy cars and pricey clothes. Last October, in an article headlined "High Five With Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf," Forbes chronicled the imam's pleasure in driving a Lexus GS400. Rauf also detailed how he enjoys Armani and Brioni suits, his wife likes her cashmere scarves, and he mentioned his fondness for handcrafted Persian rugs, especially those woven of silk. He added that he owns about 15 carpets dispersed between his homes in New Jersey and New York, and another 15 carpets "at my home in Malaysia."

As for bigotry in America, the FBI in its most recent report on "Hate Crime Statistics," released in 2008, does point to a group more victimized than any other, targets of 65.7% of all reported religious hate crimes. Those people are not Muslims, but Jews, victims of almost eight times as many hate crimes.

For Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan, Ground Zero has become a bonanza. Since their plans hit the headlines this spring, they have achieved celebrity status on a scale that millions in advertising, or less abrasive "outreach" efforts, could not buy. Their names are all over the news. Their project has become a fixture on the summer talk shows. In the escalating furor, along with the criticisms , they have received de facto endorsements from such prominent folks as New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Barack Obama (whose supportive remarks about their project, delivered at an Aug. 13 Iftar dinner at the White House, are now featured on U.S. embassy websites worldwide; but whose later waffling is not). Their real-estate partner, El-Gamal, has told the press, "This might become the most famous community center in the world." Whatever comes of this, Rauf, Khan and El-Gamal are likely to dine out on it--and well--for a long time.

And make no mistake. While the Cordoba Initiative is now implying on its website that the mosque and Islamic center is mainly about serving a neighborhood, and "is not located at Ground Zero," Rauf himself told a very different tale to the New York Times last December. Back then, Rauf said the location's chief attraction was its proximity to Ground Zero--so close that it is, as he noted, "Where a piece of the wreckage fell." In Rauf's view, that made for an ideal venue to make "the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11."

A majority of Americans then dared to disagree with this particular prescription of the self-described "Founder and Visionary" of the Cordoba Initiative. And now, the televised statement reverberating from Khan--on the eve of her $12,000 taxpayer-funded trip to join Rauf in the marble halls of Abu Dhabi and Dubai--is a denunciation of America as a Muslim-hating place, "beyond Islamophobia."

What's going on here is not a gauge of American religious tolerance. It has become a test of the extent to which Rauf, Khan, and their partners and donors, seen or unseen, are willing for their own aggrandizement to cash in on the agonies of Ground Zero. In this scheme, the thousands of Americans murdered on Sept. 11 in the name of Islam have by now become a backdrop for Daisy Khan's claim that she is the victim of a Muslim-hating America. There's an old name for this kind of stunt, and it isn't bridge-building. It's carpet-bagging.

- Claudia Rosett, a journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for Forbes.

In 'Cemetery Junction,' a portrait of British life, warts and all

By Jen Chaney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 17, 2010; 12:00 AM

In the original, British version of TV's "The Office," co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant made life in the UK look like an eternally gritty, hilariously squirm-inducing slog. In "Cemetery Junction" -- a coming-of-age drama the pair co-wrote and directed, and that debuts Tuesday on DVD ($24.96) and Blu-ray ($30.95) -- they go in the opposite direction, bathing images of Reading, England circa 1973 in rays of abundant, improbably golden sunshine. It's as if they're making up for the bleakness of their television Slough by writing a motion-picture love letter to their native land, one punctuated with supporting turns from some of Britain's finest actors -- Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode and Emily Watson.

While "Cemetery Junction" was released theatrically in the UK last spring to generally positive reviews, it has gone the straight-to-DVD route here in the States, a fate that seems all the more ironic after Gervais says on one of the DVD extras that he and Merchant "wanted it to be a real Hollywood movie."

Whatever the reason for Sony's decision, "Cemetery Junction" is a lovingly shot and well-acted film that, try as it might, can't quite overcome its flaws, most notably a failure to raise significant enough stakes for the three young protagonists at the story's center. Freddie (Christian Cooke) pursues the responsible, soul-crushing business of attempting to become an insurance salesman while falling in love with the boss's engaged daughter (a luminous Felicity Jones); Bruce (Tom Hughes) keeps working in a factory and getting into bar fights while swearing daily that he's going to leave his dull, provincial town; and Snork (Jack Doolan), the requisite chubby source of comic relief, tries to figure out how to talk to women without using slang terms that will immediately send them running in the other direction. Plot-wise, that's about as urgent as matters get. As the film meanders toward a series of largely unsurprising conclusions, including one borrowed straight from "The Graduate," it's hard not to want for something a bit more emotionally moving.

That being said, "Junction" is certainly smart and well-crafted enough to have merited a limited theatrical release, especially when one considers the quality of the movies that often get large-scale roll-outs and marketing support from major studios. Surely "Cemetery Junction" has more to offer than, say, the remake of "Nightmare on Elm Street" or the talking-dog debacle that was "Marmaduke."

For starters, its production and costume design -- which recreates the early '70s with a vibrancy and authenticity that never hits the audience over the head with its retro-ness -- is superb, and explored in more detail in one of the DVD's featurettes. And, in addition to the fine work by aforementioned veteran actors like Fiennes and Watson, the newcomers acquit themselves quite nicely. Hughes in particular, as the angry, charming and deeply vulnerable Bruce, stands out as someone to watch, a feat all the more impressive when one realizes this was the first film he shot after graduating from drama school.

One nice thing about seeing "Cemetery Junction" on DVD is the opportunity to immediately view the film with the added context of the special features. The deleted scenes, making-of documentary and numerous featurettes give the audience a clearer sense of the vision behind the film. During an interview, Gervais and Merchant -- the minds also responsible for TV's "Extras" -- say they intentionally veered away from the dismal visuals that tend to characterize British coming-of-age films about working class families, opting instead to capture the time and place through the tinted lens of nostalgia. And they emphasize that point again, multiple times, during an engaging commentary track, one of two featured on the release.

"The minutiae of human behavior is so much more exciting to me than a cast of a million Glorgons that come from the planet Wank," Gervais says at one point during that track, explaining his affinity for taking on character studies like this one. Even if "Cemetery Junction" doesn't entirely work, you leave the experience glad that Gervais and Merchant are still game to continue capturing that minutiae, whether they find it in the dysfunctional politics of a paper company, or in the everyday lives of three English men desperate to get out of their small town while they're young and the rest of the 20th century is still ahead of them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Inventing Moderate Islam

It can’t be done without confronting mainstream Islam and its sharia agenda.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
August 24, 2010 4:00 A.M.

‘Secularism can never enjoy a general acceptance in an Islamic society.” The writer was not one of those sulfurous Islamophobes decried by CAIR and the professional Left. Quite the opposite: It was Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide and a favorite of the Saudi royal family. He made this assertion in his book, How the Imported Solutions Disastrously Affected Our Ummah, an excerpt of which was published by the Saudi Gazette just a couple of months ago.[1]

This was Qaradawi the “progressive” Muslim intellectual, much loved by Georgetown University’s burgeoning Islamic-studies programs. Like Harvard, Georgetown has been purchased into submission by tens of millions of Saudi petrodollars.[2] In its resulting ardor to put Americans at ease about Islam, the university somehow manages to look beyond Qaradawi’s fatwas calling for the killing of American troops in Iraq and for suicide bombings in Israel. Qaradawi, they tell us, is a “moderate.” In fact, as Robert Spencer quips [3], if you were to say Islam and secularism cannot co-exist, John Esposito, Georgetown’s apologist-in-chief, would call you an Islamophobe; but when Qaradawi says it, no problem — according to Esposito, he’s a “reformist.”[4]

And he’s not just any reformist. Another Qaradawi fan, Feisal Rauf, the similarly “moderate” imam behind the Ground Zero mosque project, tells us Qaradawi is also “the most well-known legal authority in the whole Muslim world today.”

Rauf is undoubtedly right about that. So it is worth letting it sink in that this most influential of Islam’s voices, this promoter of the Islamic enclaves the Brotherhood is forging throughout the West, is convinced that Islamic societies can never accept secularism. After all, secularism is nothing less than the framework by which the West defends religious freedom but denies legal and political authority to religious creeds.

It is also worth understanding why Qaradawi says Islam and secularism cannot co-exist. The excerpt from his book continues:

As Islam is a comprehensive system of worship (Ibadah) and legislation (Shari’ah), the acceptance of secularism means abandonment of Shari’ah, a denial of the divine guidance and a rejection of Allah’s injunctions. It is indeed a false claim that Shari’ah is not proper to the requirements of the present age. The acceptance of a legislation formulated by humans means a preference of the humans’ limited knowledge and experiences to the divine guidance: “Say! Do you know better than Allah?” (Qur’an, 2:140) For this reason, the call for secularism among Muslims is atheism and a rejection of Islam. Its acceptance as a basis for rule in place of Shari’ah is downright apostasy.

Apostasy is an explosive accusation. On another occasion, Sheikh Qaradawi explained that “Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished.” He further acknowledged that the consensus view of these jurists, including the principal schools of both Sunni and Shiite jurisprudence, is “that apostates must be executed.”

Qaradawi’s own view is more nuanced, as he explained to the Egyptian press in 2005.[5] This, I suppose, is where his vaunted reformist streak comes in. For private apostasy, in which a Muslim makes a secret, personal decision to renounce tenets of Islam and quietly goes his separate way without causing a stir, the sheikh believes ostracism by the Islamic community is a sufficient penalty, with the understanding that Allah will condemn the apostate to eternal damnation at the time of his choosing. For public apostasy, however, Qaradawi stands with the overwhelming weight of Islamic authority: “The punishment . . . is execution.”

The sad fact, the fact no one wants to deal with but which the Ground Zero mosque debate has forced to the fore, is that Qaradawi is a moderate. So is Feisal Rauf, who endorses the Qaradawi position — the mainstream Islamic position — that sharia is a nonnegotiable requirement. Rauf wins the coveted “moderate” designation because he strains, at least when speaking for Western consumption, to paper over the incompatibility between sharia societies and Western societies.

Qaradawi and Rauf are “moderates” because we’ve abandoned reason. Our opinion elites are happy to paper over the gulf between “reformist” Islam and the “reformist” approval of mass-murder attacks. That’s why it matters not a whit to them that Imam Rauf refuses to renounce Hamas: If you’re going to give a pass to Qaradawi, the guy who actively promotes Hamas terrorists, how can you complain about a guy who merely refuses to condemn the terrorists?

When we are rational, we have confidence in our own frame of reference. We judge what is moderate based on a detached, commonsense understanding of what “moderate” means. We’re not rigging the outcome; we just want to know where we stand.

If we were in that objective frame of mind, we would easily see that a freedom culture requires separation of the spiritual from the secular. We would also see that sharia — with dictates that contradict liberty and equality while sanctioning cruel punishments and holy war — is not moderate. Consequently, no one who advocates sharia can be a moderate, no matter how well-meaning he may be, no matter how heartfelt may be his conviction that this is God’s will, and no matter how much higher on the food chain he may be than Osama bin Laden.

Instead, abandoning reason, we have deep-sixed our own frame of reference and substituted mainstream Islam’s. If that backward compass is to be our guide, then sure, Qaradawi and Rauf are moderates. But know this: When you capitulate to the authority and influence of Qaradawi and Rauf, you kill meaningful Islamic reform.

There is no moderate Islam in the mainstream of Muslim life, not in the doctrinal sense. There are millions of moderate Muslims who crave reform. Yet the fact that they seek real reform, rather than what Georgetown is content to call reform, means they are trying to invent something that does not currently exist.

Real reform can also be found in some Muslim sects. The Ahmadi, for example, hold some unorthodox views and reject violent jihad. Witness what happens: They are brutally persecuted by Muslims in Pakistan, as well as in Indonesia and other purported hubs of moderation.

Meanwhile, individual Muslim reformers are branded apostates, meaning not only that they are discredited, but that their lives are threatened as well. The signal to other Muslims is clear: Follow the reformers and experience the same fury. As Qaradawi put it in the 2005 interview, public apostates are “the gravest danger” to Islamic society; therefore, Muslims must snuff them out, lest their reforms “spread like wildfire in a field of thorns.”

Today, “moderate Islam” is an illusion. There is hardly a spark, much less a wildfire. Making moderation real will take more than wishing upon a star. It calls for a gut check, a willingness to face down not just al-Qaeda but the Qaradawis and their sharia campaign. It means saying: Not here.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.







Monday, August 23, 2010

Rauf: A moderate?

New York Post
August 23, 2010

In the Ground Zero mosque debate, de fenders of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf have pointed out that in 2003 the FBI brought him in to help train its agents -- so how radical could he be?

The first problem is that Rauf's "help" turned out to be worse than worthless. The bigger problem is that the FBI has a rotten record when it comes to identifying moderate Muslims -- as opposed to ones who are happy to feed non-Muslims the pabulum they're willing to swallow.

Questionable emissary: The State Department trusted Feisal Abdul Rauf (center) and sent him to the Arab Gulf last week as a goodwill ambassador, but the record raises doubts.(AP)

Start with Rauf and the FBI. He was brought into the New York field office to give at least four sessions of sensitivity training.

Speaking for about two hours each time, "he gave an overview of Islamic culture and some of the differences between what fundamentalist terrorist groups say are the teachings of the Koran and what he believes, as a student of religion, the Koran actually says," FBI New York office spokesman James Margolin told me back then.

For example, Rauf asserted that the Koran "certainly doesn't counsel terrorism, murder or mayhem," Margolin says. And he said terrorists have misinterpreted jihad to mean violent, or armed, struggle against nonbelievers. Rauf assured agents it means internal struggle.

Now, it's tricky for outsiders to say what the Koran "really" says. But Rauf's claim definitely isn't mainstream. Respected Koranic scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali, for example, confirms in his venerable translation and interpretation of the Muslim holy text that jihad means advancing Islam, including by physically fighting Islam's enemies.

Yes, Rauf's mistaken interpretation matters: For starters, the false belief that terrorists have a wildly different reading of the Koran than most Muslims would make it far harder for FBI agents to understand the subtle, step-by-step radicalization process -- a process not well described by US law enforcement until the NYPD's landmark 2007 report, "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat."

Of course, the Kuwait-born Rauf has to know the facts here. If he believes jihad is really just an internal struggle, then why does he refuse to condemn Hamas? (Why, for that matter, did he in late 2001 suggest that "US policies were an accessory to the crime" of 9/11?)

There's also Rauf's laughable claim that the Islamic legal code is compatible with the US Constitution.

Rauf is hardly what most of us think of as a moderate Muslim. But our government isn't great at making these distinctions. The State Department last week sent Rauf on a $16,000 goodwill tour around the Muslim world.

On top of this is the problem of Muslim preachers who speak with forked tongues. Some of the worst:

* Zaid Shakir, who appears in an anti-terror video with eight other "moderate" US imams. Shakir says, in carefully parsed language, that Islam forbids "indiscriminate" violence and the killing of "civilians."

Killing US soldiers is another story, however, as Shakir allowed in a pre-9/11 sermon on jihad to San Francisco Muslims.

"Islam doesn't permit us to hijack airplanes filled with civilian people," he told them privately in 2001. However, "if you hijack an airplane filled with the 82nd Airborne, that's something else." He gave his blessing to bombs, too, as long as they don't hit too many civilians. And civilians are fair game if "there's a benefit in that."

"What a great victory it will be for Islam to have this country in the fold and ranks of the Muslims," sermonized Shakir, who's been portrayed as a moderate by The New York Times.

* Ali al-Timimi, the noted imam who put on a moderate face in public while secretly plotting against us.

Timimi publicly denounced Islamic violence while privately praising the 9/11 attacks. He even cheered the Columbia space-shuttle disaster as a "good omen." Timimi, who once enjoyed federal security clearance, is now behind bars for soliciting terror and treason.

* Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born imam who led Friday prayer in the US Capitol and became the media's go-to "moderate" spokesman for the Muslim community after 9/11. On the day of the attacks, he told the press: "We're totally against what the terrorists had done." Now a federally designated al Qaeda terrorist fugitive, he speaks more honestly to Americans: "9/11 was the answer of the millions of people who suffer from American aggression. You are still unsafe."

Many Muslim leaders talk about tolerance and interfaith dialogue, but behind our backs they plan our destruction. To deal with the Muslim community, we must deal with its leaders. But based on their track record of dissembling, we can't go on blindly trusting them.

Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of "Infiltration" and "Muslim Mafia."

Today's Tune: Brandon Flowers - Crossfire

Killer one-man show

New York Post
August 22, 2010

Brandon Flowers wants to be clear: He is not killing the Killers. The frontman for the Las Vegas band says his upcoming solo album, “Flamingo,” is just a side project, and the rest of the quartet is recharging its batteries after nearly eight years of nonstop touring.

“The band is absolutely fine with it. They wanted me to do ‘Flamingo,’ ” Flowers tells The Post. “They needed time off and I had these songs. I could have rested, too, but the way I’ve been writing lately, by the time we got together, I would have had 40 or 50 songs for the next album.”

Although it’s only him, “Flamingo” could easily have passed for a Killers project, since it features the band’s signature blend of Americana, electro-pop, gospel and blues rock. Flowers performs at the Highline Ballroom on Thursday, in advance of the record’s Sept. 14 release.

Throughout “Flamingo,” Flowers, who is Mormon, compares the casinos of Sin City with the Kingdom of Heaven. On the opening track, “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas,” he sings “Give us your dreamers, your harlots and your sins . . . and remember the house always wins.”

Your hometown gets a pretty good thrashing on “Welcome.”

That song is me confronting Las Vegas, and there are a lot of great religious metaphors that came to fruition there. Las Vegas, from a moral point of view, is as bad as it’s ever been. When you’re on the Strip, you can’t take a step without seeing a card that has a naked woman on it with a number to call for her to come to your room. That what’s in my face when I go home.

Did you start writing songs with the intent to reflect so much of your faith?

It’s there, but I didn’t set out to do that, like I was on a mission to convert people. It’s just such a big part of my life — it oozed its way into the songs.

You can live anywhere. Why stay in Vegas?

Because it’s my home; I’m rooted there. I can’t imagine bringing my [two] boys up anywhere else . . . and as a writer the city provides an endless well to dip from.

You lost one of your biggest ties to home earlier this year when your mother died of brain cancer. How have you dealt with that?

My grief has affected me, and it’s probably in the music, but I’m so close to it all that I’m probably not the best judge. I can say my sadness has been lessened by the joy of fatherhood.

Have your kids changed your approach to music?

Definitely. I’m very careful about what I’m saying in songs because I know some day the boys will listen to them. I want them to hear the songs and know I am a positive person who wants to do good. I don’t want them to think I was just a guy trying to shock the world with sleazy songs trying to make money.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Band on the 'run'

New York Post
August 22, 2010

When Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” album was released on Aug. 25, 1975 — 35 years ago this week — critics couldn’t have been more effusive in their praise. Newsweek said the album recalled “the glory days of Mick Jagger, The Beatles and Elvis Presley.” The LA Times called Springsteen “the purest glimpse of the passion and power of rock ’n’ roll in nearly a decade.”

The songs “Thunder Road,” “Jungleland” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” became staples of both rock radio and Springsteen concerts. The title track became The Boss’ first top-40 hit and its chorus, “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run,” turned into one of the most recognizable in pop history.

But one major music-industry figure seemed almost disgusted by the record. One month after its release, he told an interviewer, “I couldn’t stand to listen to it. I thought it was the worst piece of garbage I’d ever heard.”

That harsh critic was Bruce Springsteen.

The Boss’s third album is now widely regarded as one of rock’s greatest albums, the one that made him an icon. But if “Born To Run” was a work of passion, it was also a work of madness, as its creation nearly drove Springsteen off the deep end, making that time “the most horrible period” of his life.

Springsteen’s first two albums had received rave reviews, but sold poorly. As such, Columbia Records was considering dropping him.

“He knew it was his last shot,” says Richard Neer, a longtime deejay for WNEW-FM who was a major early supporter and friend. “He knew that if he didn’t come up with a record that sold, he was gonna lose his deal, and maybe not get another one anywhere else.”

As Springsteen began hearing songs for the album in his head, he hoped to create a lush, Phil Spector-style production. Unfortunately, he had no idea how to get this sound onto vinyl.

The first song he recorded, “Born To Run,” took him and his band an astonishing six months to complete, during which time he rewrote, retooled, overdubbed and tried virtually every conceivable arrangement, including doo-wop, heavenly vocal choirs and drag-racing noises. He openly sought to create the greatest rock ’n’ roll record of all time.

“There are outtakes of other versions of ‘Born To Run’ that are hysterical to listen to,” says Louis Masur, author of the new book, “Runaway Dream: ‘Born To Run’ and Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision.” “There are versions with strings, sound effects, double-echoed voices, all this crap. It’s crazy, because it makes you appreciate that these things are created, not just born.”

This same spirit of never-ending revision applied to the song’s lyrics, which Springsteen rewrote so many times that his notebook for the song filled 50 pages.

“I worked very, very long on the lyrics to ‘Born To Run,’ because I was very aware that I was messing with classic rock ’n’ roll images that easily turned into clichés,” Springsteen says in the documentary “Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born To Run.” “I worked really hard getting the soul of the song . . . and kept stripping away clichés until it started to feel emotionally real.”

Sometime after the song’s completion, Springsteen, who had been co-producing the album with his manager, Mike Appel, had a new, increasingly frequent visitor to the studio. Jon Landau was a journalist for Rolling Stone who, in a Boston publication called the Real Paper, had famously proclaimed, “I saw rock ’n’ roll’s future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

After Landau solved a vexing problem by suggesting that Springsteen move the sax solo in “Thunder Road” from the middle of the song to the end, he was brought on as a co-producer, becoming a perfect foil for Springsteen’s meandering creative impulses.

“Where there were roadblocks in Bruce’s head, Jon may have plowed through those,” Appel tells The Post. “He broke up a lot of creative logjams.”

(Eventually, Landau would displace Appel as Springsteen’s manager.)

With Landau onboard, the rest of the album moved faster, but was still mired in Springsteen’s obsessive quest for perfection. He could spend days adjusting the sound of his guitar. On “Jungleland,” Clarence Clemons’ saxophone solo was composed by Springsteen, literally note by note, in a marathon 16-hour session. Clemons, who called it “the most intricate collaboration” in his almost four decades with The Boss, later recalled: “I went to the bathroom a few times, but I don’t think we stopped to eat.”

Personally, Springsteen was cracking up. Staying at a Holiday Inn on Manhattan’s West Side with a girlfriend, she would ask every day if the record was finished, and he would suppress tears — or, occasionally, shed them — in saying that it wasn’t.

Finally forced to conclude the sessions thanks to a scheduled tour, Springsteen was singing “She’s the One” in one studio, putting finishing touches on “Jungleland” in another and rehearsing for the tour in a third on the day of the first show. Clemons was still playing the “Jungleland” solo as the band packed up the car to leave.

They hit the road as engineers stayed behind to mix and master the album. But when Springsteen received the test pressings, he not only rejected them, he threw them into a swimming pool. He was so unhappy that he considered scrapping the album entirely and starting over.

Cooler heads prevailed. Upon its release with only minor changes, “Born To Run” was hailed as a classic by critics and fans alike.

“That album captured his energy,” Neer says. “Bruce is one of the most energetic performers onstage, and that’s what came off, finally, on that record.”

Springsteen was eventually able to enjoy his remarkable achievement, coming to appreciate “Born To Run” both on its own merits and for what it meant as a reflection of a very important and meaningful time in his life.

“When I hear the record, I hear my friends, my hopes and dreams, and what I thought my life was gonna be,” Springsteen says. “It’s a lovely thing to have as part of my life.”

Journalistic Malpractice: Time Magazine’s Bobby Ghosh and CNN’s Ali Velshi on ‘Cordovan Ecumenism’ in Muslim Spain

Posted by Andrew G. Bostom
Aug 21st 2010 at 1:47 pm

Thursday during the 1 PM hour CNN’s “Newsroom,” this exchange took place between CNN reporter Ali Velshi and Time Magazine’s deputy international editor Bobby Ghosh:

VELSHI: The name Cordoba- some people are associating it with Muslim rule and bloody battles, when, in fact, Cordoba was one of the finest times in relations between the major religions.

GHOSH: Exactly right- in interfaith discourse-


GHOSH: And the great mosque of Cordoba that people are talking about and that Newt Gingrich was talking about- the man who built it, the Muslim prince who built it, bought it from a Christian group- paid money for it and bought it from a Christian group. And there was not a lot of alarm and anger raised then.

These statements are journalistic malpractice—ahistorical, whitewashed drivel—compounded by Ghosh’s ad hominem attack on Newt Gingrich.

Corboba Cathedral, Spain

Reinhart Dozy (1820-1883), the great Orientalist scholar and Islamophile (i.e., by any objective standard, notwithstanding Ghosh’s uncontrolled spraying of the ridiculous charge of “Islamophobia”), wrote a four volume magnum opus (published in 1861 and translated into English by Francis Griffin Stokes in 1913), Histoire des Musselmans d’Espagne (A History of the Muslims in Spain). Pace Ghosh’s distorted reportage, here is Dozy’s historical account of the mid-8th century “conversion” of a Cordovan cathedral to a mosque:

All the churches in that city [Cordova] had been destroyed except the cathedral, dedicated to Saint Vincent, but the possession of this fane [church or temple] had been guaranteed by treaty. For several years the treaty was observed; but when the population of Cordova was increased by the arrival of Syrian Arabs [i.e., Muslims], the mosques did not provide sufficient accommodation for the newcomers, and the Syrians considered it would be well for them to adopt the plan which had been carried out at Damascus, Emesa [Homs], and other towns in their own country, of appropriating half of the cathedral and using it as a mosque. The [Muslim] Government having approved of the scheme, the Christians were compelled to hand over half of the edifice. This was clearly an act of spoliation, as well as an infraction of the treaty. Some years later, Abd-er Rahman I [i.e., the “Muslim prince” in Ghosh’s redacted narrative] requested the Christians to sell him the other half. This they firmly refused to do, pointing out that if they did so they would not possess a single place of worship. Abd-er Rahman, however, insisted, and a bargain was struck by which the Christians ceded their cathedral….

Indeed by the end of the eighth century, the brutal Muslim jihad conquest of North Africa and of Andalusia had imposed rigorous Maliki jurisprudence as the predominant school of Muslim law. Thus, as Evariste Lévi-Provençal (1894-1956)—the greatest modern scholar of Muslim Spain whose Histoire de l’Espagne Musulmane remains a defining work—observed three quarters of a century ago:

The Muslim Andalusian state thus appears from its earliest origins as the defender and champion of a jealous orthodoxy, more and more ossified in a blind respect for a rigid doctrine, suspecting and condemning in advance the least effort of rational speculation.

For example, the contemporary scholar J.M. Safran discusses an early codification of the rules of the marketplace (where Muslims and non-Muslims would be most likely to interact), written by al-Kinani (d. 901), a student of the Cordovan jurist Ibn Habib (d. 853), “…known as the scholar of Spain par excellence,” who was also one of the most ardent proponents of Maliki doctrine in Muslim Spain:

…the problem arises of “the Jew or Christian who is discovered trying to belnd with the Muslims by not wearing the riqā [cloth patch, which might be required to have an emblem of an ape for a Jew, or a pig for a Christian] or zunnār [belt].” Kinani’s insistence that Jews and Christians wear the distinguishing piece of cloth or belt required of them is an instance of a legally defined sartorial differentiation being reconfirmed…His insistence may have had as much to do with concerns for ritual purity and food prohibitions as for the visible representation of social and political hierarchy, and it reinforced limits of intercommunal relations

Spanish Moor

Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq (1914-1978) , another important modern scholar of Muslim Spain, provides these concrete illustrations of the resulting religious and legal discriminations the subjected non-Muslim “dhimmis” suffered, and the accompanying incentives for them to convert to Islam:

A learned Muslim jurist of Hispanic Christian descent who lived around the year 1000, Ahmed ibn Said ibn Hazm (father of the famous mid-eleventh-century author Ibn Hazm) gives glimpses, in several of his juridical consultations, of how the freedom of the “infidels” was constantly at risk. Non-payment of the head-tax by a dhimmi made him liable to all the Islamic penalties for debtors who did not repay their creditors; the offender could be sold into slavery or even put to death. In addition, non-payment of the head-tax by one or several dhimmis – especially if it was fraudulent – allowed the Moslem authority, at its discretion, to put an end to the autonomy of the community to which the guilty party or parties belonged. Thus, from one day to the next, all the Christians [or Jews} in a city could lose their status as a protected people through the fault of just one of them. Everything could be called into question, including their personal liberty… Furthermore, non-payment of the legal tribute was not the only reason for abrogating the status of the “People of the Book”; another was “public outrage against the Islamic faith”, for example, leaving exposed, for Moslems to see, a cross or wine or even pigs.

…by converting [to Islam], one would no longer have to be confined to a given district, or be the victim of discriminatory measures or suffer humiliations…Furthermore, the entire Islamic law tended to favor conversions. When an “infidel” became a Moslem, he immediately benefited from a complete amnesty for all of his earlier crimes, even if he had been sentenced to the death penalty, even if it was for having insulted the Prophet or blasphemed against the Word of God: his conversion acquitted him of all his faults, of all his previous sins. A legal opinion given by a mufti from al-Andalus in the ninth century is very instructive: a Christian dhimmi kidnapped and violated a Moslem woman; when he was arrested and condemned to death, he immediately converted to Islam; he was automatically pardoned, while being constrained to marry the woman and to provide for her a dowry in keeping with her status. The mufti who was consulted about the affair, perhaps by a brother of the woman, found that the court decision was perfectly legal, but specified that if that convert did not become a Moslem in good faith and secretly remained a Christian, he should be flogged, slaughtered and crucified.

Finally, expanding upon Professor Jane Gerber’s thesis on the “garish” myth of a Golden Age, the late Richard Fletcher (in his, “Moorish Spain”) offered a fair assessment of interfaith relationships in Muslim Spain, and his view of additional contemporary currents responsible for obfuscating that history:

The witness of those who lived through the horrors of the Berber conquest, of the Andalusian fitnah in the early eleventh century, of the Almoravid invasion—to mention only a few disruptive episodes—must give it [i.e., the roseate view of Muslim Spain] the lie. The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was of tranquility…Tolerance? Ask the Jews of Granada who were massacred in 1066, or the Christians who were deported by the Almoravids to Morocco in 1126 (like the Moriscos five centuries later)…In the second half of the twentieth century a new agent of obfuscation makes its appearance: the guilt of the liberal conscience, which sees the evils of colonialism—assumed rather than demonstrated—foreshadowed in the Christian conquest of al-Andalus and the persecution of the Moriscos (but not, oddly, in the Moorish conquest and colonization). Stir the mix well together and issue it free to credulous academics and media persons throughout the western world. Then pour it generously over the truth…in the cultural conditions that prevail in the west today the past has to be marketed, and to be successfully marketed it has to be attractively packaged. Medieval Spain in a state of nature lacks wide appeal. Self-indulgent fantasies of glamour…do wonders for sharpening up its image. But Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.

Mosque near Ground Zero a gateway for Sharia?

By Diana West
Washington Examiner Columnist
August 20, 2010

Stonings at ground zero - that'll be the day, right? The concept has no manifestation beyond the cold sweat of a dark hours nightmare. Still, there's something worth gleaning from the not-so-free association process that inspired it.

It clicked when I read a riveting investigation by Christine Brim at into scrubbed Web site material of the Cordoba Initiative, the Internet home of Imam Feisal Rauf, he of the ground zero mosque. In this trove of information, curiously deleted from the current Cordoba Initiative Web site, lie key clues to Rauf's long-term program, the Shariah Index Project, whose "goal," as stated in the "hidden" material, is to "define, interpret and implement the concept of the Islamic state in modern times."

What is Shariah? It is the body of sacred laws that regulates public and private life in Islam.

How does the Shariah Index Project fit into the planned mosque complex? Very easily, argues Brim. After accounting for the 15-story building's stated uses, from its mosque to its athletic and other facilities, Brim identified six undesignated stories.

That's a lot of empty office space. But with its global spread, the Shariah Index Project just might be the perfect tenant.

Since 2006, Rauf has coordinated a series of international meetings with Shariah experts ranging from Muslim Brotherhood associates to Iran's Mohammad Javad Larijani, "who," as Brim reports, "has justified torture of Iranian dissidents as legal punishments under Shariah law."

That's not all Larijani, who heads Iran's Human Rights Council (for real), has justified. He has also justified Shariah-sanctioned stoning. As Anne Bayefsky recently reported, Rauf's picture with Larijani (and former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Sada Cumber) disappeared from the Cordoba Initiative Web site, too.

So much to hide - but the Shariah is out of the bag.

What would expanding Shariah mean here? More halal-butchered livestock leading, as in Europe, to halal-only menus?

More midnight football practice during Ramadan? More sex-segregated swimming pools?

More incitement to jihad in "radical" mosques? More "apostates" living in fear? More self-censorship, I mean "respect," when it comes to discussing Islam?

An excellent benchmark of Shariah's remarkable and, think of it, post-9/11 progress is that none of the above manifestations of Islamic law - all designed to synchronize society with Islamic practice - are shocking to us.

Indeed, marital rape, permissible in Shariah culture wherever it spreads, got a "religious" pass from a New Jersey judge last month (overturned by an appellate court). Death by stoning, however, still seems to take everybody's breath away as those who read about last weekend's Taliban stoning in Afghanistan, I hope, would agree.

In brief, a couple - he, 25, married and with two kids; she, 19 - eloped before being lured to return to their town. They were then seized by the Taliban, who, as the New York Times reported, convened a Shariah court of mullahs from surrounding villages.

Verdict? Guilty. More than 200 local villagers, including family members, proceeded to stone the couple to death. "People were very happy seeing this," a local told the paper, who described a "festive" atmosphere.

"Let me tell you that according to Shariah law, if someone commits a crime like that, we have our courts and we deal with such crimes based on Islamic law," said a Taliban spokesman. The paper noted: "Perhaps most worrisome were signs of support for the action from mainstream religious authorities in Afghanistan."

"Worrisome," indeed - particularly to American soldiers advised to remove their protective ballistic glasses and get to know these people. (Repeat after me, as Gen. David Petraeus says: "The human terrain is the decisive terrain.")

Still, Kunduz province is not Lower Manhattan. Why the bad dreams about stoning?

I promised a study in free association. Imam Rauf's efforts to advance Shariah law, which sanctions stoning, have involved Iran's "human rights" chief, a public advocate of stoning. What next sprang to mind was the polished and educated form of Tariq Ramadan, the celebrated European Muslim "moderate" and grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna.

Why? Infamously, Ramadan has refused to condemn stoning, calling merely for a "moratorium."

Once, Ramadan's "moderate" stoning position stood out; now it fits into the nightmare - only not for Ramadan, or Rauf or Larijami.

For them, at ground zero and elsewhere, the Shariah dream continues.

Examiner Columnist Diana West is syndicated nationally by United Media and is the author of "The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization."