Glenn Greenwald on why mosque debate is not a “distraction…amazing and unjustifiable

This is an excerpt from a longer piece that includes  a video you should watch to get a sense of  the intensity involved in this:  http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/08/23/park51/index.html

If Park51 ends up moving or if opponents otherwise succeed in defeating it, it will seriously bolster and validate the ugly premises at the heart of this campaign:  that Muslims generally are responsible for 9/11, Terrorism justifies and even compels our restricting the equals rights and access of Americans Muslims, and more broadly, the animosity and suspicions towards Muslims generally are justified, or at least deserving of respect.  As Aziz Poonawalla put it:  “if the project does fail, then I think that the message that will be sent is that bigotry and fear of Muslims is not just permitted, it is effective.”

That’s exactly the message that will be sent, and that’s what makes this conflict so significant.  Obviously, not all opponents of Park51 are as overtly hateful as those in that video — and not all opponents are themselves bigots — but the position they’ve adopted is inherently bigoted, as it seeks to impose guilt and blame on a large demographic group for the aberrational acts of a small number of individual members.   And one thing is certain:  if this campaign succeeds, it will proliferate and the sentiments driving it will become even more potent.  Hatemongers always become emboldened when they triumph.

The animosity and hatred so visible here extends far beyond the location of mosques or even how we treat American Muslims.  So many of our national abuses, crimes and other excesses of the last decade — torture, invasions, bombings, illegal surveillance, assassinations, renditions, disappearances, etc. etc. — are grounded in endless demonization of Muslims.  A citizenry will submit to such policies only if they are vested with sufficient fear of an Enemy.  There are, as always, a wide array of enemies capable of producing substantial fear (the Immigrants, the Gays, and, as that video reveals, the always-reliable racial minorities), but the leading Enemy over the last decade, in American political discourse, has been, and still is, the Muslim.

That’s why the population is willing to justify virtually anything that’s done to “them” without much resistance at all, and it’s why very few people demand evidence from the Government before believing accusations that someone is a Terrorist:  after all, if they’re Muslim, that’s reason enough to believe it.  Hence, the repeated, mindless mantra that those in Guantanamo — or those on the Government’s “hit list” — are Terrorists even in the absence of evidence and charges, and even in the presence of ample grounds for doubting the truth of those accusations.

And there’s no end in sight:  the current hysteria over Iran at its core relies — just as the identical campaign against Iraq did — on the demonization of a whole new host of Muslim villains.  A population that is constantly bombarded with tales of Muslim Evil (they want to kill your children and explode a nuclear suitcase in your neighborhood) will be filled with fear and hatred — sentiments always exacerbated during times of economic strife and uncertainty — and very well-primed to lash out.  That’s the decade-long brew that has led to this purely irrational, hate-driven demand that they not be allowed to desecrate and infect the Sacred, Hallowed Space of Ground Zero (the religious terminology used to talk about 9/11 is both creepy and no accident).  This “debate” over Park51 is many things.  An inconsequential “distraction” from what Really Matters is not one of them.

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