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The other ostensible “parallel” that Gushee discerned between Dreyfuss and Imam Rauf is the “role of the Christian majority and some of its most vocal and visible leaders in turning the religious ‘Other’ into an object of infamy.” Gushee recalled that “Catholic demagogues” assailed Dreyfuss. Today, American “Protestant evangelicals” are doing likewise to Imam Rauf. Honorable Frenchmen finally resisted “demagoguery” to vindicated Dreyfuss. Today, Gushee enthused, pro Ground Zero Mozque Mayor Bloomberg shows similar courage.
Gushee helpfully explained that President Obama has not been more forceful for the Ground Zero mosque only because he risks being “Dreyfused” and targeted by “extremists” who crave to “’other’ him right out of American public life” in a “a truly shameful display.” Since the President has been politically neutralized, “It is up to the rest of us to resolve our own budding Dreyfus case before it goes any further,” Gushee somberly concluded.
Skeptics of the Ground Zero Mosque include more than the purportedly mindless Protestant evangelicals who especially distress Gushee. They also include the Anti-Defamation League, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, a majority of New Yorkers and a majority of Americans. Perhaps all have been seized by Dreyfuss era levels of bigotry and fear. But no one is proposing to imprison Imam Rauf or disputes his freedom to build a mosque. At issue are the particular site for that mosque and its potent symbolism, with geopolitical consequences.
Also debated are the imam’s views about Hamas, Iran and Islamic law. While potentially hateful views do not mitigate First Amendment rights, free speech also includes the right of skeptics to challenge Imam Rauf about his seemingly disturbing views, some of which may align with forces that parallel the anti-Semitism that stigmatized French Jews during the Dreyfuss Affair. Why are Ground Zero Mosque enthusiasts like Gushee so uninterested in those stances and likening most Americans to Dreyfuss level anti-Semitism? Unlike Dreyfuss, Imam Rauf has the support of most American cultural and governing elites. Unlike Dreyfuss, whom the French Army railroaded, Imam Rauf is dispatched by the U.S. State Department on a global speaking tour.
Major Dreyfuss and his supporters made no demands on France except the right to serve their nation unmolested. Imam Rauf and his supporters, despite their ostensible appeals to interfaith harmony, want to construct a mosque where it will excite further distrust, and inflame Islamist extremists with triumphalist symbolism. French anti-Semitism irrationally targeted a peaceful, small religious minority who supported France’s secular state. Concerns about the Ground Zero Mosque center on global political Islam, with millions who support violent jihad, and hundreds of millions who matter of factly support Islamist theocracy.
Among other ironies, the Dreyfuss Affair persuaded many Jews and their supporters to become Zionists. The creation of modern Israel was one inadvertent result of the French anti-Semitism that persecuted Dreyfuss. Imam Rauf’s ambivalence about Hamas and Iran’s theocracy, which are dedicated to Israel’s eradication, is a potential historical connection to Dreyfuss that Gushee is unlikely to examine.
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