Who's Defending Marginalized Muslims? Chris Christie


So, of course, it's a recess, and recesses bring vacuums, and vacuums bring ridiculous, even odious issues to the front-burner.

Stipulating that it's OK to oppose the Ground Zero mosque, that Imam Rauf is fashionably moderate (and yet was eager to fault Americans for 9/11 and had trouble describing Hamas as a terrorist group): it's plain demagoguery to nationalize the issue. There is only one reason to do it, and it is to exploit the prejudices that many conservatives have toward Muslims, to try to portray Democrats as radicals and apologists for Islam, all to get more votes in an election.

The Democrats, in their silence, have not defended Muslims, letting Republicans turn this minority religious group into a wedge issue for the 2010 election. Victim one: Harry Reid, the majority leader, who was coaxed into issuing a statement against the mosque because of Sharron Angle's needling. Score one for Republicans.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott in Florida is unabashedly nativist in this ad, linking the mosque to President Obama in a way that should make his consultants blush, but won't.

Wasn't it at one time gauche to play politics off of 9/11?

President Obama did not weigh in on the Cordoba House because it was a "constitutional issue." He did so because his national security principles call for him to do everything possible to integrate American Muslims into America, and to project those actions to the world. It's clear that he's read up on the mosque, Imam Rauf, and the real estate machinations of lower Manhattan, and that he's uncomfortable endorsing the decision to place a mosque near the pit.

From an ethical standpoint, which is worse: Are Republicans demagoguing the issue or are Democrats trying to stay silent because they're afraid to engage?

No one, except for Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, is openly worried about anti-Muslim prejudice being openly practiced, sanctioned, and endorsed by people running for and in high office. Tonally, this one guy seems to get this issue just right:

"My principles on this are two-fold. One, that we have to acknowledge, respect and give some measure of deference to the feelings of the family members who lost their loved ones there that day. But it would be wrong to so overreact to that, that we paint Islam with a brush of radical Muslim extremists that just want to kill Americans because we are Americans. But beyond that ... I am not going to get into it, because I would be guilty of candidly what I think some Republicans are guilty of, and the president is now, the president is guilty of, of playing politics with this issue, and I simply am not going to do it."

Asked if he'd call upon both parties to stop, he said, "Well, that again will be playing politics with the issue. I said what I feel about it, and I don't believe it is up to me to pontificate on other people about what they should do. I just observe what I observe. And I don't believe that this issue should be a political football. I just don't. And I think that both sides of this issue now are using this as a political football. And I don't think it brings people together in America, I think it just further drives people apart, and creates divisions, and I think that's bad for our country. And all people in our country suffer when those kind of things happen."
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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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