Sarah Palin and the Ground Zero Mosque

Sarah Palin, never one to shy away from political conflict, has come out against the mosque and community center being planned near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York, calling on "peace-seeking Muslims" to reject plans for the mosque. Originally, Palin called on Muslims to "refudiate" the mosque, inventing a word in the process of making this request. After deleting that tweet, here's what she had to say in two subsequent ones. From her Twitter account, @SarahPalinUSA:

Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real

And then:

Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing

As Politico reported, an aide to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted at Palin to tell the former governor to "mind your business," then asking "whose hearts? Racist hearts?" The aide deleted her tweets shortly after posting them, explaining why she wrote them and that she regretted the "curt response."

This response raises the question: was Palin being racist? Addressing her request to "peace-seeking Muslims" sounds mildly unnecessary, as it makes an issue out of peacefulness when it comes to Muslims. Technically speaking (and perhaps it's ridiculous to parse the semantics of a tweet that includes the term "refudiate"), this would not be racism, but religious bigotry, if that's what it is. Maybe it reads as if Palin assumes Muslims are not peaceful, as a base-line of how she understands them, and feels the need to call out the peaceful ones as a minority segment of the group. That analysis feels like it imputes a lot, probably too much, about Palin's cultural assumptions and what goes on in her own head.

Given the heated rhetoric over Islamic extremism offered up by Palin and countless other GOP voices on national security over the past nine years, are those imputations a stretch? Probably, but it's easy to see why "peace-seeking Muslims" rings a bit funny in ears that are already skeptical of what Palin says, and why non-hawks see national security conservatives--some of whom honestly and expliclty see an ideological, religious war between Islam and the Christian or secular West--as entertaining some broad-based assumptions about Islam as a whole.

Aside from the nuances of the "racism" question, what's notable (if unsurprising) about Palin's tweets is that, while most politicians would approach with extreme caution something so hot-buttoned and charged with religion, anger, and fear, Palin dives right in without trepidation, on Twitter no less, not carefully calibrating her words, but just taking a side and expressing a stance, controversy be damned. It's the style on which she prides herself, and on this matter of controversy in New York, she gives us no less.