Obama's Muslim Outreach

Americans witnessed their President backing down from political pressure and public opinion after yet again allowing his personal opinions to interfere with his job.

On Friday he clearly backed the Cordoba House, a.k.a., the Ground Zero mosque, yet on Saturday he danced immodestly away from his previous comments. Will the President now attempt to set all aright by inviting the families of Sept. 11 victims to a keg party at the White House to talk over what he really meant on Friday when addressing his Ramadan dinner guests?

It has been clear to all from the start that religious freedom has never been the issue with the Ground Zero mosque. Beyond that, and according to an Aug. 6-10 CNN Poll, 68% of Americans oppose construction of the mosque with 29% favoring construction. If the Muslim community—1.3% of the U.S. population—were sincere about promoting religious tolerance in the United States, one would think it would demonstrate that by showing enough discretion to build the mosque elsewhere. Unless promoting religious tolerance is not really the issue.

A New York City planning commission may have cleared the way for development of the property purchased by the Cordoba Initiative only last year, but in the interest of the greater public good, there may be another option for the site.

Under the concept of eminent domain property is confiscated (hypothetically at fair market value) for the greater good of the community, the state or the nation. In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London expanded the use of eminent domain to include transfer of property from one private owner to another in the interest of commercial development. 

Extending that logic, eminent domain should be applicable in New York to allow for the development of the site by a business or public entity that would better suit the needs of the wider community, which is clearly unhappy with current plans for the property.

But regarding the administration’s backing away from the heat it regularly creates, it has been less than two months since we were discussing NASA Chief Charles Bolden’s al Jezeera interview in which he said that before he became NASA administrator President Obama charged him, “foremost” among other things, “to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations, to help them feel good about their historic contribution to … science, math, and engineering.”

The White House slowly stepped away from Bolden’s remarks, and a week later, on July 12, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was still trying to explain NASA’s task.

Bolden had pointed to the President’s June 4, 2009, Cairo University speech, “A New Beginning,” as the source for the Muslim outreach. In Cairo the President said, “On science and technology we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim majority countries.” Apparently forgetting his responsibilities for creating jobs for the citizens who elected him, he justified that goal as a means “to help transfer ideas to the market place so they can create more jobs” in Muslim nations. He pledged also to open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs.”

So while U.S. job creation lags, the President is making good on his Cairo pledge. A June 11 report in the journal Science described “a new era in science cooperation between Indonesia [a Muslim majority nation] and the United States,” bankrolled to the tune of $150 million, not much in itself, but questionable in the face of unprecedented U.S. budget deficits and debt. 

“We understand his intention to bridge Islamic civilization and the West,” [Indonesian Academy of Sciences] President Sangkot Marzuki, told Science. “Science is the best way to do this,” said Marzuke, who also directors the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, which recently opened Indonesia’s first biosafety level-3 laboratory “capable of handling the most dangerous pathogens.”

Level-3 labs are designed to handle the potentially deadliest pathogens for which vaccines or other treatments exist. Level-4 labs are designed for deadly contagions for which there no known vaccines or treatments. Level-3 labs provide a target for driven terrorists, such as those the Indonesian government has been pursuing recently. An Aug. 9, Washington Times story illustrates that the country still has significant problems with al Qaeda activity. Given that even the U.S. Army’s biological warfare labs at Fort Detrick, Md., served as a base of operations for a successful terrorist in the 2001 anthrax attacks, how safe could a level-3 lab be from Indonesia’s Muslim extremists?

If that isn’t enough, future science and technology collaboration (a euphemism for U.S. taxpayer funding) “will also tap Indonesia to host a regional center for climate change, one of the centers of excellence for the Muslim world that President Obama promised to establish” in his Cairo speech, the Science report said.

For President Obama, the Ground Zero mosque appears to be about respect for Islam rather than the surviving family members of victims of the September 11 attacks—including the families of soldiers and civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the ongoing battle with aggressive  Islamic extremists.

“Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance,” President Obama said in Cairo, where he also claimed to be a student of history, and repeatedly quoted the “Holy Koran.” 

With his great knowledge of the Koran, and his willingness to lecture Americans and the world about religious tolerance, perhaps he can explain what the holy book means when it says, “Mohammed is Allah’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.” 

Or, “They [non-Muslims] would have you disbelieve as they themselves have done, so that you may be all alike. Do not befriend them until they fly their homes for the cause of Allah. If they desert you, seize them and put them to death wherever you find them.”

Or, finally, “I swear by the glow of sunset; by the night, and all that it brings together; by the moon, in her full perfection: that you shall march onwards from state to state.”

Tolerance is a two-sided relationship.