We are passing through a season of singular national distemper where, for reasons best understood by social psychiatrists, the American people have entered into what can only be described as “open season” on Islam. Mosques everywhere, not just the “Ground Zero” mosque, are under attack; voters in Oklahoma have amended their state constitution to forbid state courts from considering Sharia law in their decisions (not that they had any intention of mastering that sophisticated legal corpus); otherwise “liberal” communicators debate whether First Amendment protections extend to followers of the Prophet Mohammed; and Muslims everywhere worry (rightfully) whether they have a place in the American mosaic.
Saddest to me, as a Jew, are the number of my co-religionists who are riding point on this peculiar crusade. I think of the likes of Pamela Geller (‘Stop Islamization of America’) and, I am sorry to say, The New Republic publisher Martin Peretz, who dress up contempt for Islam as part of the defense of Israel; and Tea Party Rabbi Nachum Shifren proclaims, “We are at war with Islam.” For its part, the Anti-Defamation League seems to want it both ways — oppose the Ground Zero mosque, but support the idea that Muslims should have other places to pray. And we should not forget Orthodox groups like Aish HaTorah, which distributed through subsidiaries hundreds of thousands of DVDs of the “documentary” Obsession during the 2008 presidential campaign in an effort to scare American Jews and brand Democrats as weak on Islamic terrorism.