New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has:
- Supported Israel’s war on Gaza;
- Demanded the resignation, which resulted in the firing, of Debbie Almontaser from leadership of the Khalil Gibran International Academy. The EEOC found that the New York Board of Education violated her civil rights and owed her $300,000 in damages;
- Defended Terry Jones‘ planned burning of the Qur’an;
- Supported the war on Iraq
- Supported George W. Bush after his criminal invasion of Iraq and addressed the Republican National Convention in 2004.
In what must be either militant etiquette or opportunistic collaboration with the empire, some Muslims are willing to ignore all the above just so they could thank Bloomberg for stating that the First Amendment applies in the context of Park51. Eboo Patel wrote:
Every time the forces of intolerance made a move to marginalize Muslims, the forces of inclusion in America rose up to defend us. In the process, Muslims learned that we have some pretty unlikely allies … There were prominent Jewish figures like Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made an impassioned call for a canopy of religious tolerance that extends over every geographic area of New York City and includes all its diverse communities.
Ikhras strongly urges Eboo Patel to stop feeling flattered by Bloomberg’s awareness of the First Amendment and to think about this quote by Malcolm X: “I can’t turn around without hearing about some ‘civil rights advance’! White people seem to think the black man ought to be shouting ‘hallelujah’! Four hundred years the white man has had his foot-long knife in the black man’s back – and now the white man starts to wiggle the knife out, maybe six inches! The black man’s supposed to be grateful? Why, if the white man jerked the knife out, it’s still going to leave a scar!”
Of course, Eboo Patel may not believe that quote is applicable at all to Muslims since he indicates in the same article that Muslims don’t have it that bad. That could be true if one leaves the Muslim victims of US foreign policy out of the analysis. This distancing between Muslims here in America and there in occupied countries reflects the odious stance many Muslim Americans have come to embrace, the idea that Muslim Americans and their pursuit of the American dream are more important than the lives of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and other countries in the grip of US empire. It follows from this thinking, for example, that Mayor Bloomberg’s support of Park51 is more important than his disregard for the lives and livelihoods of Gazans. It is illogical that the US could really respect American Muslims significantly more than it respects Abu Ghraib detainees, victims of drone attacks in Pakistan and Palestinians whose flesh burned with white phosphorus. This line of politics is immoral and ultimately self-defeating.
Interfaith dialogue is admirable and necessary, but meaningless and harmful if void of addressing the political issues of the day. Interfaith dialogue that fails to confront Zionism and imperialism, and it almost never does when carried out by House Muslims, is akin to interracial dialogue that fails to address white supremacy or the Klan, for example. As Faris Giacaman eloquently stated in the Electronic Intifada “when it comes to cases of colonialism, apartheid, and oppression, there is no such thing as ‘balance.’ The oppressor society, by and large, will not give up its privileges without pressure” – pressure which House Muslims, by definition, fail to apply. We don’t need that kind of interfaith dialogue, and Eboo Patel may want to consider connecting to other faiths in a way that doesn’t do the anti-colonial cause disservice.