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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Fareed Zakaria a bit inconsistent on religious tolerance

Recently, Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria publicly returned an award that he had received five years ago from the Anti-Defamation League called the Hubert Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. He was upset that the ADL had publicly urged the Muslim community in New York to consider moving the proposed mosque/Islamic community center near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center to another location where the sensitivity of families of the victims would be respected.

Zakaria's argument is that the people behind the proposed building are moderate Muslims whose views should be supported. He was unclear on how their views cannot be supported from a few blocks further away, or even how the entire controversy had already made it impossible for most Americans to be able to listen objectively to these supposedly moderate Muslims - something that would have been accomplished very well had they publicly acknowledged the pain that the chosen site was causing.

Zakaria's viewpoint, as flawed as it is, is legitimate. He is taking an absolutist position on freedom of religion and that can be considered an admirable position in the abstract.

Recently he said something interesting on CNN. At the end of a segment where he discussed the restoration of a synagogue in Beirut, Zakaria said (from Big Journalism:)
So why did this nation, often teetering on the brink of religious hostilities and hostilities with Israel, restore a Jewish house of worship? To show that Lebanon is an open and tolerant country.

And indeed, the project is said to have found support in many parts of the community, not just from the few remaining Jews there, but also Christians and Muslims and Hezbollah. Yes, Hezbollah — the one that the United States has designated a foreign terrorist organization.

Hezbollah’s view on the renovation goes like this. “We respect divine religions, including the Jewish religion. The problem is with Israel’s occupation of Arab lands … not with the Jews.” Food for thought.
To the uninitiated, this might sound consistent with his position on the Islamic center - freedom of religion for all.

Others have pointed out the incongruity of Hezbollah's calls to destroy the Jewish state with its supposed respect for Judaism as a "divine religion." Others have also pointed out the small fact that there is a reason why the Jewish community in Lebanon has almost disappeared, and that this reason is rather contradictory to the soothing words being said in English by a Hezbollah spokesman. One can also mention that the very idea that the Jewish people, alone among all nations, have no rights of self-determination is an inherently anti-semitic position.

Yet if Zakaria had done a tiny amount of homework he would have seen that Hezbollah and its leader really are pure anti-semites completely out of the context of Israel.

Remember the Buenos Aries bombing of a Jewish community center? 86 people were killed, and Hezbollah together with its Iranian allies was behind it.

Moreover, Nasrallah said "If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide". (Lebanon Daily Star, Oct. 23, 2002)

Also in 2002 he said
If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli.

And MEMRI quotes him as calling Jews "grandsons of apes and pigs" and "Allah's most cowardly and greedy creatures."

(Quotes are from CAMERA.)

Is Zakaria so naive as to think that Hezbollah's public support for a synagogue that will have no worshippers to serve a community that fled religious persecution is an example of religious tolerance? Doesn't all evidence seem to support the idea rather that Hezbollah holds  Jews must remain, at best, second-class citizens, dhimmis under Islamic rule?

For Zakaria to quote this Hezbollah official and ignore the massive amounts of evidence of clear anti-semitism on the part of Hezbollah's leadership indicates that Zakaria's position on religious intolerance is not quite as clear cut as his denunciation of the ADL would indicate.

(h/t Joel for the original Big Journalism link)