Marc Lynch reports:
Two recent arguments about the impact of the rising anti-Islam trend in the U.S. -- from the Stupid!Storm around the Manhattan mosque to the lunacy of "national burn a Quran day" -- on the Arab world strike me as not quite right. Last week, Bill Kristol cited the translation of a column by Saudi TV station al-Arabiya director Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed downplaying the relevance of the mosque as evidence that the argument should be over. Meanwhile, several recent articles claim that the mosque had become the #1 topic of discussion on jihadist forums. Both are wrong, in different ways. Most Arab columnists agree with the argument that the anti-mosque movement will badly harm Arab and Muslim views of the United States, contra Rashed, but there isn't as much active discussion of it in the forums as you'd expect. That isn't a reason to relax, though. The impact is likely to be felt not so much on extremists, whose views about America are rather fixed, but on the vast middle ground, the Arab and Muslim mainstream which both the Bush and Obama administrations have recognized as crucial both for defeating al-Qaeda and for achieving broad American national interests. And that mainstream, not the extremists themselves, is where our attention needs to be focused.
A closer look at Arab mainstream media and jihadist forum debates shows what I mean. A scan of the major op-ed pages quickly reveals that Rashed is very much a minority voice in the unfolding Arab debate. Rashed's column caught the attention of anti-mosque activists such as Kristol, because it suited their needs. But if Kristol really wants Americans to take their cues from Arab columnists, here's a more representative sample of commentary over the last few days.
Click over for the list. It's not helpful.
But you can't blame mainstream moderate Muslim for being upset. After all, while the teabaggers can't tell the difference between an American construction worker, Coptic Christians and Osama bin laden, actual Muslims know that the so-called terrorist, Ground Zero Mosque builders are Sufis --- the Quaker pacifists of the Muslim world. if we hate them, then we hate all Muslims regardless of what they believe. And they don't like it.
It's very hard to see why anyone thinks this is a good idea unless they want a holy war.