Monday, September 06, 2010
Farrakhan Endorsement Makes Ground Zero Mosque Backers Squirm
Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is the latest to weigh in on the great Ground Zero mosque debate. Predictably, Farrakhan gave fulsome backing to building the mosque at the controversial spot. But Farrakhan took it a step further and just as predictably gave it a racial spin. He said that there are a lot of blacks who are Muslims, and some of them were killed in the 9/11 terror attack. Farrakhan, race, and controversy; the three go hand in hand. That’s always enough to make folk squirm.
In the days building up to the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the question is how just much will Farrakhan’s public tout of the mosque, make some of the mosque’s fervent backers squirm? Probably not a lot since the battle lines on the mosque are pretty firmly drawn. You’re either for it on religious freedom, tolerance, or constitutional grounds. Or you’re against it on desecration of hallowed soil, insensitivity, or it’s a deliberate provocation grounds.
Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose it for one or all of the reasons cited. The mosque is a religious and political minefield. It was inevitable that Farrakhan would plunge into it. He has that right.
But Farrakhan is instant controversy, and even more instant racial polarization. That was never more evident than during the 2008 presidential campaign. Days after then Democratic presidential contender Obama announced his candidacy, Farrakhan praised and virtually endorsed him in a speech at the Nation of Islam’s annual Savior's Day confab in Chicago. A horrified Team Obama promptly issued this statement: Senator Obama has been clear in his objections to Minister Farrakhan's past pronouncements and has not solicited the minister's support." That didn’t satisfy his primary foe Hillary Clinton. She publicly demanded that he forcefully reject Farrakhan's endorsement. Obama did but even then he carefully avoided mentioning Farrakhan by name. It was just too hot. Obama recognized one compelling fact about Farrakhan. He may be a controversial and much vilified figure but he is not a fringe figure within black communities. He is still cheered and admired by thousands of blacks. They are also voters too and most embraced Obama with almost messianic zeal.
Mosque supporters can now count Farrakhan among their ranks. In this mid-term political season that shapes up to be the most hard fought one in decades, the mosque issue is an issue that’s one of the most inflammatory. It pricks, inflames, and punches just about every person’s hot button. It’s almost certain that one or more shrill rightwing websites, bloggers, or radio talk show hacks that froth at building the mosque at the WTC site will throw up Farrakhan’s name as see-I-told-you proof that the mosque is a closet Jihadist conspiracy against the US. That’s enough to make some squirm.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
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