Raymond Ibrahim recently published a thoughtful piece asserting that Cordoba House / Park51, the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero, will be counterproductive to Islamists by bringing unwanted notice to them and their goals. Even now, he argues, stories peppered with words like "jihad" and "Shari'a" are inspiring people "to wonder what all the ruckus is about" and to look more deeply into Islamists' stealth campaign, thus slowly undermining it. Ibrahim concludes:
Based on the amount of controversy it has already generated, there is reason to believe that it will be a permanent source of attention, provocation, and scrutiny — that is, a permanent Achilles' heel for the Islamist movement.
His thesis has merits. Revelations about Cordoba House founder Feisal Abdul Rauf's desire to incorporate Shari'a into Western law, suspicions that foreign radicals will bankroll the mosque, and other concerns are introducing citizens to important aspects of nonviolent jihad. However, there is no paucity of reasons to think that the center will be beneficial to the Islamist cause.
First, the obvious: it will provide a key psychological boost to radical Muslims, violent and nonviolent alike. "Within a year of the mosque's construction, there will be videos, posters, and pamphlets all over the Middle East, juxtaposing the minarets of the mosque with the Ground Zero memorial wreckage — shown as purported proof how such mass murder can demoralize a beaten people into bowing to the Islam of the killers," Victor Davis Hanson cogently predicts.
In addition, the spotlight on Cordoba House is not exclusively negative for Islamists. Destined to garner more media coverage than other U.S. mosques combined, the center will give nonviolent jihadists a unique opportunity to peddle their wares and take advantage of a pliable press.
Any protests in front of an operational Cordoba House — to be illustrated in sympathetic media outlets with images of sad-faced Muslim women and children braving hostile crowds — would be a dream come true for victim-mongering groups like CAIR looking to bolster their narrative that the U.S. is rife with prejudice, that Muslims require special protection, and that critics of jihad are the real haters who deserve to be shunned. And God forbid if a single hothead — or faker — says or does anything that could be construed as a bias crime against this particular mosque. One might venture to speculate that Islamists actually yearn for such an eventuality.
There is another way that the spotlight could facilitate gains for the broader stealth jihad. Consider the small but nonzero probability that Rauf makes good on his happy talk and turns Cordoba House into a model American mosque, genuinely free of radicalism. This would be a masterstroke. If the most closely examined Islamic center in the U.S. somehow were able to pass itself off as moderate and squeaky clean, expect a far steeper climb when attempting to convince casual observers that many, many less prominent mosques are up to their domes in Islamism.
In short, the high profile of a mosque near Ground Zero might offer a silver lining, as Ibrahim posits — but it also has the potential to spawn more dark clouds.