Supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque have recently been spouting enough rhetoric in defense of constitutional rights to fill several seasons worth of “Glenn Beck” programs. But now some of their previously conflicting views on the 1st Amendment may be coming back to haunt them.
Take, for example, Daisy Khan – a prominent organizer of the Ground Zero Mosque and the wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf – who recently framed herself as a stalwart civil libertarian during her many media appearances.
“There is too much at stake, constitutional rights, the development of the Muslims here, how the world is watching the United States. We tell people America upholds religious freedom. We should not compromise those values,” Khan told  The Washington Post on Aug. 19.
And then there was the Aug. 22 “This Week” appearance with Christiane Amanpour, where Khan said moving the mosque was “not on the table” in part because, “we have to be cognizant that we also have a constitutional right” to build it near Ground Zero.
Unfortunately, Khan's enchantment with America's founding documents appears to be a new development. Just four years ago she spoke at a WNYC debate , where she argued that the 1st Amendment is not “absolute and limitless” and should instead “come with some social responsibility.” In fact, during the debate she made many comments that sound surprisingly similar to the arguments currently being made by critics of the Ground Zero Mosque.
“If you are offensive, it is difficult to make a difference because you are seen as hostile and your views are unwelcomed and outright rejected,” Khan said at the debate. “This is human nature. No doubt, it is essential to be critical, but do it at the right time in the right environment and with the right choice of words.”
The activist also contended that “the notion of space, of sharing space with our neighbors, needs to be negotiated and reexamined. What is needed now is a heightened sense of awareness that enables us to distinguish between useful and useless affronts. Truly, few things are more useless than statements that exacerbate bigotry and racism.”
“Ultimately the question to ask is, do we use our free speech to insult an already marginalized people?” asked Khan. “Or do we use it to advance and enhance a desperately needed discourse between people living in an increasingly interconnected world?” The many families of Sept. 11 victims who oppose the Ground Zero Mosque might have some enlightening answers to that question. Khan did not respond to questions from the Culture and Media Institute.
And there were other comments made by Khan that conflict with some of her recent statements. For example, the activist has lately been seen on TV blaming the American people for their alleged “Islamophobic” and “bigoted” opposition to the Ground Zero mosque. But she was much less eager to hold many Muslims responsible for their extreme response to “offensive” affronts back in 2006.
“It's not even Islamophobia, it's beyond Islamophobia,” Khan told ABC's “This Week” on Aug. 22. “It's hate of Muslims. And we are deeply concerned. You know, I have had, yesterday had a council with all religious – Muslim religious leaders from around the country, and everybody is deeply concerned about what's going on around the nation.”
However, back during the 2006 debate, Khan was significantly more tolerant of violent Muslim riots over a cartoon of the Islamic prophet Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper – placing the blame for the riots directly on the newspaper's publishers.
“Clearly we are living in a very tense time,” said Khan. “In such a situation for a right-of-center Danish newspaper to come out with cartoons that show the prophet of Islam with a bomb in his turban, with a sword in his hand and with a menacing look on his face, does nothing – absolutely nothing – to advance desperately needed dialogue or enlighten people in any positive way. If it does anything at all it serves to suppress constructive dialogue by fueling extremist sentiment.”
Khan says that when Americans peacefully protest a Muslim affront on their values – like the Ground Zero Mosque – then Americans are the bigots. However, when Muslims violently protest a non-Muslim affront on their values, then the “insensitive” non-Muslims are the bigots (and should be silenced).
During the debate, Khan also argued that there was “no wisdom” in doing things that are offensive to others or lead to hostile situations.
“The point is not whether such things can or cannot be published. But of course, they are published. Who's preventing them?” said Khan. “The issue is whether there's any wisdom in portraying the prophet of Islam with a bomb in his turban, no less.”