For the past few weeks I've been checking up occasionally on a controversy brewing down in New York City over the proposal to build a mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center. As you might expect, the idea has provoked some hysterical hostility from Islamophobes and idiots in general. As one comment put it, raising a mosque near Ground Zero would mean that "the terrorists" had won. That's rich. Even George W. Bush, no titan of intellect, understood that we'd been attacked not by the religion of Islam, but by a conspiracy of fanatics acting in its name on their own dubious authority. But when people freak out at the notion of a mosque, they admit that, in their own minds, they're at war with the whole religion.
I hadn't commented on this subject, however, because I'd not been feeling very sympathetic toward Muslims lately. Just last week in Europe there was an attempt to mob (lynch?) one of the cartoonists who'd perpetrated those oh-so-offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a newspapers a few years ago, and before that we had Comedy Central caving under pressure from one crackpot website to censor a South Park episode in which Muhammad, so to speak, appeared. News like that makes me want to burn a Qur'an. Muhammad was not a prophet of God because the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad is a myth. Muhammad made up the Qur'an, whether he realized it or not. I should be able to say these things, and illustrate them, in more widely read media than this without fearing for my life. I don't know what it'll take to make that happen. In my darker moods I wonder whether anything but consistent reprisals against Muslims whenever they offend my principles of free speech and free inquiry will drive the message home. But I suspect that the vast majority of Muslims couldn't care less if someone draws a dumb cartoon, and those people shouldn't suffer for their co-religionists' crimes. So I restrain myself most of the time when my thoughts turn bloodthirsty; it's just too bad that more Muslims can't do the same.
Now, however, a surrogate has emerged who can fight the battle of free speech for me risk-free. That is, I don't give a damn if Mark Williams lives or dies for his principles. He's a radio talker and chairman of the touring Tea Party Express who opined on the mosque subject on his blog recently. This sensitive soul described the mosque as a monument to the 2001 hijackers and a shrine for the worship of a "monkey god." He then had the gall, when Muslims for once rightly chided someone for insulting their faith, to deny that he was insulting Islam in general. Only the terrorists worship a "monkey god," he now clarifies, though there's no evidence that the groups who plan to build the mosque practice or endorse terrorism. Williams has since issued an apology on his website -- to Hindus, on the ground that calling Allah a "monkey god" is an insult to devotees of the perfectly respectable monkey god Hanuman.
In Williams, Islamic idiots and haters may have met their match, at least in idiocy. And the Tea Parties are one group of people, one would think, who won't feel constrained by political or ecumenical correctness from insulting Islam in the ripest language. All we need is for the inevitable mujahid wannabe to threaten Williams's life and the battle will be joined. What a spectacle it would be! My imagination can't do it justice. I know I shouldn't wish for it, but sometimes you can't help dreaming.