Last Tuesday, August 3, 2010, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9 to 0 approving the construction of the mosque and Islamic center. As the New York Times editorial rightly concluded “It was not just the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do.” With this vote, the commission reaffirmed one of the basic tenets of democracy: religious tolerance.
New York Mayor Bloomberg has also endorsed the mosque proposal and correctly said that the owners of the building (i.e., the Muslim) have the right to use their property as a house of worship. “The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right,” he said.
What the opponents wanted was use the mosque controversy to foment hatred and bigotry against some six to eight million Muslims who live in the USA. As we know quite well the Republicans have been shamelessly playing the politics of fear since 9/11. It was therefore not surprising that with just about three months left for the mid-term November election, the Republican politicians saw this near-Ground Zero mosque as an opportunity to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria amongst the non-Muslim voters. With outsider players vying for national attention and conservative radio and TV talk show hosts beating the drum hysterically, soon the proposed mosque project became a national controversy. These promoters of religious intolerance wanted to portray New York Attorney General Cuomo (a Democrat) and Mayor Bloomberg (an independent) – both vying for the Gubernatorial seat – as soft, liberal and out of touch with the New Yorkers.
Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, both presidential hopefuls from the Republican Party, came out roaring like a bitch and a boar, respectively, trying to sell their prejudices against Muslims. The Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio of New York did not want to fall behind either in such hysteria and joined the hate campaign. “This is not about religion,” he said. “It’s about this particular mosque.” He can’t hide his bigotry under such charade.
It is worth mentioning here that both Palin and Gingrich have many things in common. Both are registered Republicans and are perceived by many conservative party members as their mouthpieces. Both are however viewed very negatively by most Americans for their shallow and polarizing opinions. But such public opinions have not been able to throw a cold shower on their hot ego. Both tried to self-promote themselves as highly ethical and social conservatives. But such exaggerated claims could not hide their rather problematic past records on ethics and morality.
In May 1988, Gingrich along with 77 other House members brought ethics charges against Democratic Speaker Jim Wright, who was alleged to have used a book deal to circumvent campaign-finance laws and House ethics rules. During the investigation, it was noted Gingrich had his own unusual book deal, for Window of Opportunity, part of whose publicity expenses were covered by a limited partnership, which raised $105,000 from Republican political supporters around the country to promote sales of the book. That is not the end of Gingrich’s double standards. It is only a small part of his flawed character. As noted in the New York Times (Clymer, Adam, "House Revolutionary,” August 23, 1992) Gingrich himself was among the 450 members of the House who had engaged in check-kiting; he had overdrafts on twenty-two checks, including a $9,463 check to the Internal Revenue Service in 1990. Wait, there is more on Gingrich’s not-so-ethical past. On January 21, 1997, the House voted 395 to 28 to reprimand Gingrich for ethics violations dating back to September 1994. The House ordered Gingrich to pay a $300,000 penalty, the first time in the House's 208-year history it had disciplined a Speaker for ethical wrongdoing. Eighty-four ethics charges, a record in the House, were filed against Speaker Gingrich during his term.
By 1998, Gingrich had become a highly visible and polarizing figure in the public's eye, making him a target for Democratic congressional candidates across the nation. His approval rating dropped to 45% in April 1998. Gingrich suffered much of the blame for the election loss. Facing another rebellion in the Republican caucus, he announced on November 6, 1998 that he would not only stand down as Speaker, but would leave the House as well. We thought that we had seen the end of this political clown in the American politics. But we were terribly wrong.
Gingrich has not given up on his hope for a political comeback and has been trying hard to draw attention of his fellow Republicans to his side. He is affiliated with a neocon think tank (AEI). It is not too long ago that Gingrich authored a book, Rediscovering God in America, in which he tried to demonstrate that the Founding Fathers of America actively intended the new republic to not only allow, but encourage, religious expression in the public square. And yet, it is the same Gingrich who wants to stop Muslims of New York from expressing their religious freedom in praying in their own mosque. Hypocrites can’t hide their ugly self and Gingrich has proven this age-old maxim once again.
As to Gingrich’s personal life, it is quite interesting to note that Gingrich has been married three times. He first married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, when he was 19 years old and she was 26. He left Battley in the spring of 1980. According to Battley, Gingrich visited her later that year while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery to discuss the details of their divorce. That says a lot about what kind of insensitive man Gingrich has been! Six months after the divorce was final, Gingrich wed Marianne Ginther in 1981.
One may recall also that Gingrich was very vocal about President Clinton’s flawed character and wanted him impeached for the Lewinsky scandal. During the same period while he was asking for impeachment, Gingrich began an extra-marital affair with Callista Bisek, who is 23 years his junior, in the mid nineties. This again shows what a hypocrite he has been! In 2000, Gingrich married Bisek shortly after his divorce with second wife Ginther was finalized. He, a Baptist, converted to Catholicism, his wife's faith, on March 29, 2009. Many would discover an opportunist trait in this conversion.
It is perhaps correct to say that Gingrich has been one of the most prejudiced and polarizing American politicians of our time. He wants to finish Bush’s unfinished war against Islam, and has been trying to sell his poison pill for quite some time, esp. in the Obama period. True to his hateful character, he has even tried to bring a non-issue like the shariah law in American politics. Fortunately, that has not seen much success thus far.
As to the other demagogue, Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, the least said the better. She, a former beauty peasant, was the running mate of Senator John McCain in the last presidential election when they unsuccessfully tried to play the race card to polarize American voters. Like Gingrich, she also tried to present herself as an ethical person with higher moral values. She presented herself as a social conservative and became the symbol of Christian Right and a favorite amongst the neoconservatives. As it turned out, however, her own family was a far cry from what one could call an ethical family. Her teenage daughter Bristol gave birth to a child out of wedlock. Bristol’s boyfriend was later to be found posing nude for the Playgirl. After some two-years of separation, and bad-mouthing and trashing the Palin family, the boyfriend is now back with his bastard child and Bristol.
During the presidential campaign of July 2008, Palin was involved in a political scandal – the Troopgate – when she dismissed Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan citing performance-related issues, such as not being "a team player on budgeting issues." Monegan, however, challenged the accusation citing that he had resisted persistent pressure from Palin, her husband, and her staff, including State Attorney General Talis Colberg, to fire Palin’s ex-brother-in-law, Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten; Wooten was involved in a child custody battle with Palin’s sister after a bitter divorce that included an alleged death threat against Palin's father.
On August 1, 2008 the Alaska Legislature hired an investigator to review the Monegan dismissal. Legislators stated that Palin had the legal authority to fire Monegan, but they wanted to know whether her action had been motivated by anger at Monegan for not firing Wooten. On October 10, 2008, the Alaska Legislative Council unanimously voted to release the Branchflower Report, in which investigator Stephen Branchflower found that firing Monegan "was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority," but that Palin abused her power as governor and violated the state's Executive Branch Ethics Act when her office pressured Monegan to fire Wooten. The report stated that "Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates to advance a personal agenda, to wit: to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired." The report also said that Palin "permitted Todd Palin to use the Governor's office [...] to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired."
On July 3, 2009, Palin announced at a press conference that she would not run for reelection in the 2010 Alaska gubernatorial election and would resign before the end of July.
In recent months, Palin has been credited with the revival of the Republican Party in the post-Bush era. As noted earlier by me, she remains one of the most venomous voices opposing the construction of the Mosque in New York. She is joined by Christian evangelist and bigot Pat Robertson of 711 Club. The latter has filed a lawsuit threatening the mosque construction proposal. Such lawsuits against the mosque should be easily thrown out by the court, because giving air to bigotry would only make a laughing stock of New York and its court system.
It is disconcerting to note that what the Republican politicians like Palin, Gingrich, Lazio and others are doing today against Muslim minorities is no less worse than what the Nazis did in the early days of Hitler against Jews. One would have thought that Jews would have no role in this kind of prejudice against minority Muslims. But as I noted earlier, some of the most hateful campaigns are led by Jews. More problematic is the behavior of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which eagerly piled on with the opponents of the mosque. It should not be built “in the shadow” of the World Trade Center, the group said, because it would “cause some victims more pain.” The New York Times was distressed to see the rationalization of bigotry used by an organization that has been fighting discrimination of all kinds, especially during some of the worst days of the Ku Klux Klan.
But I am not surprised at all. For too long I have been studying the behavior of ADL and self-righteous bigots like Paterson, Palin, Eli Wiesel, Gingrich and others. When push comes to shove, they show their true ugly naked self. None of them have higher moral grounds. Most of them are closet fascists, let alone being opportunists and bigots. They are all essentially evil people who would have had no problem bowing down to anyone for the right kind of price or stick. They deserve each other, and no one else. As it is said in Bangla: ratan-e ratan cheenay (birds of the same feather flock together).
It is silly that they try to sell the poison pill that 9/11 was a war of Islam lodged against America. When did OBL become a symbol of Islam?
I am reminded here that when the hunter gets hunted it is no longer fun. It loses its common sense and wit. Shame on such messengers and promoters of hatred!!