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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Posted by Jill | 6:21 AM
Stanley Fish:
It is wrong, we hear, to regard the proposed mosque or community center as an ordinary exercise of free enterprise and freedom of religion by the private owners of a piece of property. It is, rather, a thumb in the eye or a slap in the face of the 9/11 victims and their families, a potential clearinghouse for international terrorist activities, a “victory mosque” memorializing a great triumph of jihad and a monument to the religion in whose name and by whose adherents the dreadful deed was done.

But according to the same folks who oppose the mosque because of what it stands for, Michael Enright’s act doesn’t stand for anything and is certainly not the product of what Time magazine calls a growing “American strain of Islamophobia.” Instead, The New York Post declares, the stabbing is “the act of a disturbed individual who is now in custody,” and across the fold of the page columnist Jonah Goldberg says that “one assault doesn’t a national trend make” and insists that “we shouldn’t let anyone suggest that this criminal reflects anybody but himself.”

The formula is simple and foolproof (although those who deploy it so facilely seem to think we are all fools): If the bad act is committed by a member of a group you wish to demonize, attribute it to a community or a religion and not to the individual. But if the bad act is committed by someone whose profile, interests and agendas are uncomfortably close to your own, detach the malefactor from everything that is going on or is in the air (he came from nowhere) and characterize him as a one-off, non-generalizable, sui generis phenomenon.

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