It’s funny to watch Sarah Palin try to explain her clumsy demand that "Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate" the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque a few blocks from the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. In explaining her odd (non) word choice, Palin compared herself to Shakespeare, arguing that she was simply coining a new word, "refudiate", just as Shakespeare did with other words. (you can almost hear Juliet asking Romeo to "refudiate" his Montague family) But the real question isn’t whether the overmatched Palin can master the English language, it’s why Palin and others think it’s appropriate to hold "peaceful Muslims" to account, as if all Muslims bear some responsibility for the proposed mosque and, by implication, the 9/11 attacks themselves.
Palin charges that the proposed mosque "stabs you in the heart". What’s the logic here?
I think it goes something like this. A group of fundamentalist Muslims carried out a terrifying attack on Sept. 11, 2001 that killed thousands of people (including, though this is not part of Palin’s thought process, Muslims working at the World Trade Center or traveling on the hijacked planes). Therefore, the 9/11 attacks were, in some sense, a Muslim attack, and Muslims bear a special responsibility with regard to the attacks–they ought to "refudiate" plans for Muslim activities near the World Trade Center site.
Palin and others who similarly criticize the proposed mosque are walking a dangerous path. They are playing with generalizations, suggesting that anything Islamic has something to do with terrorism. Why else would it "stab [her] in the heart" to consider an Islamic cultural center and mosque near the World Trade Center site?
Palin is playing an old, tired, ugly tune. We are quick to generalize about people who seem different than what the majority sees as the norm. When a white man does something terrible, no one suggests that all white men bear some responsibility and ought to "refudiate" the actions of, for example, a white serial killer. Why, when a few Muslim extremists carry out terrifying and deadly attacks, do other Muslims bear some responsibility to reject their actions? Why do mosques become suspicious? These are the real questions we ought to ask–these are the questions I’d like Sarah Palin to answer, or, at least, to "refudiate".