Massachusetts treasurer and independent candidate for governor Tim Cahill was off base when he accused incumbent governor Deval Patrick of "playing politics with terrorism" in the wake of Patrick's visit to the controversial Roxbury mosque maintained by the Islamic Society of Boston.
It is the Phoenix's view that Cahill would have been closer to the mark if he had suggested that the governor was compromising his long-standing support for gay and lesbian rights, as well as his commitment to equal opportunity for women, by meeting with an imam dedicated to the international spread of Sharia law, the letter of which holds that homosexuals should be executed and women subject to discipline by their husbands.
The Muslim leader in question, Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, a native-born American who studied at the University of Massachusetts, is more moderate than previous leaders associated with the Roxbury mosque. And this is a good thing.
But Faaruuq's moderation is relative. He is not exactly the sort of religious leader likely to be active in AIDS Action or working for marriage equality.
Truth be told, Faaruuq's theological positions appear to be closer to those of Archbishop Sean Patrick Cardinal O'Malley, a staunch advocate of social justice who nevertheless opposes abortion and same-sex marriage as well as the ordination of women.
In institutions as fundamentally conservative as Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, or the national Republican Party, a moderate may turn out to be very conservative indeed. Or, to put it more bluntly, Faaruuq, for all his commitment to economic equality, is by dint of his social positions a reactionary — at least by the standards of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, of which Patrick is the titular leader.
So what was Patrick thinking? Votes and campaign contributions were no doubt on his mind. As governor, he is also chief executive of all Bay Staters: atheists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Rastafarians, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Muslims, and more. Three cheers for the big tent. Inclusivity is a hallmark of Patrick's newly revived brand.
To say that the location of the meeting was unfortunate would be to revel in understatement. Patrick is too shrewd a politician not to grasp the power of symbols. And the mosque at the intersection of Tremont Street and Malcolm X Boulevard, while a mere two years old, bristles with back-story.
As an in-depth 2008 investigation by Phoenix political writer David S. Bernstein showed, over the years, much about the mosque was not what it appeared to be:
* Its sale, well below market value, was superintended by a BRA staffer with a stake in the outcome.
* It was financed — to the surprise of Boston City Hall — largely with Saudi money.
* Grassroots local Muslims were supplanted by more suburban-based foreign-born co-religionists of the Islamic Society of Boston who were politically more radical and theologically more conservative.
* The ISB had disturbing overlap with the Muslim American Society, which was the spawn of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian-based anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic terrorists who promote violent holy war.
* Board members and funders either were slow or failed to distance themselves from colleagues with questionable associations and anti-Semitic ideologies.