An especially troubling column appeared over the weekend in the Cincinnati Enquirer from a board member at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. In the Moslem equivalent of a sermon, Dr. Ashraf Travoulsi offers his congregation a reflection on the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month that is by turns self-pitying and delusional. His main concern isn’t for the victims of these attacks but for their “extremely negative impact on Islam and Muslims all over the world.” He also fears that “Islamic terrorism” is “becoming an acceptable term to use in mainstream media outlets,” not because of an unrelenting stream of terrorist attacks by Moslem jihadis, but because of bigotry and fear-mongering. Likewise, he claims, “Islamophobia is becoming rampant and Islamophobes are having a field day.”
(I’m not making this up — go and read it for yourself.)
It’s worth noting the murky origins of the center, which include a $6 million check from the House of Saud in 1995 during its infancy. As has been widely reported, Saudi petrodollars have been used to fund institutions around the globe devoted to Wahhabism, an anti-Western form of Islam that developed in the Arabian peninsula and that was the focus of considerable scrutiny in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
It’s also worth noting that until recently the Islamic Center was a “go to” partner for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Social Action office. Their collaboration seems to have stopped in the aftermath of several embarrassing episodes in inter-religious dialogue that readers of my old site may recall grimacingly. This column demonstrates that circumspection about the center is warranted.