With the latest controversy regarding Islam in the United States — the establishment of a mosque and “civic center” two blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center — a certain often overlooked point regarding Islam: it’s more than just a religion.
And that makes dealing with it exceptionally tricky.
Christianity is simple. It’s a religion. Period. So it’s covered by the First Amendment, with very few places where they conflict.
Judaism is a bit trickier. “Jewish” can mean religion, race, or culture — or all three. If one follows the Torah (alias “the Jewish Bible” or “The Old Testament,” then one is Jewish. Or if one was born of a Jewish mother, then one is Jewish. Or if one was brought up in or lives among Jews and follows Jewish traditions, then one is Jewish. There are plenty of Jewish athiests, where “Christian atheist” is an oxymoron.
Islam is even more complicated. It’s a religion. But it’s a religion that embraces all aspects of life. It’s a faith, it’s a culture, it’s a political philosophy, it’s a legal system, it’s a form of governance. Islam, to many, is “one-stop shopping.”
But one thing Islam never is, is race. Islam is specific in that it welcomes — hell, commands — people of all races. So calling those who oppose Islam “racist” is utterly bogus.
And that’s where it runs headlong into the Constitution, and the American way of life. Islam, the religion, is protected by the First Amendment. Period. End of discussion.
But Islamic culture? Islamic philosophy? Islamic law? Islamic governance? Not so much.
Indeed, many of those aspects of Islam are utterly incompatible with the Constitution. Women being treated as property of their husbands or male relatives? Muslims having more legal rights than non-Muslims? The word of a Muslim being more highly regarded than that of unbelievers in court? Blasphemy being a civil crime, punished by the government? Those are all also tenets of Islam, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with even a passing knowledge of the United States Constitution who’d say those were protected by it.
But back to the planned Cordoba Center in Manhattan. As I noted before, it’s a “civic center” a considerable distance from any residential neighborhoods. Further, it’s very close to Ground Zero, which puts it in the tradition of Mecca and the Temple Mount mosques, where Muslims established their temples atop the holy sites of those they have conquered. Finally, it’s named after the Great Mosque at Cordoba, which was the religious capitol of Muslim-occupied Europe (and which was, naturally, built atop the site of a Christian church).
The establishment of mosques is of no great concern to most Americans. We understand that the free practice of religion — or wholesale rejection thereof — is absolutely protected by the Constitution.
But it’s the rest of the package that gives many of us trouble. To us, the problem is that Islam the religion is inextricably entangled with all other aspects of life, and the proponents of Islamism are using the religious aspect to shoehorn all the rest of Islam’s baggage into Constitutionally protected status.
I have no problems with the Islamic religion. I reject it, personally, as I reject all other organized religions (I consider myself an agnostic, but Deism is showing a bit of appeal to me) — admittedly with a bit more vehemence than I do Christianity or Judaism — but I feel no great desire to persuade its adherents to leave the faith or impose legal restrictions on its practice.
But I am a creature of politics, and a constitutional militant. I fiercely oppose the politics of Islam, and I believe that the First Amendment’s “freedom of religion” embraces the rights of Americans to live completely apart from religion if they so choose — and that is utterly incompatible with Islam the all-consuming way of life, which commands that “infidels” and “heretics” and “unbelievers” acknowledge the supremacy of Islam and abide by its tenets.
And that’s not a polite “no, thanks.” That’s an in-your-face, “Hell, no!” That’s an “Over my dead body!” no.
I will not submit.