Yesterday, I wrote about the Ground Zero mosque, which attracted the usual crowd of detractors and critics. For example, “Dane” first tried to hijack the thread. Then, when that failed, he went for Plan B — riffing off a comment from “James H.”
I’ve said before that I consider James a friend. We’ve actually met once, for lunch, and he’s got a long and distinguished history at Wizbang which I hope some day can be fully discussed. Further, I can usually count on him to give me a good poke or two and “keep me honest.” And he knows how to do it in a way that really gets under my skin — by NOT getting confrontational and insulting and annoying, but with calm reason and thoughtful points. (Some times, just gimme an honest troll I can smack around. Don’t give me a principled adversary.)
He didn’t address the main points of my thesis, but he did bring up a related topic:
I have a simple request, Jay Tea. Please give your thoughts on the anti-mosque movements afoot in Tennessee, California, and elsewhere. If the argument against mosques is only “don’t build it at Ground Zero,” then why is there such hue and cry about mosque expansions elsewhere? And if those arguing against the Ground Zero project acknowledge the Muslim’s First Amendment right to build, then why were their initial arguments raised while lobbying a zoning board to block it?
Oh, and if my arguments on constitutional grounds are a bit much for you, that’s because I’m almost a First Amendment absolutist … and the debate begins and ends there for me. I have no truck with left-leaning or right-leaning political correctness.
Hmm. Yeah, I’ve discussed the Ground zero mosque, and my reasons for opposing it. And those arguments are pretty much exclusive to that particular project; they don’t transfer well to, say, Murfreesboro, Tennessee. So, why don’t I turn my thoughts to those situations?
To me, the question has two parts. First, what is motivating those opposing these mosque projects? Second, are they right to do so?
There is something visceral, something deeply passionate, about the opponents’ sentiments that surprises a lot of people. In others, it is entirely understandable. But in either case, it’s hard to put into words. Perhaps the best approach is the indirect one — to “sneak up” on the issue.
Is it an objection to the theology of Islam? No, I don’t think so. Americans are notoriously tolerant to the beliefs of others. Yesterday, my colleague DJ Drummond brought up the Mormons. Let’s be honest — the belief system of the Mormons contains some truly absurd and silly and downright humorous aspects. The biggest mystery to me about Mormonism is how the heck they can believe all that and still maintain their notoriously solemn and sober facade. But that being said, I find myself having tremendous respect and trust in actual Mormons, as the ones I’ve met have been among the most respectable and trustworthy and yes, noble people I’ve ever met.
We generally don’t give a rip what people actually believe, in their heart of hearts. And we don’t care how loudly people proclaim their faith. Hell, who else but an American could spread the word of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and have it become so successful?
So it isn’t the beliefs of Islam.
So, is it the mosque’s “footprint” on the community? Five times a day, the mosque issues the call to prayer, and it’s usually broadcast from some loudspeakers. To some, it may be “one of the prettiest sounds on earth,” but to others, it’s downright annoying.
On the other hand, I live very close to a Catholic church, and its bells go off every hour (it seems), and a lot more besides. Those bells are probably louder than the Adhan. But I’ve gotten used to it, and pretty much tune them out. I suspect the would-be neighbors would eventually do the same.
Traffic concerns? Parking issues? Those are valid matters, but usually can be resolved through zoning ordinances and whatnot. And while such seemingly trivial matters can truly rouse passions, they wouldn’t “fit” here. Most of the opponents don’t even know the specific chosen location of the proposed mosque, if it even has one. It’s the presence of the mosque in the community itself, not its precise location, that matters.
So, what is it about Islam that provokes this kind of reaction?
Here’s my theory, that most people find hard to verbalize.
America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and tenets. (“Ju-DAY-o! Ju-DAY-AY-AY-o! Judeo-Christian, what de hell is dat?”) Sorry, folks… What that means is that when we think of “religion,” we tend to think of it in terms of Christianity or Judaism, and see it through that prism.
Christianity is pretty much separated from politics, at least in the way most of the world thinks. We don’t have a “Christian” party or official state church, and only the mercifully-few tiny fringe wants to have the government enforce Christian tenets and rules. We have taken to heart the “separation of church and state” to heart in an intrinsic sense when it comes to Christianity. There are Christians in government — hell, they dominate — but they are hardly unified and stand solidly on both sides of most issues.
To most Americans, there is a firm wall between faith and politics. The two influence the other, but it is almost strictly an internal struggle. Those who talk about the religious right as an “American Taliban” only go to show just how utterly full of shit they are.
Judaism is a bit closer to extending their faith beyond the purely theological. “Jewish” has multiple meanings. It’s a faith, it’s a culture, it’s a race, it’s a floor wax, it’s a dessert topping. (OK, maybe not the last two.) There are Jewish atheists and Jewish Christians. (That last group — “Jews for Jesus” — tends to piss off Jewish Jews. I know of two in particular.) Israel is a Jewish nation, but accepts all three definitions of “Jew.”
And then there’s Islam. It’s a faith, like Judaism and Christianity, but it’s a lot more besides. In its truest form, it’s a “one-stop shopping” that covers religion, social structure, economics, politics, foreign relations, law — everything that we all take for granted as being apart from “religion.”
It’s those other, “non-religious” aspects that are part and parcel of “Islam” that cause the objections. That generate such fierce pushback, such staunch resistance.
That is what we speak of when we talk about the “fundamental incompatibility” between Islam and the West. The religious aspects of Islam — no problem. We got plenty of weirdos already who believe plenty of crazy things. We got Mormons, we got Scientologists, we got Pastafarians, we got god-hating Atheists, we got tree-worshipping Gaeans, we got Wiccans. We can handle Muslims.
It’s all the other baggage that comes with Islam that causes the problems. All the other baggage that tries to worm its way in under the “religion” exception.
To us, that’s a form of “bait and switch.” We’re saying, “hey, practice your religion, but all that other crap you’re trying to foist off on us — that’s not religion. We already have our own politics, legal system, social structure, economics, and whatnot.”
And they’re saying, “It’s all part of the whole. It’s all Islam. We can no more separate those parts of our faith than you can separate your hand from your body.”
So we say, “Kind of like you do to thieves and their hands? Or infidels and their heads?”
And that’s when we’re accused of being insensitive and intolerant for mentioning some of the more draconian aspects of Shariah law. So we then bring up the penalties for things like adultery and homosexuality (death in creatively vicious fashion), things some of us might not approve of but have outgrown the need to have the law enforce them for us. And things go even further downhill from there.
And that’s not even mentioning how many terrorist plots end up getting traced back to mosques, which tend to lend themselves to being meeting places where like-minded Islamic militants/fundamentalists/extremists can find each other and start conspiring. As Turkey’s current Prime Minister once quoted in a poem, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…”
I admit it doesn’t have quite the catchiness of “Onward Christian Soldiers” and doesn’t quite capture the fierce paramilitary aspect of the Salvation Army, but there are similarities.
But there’s still one major difference between the Ground Zero mosque and these other projects. Those other would-be mosques are largely local issues. The Ground Zero one is a national one, because the attack that created Ground Zero (and, in an astonishing coincidence, I’m sure, also seriously damaged the building planned for the mosque — ground breaking scheduled for September 11, 2011, in another astonishing and meaningless coincidence) was not against New York City, or even New York State. It was a blow against the entire nation, and we as a nation have the right to take an interest in how that is observed.
No, not just a right. An obligation. A duty.
So, back to James’ question. What do I think about this trend for locals to resist the establishment of mosques in their neighborhoods?
Two things. First, in most cases, these are local issues, and will most likely be settled locally.
Second, for nigh on a decade we’ve heard the incessant whining about the “anti-Muslim backlash” that is just around the corner, as hate-filled, intolerant Americans rise up and do unspeakable things against individual Muslims as revenge for the actions of others who proclaim to share the same faith. If “we’re going to make trouble for you in zoning hearings” is the worst, then my faith in the fundamental fairness and decency of the American people is, indeed, well founded.