America Is The Measure Of Herself

A clear-eyed blogger has pointed out (in a post that I can no longer locate) that much of the ongoing sturm und drang over the mosque community center that includes a mosque presently in construction nearly tragically underfunded right on top of two blocks away from Ground Zero is really all just so much pornography of opinion. As I’ve mediated on before, what may really be going on is a massive miscommunication resulting from the poverty of the English language — “should” there be a mosque at this location can imply either a normative assessment of the social appropriateness about this proposal, or it can imply a legal assessment of whether the government possesses the power to prevent it from going forward. My initial take was the second facet of the question, but I’m not so sure that many of the objectors to the mosque project aren’t simply being foggy about the distinction between the two issues because either they aren’t able to intellectually distinguish between the two concepts or because they are motivated to prefer not to do so for, among other possible reasons, political advantage.

But there is a class of mosque-project protestor who clearly does understand the difference between the normative “should” and the governmental “should,” and that class includes the editorial board of the Washington Examiner, Newt Gingrich, and Andy McCarthy. They have all made the point that there are no Christian churches in Saudi Arabia, but there are plenty of mosques in the United States and even in New York City. There is some ill-defined boundary of good taste within which mosques ought not exist, they claim, sometimes rather gruesomely (but nevertheless illogically) claiming that because debris from the 9/11 attacks fell on Park Place, this mosque project is nevertheless still on “sacred ground.” By pointing to a nation where the government actively prohibits religious diversity and imposes a state religion, these authors are squarely addressing the question of whether the government should intervene in this increasingly vapid issue.

I think the comparison with Saudi Arabia is insulting. Insulting to the United States. Since when do we evaluate our own Constitutional standards of the limits on governmental power against those set by a monarchy? Since when do we judge our own measure of social tolerance against a yardstick created by a nation with a fanatical, barbarous, and murderous state religion?

America is the judge of herself. The Constitution of the United States is the ultimate yardstick against which we should measure ourselves. I don’t give a damn how the King of Saudi Arabia governs his subjects. We don’t have kings here, we don’t have subjects. We are self-governing citizens in a nation ruled by law and administered by a Constitution whose core function is to limit the powers of the government. We are more than capable of judging and evaluating ourselves; we have an active marketplace of ideas and opinions in which to do that; we are possessed of higher ideals than the rest of the world and we do better than the rest of the world when we aspire to fulfill our own ideals.

As to the second question, whether the project is in good taste, I’ll reserve judgment. I’m willing to give the guy a chance to actually say what he wants to say (if he can raise the money to do it) before I evaluate it one way or the other. But mainly, they have exercised their rights and said what they choose to say. After all, this is a free country.

In Saudi Arabia, I’d likely be deported for saying this — and if I were a Saudi citizen I’d be gambling with my life to say it — but the King of Saudi Arabia can suck it because he and his nation don’t matter to this debate. In America, the owner of private property may put that private property to any lawful use he chooses, even if that means a house of worship for an unpopular religion; in America, a citizen may express whatever opinion he wishes, even a political opinion that Sharia law ought to become the law of the USA and the government has acted immorally; in America, we draw strength, power, and our communal identity from the differences among us. This is not Saudi Arabia.

Notwithstanding the efforts of religious fanatics to impose the phrase “In God We Trust” on their fellow citizens who do no such thing, our national motto has always been E Pluribus Unum. Nineteen religious fanatics with box cutters who committed mass murder ten years ago aren’t worth giving that up.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. Needless to say, should Newt actually become president, I have no doubt that he will suck up to the Saudi monarchy with all the gusto demonstrated by previous executives.

  2. Bringing up Saudi Arabia isn't about comparison. It is one facet of pointing out that Islam is not truly a "religion", but a political entity dishonestly wrapped in the cloak of "religion."Intriguingly, I was sent a comparison between two false prophets the other day. This sheds great light on the situation.Warren Jeffs: sends the young men off to die with no education or resources so that there are enough girls for him to "assign" multiple wives to his friends.Mohammed: sent the young men off to die in wars to ensure multiple wives for those he favored.Warren Jeffs: regularly "excommunicated" men and took their wives for himself.Mohammed: told his own son "hey your wife is hot, divorce her so I can marry her instead."Warren Jeffs: rapist of children.Mohammed: "Married" a girl of age 6. Supposedly waited to "consummate" it to age 9. Still makes him a creepy old pedophile.Warren Jeffs: established quite clearly the concepts of "bleeding the beast" and establishing state-within-a-state arrangements of his compounds – police investigating the cult have numerous times found that the cult insinuates itself into local police, judges, and their leaders were removed from court over and over in trial after trial for trying to intimidate witnesses on the bench.Mohammed: established quite clearly the concepts of taqiyya and kitman, and the notion of spreading his "religion" by undercover agents. As noted even at left-wing Slate: "As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind…And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …"I believe my point has been made. The question which should be made, validly, is whether Islam deserves the protections of a "religion" at all. I assert that it is not truly a religion and therefore does not.

  3. Seems to me that most of the anti-mosquers I know and talk to use "should" in the former sense. Even on Fox News an editorialist I ran across specifically said that they have the right to build it but should not. Krauthammer, Douthat, and a good portion of other conservatives are making the argument on taste grounds rather than government grounds. At the same time, I see the pro-mosque movement making no distinctions between those that think that the mosque should not be built for reasons of taste and those that believe that the first amendment does not apply to Muslims. I am really seeing the tendency to bind these concepts on both sides.Personally, I have no problem with the mosque at all. But I do increasingly find myself agitated by those that are confusing vocal objections to something they find objectionable with a call for government action. I have no doubt that some are calling for government action, but I think we should only argue against government action when it's expressly being proposed. And so when someone says it "shouldn't be built" it should be taken the same as when I say "cars shouldn't have confederate flags on them" and not as an affront to the first amendment.

  4. With regard to the Saudi Arabia argument, I absolutely agree. That is not a standard we should hold ourselves to. There are times you have to resort to something resembling the lower tactics of an enemy… but when it comes to freedom of religion, we really don't.

  5. Most of the pro-mosquers quote Koran Sura 2:256, the oft-misquoted "there shall be no compulsion in religion" line.It's been beat to death in the media lately. As if to give the impression Islam were a "tolerant" faith.The only problem is, that line by itself is meaningless. In the same chapter, for example, we see Sura 2:193, "War with them until conflict is no more and religion is only for Allah."And then there is the doctrine of al-nasikh wal-mansukh, the abrogated and abrogating verses. Of 114 Suras (chapters), only 43 are untouched by the abrogation doctrine. One of those 43 happens to be Sura 9, the chronologically second-last chapter, and uncoincidentally one of the most bloodthirsty chapters of the entire book.In case you were wondering, any honest examination of the Koran with an eye towards al-nasikh wal-mansukh reveals that 2:256 isn't just misquoted by Muslim apologists, it's misused, since it is completely void of meaning – at least 18 violent verses specifically abrogate it, and a number of verses prior to it chronologically still contradict it!

  6. Mike, pursuant to the first point made in the post, do you believe…:1. They have a legal/Constitutional right to build the mosque but Americans should apply public pressure (protests, editorials, etc) to prevent them from building it.or…2. They should prevented from building it by whatever legal/legislative/governmental means necessary.?

  7. Not to be picky, Will, but I'd rephrase option #1 to be phrased as:"They have a legal/Constitutional right to build the mosque but Americans should apply public pressure (protests, editorials, etc) to persuade them from building it." Same result (that is, no mosque), but one carries an implication of voluntariness and the other an implication of external compulsion.

  8. TL,Regarding point #1, if Islam were really a peaceful religion (a point quite easily refuted), then the presentation of such protests, editorials, and other pressures ought to convince them not to try to build it. Instead, they have surreptitiously started holding "mosque services" in the building (which has yet to be cleared as not holding human remains of those killed by Islam previously, despite having had pieces of the airplane wreckage land on it) as-is.Regarding point #2, as representatives of the people, the elected representatives who have some form of power over the site – which apparently currently includes the State of New York, as it has been revealed that the Imam involved in this project is in arrears somewhat severely in property taxes – ought to do what they can to represent the majority of the people who find this to be a very bad idea.And there is a third point, which still remains, as to whether Islam can really be treated as a "religion" in the sense we normally allow, able to coexist with any secular government once they reach a certain critical mass. When even avowed Atheists like Christopher Hitchens are questioning this, the discussion can't be ignored.

  9. #1. This is perhaps the best point that the antimosquers have. If you're wanting to put a good face on your religion, doing something as unpopular as this is is not a good way to do it. "Don't build the mosque here" is more reasonable than "no mosques" in my view.On the other hand, I don't think it goes to how "peaceful" or "unpeaceful" a religion is. If you're an unpopular religion, you're going to be doing things that are unpopular. And whatever clearance has not been done on the property is the fault of whomever took 10 years to do it. If the government didn't care to do it five years ago, it's not right to just start caring now that unpopular people are doing something unpopular.#2. Regarding the taxes, the question here is what the government would be doing if they were not unpopular people with an unpopular theology. Preventing work permits that would be granted to the Catholic Church or a Civic Center on the basis of these people being unpopular is selective enforcement.#3. Declaring something not a religion because its theology is objectionable is dangerous territory. It's a great way to declare anything you don't like as being unprotected by the first amendment.Sometimes you do have to issue restrictions if they're putting children in harms way or breaking secular law, but you enforce these rules uniformly by targeting the behavior and not the people. Preventing people from building a sanctuary for its members does not seem to apply here and declaring Islam "not a religion" is targeting people.

  10. If you're an unpopular religion, you're going to be doing things that are unpopular.trumwill,There is another category: violent religions created by 7th-century pedophiles that even today endorse "honor killings", the death penalty for leaving the religion, female genital mutilation, the practice of human slavery, outrageous "polygamy" in which women are literally kept as sex slaves, and the deliberate destruction of the holy sites of other religions.Yes, I'm speaking of Islam here. "Freedom of religion" presupposes that the religions themselves are predominantly peaceful and able to coexist as such. Islam has proven that it is not; the most one can hope for is that the Muslims in a particular country remain such a small minority that they do not begin to feel they can take over.I refer you to Christopher Hitchens' latest column on the matter in which he says the following."As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything "offensive" to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …"What Hitchens leaves out is that when Muslims reach a point close to a majority, after concessions have been made and barbaric Shari'a law enshrined in civil law, they take it one step further and start burning down churches and temples, as has happened in Indonesia and the Phillipines in the past decade.

  11. Mike, I am uncomfortable making a distinction between "religions that have practices I find objectionable" and "religions I find so objectionable as to strip them of their First Amendment rights".If the Muslims in the US start making demands that are not reasonable and not in accordance with protecting the rights of the individual, then we should oppose those laws either legislatively or in court. Not deny them building permits.

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