The First Amendment of the US Constitution requires: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
There is no quarrel that Americans have the right to have their own religion (and that the government will not select an official one) and that they may practice it; they may say what they like and write what they like; and they may have peaceful assemblies and may petition the government when aggrieved.
But the current debate over the establishment of a Muslim Cultural Center near Ground Zero is a babble on both sides. The freedoms in the First Amendment do have exceptions. We do not permit:
• Religions to sacrifice animals (or maidens, as they once did).
• Religions that sanction polygamy—an issue that faced Mormons when they wanted Utah to join the union.
• Religions to sanction murder of wives or daughters who are disobedient (honor killings).
• Religious cults that abuse their women and children—a reason that the cult of David Koresh went down in a shootout and Jonestown moved to Guiana.
• Freedom to falsely shout fire in a crowded theater, resulting in deaths.
• Violent demonstrations, a tactic favored by anarchists.
Just saying something enough times does not make it so. The defenders of the Islamic Center keep telling us that Islam is a “religion of peace” and that the perpetrators of 9/11 were “extremists.” There are peaceful Muslims in the world, but Islam itself has always been a militant religion that noted historian Samuel Huntington described as having bloody borders with every neighbor (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, and the entire Arab Middle East). These “extremists” were just practicing literal Islam, with plenty of support from their religious texts and they self-identify as “defenders of real Islam.” Why should we doubt that?
The Saudis insist that it is real Islam to find a hospital to destroy a young man’s spinal cord to render him paralyzed, punishment for a fight with another young man that paralyzed him. How moderate is that?
Furthermore, even peaceful Muslims around the world believe (in sizeable majorities) that 9/11 was not carried out by Muslims, but by Americans and Israelis. This does not seem “moderate” to me.
The defenders of the center also note that the Pentagon, which was also violently attacked, has no problem with Muslims praying there. The Pentagon has an ecumenical chapel, not a mosque. All religious faiths may share the space for prayer. That is not the same as an Islamic Center and mosque.
Supporters of the project note that other places of worship are near Ground Zero and all should be treated equally. However, none of these churches or Synagogues has recruited terrorists, a real problem today in the US with mosques. This is a touchy issue—but we cannot afford to ignore it.
Those opponents of the center on the radical right detest the theology of Islam, which is really not the issue when it comes to city zoning rules. Many do not want any mosques built at all in the United States, which does violate First Amendment Rights. The question of this center is one of insensitivity, not legality. It is a zoning issue.
They do note correctly, however, that we foolishly take “moderate” Muslim clerics at their word with little investigation. Some of the statements by Imam Rauf and his wife, such as 9/11 being the result of “US foreign policy” (code words for support of Israel), and Rauf’s advice to President Obama (happily ignored) that the US should recognize Iran’s Rule by Clerics rather than by democracy, do not sound moderate.
I believe that this politically correct mouthing of Islam’s inherently peaceful nature be packed in mothballs. And I support the courage of Muslims who risk their necks telling us the truth—such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq. They are the hope for the future.
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and writer. You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www