Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is Islam a religion? A political movement? Both?

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain has been taking a bit of heat lately for saying that communities have the right to ban mosques.  Cain made the statement on Fox News Sunday in discussions about a controversial mosque in Murfreesboro, TN:

“Our Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. Islam combines church and state,” Cain argued, as host Chris Wallace maintained that separation of church and state permits mosques to exist in any community. To Cain, however, the problem was not Islam as a religion, but Islam as a set of laws. “American laws in American courts,” he repeated, a mantra he used in the latest Republican primary debate. “It is not just a mosque for religious purposes.”

Wallace argued that he did not quite understand what was wrong with Murfreesboro that would prevent a mosque from existing there without controversy– “this isn’t Ground Zero in New York City, it’s not hallowed ground. Don’t Americans have a right, of any religion, under a Constitution which you speak so much about…”

Cain retorted that “to the people of Murfreesboro, it is hallowed ground” and that he agreed with them in their objection to “the intentions of trying to get Sharia Law.” “They’re objecting to the fact that Islam is both a religion and a set of laws,” Cain continued. So Wallace asked the inevitable question: does any community have the right to ban mosques? “Yes, they have a right to do that,” Cain replied, without skipping a beat. He later added that, while he is not willing to discriminate based on religion, “I’d rather err on the side of caution.”
Cain is no stranger to controversy on the issue of how to deal with Muslims in US public affairs.  Ace of Spades takes Cain out to the woodshed, the wood chipper and the wood recycling mill:

This guy is not longer a joke, he's simply despicable.


Cain has a rather convoluted understanding of the US Constitution, at least when it comes to it's applicability to Muslims in this country.

I didn't like John McCain's attempts to rewrite the 1st Amendment through campaign finance reform laws and I don't like candidates for President like Cain who think some people may only build houses of worship at the sufferance of their fellow citizens.

Yes, mosques must follow the same laws and regulations as any other religion nor should they be granted any special consideration because in some areas Islam is "the de facto state religion". But the wholesale banning of them because people don't like Muslims or what they believe in? I'll stand with the Constitution.

Guys like Cain profess to revere the US Constitution yet they are strangely willing to ignore it when it either suits their personal beliefs or political needs. Personally, I'd prefer to live the selective and creative interpretations of the plain meaning of those indecipherable old words to liberals.
One can certainly take issue with Cain's proposed solution, proposed solution here, but I don't think anyone can take issue with Cain's underlying belief that Islam considers itself more than a religion.

The principle of the separation of church and state is primarily one of Christianity.  Not US constitutional law, mind you, but Christianity.  It dates back to Jesus Christ's statement about "rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and rendering unto God what is God's."  While Christianity has not always lived by that mantra (see e.g., Holy Roman Empire, Papal States, Lay Investiture, Church of England and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, for starters), the principle is an acknowledgment that religion and government have separate interests.  For instance, while an individual committing murder is violating the Ten Commandments, the government can kill without violating the Ten Commandments, because a governemtn has as its primary responsibility the protection of its citizens, while an individual does not.  Indeed, if everyone abided by the Ten Commandments, we might not even need a government.

Theoretical Islam has no such principle of separation of church and state.  Quite the reverse, actually.  Islam contemplates an Islamic government imposing Islamic rules on everyone, Muslims and especially non-Muslims, by force of law and force of arms.  And these Islamic rules cover everything -- in theory, from the 7th Century.

The vast, vast majority of Muslims in the US have adopted the attitude of separation of church and state, or, more accurately, mosque and state.  Those people are as American as you or me.

But a tiny minority has not.  Those people seek to impose shar'ia law on the US.  By force.  Slowly, almost imperceptibly, under the radar.  They hope to go unnoticed.

They use the status of Islam as a religion in the US as a shield to protect their dangerous activities, such as opening Wahabbist madrassas and anti-US speeches in mosques.  The religious status gives them legal protections that most political movements do not have, while their political arms undertake activities that most US religions do not.

And therein lies the underlying legal problem:  US law, whether statutory or constitutional, is not, as currently structured, able to adequately handle a dual religion and political movement in a way that both protects freedom of religion while also protecting the people of the United States.

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