Hatred and fear of Islam – of Moslems – is understandable. But are there hidden forces at work?

Summary:   Readers send in questions, which we attempt to answer.  Is the fear of Islam understandable?  Yes.  Is it reasonable?  Does it warrant State action?  Read below for some answers, and a guess as to the real reason for the surge of fear-mongering about Islam.  (This post was revised on August 3 to make the conclusion more explicit)

A reader responds to a statement in Is America fighting the tide of history? Are we like the Czars in the 19th century?:  “Worse, a large fraction of America has become actively hostile to one of the world’s major — and fastest growing — religions.  As we see in the recent controversies about building mosques in New York City and Temecula, CA.  And our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and alliance with Israel against its neighbors.” 

Many people in the US fear Islam.  While the protestors in Temecula, CA are objecting to religious freedom (which is indefensible) this is also a culture change to their community, and their opposition to it is understandable.  And there are Moslems pushing for western nations to adopt Sharia law.

Misplaced ‘tolerance’ for Sharia will hasten the death of western civilization. As pockets of Sharia proliferate, there will be no room for ‘one law for everybody’ unless it is Mohamed’s law. Then we won’t be able to debate it at all.  This is the fear that is motivating some of the pushback to Islam in general and mosques specifically.

There are several levels to this issue.

  1. Is the fear of Islam reasonable?
  2. About Sharia
  3. About understanding
  4. What’s the real reason for the attention to Islam?
  5. Posts about fighting Islam

(1)  Is the fear of Islam reasonable?

  • The existence of fear by group A of group B does not require the State to respond with oppression of group B.
  • Three statements by individuals (one UK, two in Australia) over a ten year period does not prove a serious threat to US society.  I’ve seen no rational analysis of the Islamic threat, just ignorant rabble-rousing.
  • The fact that some Irish Catholics in Ireland were IRA terrorists did not require oppression of either Irish or Catholics in the US.  Ditto Islam.
  • That some racists — white and black — make outrageous or even evil statements requires no oppression of whites or blacks in the US.  Ditto Islam.
  • Even less so when those making the statements live in other nations.
  • Adoption of Sharia in other nations does not require oppression of Islam or Moslems in the US.
  • We have fought off ideological enemies in the past without widespread oppression.  For details of one such see Are islamic extremists like the anarchists?

As an example of the specifics given for one instance, look at one of the reasons Newt Gingrich gives for his opposition to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

“There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.”  {press release by Gingrich, 21 July 2010}

That the freedom of US citizens be limited by the behavior of other governments is antithetical to our core beliefs.  Proposing that American’s rights be used as hostages to force policy changes in other sovereign nations is despicable, IMO.  Gingrich does not even hint that the Saudi Prince’s religious policies affect us in any way.

For more about this issue see “The Republican campaign against a Ground Zero mosque“, William Saletan, Slate, 2 August 2010.

(2)  About Sharia

All major systems of law have a basis in morality.  So public policy becomes the battleground on which various moral systems struggle to impose their beliefs on other people.  This is inevitable and inescapable.  

Modern western history is littered with theocracies.  John Calvin’s Geneva, the Puritans in New England, Cromwell’s Protectorate, the LDS’ State of Deseret.  For most of our history US law contained many explicitly Christian provisions, imposed on everybody.

In the US we see this in the debates over blue laws, pornography, abortion (both sides), prohibition of alcohol and drugs, how to educate children, and a thousand other fields.  Including in our past the debate over the rights of women and blacks, and today saying “under God” in the Pledge (added in 1954).

Foreign influence on our culture  flow inevitability from globalization – the free movement of people and ideas.  Their voices add to the melting pot, good and bad alike.  Which brings us to the next question…

(3)  About understanding

Let’s replay the quote from above.

“this is also a culture change to their community, and their opposition to it is understandable. “

Yes, all human trends are understandable, but  understanding does not require agreement.  There are two replies to these calls for oppession of Islam in the United States.  We should remember the words of George Washington in his letter to to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island (18 August 1790):

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.

For a bolder explanation we turn (as always) to Star Trek.  From “A Taste of Armageddon“, Stardate 3192.1:

ANAN: It’s a vicious attack, extremely destructive. Fortunately, our defences are firming, but our casualties are high. Very high.
KIRK: Sir, I have been in contact with my ship, which has had this entire planet under surveillance. All during this so-called attack of yours, we have been monitoring you. There’s been no attack, no explosions, no radiations, no disturbances whatsoever. If this is some sort of game you’re playing
ANAN: This is no game, Captain. Half a million people have just been killed. Activate the attack units, Sar.  Launch immediate counter attack.
SPOCK: Computers, Captain. They fight their war with computers. Totally.
ANAN: Yes, of course.
KIRK: Computer don’t kill a half million people.
ANAN: Deaths have been registered. Of course they have twenty four hours to report.
KIRK: To report?
ANAN: To our disintegration machines. You must understand, Captain, we have been at war for five hundred years. Under ordinary conditions, no civilisation could withstand that. But we have reached a solution.
SPOCK: Then the attack by Vendikar was theoretical.
ANAN: Oh, no, quite real. An attack is mathematically launched. I lost my wife in the last attack. Our civilisation lives. The people die, but our culture goes on.
KIRK: You mean to tell me your people just walk into a disintegration machine when they’re told to?
ANAN: We have a high consciousness of duty, Captain.
SPOCK: There is a certain scientific logic about it.
ANAN: I’m glad you approve.
SPOCK: I do not approve. I understand.

Both sides in this controversy can be understood.  However, folks wishing to oppress other Americans are the enemy of America.  Shields up!  Fire phasers!

(4)  What’s the real reason for the attention to Islam?

So far there is no evidence of a serious threat to America.  But large or small threat, they must be fought just like our home-grown theocrats.

Certainly Islam poses no threat  like that of the massive expansion of our national security apparatus, operating in the dark with minimal supervision or restraint (a tiny part of which is described in “Project Vigilant and the government/corporate destruction of privacy“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 2 August 2010).  Perhaps these two threats have a hidden relationship.  Conservatives rabble-rouse fears of Islam, tiny though its influence in America, to distract us from the real danger to us from the cancer-like growth of the national security apparatus.

(5)  Posts about fighting Islam

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