A Trenchant Tract to Counteract a Clear Exaggeration

With apologies to Fred Tipson.

The National Review displays a worrying bit of candor in its latest discussion of the “Ground Zero Mosque.” It’s not about location, it’s not about 9/11, and it’s not about national honor. It’s about Islam:

The Ground Zero mosque project is not about religious tolerance. We permit thousands of mosques in our country, and Islam is not a religion. Islam is an ideology that has some spiritual elements, but strives for authoritarian control of every aspect of human life — social, political, and economic. The Ground Zero mosque project is a stealth step in the ” Grand Jihad,” the term used by the Muslim Brotherhood and its confederates for what they describe as a “civilizational” battle to destroy the U.S. and the West from within, by sabotage.

The choice of the word “permit” speaks volumes, for how thoroughly it misunderstands the basic concept of “religious liberty.” Medieval Islam, under the Caliphate, “permitted” hundreds of Christian temples and Jewish synagogues within the dar al-Islam, so long as non-Muslims (dhimmi) paid the religious tax (the jizra). Similarly, fundamentalist ideologues like The Corner would “permit” Muslims to live and worship freely, so long as they keep to themselves, and avoid any interaction with the community that surrounds them. That’s not freedom, and that’s not tolerance. The point of a free country like ours is that the minority doesn’t have to ask the majority’s permission before worshiping as they see fit.

As to the rest, we should decline the invitation — also offered by Gingrich — to treat isolated offenses, perpetrated in the name of Islam, as a causus belli justifying some new crusade against the entire religion. Surely Osama bin Laden agrees with his Christian fundamentalist counterparts that America and Islam are locked in existential conflict, to be resolved only by the utter annihilation of one or both. But we as a country needn’t engage in their shared delusion, and shouldn’t, at the risk of legitimizing him.

Curious, too, to hear The Corner complaining about a religion that “strives for authoritarian control over every aspect of human life,” when some of its authors seem to understand America only as an outgrowth of, and a vehicle for Christianity.



  1. I seem to recall some correspondence by a Founding Father (perhaps from George Washington, perhaps to the Jewish community, perhaps at Newport) in which he actively equated “tolerance” with the kind of “permitting” you mention above; that the majority explicitly “tolerates” the minority, with the implicit meaning that such toleration can be revoked. Washington (or whoever the writer was) said that “tolerance” had no place in American society, since the lack of an established religion made all sects equal in the sight of the law.

    1. This looks to be what you’re referring to.

      1. @Kris: Plus one for you for finding this!

        Minus one for me for not taking five seconds to Google it… but plus one for me again for remembering so much detail.

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