Mormons and Mosques, and now Harry Reid

By August 17, 2010

After hearing this morning that Harry Reid has now entered into this vitriolic debate about the right to build a mosque (or the responsibility not to do so) where shadows of the Twin Towers once fell, my curiosity about how Mormons, both scholars and non, feel about this controversy, has bubbled over onto the virtual pages of JI.

As we well know, from the point of view of its detractors, Mormonism has been linked to Islam since at least E. D. Howe’s 1834 Mormonism Unvailed, in which the Ohio newspaperman declared that Joseph Smith cited his own “extreme ignorance and apparent stupidity” as proof of the authentic prophethood, just as Mohammed had claimed his own illiteracy as proof of the divinity of the Quran.

Since this controversy over the mosque in Manhattan began a few months ago, I couldn’t help but see the historical comparisons we could make between this type of insidious religious persecution and the types Mormons have faced in the past and as of late (as I’m typing this in my Somerville apartment, I can see through the foliage the Belmont Temple, the construction of which faced its own challenges by non-Mormon locals who cloaked what I believe to be anti-Mormonism in language of parking lot run-off and traffic congestion).
No doubt, Harry Reid’s decision to weigh in on the side of the anti-mosquers is a political move, intended to win him a few votes among the anti-Obama set in his hotly contested reelection bid, and in my view also pick up a nomination in the category of most ironic political decision for 2010 category.
Perhaps I go too far. The area around Ground Zero is certainly hallowed ground and sensitivity (the buzz word misused in my interpretation by those opposed to the mosque) should be respected. Yet (what I’m sure is obvious from this post) I feel that on constitutional grounds made clear by President Obama, and perhaps more importantly on moral grounds, I believe the mosque should be allowed to be built as a symbol to the world that America takes seriously its principle of freedom of religion. My opinion is that there is no better place than to build this mosque than close to Ground Zero, especially since according to the plans it will serve not only the Manhattan Muslim community but provide theater and athletic spaces for all New Yorkers.
As a historian, I would believe that saints would be natural allies with these Muslims hoping to construct a house of worship (and social center), as Mormons have fought similar battles for decades, and did so often citing the Constitution. Even more poignantly, as the most persecuted religious community in American history, saints observing the tide of American sentiment moves clearly against the construction of this mosque would find, I would imagine, parallels in their recent and more distant past.
Perhaps my personal feelings on this issue have gotten in the way of cogent analysis. Perhaps I should understand Harry Reid’s decision to condemn the mosque’s construction as I understand Mormons’ participation in the Proposition Eight fight—that these political decisions actually mark the degree to which Mormonism has integrated into the (conservative) American experience. Mormons no longer feel the need to, even implicitly, defend the history of plural marriage and instead can join their one-time persecutors in their fight against legal recognition of unconventional love-partnerships (without the Wendy Doniger dog barking at the gate). And in terms of the mosque, Mormons like Reid can practice American civil religion (as it was revamped after 9/11) and not side with religious outsiders, of which his adopted faith was a part, in the defense of religious freedom.

So let me put my question to the JI community more directly. Am I right about Reid’s decision? Are there in fact historical parallels to be drawn between the Mormon and Muslim American Experiences? How does the LDS community at large feel about this issue? Is it an issue of religious freedom for saints? Or am I missing something profound about the claim to “sensitivity”?

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. I’d rather see the building in question used as a hotel for cats, than a mosque.

    Comment by SUNNofaB.C.Rich — August 22, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

  2. Thanks for your insightful and thoughtful contribution to the conversation, SUNNofaB.C.Rich. Now please take your bigoted and decidedly not funny trolling elsewhere.

    Comment by Christopher — August 22, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

  3. The are between 40 to 50 thousand mosques in the United States. Over 200 of these are in Manhattan alone. Not wanting a mosque built on Ground Zero is absolutly NOT being intolerant or hateful. All that is being asked is for sensivity to the thousands of families of all religions who lost loved ones there. Do you really not think that those responsible for the slaughter of innocents will rejoice in the streets as a victory over us once again. How will the survivors,scarred for the rest of their lives be expected to accept this? Has there been ANY discussion that part of the mosque would HONOR the dead and denounce the slaughter? I’ve not heard any. Where is the “sensitivity” that the rest of us are expected to have? The only persons required to be “sensitive” are middle aged white male Christians. Everyone else can say or do anything and they are excercising free speech. I disagree..and though I am a thoughtful caring person, I am now simply “hateful.”

    Comment by Barry Lee — August 23, 2010 @ 6:42 pm

  4. Yep, Barry, you are.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 23, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

  5. Barry,

    Not wanting a mosque built on Ground Zero is absolutly NOT being intolerant or hateful

    Good thing it isn’t being built “on” Ground Zero.

    All that is being asked is for sensivity to the thousands of families of all religions who lost loved ones there.

    Including New York Muslims…

    Do you really not think that those responsible for the slaughter of innocents will rejoice in the streets as a victory over us once again.

    Nope.

    How will the survivors,scarred for the rest of their lives be expected to accept this?

    As they are expected to accept anything in life. Pick yourself up and move on. Linger on the tragedy and you ruin your life because you cannot move on. Your life is stuck in the moment of the fateful event and you cannot progress. For any Mormon, this makes absolutely no sense seeing how we believe in eternal progression. We progress from events that have scarred us, not keep returning back to the scene of the crime for some post-traumatic stress disorder repeating.

    Has there been ANY discussion that part of the mosque would HONOR the dead and denounce the slaughter?

    I don’t know. Have you bothered to actually check?

    Where is the “sensitivity” that the rest of us are expected to have?

    Sensitivity to what? Please clarify.

    The only persons required to be “sensitive” are middle aged white male Christians.

    White males are the weakest species on the planet, judging on how often they complain of the injustices they have to constantly deal with. And I say this as a middle aged white male Christian.

    I disagree..and though I am a thoughtful caring person, I am now simply “hateful.”

    You’re not hateful. But you certainly have a terrible distrust of any and all Muslims. It shows in your comment no matter how much you try and meander around what you really are saying.

    Comment by Dan — August 23, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

  6. Barry:
    There are about 1200 mosques in the US.

    See the following cite for an interesting demographic breakdown of American Muslims:
    http://www.allied-media.com/AM/

    Comment by Max — August 23, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

  7. Hey, Barry; as you can’t be bothered to tell the difference between the Shi’a and Sunni Muslims you do, actually, count as hateful. Congrats.

    Comment by djinn — August 23, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

  8. I am shocked to see so many Mormons in support of building a mosque at ground zero. This is nothing like the persecution that the we went through in our history. America isn’t against them building a mosque and neither am I. But I sure as hell do not want to see it build atop the same spot where their terrorist’s made an attach on our country. There is much more too this than religion. The Shea law is all encompassing and they do want to take over America and no they are not tolerant of Christianity. So why would you be ok with that when they don’t allow you to practice what you believe?

    Comment by Rob — August 25, 2010 @ 10:36 pm

  9. Rob,

    But I sure as hell do not want to see it build atop the same spot where their terrorist’s made an attach on our country.

    It’s a good thing then that this mosque will not be built on the same spot where their terrorists made an attachment or even an attack.

    The Shea law is all encompassing and they do want to take over America and no they are not tolerant of Christianity.

    I’m unfamiliar with Shea Law. When I google it, I get references to private law firms named after Shea.

    So why would you be ok with that when they don’t allow you to practice what you believe?

    I don’t know which Muslims you are referring to here.

    Comment by Dan — August 25, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

  10. Do you really not think that those responsible for the slaughter of innocents will rejoice in the streets as a victory over us once again.

    No, I don’t think that at all. Radical Islamists don’t see the West as a desirable place for the expansion of their type of Islam, rather, they view the West as the “far enemy.” The “near enemy” are the (in their view) corrupt regimes in Muslim countries who cooperate with the West in business dealings, etc.

    The extremists don’t support assimilation or reconciliation with Western powers in any form. The proposed Center wouldn’t be seen by extremists and terrorists as a victory or rallying point at all, but more like a “compromise” made by apostate Muslims, *infidels* and traitors as far as they’re concerned. The site isn’t a banner to the extremist cause, it’s in opposition to that cause, and they know it. It’s ignorant Americans who don’t understand international Islam who don’t get it.

    Comment by BHodges — August 26, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

  11. But I sure as hell do not want to see it build atop the same spot where their terrorist’s made an attach on our country. There is much more too this than religion. The Shea law is all encompassing and they do want to take over America and no they are not tolerant of Christianity. So why would you be ok with that when they don’t allow you to practice what you believe?

    This calls for the “Blake Ostler response.”

    http://tinyurl.com/2dhkh9o

    Comment by BHodges — August 26, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

  12. BH: that is a handy audio link to have.

    Comment by Ben — August 26, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

  13. It’s worth noting here that a Mormons in support of the proposed community center and mosque have started a facebook group:

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=145427868822520&ref=ts

    Comment by Christopher — August 27, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

  14. Just a couple of thoughts as I am developing a post touching on the mosque in Manhattan and the JI’s reaction to it. I wonder if the Mormon reaction to Muslims and Islam is informed by the fact that we have few missionaries in areas where these religions predominate. Mormon opinion of the Japanese during World War II was tempered slightly by the fact that the Prophet Heber J. Grant and Senator Elbert Thomas had both served missions to the islands.I know some of my own sympathy toward illegal immigrants comes from my two years in Peru. Would missionary service among Muslims temper anti-Islamic feelings among church members?

    Comment by Joel — August 28, 2010 @ 8:40 am

  15. That’s an interesting thought, Joel. I know that an old roommate of mine who served in southern Spain interacted with quite a few Muslims during his time there, but I have no clue whether it affected his feelings on issues like this.

    Is your general opinion that others who have served in Latin America are like you in being more sympathetic to illegal immigrants in the U.S.? I only have my own anecdotal evidence to share, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus one way or another. My time spent serving among illegal immigrants in Arizona certainly affected/affects my own feelings, but I had a roommate in college who served in Latin America and maintained a staunchly anti-immigrant point of view.

    Comment by Christopher — August 28, 2010 @ 11:22 am

  16. I think part of the question when it comes to missionary interaction and later feelings toward others has to do with the quality of the interaction. Too often, missionaries don’t really interact with the people they serve among on a cultural level. It’s almost as if they operate in some kind of cultural dry suit. It’s always struck me as very strange.

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 28, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  17. I think some issues need to be clarified about this issue. First, it certainly isn’t a 1st amendment, nor even a constitutional issue. Congress is not trying to stop this mosque from being built. When the Constitution was adopted many states had established churches and religous tests for office and voting. The idea that the Constitution grants the right of anyone to build a church anywhere is absurd.

    Second, this is a matter for New Yorkers. That somehow those outside the area feel that they deserve a say in this matter is ridiculous. As others have pointed out–what is being built on that site doesn’t seem to support any argument that the site is considered hallowed.

    Third, that Mormons, and other Christians would oppose this particular site while welcoming one elsewhere amongst us displays an alarming ignorance to the nature of Islam. Islam is not a religion in the sense that we in the west understand the word. From its heretical founding, Islam has been at war with Christianity and Judaism. This by no means makes Muslims inherently evil or gives license to mistreat them(let alone slaughter them in their own countries) but does show the foolishness of those who would use the Constitution to support an ideology that seeks its (the Constitution’s) destruction.

    I don’t think anyone in the church really looks to New York City to find any guide to building Zion. This matter is no different. Just be thankful you don’t have to live there and they aren’t able to dictate how you do live.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 29, 2010 @ 12:07 am

  18. Kevin,

    I don’t think anyone in the church really looks to New York City to find any guide to building Zion. This matter is no different. Just be thankful you don’t have to live there and they aren’t able to dictate how you do live.

    I’m a little bit confused by your last paragraph. What’s wrong with New York City?

    Comment by Dan — August 29, 2010 @ 12:26 am

  19. Kevin,

    an alarming ignorance to the nature of Islam. Islam is not a religion in the sense that we in the west understand the word.

    I’m a little bit confused by your third paragraph. Where does the Constitution define the nature of religion and designate which religions may have free exercise and which may not?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 29, 2010 @ 6:38 am

  20. Islam is not a religion in the sense that we in the west understand the word. From its heretical founding, Islam has been at war with Christianity and Judaism.

    Please enlighten us by defining religion.

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 29, 2010 @ 9:17 am

  21. @119

    Quite simply, the First Amendment prohibits Congress, not the people, from passing laws preventing the free exercise of religion. As I wrote, many states had established churches and religious tests for holding office and voting when the Constitution was ratified. If you want to make it a constitutional issue it would be the 14th Amendment that would make it so.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 29, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  22. hey, what’s wrong with New York City?!?!?!

    Comment by Dan — August 29, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  23. So … by your response, Kevin, I conclude that you intend to say that the 14th Amendment is the part of the Constitution that defines the nature of religion and designates which religions may be freely exercised and which may not.

    But as I read the 14th Amendment, I find these sections only:

    Section 1 defines citizenship and says that no privileges or immunities of citizens can be abridged without due process. (You can’t possibly mean this section, can you, unless you can cite me to the due process by which Muslim citizens have been deprived of their right to practice their religion?)

    Section 2 defines how representatives are apportioned.

    Section 3 disables (and provides a remedy) for persons who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the U.S.

    Section 4 has to do with public debt.

    Section 5 gives Congress power to enforce the amendment.

    Gee whiz, I guess I’m really, really stupid, because I can’t find any definition of religion anywhere in there, or any specification of who can practice their religion freely and who cannot.

    Unless, of course, you’re twisting Section 3 to claim that all Muslims by definition are engaged in insurrection and rebellion. I hate to assume that’s what you mean, because that would make you an ignorant fool and a blatant bigot and not much of an American — and certainly not a Mormon.

    But you can speak for yourself, I’m sure.

    I repeat, where in the Constitution — or in any other document that we would generally consider binding or worthy of support — is religion defined in such a way as to exclude Islam? And who or what determines what is a real religion, and who is allowed to practice it, and who is barred from the free exercise of religion in the U.S.?

    A coherent answer, please. Or shut up.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 29, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  24. Wow.

    I don’t think anyone in the church really looks to New York City to find any guide to building Zion.

    I’ve only been to New York once myself, unless you include driving through Staten Island, so I can’t take any personal offense to that statement, but I’m sure many good members of the church in New York would beg to differ.

    (Last time I noticed there were a number of stakes there.)

    And, Kevin, I’m guessing from your comments that you’ve never met a Muslim. I’m sorry for you. I’ve had a number of Muslim friends and knew a lot of Muslims on my mission. Delightful, hospitable people.

    Comment by Researcher — August 29, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

  25. @120

    When we think of religion in the west we are usually referring to something that can coexist with the state. Render unto Caesar…. Of course there have been conflicts and bloodshed in the name of Christianity, but it is not inherent to the religion that church and state be one and the same. Islam is different. It is an all encompassing ideology. It cannot ultimately coexist with Western Civilization.

    In Islam, there is Dar Al Islam and Dar Al Harb (house of peace and house of war). Or, in other words, areas where sharia rules and areas where sharia doesn’t yet rule. Muslims are subject to secular government only when they don’t have enough power to institute sharia.

    History has provided us with abundant examples of what happens when Islam conquers parts of western civilization.

    Again this is no excuse to hate or injure anyone. But to welcome the expansion of Islam in the United States under the belief that we are furthering tolerance is quite silly. At least the capitalist was going to receive a profit for the rope he was to sell the communist.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 29, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

  26. No offense, but I think you have a lot to learn about Islam in particular and the dynamics of religion in general.

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 29, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

  27. @125

    This is precisely what I’m trying to get at. I have no quarrel with individual Muslims. If I had my way we wouldn’t be slaughtering them by the thousands in their homelands. But I also look at my homeland, the United States, and what is good about it and realize that welcoming a religion here that is inherently hostile to the values that I hold dear is ridiculous. Let them do what they wish in their lands, but please allow us to try to maintain our constitutional republic here.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 29, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

  28. Kevin,

    It cannot ultimately coexist with Western Civilization.

    Yeah, that’s what Christianists believed before Enlightenment and even post-Enlightenment. Or have you forgotten how political the Pope had gotten?

    History has provided us with abundant examples of what happens when Islam conquers parts of western civilization.

    well what I recall from history is that Spain flourished just fine under Muslim control. I don’t know which examples you are thinking about.

    Let them do what they wish in their lands, but please allow us to try to maintain our constitutional republic here.

    Boy, Kevin, you really think our constitutional republic is weak if it can be threatened by such a small percentage of Muslims. Do you even know how many Muslims are currently in the United States? Do you even know what level of influence they have over law and order? You really don’t think very highly of your own culture, law, or country if you are so afraid of letting a bunch of Muslims in to experience your country, culture and law and judge for themselves what is better.

    Comment by Dan — August 29, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

  29. I suppose this renders my marriage in the Manhattan Temple obsolete?

    More seriously, Kevin, what others have repeatedly told you is the truth. You’re dealing with several individuals on this thread who are scholars of religion with advanced degrees and years of research. SC Taysom, for example, teaches courses at the university level on the nature and meaning of religion throughout history. This does not necessarily mean any of them is more intelligent that you, but it is pretty good evidence that their understanding–based on both intense study and real world experience–of Islam is much deeper and more nuanced than your own.

    Unfortunately, each additional comment only further exposes your rather shallow understanding of Islam, religion in general, and United States history as well. For the record, Muslims have lived in the Americas almost as long as Euro-Christians have, and based on both their long-standing residency here and the fundamental principles that undergird the principle of religious freedom in this country, they have as much right to be here as you do.

    Comment by Christopher — August 29, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

  30. About New York City…

    I lived in West Los Angeles for many years. A temple? Yes. A few Stakes? Yes. Many wonderful members? Yes. Politicians who would rather live in Sodom than Salt Lake City? Yes. A majority that would just as soon see your religion and all evidences of it vanish from the face of the Earth? No question about it. Sure we can make do as LDS in a variety of environments, but let’s not kid ourselves about the condition of these big cities.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 29, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

  31. Taysom, perhaps you could recommend an accessible introductory text on religion (and perhaps one on Islam, too) to Kevin, in the off-chance that he is interested in rectifying his gross misunderstanding of both?

    Comment by Christopher — August 29, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  32. Kevin R., what you say might be entirely true of a certain as of late extremely popular (and well funded) fundamentalist strain of Islam. The idea that Islam as a whole cannot return to a Kemalist compatible separation of church and state is not particularly credible though. That was the prevailing state of affairs in most Islamic countries until relatively recently, and eventually the tide will turn in the other direction.

    As an example, it would certainly be possible for Christians and/or Jews to adopt a fundamentalist interpretation of the Old Testament that required an absolute admixture of church and state, and rather barbaric and severe punishments for various crimes aside. Indeed in some times and places Christians and/or Jews have attempted to implement just such regimes, to very limited success. John Calvin’s Geneva is one example, as is Massachusetts of the late 17th century, witch trials, burning at the stake, and all.

    The only realistic question about Islam is when the current fundamentalist fervor will peter out and consensus theological and practical arguments will develop in support of that change. It may be fifty years, it may be five hundred. I don’t know but I would guess closer to the first number.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 29, 2010 @ 7:14 pm

  33. He could start here

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 29, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  34. Kevin,

    I lived in West Los Angeles for many years. A temple? Yes. A few Stakes? Yes. Many wonderful members? Yes. Politicians who would rather live in Sodom than Salt Lake City? Yes. A majority that would just as soon see your religion and all evidences of it vanish from the face of the Earth? No question about it. Sure we can make do as LDS in a variety of environments, but let’s not kid ourselves about the condition of these big cities.

    First off, New York is NOT Los Angeles. I’m sorry you had a crappy experience in West LA, but West LA ain’t got nothin’ on New York! The condition of these big cities? What exactly are you talking about? And a majority of Americans in LA or NY wanting our religion to never exist? Dunno where you get that, but I’ve not seen evidence of it.

    Comment by Dan — August 29, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

  35. Chris (131): I like Karen Armstrong’s _Islam: A Short History_.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — August 29, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  36. @135
    Dan,

    My original comment was simply that the mosque affair was a matter for New Yorkers to decide and that judging from past experience I wouldn’t necessarily expect a wise result. If you’re happy in NYC that’s great.

    I didn’t say that I had a bad experience in Los Angeles. Having worked in the city for over twenty years and having also worked in the schools I am aware what it is. I also unfortunately know what it once was. Local politics, education, crime, cultural decadence,that’s what I’m talking about.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 30, 2010 @ 9:10 am

  37. Kevin, why didn’t you tell us that they’d already interviewed you on the subject and all of our efforts are fruitless?

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/man-already-knows-everything-he-needs-to-know-abou,17990/

    Comment by Christopher — August 30, 2010 @ 10:08 am

  38. Kevin, I recommend John L. Esposito’s Islam: The Straight Path. We used it in my politics and Islam class and it was a great read.

    Comment by BHodges — August 30, 2010 @ 10:17 am

  39. @138

    Christopher, my aren’t we smug. It seems you’re quite impressed with some of the other posters on this site but you have added noting substantive to this argument.

    Is the mosque truly a constitutional issue and why?

    Is Islam compatible with a constitutional republic?

    Your posts seem to consist of nothing but ad hominem attacks, and generalizations based on personal feelings. Pretty thin gruel for one so devoted to scholarship.

    For the record the relevant point is not that Muslims have been present in America as long as Euro-Christians but rather, despite their presence, that they had absolutely zero influence on the founding of this nation.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 30, 2010 @ 10:57 am

  40. Kevin,

    For the record the relevant point is not that Muslims have been present in America as long as Euro-Christians but rather, despite their presence, that they had absolutely zero influence on the founding of this nation.

    For the record, Mormons have been present in America for (almost) as long as Euro-Christians [and] rather, despite their presence, that they had absolutely zero influence on the founding of this nation. Just something to consider.

    Is Islam compatible with a constitutional republic?

    yes.

    Is the mosque truly a constitutional issue and why?

    It is protected by the First Amendment and by the LDS Articles of Faith.

    On New York, whether in the past New Yorkers or their mayors have made wrong decisions matter not. Mayor Bloomberg’s opinion is spot on, correct, and the right course to take.

    Comment by Dan — August 30, 2010 @ 11:06 am

  41. “Your posts seem to consist of nothing but ad hominem attacks, and generalizations based on personal feelings. Pretty thin gruel for one so devoted to scholarship.”

    Christopher: I have taught you well. It is a proud day for me. :)

    Comment by Chris H. — August 30, 2010 @ 11:14 am

  42. Why is it that jerks who complain so often about being attacked “ad hominem” seem to have no idea of what that really refers to? We don’t know you, Kevin Rudd; it would be impossible for us to dismiss your arguments because you are who you are, when we don’t know who you are. We dismiss your arguments, rather, because they’re trash.

    Note that referring to you as a jerk is rude, but it is not ad hominem.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 30, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

  43. @142

    Dan

    A question. If you believe this issue is a 1st amendment issue, can I safely assume that you reject original intent when interpreting the Constitution?

    You asked for a couple of examples that show Islam is not compatible with Western Civilization. How about every time it has ever come into contact with it from its inception. I’ll spot you Averroes and Hindu decimal point math, and you give me any examples of rational thought, scientific inquiry, human liberty, technology, political theory, philosophy,etc. that have been advanced or expanded on under Islamic rule.

    On the other hand, to this day, there are innumerable examples of these things being eliminated under Islamic rule. Spain flourished under the caliphate as the United States flourished under the Edmunds Act. It was just a certain Church that didn’t seem to do so well during that time. From a Christian and Western Civilization perspective the caliphate was an unmitigated horror.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 30, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

  44. @133

    Mark D.

    With centuries of history, we’re to take Ataturk’s vision, which was a failure in Turkey, as the rule and not the exception concerning Islam?

    Yes, Ataturk wanted the fruits of Western Civilization, and Turkey was geographically in an ideal location at the crossroads of East and West to benefit. But his vision of Turkey as a secular state never penetrated much beyond the military, and Islam reasserted itself.

    This again demonstrates that it is not just a radical strain, but Islam itself, that does not recognize the two realms of church and state and is therefore not compatible with a constitutional republic.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 30, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

  45. you give me any examples of rational thought, scientific inquiry, human liberty, technology, political theory, philosophy,etc. that have been advanced or expanded on under Islamic rule.

    I am stunned by this. If you honestly know nothing about Muslim contributions to Western thought and civilization, then I don’t really know where else this discussion can go. And no, I don’t feel like going through and naming them.

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 30, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  46. Kevin R: But his vision of Turkey as a secular state never penetrated much beyond the military

    You really ought to get out more. There is an active debate about the still existent restrictions on the hijab in Turkish public schools and universities. Turkey is more secular than we are.

    See here for example.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 30, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  47. The link I referred to is:

    http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1201957722066&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 30, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  48. Kevin,

    A question. If you believe this issue is a 1st amendment issue, can I safely assume that you reject original intent when interpreting the Constitution?

    Why would I do that? Your argument seems to stand on whether or not Islam is defined as a religion, which is an utterly silly argument to stand on.

    I’ll spot you Averroes and Hindu decimal point math, and you give me any examples of rational thought, scientific inquiry, human liberty, technology, political theory, philosophy,etc. that have been advanced or expanded on under Islamic rule.

    I’m with Taysom on this one. You’ve gotta be kidding me. Let me guess, you got a D in world history in high school or something…

    On the other hand, to this day, there are innumerable examples of these things being eliminated under Islamic rule. Spain flourished under the caliphate as the United States flourished under the Edmunds Act. It was just a certain Church that didn’t seem to do so well during that time. From a Christian and Western Civilization perspective the caliphate was an unmitigated horror.

    Dude, you need to check back on your history. While Europe went through the “Dark Ages” knowledge, understanding, scientific discovery, mathematics and so on, flourished under Islamic control. I’ll give you a utterly simple one. Where do you think algebra comes from? Is algebra not a major development in mathematics? What’s up with Europeans not discovering it?!?!?!

    You’re like a guy who shows up in 700AD Europe and blames the Catholic Church for the downfall of education, literacy and progress in Europe over the previous 300 some odd years.

    Comment by Dan — August 30, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

  49. by the way, Kevin, speaking of original intent, did you ever read the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797? Here is a relevant article from that:

    Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    Looks like the Founders thought Islam was a religion that deserved respect. Of course, this treaty also notes that America is not “in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” which must surely burn…

    Comment by Dan — August 30, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

  50. Rudd’s arguments are identical to those used to deny first freedom and then civil rights to blacks. They were incapable of governing themselves, of course, because they didn’t have a liberal mentality [back in the days when liberal meant free, rather than non-Beckish]. There had never been a republican government in Africa. Africans had produced no scientific or philosophical or artistic contributions to world culture [saying it makes it so, don’t you know]. Blacks were unfit for participation in Western civilization.

    For a couple of generations, that is also what the rest of America said about us as Mormons. We were incapable of participation in a republican government because we were in subjection to a theocracy. Not only that, but we were constitutionally unfit because polygamy had so degraded our minds and bodies. We were un-American in every sense of the word.

    Isn’t this exactly what you are saying about Muslims, Rudd? Yes, it is. Are you as wrong, as pig-headedly and classically wrong as proponents of those earlier bigotries were? Yes, you are.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 30, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

  51. @149

    Dan,

    It has nothing to do with Islam being a religion or not. Quite simply, the First Amendment originally applied to Congress and not the states. Through later decisions by the Supreme Court it was ruled that in light of the 14th amendment, that the first eight amendments applied to the states also. In other words, at the adoption of the Constitution and for about 70 years after, the states were free to pass laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 30, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  52. Kevin,

    It’s a good thing reasoned minds later on realized the folly of such a system where states could prohibit the free exercise of religion while the federal government could not, isn’t it?

    Though I can see now why conservatives have such loathing for Lincoln, the Supreme Court of the 1860s, and the 14th Amendment. Those stand in their way of Talibanizing America.

    Comment by Dan — August 30, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  53. @148

    Mark D.

    No, there are plenty of signs that Turkey is moving away from a secular orientation and looking to reassert itself independent of the West into the Balkans and the former Soviet Central Asian republics. Two examples: (1) A formal state visit by Ahmadinejad where they announced that they would not participate in sanctions against Iran acquiring nuclear weapons (2) repeated visits by Sudan’s President Omer Hassan al-Bashir who is accused of genocide against non-Muslims.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 30, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  54. @153

    Dan,

    That is precisely the crux of the matter. Many of the states at the adoption of the Constitution had established religions and religous tests for holding office or voting. That the First Amendment applied only to the Federal Government was its expressed intent, not some oversight.

    The Constitution a folly, only later rescued by reasonable judges? Interesting.

    Some would say that Lincoln and the courts have facilitated the possibility of “Talibanization.” Before it would take each individual state to pass unjust laws, now it can be done to all states by one court.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 30, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

  55. @146

    Dr. Taysom

    In my haste, I used an incorrect term. It should be what advances occurred because of Islamic rule. No doubt, Islam conquered many lands, and in them Arabs, some of them Muslims, made important contributions. The question though is did these advances take place because of the influence of Islam or in spite of it? Were not many of these same men we laud as participating in some sort of Islamic golden age persecuted by the Caliphate? Is there not still a hostility in Islam to any non religious knowledge not found in the Koran. It’s kind of like the Catholic Church taking credit for Galileo.

    And with that even, what are we to make out of the last half millenium?

    One last question. Do you think Islam doctrinally can recognize the state? Can they ever render unto Caesar?

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 30, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

  56. Kevin,

    No, there are plenty of signs that Turkey is moving away from a secular orientation and looking to reassert itself independent of the West into the Balkans and the former Soviet Central Asian republics

    Their relationship with Islamic states is not an indicator of moving away from a secular orientation.

    That is precisely the crux of the matter. Many of the states at the adoption of the Constitution had established religions and religous tests for holding office or voting. That the First Amendment applied only to the Federal Government was its expressed intent, not some oversight.

    No doubt a compromise to ensure a unanimous vote, just like the 3/5ths black thing.

    The Constitution a folly, only later rescued by reasonable judges? Interesting.

    Nope. The Constitution flawed, by design, only later amended by reasonable judges and voters. Remember, amendments require quite a lot, not just “reasonable judges.”

    Some would say that Lincoln and the courts have facilitated the possibility of “Talibanization.” Before it would take each individual state to pass unjust laws, now it can be done to all states by one court.

    Courts don’t pass laws, Kevin. They never have. They never will. Courts judge the Constitutionality of laws. If you don’t like that, tough luck. Move to another country.

    And with that even, what are we to make out of the last half millenium?

    Exactly the same thing we are to make out of the 500 year period from 400AD to 900AD in Europe.

    One last question. Do you think Islam doctrinally can recognize the state? Can they ever render unto Caesar?

    seeing as they believe Jesus to be a prophet, they accept his teachings, so yeah, they can render unto Caesar.

    Comment by Dan — August 30, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

  57. “Some would say that Lincoln and the courts have facilitated the possibility of “Talibanization.” Before it would take each individual state to pass unjust laws, now it can be done to all states by one court.””

    Anti-Lincoln? Shouldn’t that be grounds for banning. Who is the Steve Evans around here? Ban Him!

    Comment by Chris H. — August 30, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

  58. Sorry Chris, but only one person at any given time may hold the true keys of banning on earth. At the moment, that man is Steve Evans, and you will find only gauzy impostors here.

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 30, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

  59. @157

    Dan,

    Gee, thanks for the charitable reading of my comments. Move to another country? Again, all I can reply is, really?

    I apologize that you did not understand my words. I wrote that it can be done to the states by the courts. This is precisely what courts have been doing for many years. No Dan, I don’t believe that they formally write up a law and issue it by edict. Let me use two well known examples on how it is accomplished. How did abortion become legal throughout the United States? Did all the several states and municipalities pass laws making it legal? No. A majority of justices perused the shadows and penumbras of the Constitution and found this “right.” Voila, the law of the land is changed. How about Proposition 8? Did the California legislature pass a new law defining marriage? No, in this case one judge decided that homosexuals can be legally married. Really Dan, the courts don’t effictively make laws? Yes, there are laws that are truly unconstitutional, but the courts these days never seem to choose the one’s that the framers intended.

    I’ll give you this though Modern Islam could probably give Europe after the fall of Rome a run for its money.

    “They believe Jesus to be a prophet and accept his teachings, so yeah they can render unto Caesar.”

    You’re just messing with me on this one, right?

    Of course they believe in Jesus (excluding all that trivial Son of God, and Savior stuff naturally) how could I have possibly thought differently?

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 30, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

  60. No, there are plenty of signs that Turkey is moving away from a secular orientation

    Relative to most other Muslim majority countries, Turkey is so institutionally secular that it will take a lot more than several years dominance by the AKP to make much of a difference, so far as the government and other public institutions are concerned. The constitution would have to be basically thrown out, and there doesn’t appear to be anywhere near majority support for that.

    The possibility that a court could rule on the constitutionality of constitutional changes is legally bizarre, legal experts say, but raised by the fact that clause four of Turkey’s 1982 basic law states that amendments to the first three clauses can’t be made or even proposed. Those clauses establish Turkey as a Turkish speaking, democratic and secular republic “loyal to the nationalism of Ataturk.”

    That’s the WSJ in an article an upcoming constitutional referendum in Turkey, one in which less radical changes will be voted on. See here.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 30, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

  61. Kevin R, I have to say I find this “Islam is evil” thing more than a little disturbing. If you want to influence several billion people, it is a little more productive to build on common beliefs than to claim their religion is unmitigated evil.

    I think state religions are a bad thing, but it certainly wouldn’t be a stretch for me to imagine writing a book titled “What is right with Islam is what is right with America” relatively similar to the book that Imam Rauf wrote with the same title. Substitute Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, no problem.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 30, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

  62. @162

    Mark, I hope you’re right about Turkey. I guess that I’m just more pessimistic about its chances.

    I hold no ill will to the Muslim people. I wish that we would stop slaughtering them in their homelands. I have nothing against any who live in the United States.

    What I find disturbing though is that even in light of its doctrines which can only be described as antichrist, because they are literally antichrist. And in spite of its history which has been in opposition to Christianity and Judaism from its inception. And in spite of its history of brutality towards minority religions in the civilizations it has conquered. And in spite of the fact that today Islamic regimes still demonstrate no respect for the basic humanity of individuals. And in spite of the fact that in Europe we’re seeing the bloody fruits of the marriage of the West and Islam. There are still so many who hate their heritage so thoroughly that they will ignore all this and twist themselves in knots proclaiming the virtues of Islam.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 31, 2010 @ 12:53 am

  63. Kevin,

    It is obvious that you have made up your mind about the nature of Islam and the nature of the United States. I hesitate to offer any new evidence that might contradict your world view. Yet it seems important to remind our readers that the Ottoman Empire was a conglomerate of Christians, Muslims, and other religions that existed in peace for a long time–and this was after the Muslims conquered the Christians. For years the Muslims were much more tolerant of the Christians than Christians have ever been of Muslims. I would argue that most of the more radical sects of Islam became popular in reaction to oppressive colonial practices by Christian nations. Stated in another way; Radical Islam became a tool for many colonized areas to throw off the chains of Imperial tyranny. I can give a bunch of examples upon request. The thirteen colonies overthrew the very culturally similar British whose worst offense was taxing them without representation. Radical Islam, in part, developed to counteract the violent, racist, exploitative, and disingenuous practices of Western Imperialism. While I cannot condone its ideology or practices, I must acknowledge the West’s role in creating such fundamentalism in the same way that we need to acknowledge American anti-communism as a key factor in the rise of both Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. There are historical reasons for the current religious polarities in the world, and the West holds at least as much blame as the Muslim World.

    Comment by Joel — August 31, 2010 @ 7:20 am

  64. Taysom,

    I totally think you are up to the task. I would sustain you.

    Comment by Chris H. — August 31, 2010 @ 7:30 am

  65. Kevin,

    #159,

    How did abortion become legal throughout the United States?

    Shouldn’t the actual relevant question be: How did abortion become illegal throughout the United States? After all that was the real question behind the Supreme Court’s decision. In any case, we’re way off tangent here, and I doubt it is worth our time to delve into this topic.

    Of course they believe in Jesus (excluding all that trivial Son of God, and Savior stuff naturally) how could I have possibly thought differently?

    dunno man, that’s for you to figure out. That trivial Son of God and Savior stuff doesn’t matter one whit to whether or not they accept Jesus’s teachings, including rendering unto Caesar. In any case, there are several good examples of nation-states that are not run by Islamic religious leaders, including Saudi Arabia. Whatever we may think of their despotic ways, the king of Saudi Arabia is not the country’s religious leader (if I am not mistaken, though I will happily admit being wrong on that if the case is different). Indonesia is not run by Islam, though it may be the state’s religion. Pakistan is not run by Islam. Egypt is not run by Islam. Albania is not run by Islam. The Vatican, however, is run by the Pope. Italy used to be run by the Pope.

    Another relevant question for you is, how exactly do Jews reconcile their faith with the state? After all, they DON’T believe in Jesus, and thus they don’t believe in rendering unto Caesar…just something else to consider.

    I hold no ill will to the Muslim people. I wish that we would stop slaughtering them in their homelands. I have nothing against any who live in the United States.

    You’ve repeated this several times and I find this phrase very disturbing, as if us slaughtering them in THEIR homelands is THEIR fault, and if only THEY would improve their ways, we might stop slaughtering them. Damn!

    What I find disturbing though is that even in light of its doctrines which can only be described as antichrist, because they are literally antichrist

    Jews don’t believe in Jesus. Are they anti-Christ? Buddhists don’t believe in Jesus. Are they anti-Christ? Name any other non-Christian nation. Are they anti-Christ? You show, over and over, to have a natural hatred of Islam that is rather disturbing.

    Comment by Dan — August 31, 2010 @ 7:54 am

  66. Quoting from First Presidency Statement, February 15, 1978:

    The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.

    Comment by Joel — August 31, 2010 @ 8:04 am

  67. @165
    Dan,

    No, I don’t believe that it is the fault of the Muslims that we are killing them. Again, I wish we would disengage with the Islamic world, our presence only seems to bring death and destruction to both sides (but much more to their side.) I have no quarrel with Islam per se, let those who believe live as they see fit. But in light of its nature and history with the West only a fool would wish to import more of it to the United States.

    Yes, many religions don’t accept Jesus. The relevant difference with Islam is that it was conceived specifically to counter the Judaism and Christianity that Mohammed had encountered in his world. It by name rejects Christianity as being heretical.

    Dan, your logic about the Jews and Caesar is fascinating. Jews, in practice, have a history of being able to live in a secular state.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 31, 2010 @ 8:54 am

  68. @164

    Joel,

    Yes, this is the heart of the matter. Is there such a thing as “radical” Islam that is a recent reaction to externalities affecting the Muslim world. Or is it just the nature of Islam.

    I believe that the facts over the centuries show that what some would consider “radical” Islam is really just the Islam of the Koran and teachings of Mohammed. I believe that the history, although readily available to be studied, has been obscured by many who hold anti Western views. Thus the rosy views of life under the Caliphate.

    Comment by Kevin Rudd — August 31, 2010 @ 9:07 am

  69. Kevin,

    Dan, your logic about the Jews and Caesar is fascinating. Jews, in practice, have a history of being able to live in a secular state.

    Yeah, there’s a reason for that. 2000 years of oppression will force you to accept secular states. But remember, Jesus’s answer to the question was profound for the Jews of his time.

    The relevant difference with Islam is that it was conceived specifically to counter the Judaism and Christianity that Mohammed had encountered in his world. It by name rejects Christianity as being heretical.

    One could argue quite well that Jesus was there to specifically counter Judaism. Just admit that you hate Islam. It would do you better to just say it. You think Islam is the prophesied anti-Christ religion that will bring about Armageddon. You’re saying all the right things. You probably think Syria is Gog and Iran Magog.

    But in light of its nature and history with the West only a fool would wish to import more of it to the United States.

    Importing implies willful action to increase the quantity of said item. I don’t think anyone is arguing that we should increase the quota of Muslims in this nation. America should remain a free place where, if people so desired, they are welcome to come, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, and so on. That’s the beauty of this nation.

    In any case, I think I’m going to stop here. I honestly don’t know why we’re discussing this aspect as it has no bearing on whether or not Muslims have the right, morally as well as legally, to build their community center on private property they own, approved by local zoning boards and all other legal means taken care of. Without turning to bigotry, no one has made a reasonable argument why this community center should not be built.

    Comment by Dan — August 31, 2010 @ 9:19 am

  70. Well, this thread has about run its course. We’ve allowed Kevin to use the JI for his, um, misinformed views of Islam about long enough.

    Comment by David G. — August 31, 2010 @ 11:23 am

  71. Since this post has gone far afield (and gotten a bit uncivil), a few folks have asked me to shut it down. I am thus doing so. I’m quit saddened that we couldn’t have a constructive conversation about the specific case at issue.

    Comment by Max — August 31, 2010 @ 1:25 pm


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