Now with the help of the radical Republican propaganda machine the issue of citizens of the Islamic faith are under the same kind of pressure. The intent of a long time Manhattan Imam to build a large community center two blocks (Two New York City blocks, not the dinky things that you and I have in our neighborhoods) from the former site of the World Trade Center has lead to at least one on the radical Right to call for a ban on all mosque or Islamic community centers across the nation.
This comes on the heals of a new CNN poll that shows that 68% of the nation opposes the construction of the community center in Manhattan. The question asked was about a mosque which I find a little misleading, and it used the inflammatory "Ground Zero" name for the site of the Twin Towers, but that is not really the point. This new data shows a couple of things that we know already to be true. First off, the majority when asked their opinion will almost always be against the rights of a minority. This is a particular hot issue because of the 9/11 attacks where carried out by Muslims, but it is to be expected even if that were not the case.
Muslims are only a small minority in the United States, with somewhere between 1.3 million and 7 million of our citizens being practitioners of this faith. This makes Muslims between .3% and 2.1% of the over all population. However world wide the followers of Islam are closer to 25% of the planetary population.
Given that they are such a small minority in this nation, it is odd that so many of our fellow citizens see them as such a threat. Yes, the 9/11 attacks were horrific, but they were more about optics than actual harm. The economy was already taking a hit before the Twin Towers fell. The reaction of the nation to seeing two major buildings in New York fall on T.V. has boosted the attack out of proportion. While the loss of even a single life is to be condemned and the devastation these deaths caused the families of those killed, more than this number of teens are killed every year in car crashes. These are also tragic losses but we do not make the kind of high profile issue of it that the 9/11 attacks are.
The issue is so out of control that the radical Right, who are the most likely to claim to being faithful the Constitution, would actually want us to violate the protections of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution when it comes to Muslim citizens. A week ago I wrote a post about the anti-mosque building movement. It got me an interesting piece of e-mail from someone who is, shall we say, way way way to the right of me.
Being who I am, I responded to this fellow, even though he started by wishing that I one of my relatives was in the South Tower when it fell. Your basic hate mail stuff, but JT (not his real initials, even though he contacted me I don't feel right about outing him) wanted to talk, so I kept up the email chain. In the course of e-mailing back and forth with this fellow there seemed to be a meme that he assumed was true which I don't think most people would agree with.
The premise is that we are not at war with Al Qaeda or the Taliban in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) but that we were at war with all of Islam. From TJ's first email:
What un-American socialists like you seem to miss is that we are not just at war with Al Qaeda or in a few countries. Radical Islamists declared war on us many years ago and until September 11th we chose to not engage that war which is why 9/11 happened. Now we have worthless cowardly capitulators who have returned to ignoring the reality of this war. Obama is the king of this dream team of idiots. Fortunately they are a small minority in this country.
This really took me back. Not being called a socialist, since I am not a socialist, but that TJ and other like him believe that Islam has declared war on us. He then goes on to conflate radical Islam with all Islam. The acts of the few (and lets face it the number of radical terrorists in Islam is vanishingly small compared to the 1.6 billion members of the faith) are enough to make any Muslims suspect.
TJ also made a big point of the supposed ties to the Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood of Imam Rauf. I looked around and the only place that I could find these claims where Faux News and the National Review Online. I tend to strongly doubt them given that the Bush administration State department sent Imam Rauf on speaking tours to try to promote better relations with the Islamic world. They would have hardly done that if there were any real ties to terrorist or extremist groups.
It is the war meme which drives this behavior. If we really are at war with a group it is easy to see how someone could object to letting them act in the United States. However we are not at war with all of Islam. We never have been and all of Islam is not at war with us. We have allies, Suadi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE, Kuwait to name a few. If this were really a war by the entire Islamic faith then surely Suadi Arabia would not be a close ally of the United States.
This comes down to the divide in information. I stopped my conversation with TJ when it became clear we could not agree on facts. He will not accept that there is a major difference between the acts of the few and Islam as a whole. His sources of information are nearly exclusively from the radical Right. He is has a world view that does not admit accept the citizens who are Muslims value their country as much as citizens who are Christian.
As long as that is the accepted meme from the radical Right there can be no end to the suggestions of limiting the rights of Muslim citizens. They are willing to participate in guilty by religious association. No charges have been filed against Imam Rauf, no investigations by the State Department have been launched into possible ties to terrorist organizations, no evidence of any kind of misbehavior has been brought forward, yet he and the members of his mosque are accused of trying to put some kind of trophy building at the site of the 9/11 attacks. It is the worst kind of hysteria, and thoroughly un-American to do so.
Finally we come back to the Constitution. The Framers where wise in their instance there be no test of religion for public office nor that there be some religions that are favored by the State over any others. There were Muslims in the United States at the time the Constitution was written. Thomas Jefferson owned and read the Qur'an. We have had Muslim citizens who have fought in our wars, helped build our cities and make this nation what it is across its entire history. The idea that just because a majority of people have a negative opinion of this group now is reason enough to give up the level of legal tolerance that we have enjoyed for more than 220 years. This is the worst possible outcome.
The floor is yours.