Not content with the fact that Muslims do indeed enjoy religious freedom in America, expatriate Michael Goldfarb lectures us for not being tolerant of Islam. So much is wrong with this editorial. Let’s begin at the top.
The plan to build Park 51, a Muslim community centre a few blocks north of Ground Zero in New York City, has re-kindled resentment smoldering since 9/11 against the Muslim community in a significant portion of American society.
Consider that originally the building was to be called the “Cordoba House.” Anyone who knows anything about Muslim history knows the name was chosen deliberately. If you’re unaware of its significance, educate yourself. From the beginning, this project was an intentional poke in America’s eye.
Goldfarb notes that a New York Times poll showed that while 62% of New Yorkers believed backers of the center had the right to build it near Ground Zero, 67% said it should not be.
The question raised by the poll is, people have religious freedom but where did the toleration go?
The underlying problem here is that Goldfarb, like many on the left, confuses the freedom or legal right to perform an act with the wisdom or moral correctness of doing so. You may have the legal right to be an idiot, but I do you no great favor by tolerating your idiocy.
Picture a “Christian” group blowing up the Kingdom Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, slaughtering thousands of innocent Saudis. Can you even imagine the outrage that would follow if any other group of Christians—even a legitimate and widely-accepted group—were to propose building a Christian community center on or near the site? That outrage would be justified…and so is ours. The issue is not one of “(legal) right to” but of “ought to.”
(Oh, wait. I forgot. Even having a Bible in your possession in Saudi Arabia is a crime punishable by imprisonment. Converting to Christianity—from, er, Islam—is a capital offense. Ah, yes…we certainly are the intolerant ones.‚
Regarding religious freedom and tolerance, Goldfarb then ponders,
Where do those values of religious tolerance come from? Are they uniquely American?
What follows is a couple paragraphs on John Locke followed by a brief explanation of how France has dealt with the issue. I’m not entirely sure why Goldfarb bothers with these, as they both point out exactly how good minority religions have it in America. Locke, taken in context, never suggested that society should tolerate all religions in the way Goldfarb and the modern left would have it—a full and approving embrace. I’m OK. You’re OK. Kumbayah, etc. (Read it. I’m not sure Goldfarb did. The bulk of the essay deals with how Christians of various sects treat each other, an issue deserving as much attention now as when he wrote, but irrelevant to the topic at hand.) Locke argued that the government itself should not play favorites and should view adherents of all religions equally—something America has done at least as well as any other nation on the planet.
And France? They’ve recently banned the full Muslim veil in public. To my knowledge (and a lengthy Google search) no serious American political leader has suggested we do the same. Yes, there have been a few legal cases involving Islam, e.g., requiring Muslim women to unveil in order to have drivers license photographs taken, but there is no great push in the U.S. to curtail Muslims’ religious freedom.
In the furor over Park 51, the more thinking members of the anti-mosque brigade have invoked French reasoning without using the word France, reminding the project’s prime mover, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, that tolerated minorities have reciprocal responsibilities not to tread to [sic] heavily on the feelings of the majority.
Where equality fits into their reasoning is not clear.
That is because the issue is not one of equality. It is completely and solely about the morality or “rightness” of the project.
Curiously Britain, which had no 18th Century revolution and which still bans a Catholic from taking the throne, has had in these times of tensions between Muslims and their fellow citizens, fewer problems.
Mr. Goldfarb must read an entirely different web site than the BBC (for which he writes) I visit daily. Browse their site and determine for yourself whether his assessment of the situation in England is warranted.
Disappointingly, Goldfarb then descends into the all-too-common ploy of simply denigrating America.
…America is on the verge of exploding with intolerance towards Muslims…
…most Americans…don’t know or think much about the world outside the US.
And so on. Ignorant, navel-gazing, intolerant, bigoted Americans. Yada, yada, yada.
The truth is, religious freedom as it is fiercely defended in America is uniquely American. There is no other country which so amicably plays host to the bewildering array of religions as is found here. It’s one of the many distinctive characteristics which make this the number one destination of immigrants from all over the world and, as Michael Medved is fond of saying, “The greatest nation on God’s green earth.”