by Karen Lugo
There is still time — and there are many reasons — to stop the Ground Zero Mosque. The location of a mega-mosque so close to Ground Zero has focused critical attention on the issue of mosque placements all across the United States. The fact that we are caught with no standards by which to assess this imam’s grand mosque project — or so-called community center — spotlights the need for a national mosque litmus test.
Between a blind fixation on free speech, freedom of association and a general sense that anything called religion gets a pass from government scrutiny, Islamists are free to set up shop in America’s towns and cities with little more than random protests. The Ground Zero Mosque has become a flashpoint for a long overdue national discussion.
What we must confront is that strict Islamic law, or sharia, is more a political regime than it is a religion. As world-recognized historian and scholar Bernard Lewis writes in Islam and the West, “There is only a single law, the shari’a, accepted by Muslims as of divine origin and regulating all aspects of human life: civil, commercial, criminal, constitutional, as well as matters more specifically concerned with religion in the limited, Christian sense of that word.” The western idea of distinct institutionalized roles for church and state “is alien to Islam” according to Lewis.
Sam Solomon and E. Al Maqdis, students of Islamic immigration trends, write, “Islam is neither a religion nor a faith in a personal way as defined and understood in the West. It is a whole encompassing political system, garbed in religious outfit, addressing every aspect of the life of its adherents. More importantly, these authors warn host societies “in interest of national security [to] examine all requests for cultural accommodation from a socio-political angle.”
While permitting mosques is argued as a harmless religious accommodation, it often becomes a series of escalating concessions as participating Muslims seek to absorb and reform the surrounding community. Establishing a mosque, as hub of family and community life, is often just the beginning. As the concentration of Muslims rises, existing residents flee. Muslims have also begun to require communities to tolerate sharia requirements by expanding prayers onto public sidewalks, halal-only food sales, requiring community pools to restrict mixed bathing hours, and filing permits to broadcast calls to prayer. In Paris, streets are blockaded for Friday prayers in two city districts. Once a Muslim enclave is established, the area often becomes “no-go” for others. In Manhattan, there is an annual Muslim Day parade and streets are filled, curb-to-curb, for prayer before the parade starts.
Muslims expecting to build mosques should not be given a blanket religious legal exemption to gather, teach, raise money, and potentially spread Wahhabist radicalism. While some mosques may pass scrutiny, we must subject all to reasonable questioning and accountability. We have made it too convenient for Islamists to hide behind religious or cultural pretext by invoking special First Amendment protections. Also, these organizations should be put on notice up front that community compromises will not be made once the mosque is established. A house of worship is one thing. A center for spreading radicalism and requiring the neighborhood to conform to sharia is another.
Sharia-practicing Muslims have learned to push our intolerance button. Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) executive director, Nihad Awad told Bill O’Reilly that those complaining about the Grand Zero Mosque were just hiding behind the charge of “insensitivity” as a “smoke screen for bigotry.” It is time to defend against these spurious charges of intolerance. Not only are we tolerant, we defend tolerance to the death, and do so around the world. It is just prudent to protect ourselves from a strategy of sabotage. Period. No apologies.
So, as we respond to the utter insult and defiance of placing this Cordoba Initiative Mosque — reference to AD 711 Muslim conquest of Spain — on the outskirts of Ground Zero, there are some important answers to demand of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan. Yet, it has been difficult to even pose the questions as reporter Claudia Rosett has learned. She succeeded in tracking the imam to his office in Malaysia, he informed her that he was too busy to talk.
We are left to speculate as to the source for funds to purchase the land and complete the over $100 million project. We certainly know that somebody will have a huge investment in the implementation of this “initiative.” Even worse, the imam also refuses to answer questions about his past admiration for the Muslim Brotherhood, his advocacy of a Shariah Index that would rate countries’ compliance with the strict Muslim code, and his accusatory statements about America’s blame for 9-11: “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened . . . . In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.”
Prosecutor of the Blind Sheikh after the first World Trade Center attack, Andy McCarthy says in his new book The Grand Jihad that the “Framers gave us a Constitution that guarantees freedom of conscience, not freedom from examination. You can believe whatever you wish to believe, but you do not foreclose your beliefs from inspection by labeling them ‘religion’— even if the label is accurate.”
Our religious liberty legal standards require that any law that specifically targets a religion must demonstrate a compelling governmental reason for singling out the particular religious practice. First, we should ask whether all Muslim organizations qualify as religions as distinguished from socio-political organizations — and then we must determine whether the government’s national security interest is sufficient to challenge the group’s right to assemble.
The Ground Zero Mosque should be an easy initiative to defeat since the funding and imam present questions and suspicions on many levels. Whether there is the will to mount the public pressure needed is another question. When one considers that the Brits were able to block the erection of the Mega Mosque whose minarets were intended to dominate the London skyline for the 2012 Olympics, it should be easy for Americans to marshal the will to stop a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero.
©2010 Karen Lugo