A Sharpening of the Issue

Thanks to a comment by Steve Simpson, over on NoodleFood, I have arrived at what I think is a better way of framing the issue that I and some others are grappling with here: Suppose you agree that no one has a right to build a Mosque near Ground Zero, that a proper government would stop this from happening, by any means necessary, and would do so on the proper grounds. A secondary question, the one that might be more of a judgment call is: should we, as Objectivists, advocate for our current government to stop the building of the Mosque, by whatever lame means it would agree to stop it?


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10 responses to “A Sharpening of the Issue

  1. J.Holden

    Is the argument that Mosques should not exist at all anywhere in America because Islam is an enemy ideology? If that is the argument then would that mean that Islam as such is not considered a private belief system but instead is considered an eternal solicitation to commit murder against non-believers. Is a further argument that Islam be effectively banned or at a minimum severely restricted in its practice?

    I am somewhat sympathetic to this view but it would need a good argument about why Islam is different than other religions. This would involve comparative theology and history I would think. There is another danger as well. Anti-Jihad Conservatives are very strongly committed to this idea but they package it with the “Christianity is a religion of Peace while Islam is not” view. I wonder if considering Islam itself as inherently incompatible with the West would help lend credence to the argument that Christianity is peaceful and the foundation of America. This is not an easy subject.

  2. I think to make the distinction objective you would need to point to the fact that Islam is currently at war with us, insofar as its consistent practitioners are routinely planning and executing violent attacks against our citizens and their property. While such a thing could (and has been) true of other religions, too, it’s not true of them today. Those who are better versed on the nature of Islam also point to Islam’s doctrine of Jihad, and say that no other religion has the equivalent. Robert Spencer has some materials over on his blog, Jihad Watch, that might be helpful.

  3. Picture this. It’s 1943. The U.S. is fighting World War II against Hitler and the Nazis. Let’s say we know about the concentration camps. And Adolph Hitler (and his supporters in the US) wants to build “The Center for Aryan Supremacy” in Brooklyn, NY. Let’s say he and the
    German government bought some land in Brooklyn. Would we be defending Hitler’s property rights? No, because he has no rights. He is taking action against our rights and is trying to obliterate them. He has no rights in that effort. And his “Center” is propaganda to serve his efforts.

    Some may say, “Hitler Germany was a nation. Islam is a religion.” The Islamists who took down the WTC were tied to nations that supported them. There are countries involved here. From Iran to Syria to Lebanon these countries support the destruction of the US and the principles for which it stands. The imam who wants to build the mosque clearly supports Hamas. This is not about denying innocent individuals their rights in anyway. This is about fighting the enemy who is trying to enslave or kill you.

  4. Paul Hsieh

    I like the way Amy has sharpened this question, and I completely agree that the secondary question is a judgment call.

    If we’re using lame and improper laws (as opposed to proper laws) to achieve desirable ends, we’ll end up paying *some* sort of price in the end. It may be difficult to know exactly what that price will be. And depending on the circumstances, the price might be worthwhile in the end. But either way, we shouldn’t fool ourselves there won’t be some sort of price.

    So regardless of whether one thinks it was good to get Al Capone on violating tax laws (rather than for murder), we should be prepared for a world where that legal tool will be used by prosecutors in ways we won’t always like. Or that zoning laws used to stop a mosque today might be used to stop atheists tomorrow.

    The “price to be paid” issue also comes up in a related Facebook thread about sense of life. One question raised on FB was whether there was a parallel between someone who opposed Apollo 11 because it was taxpayer funded and made that their primary focus, as opposed to being stunned by the awesome display of human rationality in action — and if that was similar to someone too-focused on issues of law without having an (appropriately negative) sense-of-life response to the grotesque symbolism of a Mosque at that location.

    I think that’s a very insightful observation. And one of my friends who used to work in aerospace had this response. (He’s not an Objectivist, but he is sympathetic to many of our ideas and he is a subscriber to TOS.)

    He noted that although the Apollo program was a tremendous technological achievement, it also shunted billions of dollars out of more productive channels. And in the realm of aerospace, it prevented the market-based development of new sustainable technologies.

    So instead of the natural development of profitable products during the 1960s and 1970s (possible examples being supersonic and suborbital transports, then perhaps low earth-orbit manufacturing and energy satellites, etc.) which would have fueled further further profitable space commercial space ventures and eventually manned missions, we ended up with the dead-end Apollo program.

    And as we know from Bastiat’s principle of “the seen vs. the unseen”, we’ll never know what heavy price we paid in the form of life-enhancing technologies and private space exploration that could have been developed but weren’t because that precious capital instead went into Apollo.

    As a science geek, I understand and share Rand’s sense of life response to Apollo. The HBO series “From the Earth to the Moon” (about the history of Apollo) is still one of my favorites. But my reverence for Apollo 11 is tinged by knowledge of the enormous price that we paid (and are still paying) for that magnificent achievement.

    Likewise, if we ever use lame laws to accomplish our ends (even arguably desirable and necessary ends), we should at least acknowledge that we will have pay *some* price later — and be prepared to pay it.

    [Also posted to NoodleFood comments.]

  5. Jim May

    Suppose you agree that no one has a right to build a Mosque near Ground Zero, that a proper government would stop this from happening, by any means necessary, and would do so on the proper grounds.

    I take this as meaning: assume a context where

    1. we have a proper government, and

    2. we are at war with Islam in the same manner as we were with Nazism in 1943 (per Andy Clarkson above).

    In this context, then the “judgment question” boils down to tactics in a situation where the principles are clear — no mosque, along the same lines as Andy writes above.

    My hesitation is born of the fact that I am not certain of either of #1 or #2 — #1 is definitely not true, and (less importantly) I’m not too clear on #2 either.

    But that’s why I’m still reading… I’m going to have a busy weekend reviewing everything.

  6. Some food for thought regarding the meaning of, and danger posed by, the planned mosque near Ground Zero:


  7. Grames

    The proper way to sort this out is not to ban Islam and all mosques pre-emptively, that is no more possible or acceptable than banning communism or naziism. The construction of a triumphalist super mosque on land which is part of (not merely near to) Ground Zero is objectively a victory for a terrorists who destroyed the WTC buildings, it is exactly the kind of consequence they wanted. The principle of law and order is actually on the side of preventing this mosque, but how can it be justified?

    The answer is the property law doctrine of “Coming to the Nuisance”. The historical fact of 9/11 creates a location and context in which building a mosque there is objectively perceived as a continuation of the terrorist act itself, threatening, intimidating, and antagonistic and to the peace and order necessary for the commerce of a large city. It will be a site for ongoing demonstrations, counter-demonstrations, publicity stunts, assaults and bombing attempts for years to come. The City of New York would be justified in suing to halt construction of this mosque in the location, or it could enact an ordinance specifying in advance the modest dimensions of the “Ground Zero” area within which no mosque will be built. The property rights of mosque builders are not violated because they know what happened on 9/11, that is why they want to build there and precisely why they should not. They are coming to the nuisance so assent to restriction on the use of their property at that location.

    • Ashley King

      I was thinking along those lines too. Recall the Baptists who disrupt the funerals of our fallen soldiers. They have signs saying the soldiers deserved to die because the US permits homosexuality. The issue is framed by many as a free speech issue but I think it falls under nuisance because it is preventing peaceful assembly and the decent burial of our dead. So common law nuisance may cover this as it is clearly a provocative act, in line with the Phelps Baptist protests.

      I don’t think there is a free speech right to destroy the peaceful burial of our honorable soldiers. I don’t think there is a right for Islamists to set up mosques anywhere in the US, let alone ground zero. Mosques we have to allow but not this one.

  8. Pingback: — The New Clarion

  9. Philip Coates

    ” Islam is currently at war with us, insofar as its consistent practitioners are routinely planning and executing violent attacks against our citizens and their property.” [Amy]

    I think it’s an overstatement to say that “Islam is at war with us.” At least not the whole religion. Or even its firmest believers, if one reads reports from different countries on this issue.

    And there is some question whether even the microscopic minority of terrorists and their funders are doing it for religious reasons or simply for the oldest of secular reasons: power, control, and prestige.

    What about consistent practitioners? Religion by its nature – and this is true of both Christianity and Islam – is incapable of consistent practice. Adherents don’t consistently practice selflessness or other core doctrines. They can’t; some may feel guilt instead. But most simply don’t integrate or take seriously the whole issue. Most of those who call themselves Christians or Muslims are probably not in any full sense. They pay lip service to their religion.

    Is Islam as practiced today, a worse religion than Christianity? Yes. But 99% of most Christians and Muslims go about their daily lives; they don’t believe in or at least dont practice or actively support violence or killing of outsiders.

    And the religions, crafted during their centuries of spread to appeal to wide groups of people, have contradictory core doctrines. Both pacifist (turn the other cheek; thou shalt not kill) and warlike (crusade against the unbelievers) for example. Another example: On the one hand, Christianity has a God who could commit genocide against the entire human race. On the other, there is the advocacy of peace and indiscriminate love for all men and the idea of a kind and forgiving God.

    From my reading, very much the same sort of contradictions exist in Islam. And in those who want to consistently practice it.

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