As I note in my updated article about the proposed mosque near the World Trade Center, passionate debate continues on the question of whether the mosque should be allowed. I have a few questions for those who would forcibly block the building of the mosque. These are not rhetorical questions; I’d appreciate some real answers.
1. If the United States seriously waged war against the state sponsors of Islamist terror, would the proposed mosque even potentially be able to get tainted funds, and would its building present any real problem?
2. With the Obama administration actively appeasing America’s enemies, handcuffing American soldiers in Afghanistan, and standing idly by while Iran develops nuclear weapons, do you seriously believe that the addition of yet another mosque on American soil is what will make America appear weak to its enemies?
3. If you give the federal government, or any local government, the authority to deprive United States citizens of property rights, without trial or due process of law, do you seriously believe that such power would be limited to blocking the building of the mosque?
4. Granting that at least some of the organizers of the mosque sympathize with at least some dangerous Islamist goals, what do you think government policy should be with respect to the many college professors and leftist leaders who have sympathized with the 9/11 attackers?
5. If you believe the mosque near the World Trade Center site should be forcibly blocked, what do you think should happen to the forty other Islamic centers a short distance from that site? (I composed my list simply by searching for “mosque” in New York on Google maps; obviously which sites are included in the list may be open to debate.) What about all the other mosques and Islamic centers in America?
Update: I posted three brief comments to Diana Hsieh’s Facebook page, and I thought them worth repeating here:
I think Diana’s point about formally declared war is relevant; how can the United States government convict someone for treason for aiding an enemy the United States refuses to recognize?
I see the two sides largely converging. The first side essentially argues: The mosque should be blocked, because it would support America’s Islamist enemies, and it can be blocked by just means. The second side argues: The mosque should not be blocked, unless it can be shown to support America’s Islamist enemies, and then only by just means. The remaining debate is over what constitutes relevant support for America’s enemies, whether the mosque’s organizers in fact offer such support, and, if they do, what means would be just to block the mosque.
Final thought: I can think of little that would make more of a mockery of the United States than to fight Islamist terrorism with zoning laws. “You better stop killing us, or we’ll zone your asses!” We cannot fight a war with zoning laws, and the attempt is both futile and embarrassing.
June 29 Update: Paul Hsieh has made some excellent observations about the debate. He summarizes the crux of the problem:
Objectivists generally agree that Americans are being threatened by Islamic Totalitarian ideologues who seek to destroy the US. And we agree that the proper response would be for our government to identify that threat and wage a proper war with the goal of defeating and destroying the enemy. …
Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of government right now. Instead, we live under a government that refuses to properly identify the enemy, refuses to wage a proper war of self-defense, and refuses to protect our individual rights.
Given that unfortunate fact, we are left with no good life-promoting options — only bad death-promoting choices.
On one side are those who argue that allowing the NYC mosque to be built would further weaken the few remaining restraints stopping the bad guys from killing us — and the result would be our destruction.
On the other hand are those who argue that stopping the building of the mosque by allowing the government to exercise force in a grossly non-objective fashion would further weaken the few remaining restraints keeping us from descending into tyranny — and the result would be our destruction.
Both sides raise important concerns, particularly about the dangers of adopting the course endorsed by their opponents. That’s precisely what happens when the only good option (of waging a proper war against our enemies) has been taken off the table. Once that happens, all we are left with arebad options.
Perhaps the benefit from the debate is that its participants will redouble their efforts to create better options.
June 30 Update: Amy Peikoff has written a well-argued article in favor of blocking Cordoba House. In a comment there, I granted, “This particular center is different from the other mosques in the immediate area, because it was selected to be within the damage zone of the 9/11 attacks. I did not initially realize the significance of this fact… However, I still remain unpersuaded that even the strongest argument for blocking the center ultimately succeeds in the current political context.”
David June 28, 2010 at 11:22 AM
You make a great point about the university professors: who are the larger existential threat: the American academics or the mosque builders?
I think this focus on the harm caused by the mosque as a SYMBOL is based on a primacy of consciousness premise. Who cares what is in the mind of the crazy Muslims?
Josh June 28, 2010 at 11:37 AM
“2. With the Obama administration actively appeasing America’s enemies, handcuffing American soldiers in Afghanistan, and standing idly by while Iran develops nuclear weapons, do you seriously believe that the addition of yet another mosque on American soil is what will make America appear weak to its enemies?”
Yes, especially because of the symbolism of it.
“4. Granting that at least some of the organizers of the mosque sympathize with at least some dangerous Islamist goals, what do you think government policy should be with respect to the many college professors and leftist leaders who have sympathized with the 9/11 attackers?”
Here’s a quote from Ayn Rand: “Do anything that supports an enemy during an actual war, and you are a murderer” (Ayn Rand Answers Page 92) “You take on your hands the death of every solider” (Ibid) “If you, as civilians, take the side of the enemy, that is as low and unspeakably immoral as any attitude I can conceive of.” (ibid)
My answer, jail the bastards.
Judie June 28, 2010 at 11:48 AM
I think allowing the mosque to be built would be a SYMBOL of our surrender and that is the real harm.
I think the case could be made that American academics are just as much of an existential threat as Islam but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t engage all threats to our survival as a nation.
David June 28, 2010 at 12:01 PM
The real existential threat is not the aggressor–aggressors are a dim a dozen. The real existential threat is the decision not to defend the country.
Judie June 28, 2010 at 12:46 PM
@David. That is why I think we should defend our country even if we cannot get our government to do so by traditional means. The citizens of NYC can use existing zoning laws to block the building of the Islamic victory site mosque near what was before Islamic aggression the WTC and I think they should.
Anonymous June 29, 2010 at 2:14 AM
defending the country by imposing zoning laws to violate property rights isn’t exactly the way to go.
Scott Freeman June 29, 2010 at 6:37 AM
America is fighting a war on terror, not Islam. Islam is not fighting a war with America, terrorists are. A mosque is not a symbol of terrorism or of America’s enemies, it is a symbol of Islam.
I’d add another question to Ari’s list:
6. If, given that they have not been convicted of any crime, the same people who want to build this mosque wanted to build something secular like a restaurant, a house, a school, a store, or a community centre, should we object to that too?
If a Christian who sympathised with the 9/11 attackers wanted to build a house or a restaurant, should that be blocked?
It seems the worst kind of collectivism that because some people of a particular religion commit terrible crimes, all members of that religion have their freedoms curtailed, and the worst kind of statism that because a man disagrees with his government (or a majority of his peers) that he should be denied the freedom to peacefully do as he wishes with his own land (or that which someone is willing to give him).