Rick Santorum’s EchoLight Studies seeks to produce “high-quality movies for families of faith” that Santorum hopes to screen in churches, the Heritage Institute reports. At a Heritage event, Santorum said, “We want this company to be a tool to get people into the church and make the church the center of culture again.” Meanwhile, “Atheists in the US are rallying together, launching a new TV programme and providing support for those who go public with their beliefs,” reports the BBC.
Quite obviously — and we know it’s true because it was published by Fox News — Tim Tebow’s 316 passing yards in yesterday’s spectacular victory against the Steelers “Invokes Key Bible Verse,” that being John 3:16. (See also my comments about this elsewhere.)
But what sports writers have not yet figured out is that God was sending us a message through all of Tebow’s games, not just yesterday’s game. If we look carefully enough at the numbers, we can divine God’s complete message for us. Just take a look at Tebow’s stats for the entire season.
What is not commonly understood is that the reference to John comes from the number of passes completed. That number is 10. What is the tenth letter of the alphabet? It’s “J,” as in “John.” Coincidence? I think not.
Clearly God was using Tim Tebow, in the course of a glorious football game, to communicate with mankind. (Clever technique, that, as opposed to, say, a burning bush.)
So let’s look at God’s complete message, using the stats from Tebow’s entire season.
Game 5: Tebow completed 4 passes for 79 yards. Obviously, then, that refers to Daniel 7:9:
“As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire.”
Prepare to have your mind blown. That week the Chargers beat the Broncos. Their “throne” a “fiery flame?” Well, it’s the Chargers, and just look at the logo of their helmets! It’s a flame! And the white hair? Check out the mane of Chargers general manager A. J. Smith.
Game 7: 13 completions for 161 yards. Obviously the 13 can’t refer to “Malachi,” because that book doesn’t contain enough chapters or versus. So the next logical book is Matthew, 16:1:
“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show a sign from heaven.”
Was Tebow tested? Did he show a sign? Well, the outcome speaks for itself: “Tebow answers critics, rallies Denver to win vs. Miami.”
Game 8: Tebow completed 18 passes for 172 yards. That can’t be “Ruth” or “Romans,” because they aren’t not long enough. That takes us to Revelation 17:2. That starts off mid-sentence, so I’ll include the first verse as well:
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harolot who is seated upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”
Let me just point out that the Lions crushed the Broncos that game 45-10. How many “bowls?” 7. How many sacks? Again, 7. I’m not sure what the “fornication” bit means — perhaps it’s metaphorical — but the Broncos sure played like they were drunk.
I could continue, but this is the sort of thing the reader can ably do for himself. I think the point is made well enough by now.
January 12 Update: Westword has outdone me. After reviewing the findings of this post, Michael Roberts predicts that, in his next game, Tebow will complete twelve passes for 263 yards, invoking Leviticus 26:3:
If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them…. you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land. You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.
Let us pray it comes to pass.
I delivered a twenty-minute talk August 27 at Skepticamp in Colorado Springs titled, “Ayn Rand As Atheist.” I open with the American Values Network attack on Ayn Rand for her atheism, then I describe what her atheism actually entails.
Somebody pointed out that I may not set up an early quote about duty well enough; it comes from Rand’s Red Pawn (in Early Ayn Rand) and it comes from a character whose views Rand criticizes as typically Communist.
September 12 Update: Following is a write-up based on the same material.
That the left attacks Ayn Rand for her capitalist politics comes as no surprise. Today’s left, though, attacks Rand not only for her political conclusions, but specifically for her atheism. Decades ago, usually only the religious right employed that line of attack (and did so with a vengeance). Today’s left, far from consistently defending secular values and the separation of church and state, increasingly joins the religious right in bringing religion into politics.
Rand, on the other hand, consistently defended the separation of church and state. While she eloquently defended freedom of religion and freedom of conscience more broadly, she rejected religion throughout her career and defended reason based on the evidence of the natural world and objective values based on the life and happiness of the individual.
The leftist organization American Values Network prominently attacks Rand’s atheism in a web page and related video, touting residual media ranging from Time to USA Today to Fox News. The organization argues:
GOP leaders and conservative pundits have brought upon themselves a crisis of values. Many who for years have been the loudest voices invoking the language of faith and moral values are now praising the atheist philosopher Ayn Rand whose teachings stand in direct contradiction to the Bible. Rand advocates a law of selfishness over love and commands her followers to think only of themselves, not others. She said her followers had to choose between Jesus and her teachings.
GOP leaders want to argue that they are defending Christian principles. …As conservative evangelical icon Chuck Colson recently stated, Christians can not support Rand’s philosophy and Christ’s teachings. The choice is simple: Ayn Rand or Jesus Christ. We must choose one and forsake the other.
In fact American Values Network grossly distorts Rand’s views — she advocated appropriate loving relationships and thoughtfulness of others — but the organization’s deeper error lies in attacking Rand’s atheism while explicitly advocating a religious basis for politics (specifically a Christian basis rooted in Biblical texts). Note the enormous difference between logically or factually questioning Rand’s conclusions in politics and ethics (controversies beyond the scope of this article), and rejecting Rand’s ideas because she does not ground them in religion. The latter sort of attack should concern everyone who values the separation of church and state.
As a silver lining, the American Values Network campaign raises awareness of Rand’s criticisms of religion and faith-based politics, provoking thoughtful observers to discover the nature of Rand’s actual views. Thankfully, Rand eloquently explained and defended her views on religion. Considered on their merits, rather than filtered and stripped out of context by partisan character assassins, Rand’s positions constitute an important alternative to religion and a powerful defense of the separation of church and state. Those positions richly deserve a deeper look.
To set the context for Rand’s atheism, consider that she was born in pre-Soviet Russia in 1905 into a Jewish family. Thus, she never grew up with strong Christian (or even religiously Jewish) beliefs. (See Objectively Speaking, edited by Marlene Podritske and Peter Schwartz, page 226.) Marxism dominated many intellectual circles in Russia, with its emphasis on collectivism and antagonism toward religion. Rand moved to the United States in 1926 where, understandably, her antipathy toward Communism dominated much of her early thinking. Not until many decades later, in the mid-1970s as Rand approached the end of her life, did the religious right make serious attempts to ground politics on religious beliefs.
Yet, as Rand developed her philosophy over time and emphasized different aspects of it as the culture around her changed, she constantly advocated the same worldview of using reason to achieve life-based values in the natural world. This was true of her first professional writing in 1932 until her final public appearances in the early 1980s. By any sensible measure, Rand must be counted among the greatest atheist intellectuals of the 20th Century.
Many of the basic elements of Rand’s atheism appear in the first writing she sold, a 1932 screen treatment called Red Pawn. As the name suggests, the treatment largely deals with the evils of Soviet dictatorship, yet it also criticizes religion.
Rand criticizes the notion of duty that contradicts or stands beyond reason. The Communist character Commandant Karayev describes the duty-based view: “When it’s duty, you don’t ask why and to whom. You don’t ask any questions. When you come up against a thing about which you can’t ask any questions — then you know you’re facing your duty.” (The Early Ayn Rand, edited by Leonard Peikoff, page 120.) Rand rejected any attempt to act outside of reason, whether from a religious or collectivist motivation.
Rand’s description of Karayev reveals much about her views of religion as well as Communism:
He stood at the door. At one side of him was a painting of a saint burning at the stake…renouncing the pleasures and tortures of the flesh for the glory of his heaven; at the other side — a poster of a huge machine with little ant-sized men, sweating at its gigantic levers, and the inscription: “Our duty is our sacrifice to the red collective of the Communistic State!” (The Early Ayn Rand page 136.)
For Rand, Communism does not fundamentally stand opposed to religion; instead, the Communists substituted the authority of the state (with its Commisars) for the authority of a religion (with its priests and sacred texts). While the religious authorities demand individual sacrifices for God or his works, the collectivist authorities demand sacrifices for the state or some collective end. As Leonard Peikoff summarizes in his introduction to the work, “Ayn Rand saw clearly that Communism, contrary to its propaganda, is not the alternative to religion, but only a secularized version of it, with the state assuming the prerogatives once reserved to the supernatural” (The Early Ayn Rand page 108).
For Rand, then, atheism is not enough. Atheism merely states a negative, an absence or rejection of theism and its supernatural realm. People can reject God and yet advocate irrational and even evil ideas. What matters is one’s positive philosophy, and Rand’s philosophy of reason grounded in natural evidence and earthly values consequently precludes theism. While American Christians reacted strongly against the atheism of Communism, particularly during the Cold War, Rand saw the similarities between the two camps as more substantial than the differences.
Rand’s 1936 novel We the Living, again set in Soviet Russia, addresses (at its periphery) the ethics and psychology of religion. Consider a telling exchange between two of the characters, Kira and Andrei:
“Do you believe in God, Andrei?”
“Neither do I. But that’s a favorite question of mine. An upside-down question, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if I asked people whether they believed in life, they’d never understand what I meant. It’s a bad question. It can mean so much that it really means nothing. So I ask them if they believe in God. And if they say they do — then, I know they don’t believe in life.”
“Because, you see, God — whatever anyone chooses to call God — is one’s highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life. It’s a rare gift, you know, to feel reverence for your own life and to want the best, the greatest, the highest possible, here, now, for your very own. To imagine a heaven and then not to dream of it, but to demand it.” (We the Living, by Ayn Rand, page 97-98 in the 1959 Random House edition.)
Here Rand suggests that religion tends to stand in the way of worldly values by encouraging people to place their hopes of achieving values in some afterlife. One chooses this life and the values of this life, or one neglects or denigrates this life in favor of an imagined world beyond death. (That many people in fact act on contradictory ideas and commitments would not surprise Rand.) Rand presents a highly idealistic vision of values in the sense that they are achievable in this life.
Religion drops even further to the background in Rand’s 1940 novel The Fountainhead, but that book too makes some criticisms of religion. Consider an exchange between the main character Howard Roark and his early mentor:
“Why did you decide to be an architect?”
“I didn’t know it then. But it’s because I’ve never believed in God.”
“Come on, talk sense.”
“Because I love this earth. That’s all I love. I don’t like the shape of things on this earth. I want to change them.” (The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, page 39 in the 1994 Plume edition.)
The dialogue again emphasizes Rand’s focus on this-worldly values, as opposed to the supernatural realm.
In his famous courtroom speech, Roark adds:
That man [the creator] the unsubmissive and first, stands in the opening chapter of every legend mankind has recorded about its beginning. Prometheus was chained to a rock and torn by vultures — because he had stolen the fire of the gods. Adam was condemned to suffer — because he had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge. (The Fountainheadpage 710.)
Here Rand presents religion as backwards mysticism that stands in the way of this-wordly values.
Rand’s criticisms of religion become more pronounced and developed withAtlas Shrugged in 1957.
John Galt makes a number of pointed criticisms of religion (and collectivism) in his detailed radio address, including the following:
The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man’s power to conceive — a definition that invalidates man’s consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence. The good, say the mystics of muscle, is Society — a thing which they define as an organism that possesses no physical form, a superbeing embodied in no one in particular and everyone in general except yourself. (Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, page 1027 in the 1992 Dutton edition.)
The mystics of both schools… are germs that attack you through a single sore: your fear of relying on your mind. They tell you that they possess a means of knowledge higher than the mind, a mode of consciousness superior to reason… (Atlas Shrugged page 1034.)
Here Rand emphasizes the irrationality of supernatural religious presumptions or their collectivist counterparts. Whereas, in Red Pawn, Rand revealed the psychology of turning to religion in rejection of worldly values, in Atlas Shrugged she sees as a source of mysticism the fear of relying on one’s reasoning mind as the sole means of knowledge.
Following the publication of Atlas Shrugged, Rand turned more to nonfiction writing and speaking, when she continued to attack the mysticism and self-sacrifice of religion and its subversion of reason in politics.
In 1960, Rand delivered an address at Yale titled, “Faith and Force: Destroyers of the Modern World.” In this talk, she again explicitly defends reason against the mysticism of religion: “Reason is the faculty which perceives, identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.Mysticism is the claim to a non-sensory means of knowledge.” (Philosophy: Who Needs It, by Ayn Rand, page 63 in the 1984 Signet edition.) Moreover, Rand argues that rejecting reason in favor of religious faith in politics leads inexorably to conflict, violence, and rule by brute force:
[F]aith and force are corellaries, and… mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the onlyobjective means of communication and of understanding among men… But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding [is possible]. (Philosophy: Who Needs It page 70. Note that a typographical error appears in some printings of this book, corrected here with the bracketed text.)
In another talk later in 1960, Rand blasted conservatives for attempting to ground their politics in religious faith: “Politically, such a claim contradicts the fundamental principles of the United States: in America, religion is a private matter which cannot and must not be brought into political issues” (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, by Ayn Rand, page 197 of the 1967 Signet edition).
Rand’s warning about the inevitable strife of faith-based politics, and her resounding endorsement of the separation of church and state, should serve to jolt the rising Religious Left to its senses. Those who believe they can defeat Rand’s political positions using logic and reason are free to try it. But rejecting Rand’s ideas specifically because they are atheistic, and calling instead on a politics grounded on religious faith and sacred texts, invites long-term disaster in America, logically tending toward theocracy.
Over the course of her career, Rand fought for naturalism, a focus on this world, as opposed to supernaturalism. She advocated reason grounded in the evidence of the senses, not faith or mystical intuition. She advocated a morality based on the lives and well-being of real individuals, rather than some allegedly transcendent realm. She fought for a politics grounded in reason and individual rights. Rand presented these ideas in riveting novels that continue to sell hundreds of thousands of copies every year to readers hungry for Rand’s idealized, value-based, story-driven “Romantic realism.” Through essays, lectures, and public appearances throughout the rest of her life, Rand continued to advocate her positive philosophy as well as the rightful separation of church and state.
Despite Rand’s decades of intellectual achievements, today more than any other literary figure she becomes the target of nasty and fact-challenged smears by both the left and the right. The left hates her for her capitalism, while the right hates her for her atheism — though the left increasingly joins the right in this, as the American Values Network illustrates.
Those who reject Rand’s moral and political theories would do well to take a second look at what she actually advocated and why, as her views suffer continual distortions in the popular media. Yet even those who disagree with Rand’s specific conclusions should recognize her achievements and her status as a preeminent 20th Century atheist intellectual and, more fundamentally, a champion of reason and liberty.
“Anonymous” left the following comment on September 11, 2011: Ari, not sure if this was the session where you talked about the left incorporating in more overt ways the religious (principally Christian) creed of self-sacrifice or not. But it got me thinking about an interview between the American play-write Arthur Miller and Jonathan Miller. In it, Arthur Miller touches on this idea, but levels an even greater warning: the combination of Christianity, Judaism, and nationalism – literally lethal in his view. It is a great interview, and is part of a collection of interviews with several atheists entitled The Atheism Tapes (BBC). Cheers! B Danielson
A previous post shows photos from the 9/11 NYC rally in favor of the Islamic center near Ground Zero. These photos, also by Bob Glass, show the rally against the center.
Some statements promoted Christianity, while others opposed religion:
Tea Party themes were widespread:
For the most part, messages did not oppose Islam per se but rather the danger of encroaching sharia law:
Following is a selection of those photos from the rally promoting the Islamic center. Glass has promised me additional commentary on the topic, and I plan to write something up as well based on his photographs and literature from the rally he sent me. I should note the obvious point here that the strong socialist endorsement of of the Islamic center does not typify support for it, which is ideologically diverse.
If you zoom in on the photo, you can read on one sign, “socialistworker.org.”
One sign in this photo says, “Defeat Obama’s War on Afghanistan and Iraq! Hands off Pakistan! Internationalist Group, League for the Fourth International.” Another sign says touts “class struggle.”
Many of the ralliers in favor of the Islamic center were obviously pro-Palestine and anti-Israel:
This button says, “U.S. Boat to Gaza: The Audacity of Hope.”
Works sold at the pro-mosque rally included “Coming American Revolution,” a “Defense of Marxism,” “Che Guevera and the Fight for Socialism Today,” “The Militant,” and “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.”
One pro-mosque rallier openly promoted Guevera as well as the murderous Communist Chinese regime:
Amidst signs from the “anti-capitalist” International Action Center, a sign reads, “We Stand with Our Muslim Sisters and Brothers.”
Another sign from “socialistworker.org” declares, “Muslims Are Our Brothers & Sisters.”
Mike C. September 19, 2010 at 8:13 PM
The yellow and black IAC signs look suspiciously like those of International ANSWER – the pro-Saddam, pro-Castro, pro-Kim Jong Il, pro-Chavez, etc. group that organized some of the anti-war rallies.
Special by Bob Glass
Editor’s note: While I was in D.C. for September 11, my friend Bob Glass was in New York, and he investigated the rallies both for and against the Islamic Center near Ground Zero (“Cordoba House”). Bob grew up in Queens before moving west. Bob also took numerous photographs of the rallies, and hopefully I’ll be able to publish some of them in coming days. Incidentally, my stated view is that, while the Islamic center should be morally condemned, it should not be forcibly blocked. Following are Bob’s reflections of the 9/11 rallies. -Ari Armstrong
Americans will forever remember September 11 as a somber, reflective day — a day in which this nation was attacked by fundamentalist Muslims intent upon murdering innocent men, women and children — all in the name of Islam. This attack was the most sensational and devastating of all the attacks perpetrated by the Jihadist movement that has murdered thousands of people around the world.
This was a wake-up call for Americans because prior to that the acts of Islamic terrorism on American soil were of a relatively minor scale. On September 11, 2001, nearly three thousand Americans lost their lives and the very symbol of free trade and free markets — the World Trade Center — was reduced to a pile of smoldering rubble.
To all Americans and to New Yorkers especially, virtually all of whom knew someone killed on that day, the site on which the Twin Towers once stood is hallowed ground, a sacred site, a reminder of what hangs in the balance between a society based on free trade versus a society based on the tyranny of Sharia law.
So it should be no surprise that the proposed “Islamic Cultural Center” built at Ground Zero would be seen as a slap in the face and an affront to the people of New York and those New Yorkers who lost loved ones on that terrible, infamous day. The claims made by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf that his intentions are purely to bridge the gap between different cultures and promote tolerance and understanding amongst people by building this mosque have been undermined by his threats against the United States warning that not building the mosque would jeopardize our national security.
If you look at the record of Islamic conquest throughout history, mosques and shrines have always been built on the sacred sites of Islam’s conquered enemies. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, built on the site of the holy Jewish temple (Temple Mount). So it is understandable why Americans and New Yorkers would be outraged at the prospect of such a “victory mosque” being built at Ground Zero. Recent polls indicate that 70 percent of New Yorkers and all Americans oppose the construction of this center at Ground Zero.
It is important to note that none of the anti-mosque people crashed the rally for the mosque. On the other hand, one elderly lady who was simply walking by the pro-mosque rally with a small American flag was viciously verbally assaulted by a bunch of the hard-left activists. I was shocked and appalled at the level of vitriol unleashed against this woman who could be anyone’s grandmother. The hard-left ralliers also sent scores of agitators into the ranks of the opposing rally determined to cause as much disruption as possible. [September 15 Update: See a partial list of endorsers of the endorsers below.]
The anti-mosque people to their credit showed remarkable restraint in the face of endless verbal taunts and jeers from those agitators carrying signs calling them bigots, racists, and worse. The mainstream media were oblivious to this in their reporting, saying simply that there were a number of vocal confrontations and a few scuffles between the two groups.
I estimated that about 2,000 people showed up on each side. The mainstream media reported that the pro-mosque crowd was decidedly larger but (surprise, surprise) that was not the case. [Editor’s note: Pamela Geller estimates that “tens of thousands” of people rallied “against the Ground Zero mega mosque.”]
The NYPD was out in force both in uniform and plainclothes. I know this because several times I saw uniformed cops stopping people in civilian clothes, only to back off after the people they stopped flashed them their badges. The police randomly shut down pedestrian traffic on streets adjacent to the demonstrations only to open them later and shut down other streets. I assume this was to disrupt any organized plans to stage counter demonstrations.
The NYPD utilized a (somewhat Orwellian-looking) mobile observation platform that could be raised five or six stories in the air. This unit was complete with all kinds of cameras and communications equipment.
The people demonstrating against the mosque were Tea Partiers for the most part, joined by friends and relatives of those killed on 9/11 as well as many firefighters and off duty police. Standing in the midst of both demonstrations and engaging in dialogue with many people on both sides, I was reminded of the name of one of the chapters in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged — “The Sacred and the Profane.”
September 15 Update: On September 7, 2010, in an email stamped 5:40 am, actioncenter[AT SIGN]action-mail[DOT]org distributed an email titled, “Emergency Mobilization Against Racism and Anti-Islamic Bigotry.” That email, as received by Bob Glass, lists the following “partial list of endorsers:”
Al-Awda NY Palestine Right To Return Coalition
American Muslims For Palestine
Arab Muslim American Federation-AMAF
Bail Out The People Movement
BAYAN USA-Philippine American Alliance
Bethlehem Neighbor for Peace, Albany, NY
Black Workers For Justice
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
Casa Esperanza, Plainfield, NJ
Catholic Scholars For Worker Justice, White Plains, NY
Creative Nonviolent Resistance Against Injustice, Wyckoff, NJ
Dec. 12 Movement
Defenders For Freedom, Justice & Equality, VA
Democratic Labor Party, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Drum-Desis Rising Up & Moving
Families United For Justice In America-FUJA
Fight Imperialism Stand Together-FIST
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition
Freedom Road Socialist Organization
Green Party Power to the People, New York, NY
Guyanese American Workers United
In the Name of Humanity
International Action Center
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Islamic Leadership Council of New York
Jersey City Peace Movement
Labor for Palestine
Los Angeles Latino Muslims Association
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Masjid As-Salam, Albany, NY
May 1 Workers And Immigrant Rights Coalition
Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice
Million Worker March Movement
Millions For Mumia
MN Anti War Committee
Moratorium Now Coalition To Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shutoffs
Muslim Solidarity Committee
New York City Labor Against the War
Nodutdol For Korean Community Development
North East Peace And Justice Action Coalition
NYC Coalition to Stop Islamaphobia
NYC Jericho Movement
Pakistan USA Freedom Forum
Pan Africa News Wire
Peoples Organization For Progress
Project Salam , Albany, NY
Queers For Economic Justice
Radical Women, Harlem, NY
Senegalese Workers Association
South Bronx Community Congress
Take Back WBAI Coalition
The Peace Thru Justice Foundation
U.S. Palestinian Community Network, NY
Women In Black, Westchester, NY
Women’s Fightback Network
Workers World Party
World Can’t Wait
Edward Childs, Chief Steward, Unite-Here Local 26*, Somerville, MA
Colia Clark, Candidate US Senate- New York, Green Party Power to the People
Dr. Joseph J. Fahey, Chair, Catholic Scholars For Worker Justice, White Plains, NY
Steve Gillis, Vice President, USW Local 8751*, Boston, MA
Basem Khader, Peace and Justice activist, Chappaqua, NY
Imam Ashrafuz Zaman Khan, President, North American Imams Federation – NAIF*
Rahman Khan, Chairman , Muslim Voters of America, Evanston, IL
Michael Kuzma, Democratic candidate, NYS Senate, 58th District, Buffalo, NY
Angaza Laughinghouse, President, UE Local 150, NC Public Service Workers Union*
Bishop Filipe Teixeira, OFSCP, Diocese of St. Francis of Assisi, CCA*
Dom Tuminaro, Professor, PSC-CUNY-AFT, AFL-CIO*, New York, NY
Fatema Zohny, Educator/Social Activist, Cornerstone Academy For Social Action*, New York, NY
*=For purposes of identification only
for full list see iacenter.org/muslimsolidarity [Note: This web site does not actually seem to include the full list of endorsers.]
Anonymous September 15, 2010 at 2:12 AM
The pro-mosque people were the usual people that are at every Leftist rally; ie they are the pro-socialist, minority-activist, pro-Palestinian Leftists that the Communist front groups in the area always stir up for Leftist rallies. Leftists do this for every big rally in any city in America, regardless of what its about. Pretty much all the big Leftist organizations are nothing but fronts for genuine Communist organizations.
The anti-mosque rally on the other hand reflected genuine sentiments of a pro-American grassroots movement. You say they were equal in size, yet I haven’t read that from anywhere else. From the coverage I saw, the anti-jihad rally looked significantly bigger.
Anonymous September 17, 2010 at 6:03 AM
The anti-mosque rally was endorsed by the “English Defence League,” a band of football hooligans who regularly beat up British Muslims, and Geert Wilders, who spoke at the rally, is a neo-fascist whose party in the Netherlands includes neo-Nazis elements.
Also, the hate-filled rants of Pamela “Shrieking Harpy” Geller, on her blog, misnamed “Atlas Shrugs,” are serio-comic, at best:
Sick, sick, sick ….
Ari September 17, 2010 at 9:40 AM
There’s a huge difference between an endorsement recognized by the organizers and some random endorsement. Any nutjob can endorse anything he pleases. Did relevant question is which endorsements the organizers tout.
As for Wilders, frankly I haven’t done much research on him. If you can prove that he is a “neo-fascist,” then please do so. But I’ve heard enough false cries of fascism to demand proof.
I have mixed feelings about Geller.
It occurred to me that it may not be perfectly obvious to everybody why I and many others endorsed and participated in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day but I oppose Terry Jones’s idea to burn the Koran. If you think the two acts are similar or comparable, you are utterly confused.
The first critical point here is that, as Sarah Palin pointed out, people have a political right to burn the Koran, as they have the political right to burn the flag or the Christian Bible. But just because you have a political right to do something, doesn’t make it moral.
As I argued with respect to Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, it is perfectly moral to draw Mohammed, even in a disparaging way. Doing so constitutes (or at least may constitute) a constructive addition to the cultural discussion and state some sort of interesting point.
On the other hand, burning the Koran is a repulsive and immoral act, simply because burning any book to protest the contents of the book is repulsive. The way to fight bad ideas is to argue against them, not try to wipe them out of existence. This point is especially poignant given the Christian penchant for burning groundbreaking scientific texts during the Middle Ages.
Consider the worst book I can imagine, Hitler’s Mein Kampf. While I don’t have the stomach to read it, I want people like Stephen Hicks to read it and explain to the world precisely why it is so evil.
I regard the Koran as basically a bad book because it demands total personal sacrifice to a false supernaturalist construct. While debate rages about the proper interpretation of the text, nobody can seriously dispute the fact that the book has inspired many to commit grotesque acts of violence, oppress and abuse women, and murder homosexuals and “infidels.” But the goal should be to read the book, understand it, and explain why it’s wrong.
All that said, the very fact that the Obama administration has warned about possible Islamist violence in the wake of a Koran burning illustrates the vicious nature of the violent incarnations of the religion. Burning a book, so long as it’s your copy of the book, violates nobody’s rights. Hurting or killing somebody obviously does. Burning a book should not be a crime; committing vioence against another person properly is. If Muslims seriously regarded their beliefs as a “religion of peace,” they would not respond to a book burning with violence.
While it is wrong to burn any book to protest its contents, it is immeasurably more evil—and properly against the law—to physically hurt or threaten people for their beliefs or expressions.
May 30, 2017 Update: I would no longer argue that burning a book necessarily is “immoral.” It can be immoral, and more often it can be stupid and counterproductive. —Ari Armstrong
Where’s the Argument
You say “it is wrong to burn any book to protest its contents.”
You have not made any type of case to back this up. I can think of many cases where burning a book is a legitimate SYMBOL of rational defiance and love of liberty. Under the right circumstances and for the right reasons, and this excludes the Christian pastor Jones, burning the Koran would be a legitimate means of protesting its disgusting contents.
Usually, I agree with your views. But this comes across as the same mealy mouthed timidity I hear from Conservatives.
September 10, 2010
Book Burning Is Anti-Intellectual
Very good piece that nails the essential issue. Book burning, while it should be legal, is as anti-intellectual, and therefore as anti-reason, anti-thought, and immoral as it gets in terms of activism. It is completely impractical in the effort to persuade people that a religion (and any and all religion for that matter in my view) is bad. It shows complete contempt and indifference to ideas and philosophy as such.
September 10, 2010
Why is Burning a Book Repulsive?
You write, “On the other hand, burning the Koran is a repulsive and immoral act, simply because burning any book to protest the contents of the book is repulsive.”
But why is burning any book to protest its contents repulsive? For example, apparently a book came out a few years ago which accused George W. Bush’s grandfather of helping Hitler get in power. I wouldn’t have a problem if Bush burned the book.
Also, which important scientific texts were burned in the Middle Ages?
September 11, 2010
Ari Armstrong Replies
“Mealy mouthed timidity?” I’m flat-out calling the act of burning the Koran immoral, hardly a timid position. My case is brief but unassailable: burning a book is no way to repudiate its contents, and it shows the burner to be an anti-intellectual and destructive force. In the case of the book about Bush, burning an obviously idiotic and unknown book would serve only to draw attention to it.
September 11, 2010
Book Burning Can Be a Dramatic Expression
When done by private individuals and not government, book burning doesn’t necessarily seek to wipe out the ideas, it merely represents a dramatic rejection of them, like all effigy-burning. In particular, if the book itself is anti-intellectual, is it really anti-intellectual to burn it? I wouldn’t go out and buy a book just to burn it for a number of reasons, but if I owned a book, read it and found it abhorrently repulsive, I would destroy it rather than keep it in my home or give it away i.e. spread the bad book’s ideas further.
This Koran-burning event won’t wipe out all Korans in existence, so I see no destruction of ideas, merely a highly visible rejection of them. Of course the reasons for the rejection need to be publicized, but one person can write an article explaining why whilst ten thousand people burn their copies of the book to show their agreement.
My junior high and high school classmates burned their homework at a beach bonfire at the end of each year. If anything that was pro-intellectual. We didn’t burn reports or textbooks or anything of value. We burned the pointless drills and mindnumbing tasks we had been forced to perform (and also forced to save until year end). It was a way of putting an unpleasant past behind us with drama and finality. And marshmallows.
I don’t doubt that this Koran burning event is anti-intellectual, but I do doubt the extrapolation that all book burnings must be so. I grant you that most actual book burnings I can think of definitely sought to intimidate or threaten and had a riotous, mob-like feel to them, but actually music burnings are not all that uncommon and don’t have that same feel at all, though they have the toxicity problem to deal with. Maybe the difference is that music burnings tend to involve burning your own copy, not going out and buying something just to burn it. The latter seems more like trying to wipe out ideas, whereas the former is an expression of anger and frustration at having wasted your time and money on lousy art.
Do you think destroying a book in the privacy of your own home is moral? Is it the large-scale, organized, public nature of formal book burnings that you consider anti-intellectual, or would the destruction of any written text be immoral? If the latter, is book burning different from comment moderation on a blog?
The issue’s up in the air for me, but I don’t think your argument is unassailable as 1. book burning is not necessarily meant to repudiate the contents and 2. it is generally not morally required to spend your time refuting bad ideas.
September 14, 2010
There Is No Need to Read Some Books
I take issue with your statement that someone should read and then counter the arguments of the Koran. The basic argument of the Koran is known: some mystical creature commands you to go conquer the world and kill all who resist. I do not need to read, or even address, any of these arguments. If someone’s idea is “Let’s go kill people, and enslave their children and hear the lamentations of their women,” the only proper response involves vulgarities and Charleton Heston quotes (or maybe Dirty Harry).
Furthermore, mysticism has already been debunked; there is no need to go and stomp out each of its’ hydra-like iterations, one by one, including Mohamedanism. Therefore, the statement that the Koran should be preserved and examined in order to refute its ideas is incorrect.
September 18, 2010
Ari Armstrong Replies: My argument is not that every single person needs to read the Koran and refute it. My argument is that, if you care enough about the issue to publicly speak out against the Koran, the way to do it is to argue against it (which entails that you know at least the gist of its contents), not burn it.
Fire Is Not an Argument
Ari wrote, “Burning the Koran is a repulsive and immoral act, simply because burning any book to protest the contents of the book is repulsive.”
To put it another way, no one in debate club is allowed to go over to the other team and set their table on fire in order to win the debate. That is just not an argument.
Now, if you have some other purpose in mind for burning the book, that might be different.
September 20, 2010
Cordoba House, the proposed Islamic center within the damage zone of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, richly deserves moral condemnation. Whether it should be forcibly blocked is another matter. Here my goal is to explain and engage the three most important arguments for blocking the construction of Cordoba House. I conclude that, while two arguments don’t succeed, a third might.
1. “The organizers of Cordoba House promote bad ideas.”
Advocates of blocking Cordoba House frequently cite the horrible views espoused by the center’s lead organizer, Feisal Abdul Rauf (an Imam and United States citizen). As I have reviewed, Rauf has failed to condemn Hamas (though he has condemned terrorism in the abstract), partly blamed America for the 9/11 attacks, and openly advocated Islamic Sharia law in the U.S.
The problem with blocking Cordoba House because of the views advocated by its organizers (as I have reviewed in a first and second article) is that thousands of other American Muslims, leftist intellectuals and activists, and libertarians have expressed identical or substantively similar views. Thus, the same case should apply to all those other thousands of American citizens, who, logically, also should be forcibly stripped of their property or use of it to promote their ideas. Yet, to date, I have heard not a single advocate of shutting down the Islamic center claim that they want to also target all those other American citizens.
Here I am addressing the promotion of ideas, not criminal acts. I have seen no evidence that the organizers of Cordoba House (the property’s legally recognized owners) have engaged in any criminal or terrorist activity. Anyone who commits violent acts, shelters or finances terrorists, or directly promotes terrorist acts has committed a crime, and, as Steve Simpson notes, existing criminal code already addresses such matters. In cases of such crimes, appropriate action extends far beyond merely blocking the criminal’s use of property. Anyone guilty of such crimes should be prosecuted and imprisoned upon conviction, and at least all property related to their crimes should be confiscated. In such cases the central issue is the crime, not the use of property, which would be restricted only as a consequence of the criminal sanctions.
Amy Peikoff has pointed out that it is possible to argue that promoting Islam is itself a criminal act:
[T]here probably are good legal arguments that could be made to stop this, arguments that need not presuppose that our government has formally declared war. This approach is tricky, of course, because you can’t say that someone doesn’t have a right to property, simply because his views, which he plans to promote via use of his property, at root negate the principle of private property. Plenty of ideologies do that. So this gets back to the problem of recognizing the unique nature of Islam in this regard. To make the proper sort of legal argument I have in mind – something along the lines of a well-defined trade embargo, or perhaps a charge of conspiracy to commit a crime, or, as James Valliant has suggested, solicitation to murder – one has to recognize that the distinguishing characteristic of Islam as a religion is its doctrine of Jihad, which is, in effect, an incitement to violence, even though many individual Muslims aren’t violent and never will be. If you don’t believe this about Islam as such, then you will naturally reject this approach.
However, if this argument succeeds, then the logical conclusion is that all Muslims in the United States who advocate Islam should be branded criminals. Yet nobody who advocates the forced blocking of Cordoba House argues that all Muslims who advocate Islam should be targeted with criminal proceedings.
Indeed, the very implication reduces the position to absurdity.
The reason the position implies absurd applications is that the mere advocacy of an idea does not inherently or automatically lead to violent actions. Consider some comparisons.
Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff argue that Kant is inherently evil (because willfully dishonest), and that his views logically imply the total abnegation of individual rights. And yet nobody argues that advocates of Kantianism are criminals because of the ideas they advocate.
In her talk, “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,” “Ayn Rand explains why mysticism is altruism’s precondition, and why dictatorship is its product.” She argues that faith as such logically implies the outright “destruction of the modern world.” And yet nobody argues that all Christians are criminals because of the ideas they advocate.
Communism explicitly demands the sacrifice of the individual to the collective. And yet nobody argues that all Marxist university professors should be branded criminals because of the ideas they advocate.
Even if someone openly advocates an idea that logically entails violent actions, that person need not become violent (as Peikoff notes). Ideas motivate people to action, but not in any deterministic sort of way. Often people decline to enact (or they simply fail to comprehend) the logical consequences of their ideas.
What violates rights is force, an action. An idea cannot violate rights. While a bad idea can motivate one to criminal action, the mere advocacy of an idea is not itself criminal.
This applies even to ideas held by America’s enemies. I agree with Leonard Peikoff when he states:
Treason… is giving aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime. And the enemy has to be defined in objective, physical terms, as a reality of physical attack, or the objective threat of physical attack. I better clarify what I mean by “aid and comfort.” If you give material assistance, or weapons, that is aid and comfort. If you urge the [American] soldiers to desert, that is aid and comfort. If you propagandize, urging specific actions, riots and strikes, etcetera, at home, like the Beatniks did during Vietnam, that is aid and comfort. … If you send food packages to the insurgents or the Iranis in the Iraq war, all that is aid and comfort. … [Y]ou have to draw a line between physical, concrete aid and comfort, and a broad moral stand on an issue of national concern which you have every right to take. … You are certainly entitled on intellectual grounds to denounce a war, and even to say the enemy is morally superior to us. You’re entitled to say this. But what you’re not entitled to do is then go out and specifically help that enemy win the war. That is the big difference. It’s a crime to advocate a crime, to help perpetrate, to be an accomplice. It is not a crime to advocate a legal change in the policy that is leading to it. You get the difference between sending food to the insurgents and condemning the war in Iraq.
(As an aside, Peikoff also argues that “it has to be a declared war” for a charge of treason to stick. He says, “All wars which are not declared have no status.” Absent a declaration of war, he states, “no rules of war or treason can apply… unless it’s an emergency” preceding a formal declaration of war. However, my understanding is that charges of treason may be brought in spy cases even when the United States is not at war, so I think that in certain cases treason can apply outside a formal declaration of war.)
If the advocacy of certain ideologies is deemed inherently criminal, consider what such a legal precedent would mean for the rest of us, say, if fundamentalist Christians gained even more influence over government. Paul Hsieh has offered some good examples. Here’s another: in his new book To Save America, Newt Gingrich argues that secularism is inherently socialistic and that it poses an “existential threat” to America (p. 6). If we’re going to turn people into criminals for the ideas they advocate, secularists may be among the first in the gulags, however misguided the attack on them.
Absent concrete evidence linking Cordoba House’s organizers to crime or terrorism, then, they cannot be prosecuted as criminals, and their center cannot properly be blocked on those grounds.
2. “Cordoba House would embolden America’s enemies.”
Advocates of forcibly blocking Cordoba House, however, can offer some other reason for doing so, besides the views advocated by its organizers. For example, they can argue that building an Islamic center within the damage zone of the 9/11 attacks inherently emboldens America’s enemies, apart from the particular ideas the organizers advocate. I think that is the approach Leonard Peikoff is taking in his recent podcast on the matter.
By my understanding, Peikoff would advocate blocking Cordoba House, regardless of the particular views expressed by its organizers. Even if Rauf enthusiastically condemned Hamas, declared America’s complete and utter innocence regarding the 9/11 attacks, and openly opposed Sharia law, I think Peikoff still would advocate blocking Cordoba House. By this view, the case for blocking Cordoba House does not depend on the particular views of those organizers (beyond their general endorsement of Islam); it depends solely on the location of the proposed center.
Advocates of blocking Cordoba House have made some extraordinary claims about its construction. Leonard Peikoff suggests that our “metaphysical survival is at stake.” Amy Peikoff suggests that to allow Cordoba House would be to “let ourselves be wiped out as collateral damage.”
At initial glance, such claims seem like wild hyperbole. If Cordoba House is built (as it most likely will be, all of our debate notwithstanding), Western civilization will not immediately come crashing down around our heads. The buildings of New York City will not suddenly crumble into dust. American women will not all start wearing burqas the next day. Cordoba House might encourage America’s enemies to rejoice, gloat, and redouble their commitment, but it will not put food in their bellies, improve the lethality of their weapons, or strengthen their muscles.
Moreover, blocking the construction of Cordoba House (extremely unlikely in today’s political context) would not somehow magically make Iran’s nuclear facilities disappear, grant Obama the spine to stand up to America’s enemies, or remove the deadly restrictions placed on America’s soldiers. For most militant Islamists and Americans, life will continue as before whether or not Cordoba House reaches completion. (Indeed, most Americans never even will have heard of Cordoba House upon its construction.)
What, then, are those claims getting at?
The central argument, I believe, is this. The location of Cordoba House is indeed supremely relevant. Its location was selected expressly because the building was damaged by the 9/11 attacks. Regardless of the views and intentions of the center’s organizers (actual or stated), an Islamic center, within the damage zone of the 9/11 attacks, cannot help but embolden America’s Islamist enemies and signal America’s moral capitulation. The message to America’s enemies is essentially this: “You are strong, and America is weak. If you attack us, you can profit from your attacks. If you destroy our buildings, you can build a shrine to your ideology there as a sign of your conquest.” Such a center can only spur on our Islamist enemies to further violence. Such a principle of capitulation indeed threatens our long-term survival, according to this argument.
Notice that the argument about location depends solely on the impact of the Islamic center on the motivation of America’s enemies, not on any material benefit it might bestow to those enemies. The relevant impact takes place entirely within the heads of the Islamists.
Thus, the building of Cordoba House represents a symbolic victory for America’s enemies, and blocking it would constitute a symbolic victory for America’s self-defense.
The question, then, is whether a symbolic display may ever properly be proscribed legally. My initial reaction is to say no; the First Amendment properly protects symbolic expression, and only actions (including active provocation of violence) properly may be criminalized.
Consider protests involving the burning of the American flag. Many conservatives want to pass a Constitutional amendment banning the disrespectful burning of the American flag. (Burning a worn flag to respectfully dispose of it constitutes proper etiquette.) I learned about flag etiquette from my grandfather, who fought in the Pacific Rim during World War II. Whenever I see an American flag, I think about how my grandfather had to walk a field picking up body pieces of his friends after the Japanese bombed his camp. I will not tolerate the disrespectful burning of an American flag in my presence; if I can maintain sufficient composure to do so, I will leave the scene. Conservatives argue, and I agree, that disrespectfully burning an America flag symbolizes a hateful attack on the essence of America. Nevertheless, I do not advocate legally prohibiting the disrespectful burning of an American flag, and I know of no Objectivist who advocates banning it.
The fact that I experience revulsion toward the burning of an American flag does not justify outlawing the activity; likewise, revulsion towards Cordoba House does not justify forcibly blocking it.
Does the situation change in time of war? During all-out war, our very society, along with the legal system that protects our rights, stands at risk of utter destruction. May certain symbolic expressions therefore be prohibited in times of war?
Peikoff and others offer the example of Pearl Harbor: should the United States government have allowed a Shinto shrine near the site of the attack during WWII? (At first, I presumed that such a scenario was impossible because Pearl Harbor is a military base. However, looking at the map of the harbor, it is clear that it is surrounded by neighborhoods, golf courses, and farms. I have never been there in person.)
While others seem to think it is perfectly obvious that such a shrine should be prohibited in times of war, even if the shrine’s organizers are known to have no ties to violence or the enemy, it is not obvious to me. I don’t see what difference such a shrine would make either way. Think of it this way: should the United States government expend energy, during time of war, to forcibly stop construction of some ridiculous shrine? When the United States government is developing atomic bombs and blowing the holy hell out of Japan, is a shrine really what either side is going to be worried about? I submit that if the Japanese are gloating about the shrine (in this hypothetical situation), if they spend even a minute thinking about the shrine, then the United States has failed to effectively prosecute the war. If the shrine is a big deal to the enemy, then that signifies America is already losing the war.
There may be other very good reasons for blocking the Shinto shrine — see the third argument below — but its symbolism does not strike me as a forceful one.
Imagine you witnessed a street fight, and Fighter A spits on the shoe of Fighter B (who cannot escape the fight). What would you think if Fighter B agonized over the spittle and tried to carefully clean his shoe before proceeding with the fight? I submit that Fighter B should ignore his shoe and concentrate on smashing in the face of the aggressor.
Likewise, I submit that it is precisely this obsessive agonizing over Cordoba House that reflects a posture of defeat and surrender. Why would people spend one minute of their time trying to get rid of some damned prayer center, when they could spend that minute urging the United States government to take decisive action against America’s true enemies? What exactly are our priorities, here? (I do think the debate over Cordoba House is useful insofar as it helps reveal the nature of America’s enemies.)
I should address a couple of arguments from the other side. Amy Peikoff argues that symbols can indeed be important, and she points out that the U.S. ought not have handed over the Panama Canal to Panama. However, I fail to see how the U.S. handing over a U.S.-built structure to a foreign nation is comparable to the federal government not taking action regarding Cordoba House. In his podcast, Leonard Peikoff suggests that building Cordoba House is comparable to somebody who violently attacks your house, then later buys your house for a shrine. But there is an obvious difference: the builders of Cordoba house, however bad their ideas or evil their intentions, are not the same individuals who planned the 9/11 attacks.
We may criticize Cordoba House for its symbolic significance, but I fail to see how blocking a symbol accomplishes any serious goal or in any way compensates for failing to execute a real war.
3. “Cordoba House is uniquely positioned to promote violent Islam.”
Even though Cordoba House’s organizers have explicitly denounced terrorism, at least in the abstract, and even if they actively discourage terrorism, still Cordoba House might prove to be an especially strong lure to would-be terrorists, precisely because of its location. Even if Cordoba House’s official policy opposes terrorism, the center’s managers cannot hope to monitor the private meetings that take place within its walls. It might, then, become a place where potential terrorists meet and hatch their plans.
This seems to be the point Edward Cline is arguing in his recent, thoughtful article.
Those who find such threats implausible need only look to recent headlines; a couple of examples should suffice.
On May 4, the Washington Post reported:
A man was arrested late Monday night in connection with the failed Times Square bombing, administration officials said. The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen from Pakistan, allegedly purchased the sport utility vehicle that authorities found packed with explosives in New York on Saturday night. …
An FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force had taken over the investigation Monday amid growing indications of a possible international connection, U.S. officials and law enforcement sources said.
A June 18 follow-up article reports: “The suspect in the attempted bombing of Times Square received $12,000 from the Pakistani Taliban to carry out the plot, according to a federal indictment released Thursday that formally charges Faisal Shahzad with receiving training and support from the militant group.”
On June 29, Bloomberg reported:
A Guyanese man, on the eve of his trial, pleaded guilty to his role in a plot to blow up New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Abdel Nur, 60, entered a guilty plea to a single count of providing support to terrorists before U.S. District Judge Dora Irizzary in Brooklyn, New York. The judge said the trial of Nur’s two co-defendants is scheduled to begin tomorrow. The three hatched the plot in January 2006 and circulated their plan to an international network of Muslim extremists, prosecutors said.
Rauf himself has granted that special effort is required to “make sure mosques are not recruiting grounds for radicals.” But what if Rauf’s efforts prove inadequate at Cordoba House, which due to its location will prove a particularly strong draw for such “radicals?”
Moreover, some have speculated that Cordoba House will receive international money, probably in some cases tied to nefarious governments. The fact that tainted funds may be available again represents a failure of U.S. foreign policy. If the funds are tainted in a serious enough way, that might justify legal proceedings against Cordoba House based on existing laws. The point here is that if tainted funds indeed go to Cordoba House, that might accompany especially nasty influences.
To me, this third argument is by far the strongest rationale offered for blocking Cordoba House. The United States government could essentially state, “Look, we have good evidence that at least some people who would attend Cordoba House have evil intentions, and, given we are in the middle of prosecuting a war, we don’t have the resources right now to investigate all the related issues. Therefore, until we have decisively won the war, your religious center is on hold, on the grounds of wartime emergency.”
Of course, given the United States government has not, in fact, declared war on America’s enemies, and indeed refuses even to recognize the ideological motivation of America’s enemies, and even actively appeases many of America’s enemies, I do not imagine that the current administration would actually invoke such an argument.
Moreover, I think the United States government could both prosecute a successful war and investigate possible terrorist plots at Cordoba House. Indeed, if it is true that Cordoba House would prove especially appealing to would-be terrorists, then it might even be advantageous for the U.S. government to watch them collect all at one spot.
If would-be terrorists aren’t meeting at Cordoba House, they’re not simply going to disappear. They’re probably going to meet somewhere else. The premise of this third argument — that Cordoba House would attract terrorist plotters — actually seems to justify letting the center be built, so long as the United States government actively tracks suspected terrorists there.
On the other hand, perhaps Cordoba House would embolden more Muslims to plot violent attacks than otherwise would do so, even if they did not actually visit Cordoba House. However, this seems tentative and speculative to me, like the second argument reviewed above, and therefore a weak basis for legal action. In any case, Cordoba House might embolden more terrorists only in the context of a weak overall U.S. foreign policy. If the U.S. government decisively demonstrated the failure of militant Islam, no symbolic structure could overcome that.
However, as noted, I regard this third argument as a forceful one.
* * *
I have described what I see as the three major arguments for blocking Cordoba House. As I’ve indicated, I’m not persuaded that any of the arguments succeeds, though the third argument could gain force depending on the circumstances. If any critic believes that I have missed an important argument, or failed to see the strength of an argument, I hope that critic will explain the error.
Whether or not Cordoba House is built, I think it is important that those concerned about the Islamist threat refrain from blowing the significance of Cordoba House out of proportion. We must remain focussed on making the case to the American public and to its government that we need to get serious about defending the nation from militant Islam.
Anonymous July 3, 2010 at 9:19 AM
Regarding argument #3: “It might, then, become a place where potential terrorists meet and hatch their plans.”
From a practical standpoint, doesn’t that make it easier to infiltrate and monitor terrorist groups than at a comparable location that is not on U.S. soil?
Ashley King July 3, 2010 at 3:09 PM
Thank you for this analysis.
A couple of quick responses: regarding #1, I agree that Islam itself cannot be considered a criminal activity. I don’t know where this would be in the law, but Rauf has apparently given $300,000 to the flotilla attacks on Israel. That was to give aid and comfort to Hamas in Gaza. So right there Rauf has gone beyond simply promoting ideas.
Regarding #2, I have no doubt from my reading that this mosque will embolden jihadis specifically. I like your spittle-on-shoe point. We get new attackers here in the US all the time and yet we refuse to put a hammer down on Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even Pakistan. Perhaps we could start a campaign with sympathetic folks, using the mosque for urgency sake, to push for some kind of official Congressional resolution about a threat from Iran.
Regarding #3, I was wondering if there is a similarity to the point someone made on one of the threads that this was like a public nuisance. I brought up the Phelps Baptists wrecking the funerals of our fallen soldiers. I thought there could not be a defensible free speech right to protest at someone’s funeral because that violated the mourners right to peaceful assembly. There is no right to a disruptive nuisance. That ground in New York is a national “cemetery” or sorts. I am saying a mosque would be a nuisance to the families visiting the former WTC, like having a militia movement office near the Oklahoma Federal Building. You are saying, and I agree, that this mosque would be a magnet to killers, especially American jihadis. It would perhaps qualify as a nuisance that way too.
Ari July 5, 2010 at 2:55 PM
Ashley, It would be very useful if people provided links. Where is the evidence that Rauf funded the “flotilla,” and what was the directness of the funding?
As to “nuisance” laws, apart from some instance of concretely disrupting the rights of others, I am exceedingly wary of giving bureaucrats the unbridled power to declare things “nuisances” and therefore banned. I’m quite sure that numerous bureaucrats regard much of what I do as a perpetual nuisance. -Ari
Ashley King July 5, 2010 at 9:10 PM
The link is his check to Perdana; from them to Free Gaza Movement. That last one is linked to Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorists. See the Hotair link.
Regarding nuisance, I thought it might be applicable but you are right about potential abuse. Do you agree though that the Phelps Baptists have no right to distrurb funerals?
Ashley King July 5, 2010 at 9:28 PM
Also, a link to the Phelps Baptist case:
Ari July 5, 2010 at 10:16 PM
Thanks, Ashley. Granted that Rauf’s connection to the “flotilla” is indeed extremely troubling, the New York Post’s article (the main source for the other two links) describes “the indirect ties of the imam to the protesters who confronted Israeli forces.” This feeds into the third argument described above.
I still think you’re off-base with the “nuisance” comparison. The problem with disrupting a funeral is not that it is a “nuisance,” but that it violates people’s rights to freely assemble. I do not see how that compares to Cordoba House. -Ari
ZAC D. August 31, 2010 at 12:14 AM
If it’s not a Mosque then why do they keep bring up freedom of religion and tax exemption? Obviously if it is not a Mosque then freedom of religion and tax exemption does not apply here. Yet it does? Makes no sense. They can fall back on the argument from private property rights if they want to, but no one with intelligence is arguing against that point. I say they have a legal right to build it, but that doesn’t make it right.
eg. If the non-violent KKK (eg. the david dukes) who share a similar ideology as the violent KKK that carried out the bombing on the 16th Street baptist Church announced plans to build a shrine at the site of the 16th Street Baptist Church, would one be supporting their right to build it?
All those christians that conquered this land from the indians and set up churches wasn’t right. Can I change that? I would like to. What I am trying to say is I am suprised that some in this debate think two wrongs make a right. They have no rational ground to stand on with this argument. It’s a hindsight bias fallacy and non sequitur. How can they agree that it should follow that this Radical Muslim (Rauf) should be allowed to do this to the families of 9/11 victims like the Christians did it to the Indians and blacks? Why do they use history so obtusely to promote similar wrongheaded behavior?
Why not use this example from history to promote good prudence instead?
eg. The Catholic Church abandoned the convent at Auschwitz. The church ultimately bowed to concerns that well-meaning nuns served as a hurtful distraction to the memory of the many Jews killed at the camp, despite the fact Catholics also died there.
They didn’t have to do this but it was an act of good purdence to do it.
Do you see nothing wrong with a casino being built on the Gettysburg Battlefield? Not to mention “275 historians including Pulitzer Prize winning Civil War historian James McPherson, other national historical preservationists continue to support NoCasino.org in opposing the casino.”
This just another example of ignoring purdence.
ZAC D. August 31, 2010 at 12:15 AM
The argument I make is one from prudence because this mosque is being built at ground zero. This point isn’t even up for debate. I don’t care who’s lied to whom about it. It is a observable fact based on evidence. The landing gear and fuselage came out the north side of the tower and crashed through the roof and two of the floors of the Burlington Coat Factory.
Please look at my links…
Rauf isn’t some Muslim that wants to reform Islam. He’s about creating division. This Mosque isn’t going to bring peace ethier way. He’s even on record saying he wants to replace secular governments with Sharia law…
“In his interview on Hadiyul-Islam by Sa’da Abdul Maksoud, Abdul Rauf was asked his views on Sharia (Islamic religious law) and the Islamic state. He responded:
“Throughout my discussions with contemporary Muslim theologians, it is clear an Islamic state can be established in more than just a single form or mold. It can be established through a kingdom or a democracy. The important issue is to establish the general fundamentals of Sharia that are required to govern. It is known that there are sets of standards that are accepted by [Muslim] scholars to organize the relationships between government and the governed.”
When questioned about this, Abdul Rauf continued: “Current governments are unjust and do not follow Islamic laws.” He added:
“New laws were permitted after the death of Muhammad, so long of course that these laws do not contradict the Quran or the Deeds of Muhammad … so they create institutions that assure no conflicts with Sharia. [emphasis in translation]”
Rauf is not only a double talker but he has been involved in bad stuff as well. (read the links below). He sounds no different than Osama bin laden. As an atheist-objectivist I just don’t trust his motives one bit. I realize none of this means he can’t still legally build it there, but I also understand as a sensible atheist-objectivist I don’t have to pimp his cause like some are doing. I also have a ethical obligation to protest it based on bad purdence.
The proposed Islamic center near the World Trade Center site is called “Cordoba House,” apparently in honor of Islam’s conquest of Spain. [August 18 Update: Christopher Hitchens says the name instead invokes a period of “astonishing cultural synthesis; Jacob Sullum agrees.]
The Washington Times reports:
The building was purchased in July 2009 for $4.85 million in cash by Soho Properties, a real-estate investment firm tied to developer Sharif El-Gamal. One of the investors was the Cordoba Initiative, an organization chaired by Ms. Khan’s husband, Faisal Abdul Rauf. The initiative listed less than $20,000 in assets in 2008 and has received less than $100,000 in contributions since it was founded in 2004. The ASMA has assets of less than $1 million. The principals will not explain how their cash-poor organizations can hope to undertake such a major project, but Ms. [Daisy] Khan [executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement] claims that, “Cordoba House will be a new entity whose funding sources will be independent from the funding sources of ASMA and Cordoba Initiative.” Odds are the money will come from overseas.
The Daily Mail offers more details:
The mosque is part of a proposed 13-storey Muslim community centre, which will include a swimming pool, gym, theatre and sports facilities.
The building, which was damaged by the fuselage of one of the hijacked planes, is at 45 Park Place — just two blocks from Ground Zero.
It formerly housed a Burlington Coat Factory store. The store’s two selling floors were destroyed when the landing gear from one of the planes tore through them during the attacks.
Construction is due to begin on September 11 next year – the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack.
The New York Times adds:
The Sept. 11, 2001, attack killed 2,752 people downtown and doomed the five-story building at 45 Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center, keeping it abandoned for eight years.
But for months now, out of the public eye, an iron gate rises every Friday afternoon, and with the outside rumblings of construction at ground zero as a backdrop, hundreds of Muslims crowd inside, facing Mecca in prayer and listening to their imam read in Arabic from the Koran.
The building has no sign that hints at its use as a Muslim prayer space, but these modest beginnings point to a far grander vision: an Islamic center near the city’s most hallowed piece of land…
The location was precisely a key selling point for the group of Muslims who bought the building in July. A presence so close to the World Trade Center, “where a piece of the wreckage fell,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, “sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11.”
“We want to push back against the extremists,” added Imam Feisal, 61.
Several facts become clear from these accounts: the site of the proposed Islamic center was, in fact, damaged by the 9/11 attacks; the store that used to occupy the space left because of the damage; the location was purchased specifically for the construction of an Islamic center within the zone of destruction; and the center’s lead organizer publicly declares that his purpose is to oppose terrorism.
How far can we trust Feisal Abdul Rauf’s proclaimed intentions? And how much do his real intentions matter?
The Imam states:
My colleagues and I are the anti-terrorists. We are the people who want to embolden the vast majority of Muslims who hate terrorism to stand up to the radical rhetoric. …
People who are stakeholders in society, who believe they are welcomed as equal partners, do not want to destroy it. … And there’s no better demonstration of our desire to build than the construction of this center. …
The project has been mischaracterized… It is not a mosque, although it will include a space for Muslim prayer services. It will have a swimming pool [etc.] …
And, yes, the center will have a public memorial to the victims of 9/11 as well as a meditation room where all will be welcome…
The center will be open to all regardless of religion. …
What grieves me most is the false reporting that leads some families of 9/11 victims to think this project somehow is designed by Muslims to gloat over the attack.
That could not be further from the truth.
My heart goes out to all of the victims of 9/11. …
Freedom of religion is something we hold dear. It is the core of what America is all about, and it is what people worldwide respect about our country. The Koran itself says compulsion in religion is wrong.
American Muslims want to be both good Americans and good Muslims. They can be the best assets the United States has in combatting radicalism.
They know that many American values — freedom of religion, human dignity and opportunity for prosperity — are also Muslim values. …
I have been the imam at a mosque in Tribeca for 27 years. … My work is to make sure mosques are not recruiting grounds for radicals.
To do that, Muslims must feel they are welcome in New York. Alienated people are open to cynicism and radicalism. Any group that believes it is under attack will breed rebellion. The proposed center is an attempt to prevent the next 9/11.
While he does publicly condemn terrorism, notice a couple of peculiarities with his claims. First, he grants that, without active intervention, mosques do, in fact, become “recruiting grounds for radicals,” i.e. violent Islamists who hate and want to destroy America and impose universal Islamic law.
He also claims that Americans must make Muslims “feel they are welcome” in order to “prevent the next 9/11.” However, not feeling welcome is no good reason to commit terrorist acts. Muslims are morally obligated not to commit acts of terrorism, whether or not they feel welcome. Many groups have come to America that have initially felt unwelcome, and they have nevertheless refrained from slaughtering others and learned to enter the culture. Perhaps Muslims would feel more welcome if more Muslims would publicly denounce Islamist terrorist acts and organizations.
While Feisal Abdul Rauf claims that he “hates terrorism” in the abstract, he could not in fact bring himself to condemn the terrorist organization Hamas. He declined to declare Hamas a terrorist organization when repeatedly given the opportunity during a June 18 radio interview.
Moreover, while the Imam claims to endorse freedom of religion, he has explicitly called for Sharia law, arguing that religion should help shape “the nation’s practical life” and that “religious communities [should have] more leeway to judge among themselves according to their own laws.” In other words, he calls for the enforcement of explicitly Islamic law, at least among Muslims in Islamic “religious communities,” as the Taliban continues to accomplishes in Afghanistan, and as various Islamic leaders have proposed for parts of Canada and Europe.
He is all for “freedom of religion,” if that means religion’s leaders are free to forcibly control their followers. Indeed, in his defense of Sharia law, which he laughably asserts comports with secular law and the Declaration of Independence, Feisal Abdul Rauf grants that he would forcibly impose “a certain amount of modesty” on the faithful (as defined by Islamic leaders). He states bluntly: “What Muslims want is a judiciary that ensures that the laws are not in conflict with the Quran and the Hadith.”
I do believe the Imam about one thing: I do not think he intends Cordoba House merely to promote Islamic gloating over the 9/11 attacks. I believe his core purpose is vastly more sinister.
June 30 Update: A comment on Amy Peikoff’s blog tipped me off to another detail about the Imam’s views. He indeed partly blamed America for the 9/11 attacks, telling 60 Minutes: “Fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam… I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”
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).