An important question came up in Sunday night’s debate. The candidates were more interested in pushing their pre-existing agendas than in answering it. We at CounterJihad would like to propose our own answer.
Here is the question:
GORBAH HAMED: Hi. There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, and I’m one of them. You’ve mentioned working with Muslim nations, but with Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?
In order to provide a proper answer to the question, we must first challenge the idea that there is any sort of “phobia” at work in America’s concerns about Islam. A phobia is anirrational fear. There is nothing irrational in America’s concerns about Islam.
Last year in San Bernardino, a woman left her infant daughter with her mother in order to go and kill for Islam. Thirty-six people were shot in the rampage. Among the dead was Bennetta Betbadal, who had fled an Islam in Iran that persecuted her as a woman and her family as Christians. Hermemorial fundraiser said that it “is the ultimate irony that her life would be stolen from her that day by what appears to be the same type of extremism that she fled so many years ago.”
This year, a coordinated series of suicide bombs went off in Brussels, the capital of the European Union. Thirty-two died and over three hundred were injured in the attacks. One of the bombers, Osama Krayem, had as a boy been featured in a movie about the efforts of Sweden to bring Muslims into their culture in a loving and respectful way. The film, ‘Without Borders — A Film About Sport And Integration,’ was meant to showcase how good faith and trust could overcome our differences. Instead, that same boy featured in the film went on to murder our fellows in the name of Islam.
No one believes that all Muslims intend violent jihad, and no one even doubts that the percentage who do is small. Whatever the percentage, though, the raw numbers are enough to provide a steady stream of murderous attacks. Paris suffered two major attacks last year, killing a hundred and fifty and injuring hundreds. Nice saw eighty killed by a truck driver. Orlando saw fifty murdered in a gay nightclub, in the name of the Islamic State (ISIS). Nor are these isolated incidents. The clashes between Islam and other faiths bedevil the world from the insurgency in the southern Philippines to frequent mass murders in Pakistan, and from the slaughter and slavery of ISIS to the slaughter and slavery practiced by Boko Haram.
So first, then: there is no phobia. The concern is rational.
How does one deal with a rational concern? Rationally, of course. We need an organizing principle to govern our response. That principle is the principle of non-coercion in matters of faith, which is more commonly known as the principle of freedom of conscience.
This principle grew in a ground made fertile by blood of Europe’s religious wars. The Thirty Years War savaged central Europe. The French earlier fought a set of religious wars between Protestants and Catholics. The English suppressed Catholicism violently during and after the reign of Henry VIII and his successors, and clashed with Protestants in Scotland especially during the Covenanter movement. The Jacobite wars in Scotland and Ireland also hinged on which religion would dominate the state.
Amid these disasters, a philosopher named John Locke began to promulgate a doctrine that no coercion be used to compel anyone in matters of religious faith. When he wrote of it in 1689 it was still an idea so unacceptable that he only spoke of it in letters and books published anonymously. By 1776, when the American Revolution broke out, it was an idea that had begun to be widely accepted in the British colonies.
It would go on to be codified as one of the core values of our First Amendment, which not only forbids the institution of a Federal religion, but restrictions on the free exercise of faith. It is to this principle that we call all Muslims, and especially those like Hamed who call themselves American Muslims.
We are aware that Islam at times appears to endorse this principle. Al-Baqara 256 is no secret to us. But while many Muslims speak of this principle (saying, “there is no compulsion in religion”), it is clear that the Islamic world in no way lives by it. We do not mean merely ISIS and Boko Haram, who convert or enslave by force. We mean also Iran, which forbids conversion to Christianity or the practice of Christianity by anyone not born into an approved ethnic minority, and which violates the religious freedom of all members of its population under color of law. We mean also that other great nation of Islam, Saudi Arabia, where citizens can be beaten with whips, castrated, or beheaded to enforce ideals of religious law. We mean Indonesia, where beatings in the name of Islam are also known. We mean Pakistan. We mean even US allies like Bahrain.
The principle of non-coercion in matters of religion is what divides the Muslim world between those we need to fear, and those we can welcome as friends. A demonstrated allegiance to the principle of non-coercion in religion is the way to show other Americans that you are not their foe. It requires a clear and verbal oath, to be sure, but that is only the beginning. We need to see in your actions that you are completely committed to this principle, not only for yourselves but for all.
In this way, we will know that you are not one of those who would condemn us to return to the horrors of religious wars. This principle was bought at great cost by America’s ancestors. It was wisely endorsed by America’s Founders. All Americans have a right to insist on it. Join us in this, and then we shall defend each other as Americans.