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Sharia in a First Amendment Society
by William Kilpatrick
Steve Chapman, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has a piece in Human Events criticizing Sarah Palin for her opposition to building a mosque at Ground Zero. His argument seems to be that in guaranteeing freedom of religion, the First Amendment guarantees that all religions be treated identically. Therefore, argues Chapman, if you would allow evangelical Christians to build a church near Ground Zero, you must allow Muslims to build their mosque and community center—otherwise you are guilty of employing a double standard.
But the double standard only applies if you are dealing with two equivalent individuals or groups. You're not guilty of using a double standard if you give the keys to your car to your sixteen-year-old child but not to your six-year-old. Likewise, if you support your own children but refuse to support your neighbor's children, no one will accuse you of employing a double standard. In both these examples the two groupings are similar in many ways (your children, your neighbor's children) but are different in crucial ways.
One way to avoid the double standard in regard to Islam is simply to declare that Islam is a political ideology, not a religion, and therefore not protected by the freedom of religion clause. For example, Geert Wilders has claimed that "Islam is not a religion" but a totalitarian ideology and therefore "the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam." Moorthy Muthuswamy takes a similar tack in his book Defeating Political Islam. Islam, he maintains, is basically a political ideology. Likewise, Gregory Davis, the author of Religion of Peace? Islam's War Against the World argues that we need to reorient our thinking about Islam: "The first task of the West must be to reclassify Islam as a political system with religious aspects, rather than a religion with political aspects." "How do you solve a problem like Sharia?" asks Mark Steyn in a playful paraphrase of the Broadway song. The simple answer is you reclassify Islam as a political organization.
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