In Afghanistan, intolerant Muslims claim the right to execute out of hand unarmed medical volunteers who’ve traveled at their own personal expense to provide eye care to Afghan villagers on the basis of suspicion that they were proselytizing the Christian faith. [Christian Science Monitor]
Currently, in New York City, Muslims also claim the right to erect an enormous mosque and cultural complex, two blocks from the site where an unprovoked attack by Muslims killed 3000 people during a time in which militant and utterly intolerant Islam is still waging war against the United States, its allies, and the Christian West.
Publius, at the (Canadian) Western Standard, identifies the ironies of the debate.
The construction of the near Ground Zero community center / mosque is seen through the prism of the cultural wars. Liberals, who regard Islamist terrorism as a mere criminal activity, do not see the project as a threat, and view opposition as an expression of bigotry. To many conservatives, who subscribe to the Clash of Civilizations thesis, it is a woeful concession to an avowed enemy. Islam, or variant of Islam, is the enemy, and if only for symbolic purposes, a mosque at Ground Zero would be a triumph for the other side. A modern day version, in reverse, of the Marines hoisting Old Glory over Iwo Jima.
Libertarians tend to focus little of their energy on foreign affairs. With some notable exceptions, it is a blind spot for the movement. This is typically justified as fighting for freedom at home, before you go fighting for it abroad. Having a naturally jaundiced view of government action, libertarians lean toward regarding Islamic terrorism as another one of those unfortunate side-effects of big government.
In this light, the narrative of a bumbling, and grasping, oil driven foreign policy creating, or exacerbating, terrorism seems quite plausible. The big government as bad approach is usually understood as a one way street. Big American government is bad, and it causes nasty things at home and abroad. Strangely the logic is rarely used on other countries, that really big and bad governments in other countries might be generating terrorism, Islamic themed or not.
This blind spot in libertarian foreign policy analysis dovetails with another, and broader, shortcoming in how many libertarians view politics, the fallacy of economic man being universal man. Human beings are certainly motivated by money. It is not for pleasure that commuters fight their way through heavy traffic each morning and evening. But along with economic man, who carefully strives for profit maximization, there is also social man, romantic man, spiritual man and dozens more like him. We are driven by many things, including our ideas and beliefs.
The believer in economic man assumes that violence is simply an expression, albeit a perverse one, of this profit maximizing tendency. Thus some libertarians subscribe to the poverty-causing-terrorism theory. This round peg, however, has a very square hole to enter. How is a suicide bomber behaving economically? Bits of flesh have a hard time enjoying the material benefits of life. Such fanaticism cannot be explained in economic terms, it can only be understood philosophically.
The bulk of conservatives understand that we are engaged in an philosophical struggle, one in which symbolism is indeed important. An Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, however, isn’t that important a symbol. The most important symbol of our Clash of Civilizations is that after nine years there is still a hole in lower Manhattan. It took less than seven years to build the original twin towers. Yet, nearly a decade after primitive religious fanatics scarred the skyline of New York City, it remains scarred. A confident culture would have, and very quickly, rebuilt the World Trade Center, to a new and better standard. That symbolism is far more powerful that a mere mosque two blocks away.
When I read of the murder of those medical volunteers in yesterday’s news, I was reminded of the persistent outrages by Muslims against Christian travelers, traders, and pilgrims to Christian religious sites in the Holy Land that finally exhausted the patience of Christian Europe, and led many of her leaders to take up the cross and go on Crusade.
Islam insolently claims the right to prohibit not only religious conversion and missionary activity, but even religious observances by Christians in places like Saudi Arabia. Yet, at the same time, Muslims are attempting to fully exploit all of the West’s very different cultural traditions for their own advantage.
Permitting the erection of an Islamic landmark in the near vicinity of the site of a terrible and perfidious Muslim attack, whose pain is far from past and forgotten, and whose wrongs have not yet been completely avenged, would be an outrage.
Yes, theoreticians may argue that, in a purely libertarian state, there would be no religious test of any kind concerning the use of property, but New York City has virtually infinite amounts of zoning regulations, and any property use, however legitimate and conventional, in that city is commonly intensely debated and negotiated and fought over in arcane processes open to the manipulation of every kind of special interest and activist ideological group. Repairing the West Side Highway in New York City was once successfully blocked on the basis of the interests of joggers, bird watchers, and homosexuals seeking open air liaisons who liked using the decrepit and closed motorway the way it was.
Approval of the construction of a Financial District mosque undoubtedly required not simply ordinary due process, but extraordinary exemption from the customary squabble among competing interest groups and factions that commonly paralyze all forms of development in New York.
Larry Silverstein has not been able to obtain permission to get the World Trade Center rebuilt in nearly a decade, but Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf only bought an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory building on Park Place last summer [link] and he has already obtained approval from the city to build “Cordoba House.”
The relevant authorities would never have allowed Americans of Japanese descent to construct a Shinto temple in the immediate vicinity of Pearl Harbor while American forces were still fighting Imperial Japan in the South Pacific during WWII, and no Islamic mosque ought to receive construction approvals anywhere near the scene of an Islamic attack on US soil for a very long time.