American Catholics are up in arms over the infringement of our religious liberty due to the HHS mandate forcing us to buy services we find morally reprehensible. The Obama administration has offered, not just Catholics, but anyone morally opposed to contraception, abortifacients or sterilization, an ultimatum: abandon your faith or abandon your business. With more than 68.5 million registered members, the Catholic church is the largest single religious denomination in the United States, comprising about 22 percent of the population so how did it come to this? Well, targeting groups based on religious affiliation in the United States did not start with a group as large and ingrained into our society as the Catholic church. Before Catholics our government’s target was, and still is, Muslims. The War on Terror was, and ever will be, a war against Muslims. This isn’t because most terrorists are Muslims (it would probably be better stated that most terrorists are Arabs, and most Muslims are not Arab) but because the War on Terror is really a war of revenge. After 9/11 our country was hurting – and we overreacted. The result was a nearly decade-long war in Iraq, condemned as unjust by the Pope, in which we killed anywhere from 400,000 to 1.2 million civilians in a war of no strategic value. The mantra of the never-ending War on Terror seems to have become “hate thy enemies” as our politicians embrace the use of vindictive and useless means like torture and literally demonizing our enemies by likening the Iraq War to fighting Mordor.
I remember watching a “documentary” called The Third Jihad which warned of Muslims trying to impose Sharia Law on Americans through an apparently evil scheme to “vote for” and “elect” Muslim extremists to places of political power in the United States. This “documentary” implied that it was the patriotic duty of true Americans to block these Muslims from participating in our democratic process, all in the name of “protecting our liberties” from the fascist Muslims.
The Third Jihad expresses fear at the thought of “non-violent” muslims within the United States who are further labeled “radical” despite admittance to their non-violence. What the movie blatantly ignores is that the United States is a democracy and if muslims want to engage in US politics through non-violent means that is their constitutional right as US citizens. US citizenship is not, and never has been, dependent on a person’s religious status – after all, freedom of religion is one of the central tenets of American democracy.
Furthermore, this movie demonizes muslims for answering to a power higher than government, condemning British muslims for wanting their government to reflect their values – which is absurd. The video cites that 81% of British muslims consider themselves muslims first and British second. I consider myself Catholic first and American second and all Christians should consider their loyalty first to their faith and not their country. Both Catholicism and Islam predate British and American government, and faith in God supersedes loyalty to government. We live in a country in which our constitution recognizes that our rights are granted to us not by the government but by God and thus it is to God to whom our first loyalty should lie. Can we really blame Muslims for doing the same? These are not the radical Islamists that promote terror, these are men and women trying to be faithful to their religion and there is nothing wrong with that. To undermine their faith serves only to push them towards radicalism.
Additionally, there has been expansive political pressure opposing the construction of muslim schools and mosques in the United States for fear of the muslim practice to “Aslim” the land, which means to buy up land to make it muslim ground. However, I will never protest muslims buying land in America no matter what their intent. To oppose that would be to oppose their property rights. I may refuse to sell my land to muslims and I will certainly oppose any kind of special treatment from our government to muslims (as I oppose special treatment of any group by the law) but I will recognize and respect them for what they are: human beings and therefore our brothers and sisters in Christ. They have the same exact rights as you and I and when I defend those rights I sure as hell will defend them for everyone, muslims included. There are muslim fascists, even here in the US, but the threat they pose is small compared to the threat that we pose to ourselves. By rationalizing away the religious liberty of muslims we open up the door for our government to take away everyone’s freedoms. We are already far down that road. We see it today as Catholic “extremists” are forced to pay for other people’s birth control; this is rationalized by labeling us right-wing fascists who hate women just for practicing our freedoms. Ironically it is the same label given to the very muslims that the propaganda machine has declared that we as Christians must oppose with violence and draconian measures. Now we are beginning to feel the sting of those very same abuses.
In response to efforts by Christians to work with muslims instead of against them in order to stop abortion, Big Peace writer Diana West stated the following (Bigpeace.com seems to have removed the original article but a response article on Big Peace can still be found here):
Making “common cause” with muslim states to vote down pro-abortion law at the UN becomes dangerous if and when it means constructing a Trojan Horse by which proponents of sharia make their stealthy advance into regions of respectability in the West that would otherwise be closed to them as sworn enemies of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Apparently, maintaining ethnic purity within the United States is more important than the lives of 52 million children. Its no wonder that in a recent statement Pope Benedict XVI said that America is “increasingly hostile to Christianity.” Opposing muslims and maintaining our “respectability” is more important than re-establishing Christian values in society.
The Islamophobic attitude of the War on Terror has saturated our culture to the point that we’re afraid of what preposterous evil muslims might be up to in the voting booth, or when they buy land. The fruit of the war on terror is that we’re now more terrified than ever – and our terror has bred nothing but hate. But to target them for their faith and to oppose their right to vote or buy land or build a school is to destroy religious liberty, not just their own, but everyone’s. A truly free society can only be free if everyone’s rights are protected. To merely defend some people’s rights some of the time is to tread the road to tyranny.
That’s why, in response to America’s epidemic of mosque burnings we must protest, not in defense of Islam, but in defense of our fellow Americans who happen to be muslim and, also, in defense of ourselves. We cannot deny the religious freedom of others, even through seemingly benign inaction, and still expect our own religious freedom to be protected. Because, as America becomes increasingly hostile towards Christians it becomes ever more plausible that, next time, it won’t be a mosque but a church that gets burned to the ground. We must not accept the unacceptable; we must not let such abnormal acts becomes normalized in our society; and we cannot give credibility to such wicked acts of religious persecution. Instead, we must defend the rights of all human beings and find solidarity with our brothers and sisters of all creeds now before it is too late. This is a fight that do not want to fight alone.