Should Different Religions Be Treated Differently?

When the planning board of Bernards Township, New Jersey, turned down a plan to build a mosque, the local Islamic society turned around and sued the town for discrimination. Now, a federal judge has ruled that a parking requirement imposed by the township on the mosque was discriminatory.

Adeel Mangi, the Islamic society’s lawyer, praised the decision, saying “this is a landmark ruling…that will have national impact in reaffirming that townships cannot treat applicants differently based on their religion.”

Andrew Bieszad, an Islam scholar, has a different take. In an article titled “landmark federal court ruling opens the way for explosion of constructing mega-mosques across America,” he states that “the issue here is not about parking spaces or religious freedom—it is about the presence of Islam.” He goes on to observe:

Islam does not come into a society to co-exist with others. Islam comes with the intention of invading, dominating, and eventually either assimilating or enslaving the area.

Harsh words. But if they are true, then doesn’t it make sense to discriminate against Islam? Adeel Mangi says that applicants shouldn’t be treated “differently based on their religion,” but if a religion aims to subjugate other religions (and cultures) then wouldn’t it be foolish not to treat it differently?

Islamic leaders may complain about discrimination, but they can’t very well base their case on Islamic principles. That’s because Islam is built on discrimination—discrimination between halal and haram (permitted and forbidden), between male (superior) and female (inferior), between Muslim (superior) and non-Muslim (inferior), and between the House of Islam and the House of War (non-Muslim societies).

That last distinction is perhaps the best argument for heightened concern about the spread of mosques. According to Islamic doctrine, there can be no peace on earth until non-Muslims are subjugated by Muslims. Although not every Muslim is aware of this obligation, the vast majority of imams and mosque leaders are.

Whenever and wherever Muslims gain sufficient power, this is what they do. And if 1400 years of history is any guide, this is what they will sooner or later attempt to do in America. So why shouldn’t cities and townships be wary about facilitating the spread of this most discriminatory of religions?

The problem with Islam is not discrimination per se, but rather the severity of the discrimination and the reasoning behind it. For example, all societies make distinctions and discriminations (in the original sense of the word) between the sexes; but in Islam the harsh discrimination against women is based on the belief that they have less value than men. According to Islamic law, the value of a woman is one-half that of a man. But that’s not so bad when you consider that the value of a Jew or Christian is one-third that of a Muslim male.

If resistance to the spread of mosques were based on a belief that Muslims are of less value than non-Muslims, that would be reprehensible. But such resistance (in Europe, the UK, the US, and elsewhere) is usually based on concerns over Islamic beliefs and the behaviors that often flow from them. Which raises a question: is it ever legitimate to discriminate against institutions based on their belief systems?

In its original sense, discrimination means choosing between two or more different things. In that sense, discrimination is a necessary feature of every society. A society cannot exist without discrimination—without being able to differentiate between enemies and friends, between right and wrong and, on a more mundane level, between things that are edible and things that are poisonous.

Many of the discriminations that we make are so taken for granted that we don’t give them a second thought. For example, we don’t give driver’s licenses (or marriage licenses) to nine-year-olds, and we think it legitimate to discriminate between those who obey the law and those who break it. The main business of courts, after all, is to make discriminations. We expect judges and juries to discriminate; we expect police to discriminate; we expect teachers to discriminate (e.g., between right and wrong answers on an exam and between appropriate and inappropriate behavior); and we expect pastors and rabbis to help us discriminate vice from virtue.

Which brings us back to the religion of Islam. Many of the things we in the West consider to be vices are considered to be virtues in Islam and vice versa. We don’t give away nine-year-olds in marriage, but in some Islamic societies they do. We give driver’s licenses to women, but in Saudi Arabia they don’t. We abhor wife-beating, but many Muslims believe that wife-beating improves a woman’s character. We believe that freedom of religion includes the right to leave your religion, but the consensus of Islamic scholars is that apostates should be killed.

In short, there are many striking differences between Islamic values and Western values, and in some cases these differences are so profound that applicants for building mosques might reasonably be “treated differently based on their religion.” Discrimination based on religious practices is not as un-American as it may sound. In the late nineteenth century, Congress outlawed the Mormon practice of polygamy in the territories, and when the Mormons appealed the law on religious grounds, the Supreme Court upheld the ban.

Come to think of it, you can add polygamy to the list of differences between Islam and Western religions. And as the number of Muslims in a given society increases, you can expect that demands for multiple wives will also increase. Muslims in Italy are already demanding that right. And although polygamy is officially against the law in Britain, it is tacitly accepted in deference to Muslim sensibilities. Police in the UK are too busy uncovering terror plots to be bothered with something as minor as polygamy.

Speaking of minors, we can also expect that the incidence of child marriage will increase as the Muslim population increases. Child marriage is common in the Muslim world. In Saudi Arabia there is no minimum age for marriage. And in Yemen, Bangladesh, Iran, and Northern Nigeria, attempts to ban child marriages have been blocked on the grounds that such a ban would be un-Islamic. In Germany, the UK, and Canada, forced marriages and underage marriages have increased dramatically in the Muslim communities. So has the incidence of female genital mutilation.

It doesn’t matter if the local imam swears on a stack of Korans not to officiate at an underage wedding, these are the sorts of things that will start to happen as Islam spreads. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if laws are passed to prohibit specific behaviors. The United States, along with other Western nations, already has laws that, in effect, prohibit the free exercise of Islam. There are laws against polygamy, child marriage, cruel and unusual punishments (such as amputation for theft), wife-beating, and so on.

But our society’s commitment to the rule of non-discrimination works to undermine such laws. Such laws, it will be claimed, are unfairly biased against people from non-Western cultures. And as long as the principle of non-discrimination remains the dominant one, exceptions to the laws will be made.

In Europe, the laws against polygamy, child marriage, spousal abuse, and even rape have already begun to erode. If Muslims are involved in such activities, authorities tend to look the other way, or else they mete out very lenient punishments. In Austria, a Muslim migrant who raped a 10-year-old boy had his conviction overturned on the grounds that he didn’t understand that the boy was not consenting to the act. A German court gave a suspended sentence to three Muslim men who attacked a synagogue with Molotov cocktails. In another German court, four al-Qaeda terrorists who plotted a massacre involving anti-personnel bombs received sentences ranging from only four and a half to nine years. Law-abiding Germans refer to the kid-glove treatment of Muslims as “Kuscheljustiz” (“cuddly justice”).

Having been soaked in multiculturalism and cultural relativism for decades, Western authorities don’t have any defense against the “this-is-permitted-in-my-culture” plea. Having succumbed to the belief that all values are equal, Western courts are now faced with the logical implications of that belief. Societies that can’t discriminate between natural marriage and same-sex “marriage” can’t be expected to defend the “discriminatory” notion that exclusive marriages are better than polygamous marriages. And legislators who can’t discriminate between the men’s room and the ladies’ room won’t have a leg to stand on (so to speak) when the newly-elected Muslim-dominated legislature proposes amputation as a remedy for theft.

These days, the word “discrimination” has come to be associated almost exclusively with “bias,” “prejudice,” and “injustice.” However, some dictionaries still list the original sense of the word as the primary definition—that is, “to make a clear distinction; distinguish; differentiate.” In its primary sense discrimination is an act of discernment about the nature of reality—a judgment about the similarities and differences between things.

While it’s wrong to prejudge people and issues, prejudice is not the greatest danger to a society. Rather, it’s the failure to make any judgments that erodes and eventually ruins a society. In the words of essayist and social critic Lawrence Auster, “the principle of non-discrimination must, if followed consistently, destroy every society and institution.”

If we continue to insist that discrimination is the worst sin in the world, we will soon find that there are far worse things. Cultural survival depends on the ability to discriminate against pernicious ideas and behaviors. Luckily, the twentieth-century struggles to resist Nazism, communism, and Japanese imperialism took place before the age of non-discrimination set in. Unluckily, the resurgence of militant Islam comes at a time when cultural relativism is all the rage. The idea that all cultures are roughly equal prevents us from looking at Islam as it really is, and prevents us from taking action accordingly. Islam is essentially a religion of conquest. It bears striking similarities to other totalitarian ideologies such as communism and Nazism. In fact, prominent Islamic leaders such as Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, actively collaborated with the Nazis and encouraged them to speed up the “final solution”—the extermination of European Jews. Moreover, the chief modern theorists of Islam—Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Maulana Maududi—all acknowledged their theoretical indebtedness to Nazism and communism.

If theory is not your cup of tea, just look at the facts on the ground. As Islam spreads, so does Islamic violence—not just terrorist violence, but the everyday violence done to women, children, and non-Muslims. Mosques are not the only means by which this culture of violence is spread, but it is one of the chief means. As Moorthy Muthuswamy, author of Defeating Political Islam, writes: “[it is] the teachings of its clerics and its mosques which make up the nodes of the social network responsible for spawning jihad.”

This is well understood in Islamic countries. Thus, on Fridays in many Islamic countries, mosques are supervised by police. That’s because violence is often launched during the Friday khutba (sermon). Indeed, many of the 2011 Arab Spring demonstrations were set in motion from mosques following Friday prayers.

How do the authorities in Islamic countries react to acts of violence and terrorism? One of the first things they do is shut down suspected mosques. For example, after a terrorist attack on a beach resort that left 39 dead, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid ordered that 80 mosques be closed because “some mosques continue to spread their propaganda and their venom to promote terrorism.”

Meanwhile, in France—that bastion of liberty, equality, and fraternity—dozens of mosques have been shut down in the wake of terrorist attacks. Raids on several of these mosques revealed a “staggering” number of weapons and ammunition.

Most Americans, I venture to say, assume that such things won’t happen in American mosques. But that may not be a good assumption to make considering that almost a dozen terrorists (including the Tsarnaev brothers) have been associated with the Islamic Society of Boston’s two mosques, and nearly half a dozen (three of the 9/11 hijackers, the Fort Hood assassin, and terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki) were associated with the supposedly moderate Dar al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. And let’s not forget that Omar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheik” who masterminded the first attack on the World Trade Center, preached jihad in three different mosques in the New York/New Jersey area.

Do I think this radicalization process is about to commence in every small-town mosque in New Jersey, Kansas, and Tennessee? No. Not necessarily. But as mosques spread, Islam spreads. And Islam, I think it can be safely said, is not conducive to a healthy society. Because Islamic institutions are bound up with a dangerous belief system, it would be irresponsible not to subject them to extra scrutiny.

The ultimate act of discrimination takes place on the Last Judgment. On that fearful day the sheep will be separated from the goats, and the faithful from the wicked. One of the things we will be judged on is our courage to judge rightly according to realities and not according to the fashionable opinions of the day.

(Photo credit: Picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg)

William Kilpatrick

By

William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com

MENU