At National Review, Andrew McCarthy proposes a “thought experiment.”
A friend poses the following: Imagine that there really were these fundamentalist Christian terror cells all over the United States, as the Department of Homeland Security imagines. Letâ€™s say a group of five of these terrorists hijacked a plane, flew it to Mecca, and plowed it into the Kaaba.
Now letâ€™s say a group of well-meaning, well-funded Christians â€” Christians whose full-time job was missionary work â€” decided that the best way to promote healing would be to pressure the Saudi government to drop its prohibition against permitting non-Muslims into Mecca so that these well-meaning, well-funded Christian missionaries could build a $100 million dollar church and community center a stoneâ€™s throw from where the Kaaba used to be â€” you know, as a bridge-building gesture of interfaith understanding.
What do you suppose President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg, the New York Times, and other Ground Zero mosque proponents would say about the insensitive, provocative nature of the proposal?
I can’t speak for anybody but me, but I’d say this is a matter between the Christian missionaries and the Saudis. And it wouldn’t surprise me a whole lot of President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg said the same thing. The State Department might tell the Christian missionaries to not expect to be rescued if they’re taken hostage by jihadists, but that’s about it.
What disturbs me about this analogy, however, is the unspoken assumption that Americans shouldn’t be expected to value religious liberty and tolerance toward Muslims if Saudis don’t value religious liberty and tolerance toward Christians (the Western default religion). Since when do we look to Saudi Arabia as the arbiter of what is virtuous?
What the righties don’t get is that the Cordoba House/Park 51 controversy is not about Islam, but about America. What are our values? What are our principles? What does America stand for? And do we maintain those values and principles through thick and thin, or do we chuck them under the bus whenever something frightens us?
I realize there is much less religious tolerance in most Middle Eastern countries than there is supposed to be in the United States, which is one of the many reasons I’m glad I was born in the United States and not the Middle East. But either we value religious liberty and tolerance, or we don’t. And lately the Right has been saying, we don’t. What we value is paranoia and vindictiveness. If Muslims in the Middle East don’t tolerate us, then we won’t tolerate them. Nyah nyah nyah.
I have this crazy idea that our first responsibility, as citizens, is to respect and maintain the principles outlined in the Constitution and other founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence. We should do this so that our descendants can enjoy the liberties and privileges that our ancestors fought to provide us. And sometimes that might take some courage, keeping one’s head, steering a steady course through the storm, etc.
But today’s conservatives don’t see it that way. For them, “liberty” is just a word they put on their T-shirts. It has no applicable meaning. As soon as the ship of state hits some rough waters, they panic and toss the Bill of Rights overboard.
And all the while babbling about how they hate us for our freedoms. Talk about oblivious.
Going back to the “thought experiment,” in that scenario I doubt that the Christian church/community center could be built in Mecca, because I don’t think the Saudi government would allow it. But New York is not in Saudi Arabia. It’s in the United States. And we’re supposed to be better than that. But I guess Andy McCarthy doesn’t think so.
I have an idea for a thought experiment: let’s try to imagine Andy McCarthy thinking. Or is that more like a science fiction plot?
Be sure to read “Balancing Act for Imam in Muslim Center Furor.” The more I read about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the more sorry I am about the hate campaign being waged against him by the rightie hyenas.