I want to be totally upfront and declare that I absolutely support the American ideal of freedom of religion. I agree that mosques should be built wherever they want. On the other hand, I wonder why I’m in the minority on this issue when so much of the country is consesvative and should be supporting this American ideal too. Why aren’t they?
In New York City people are fighting over building a mosque. In Afghanistan Islamic people are stoning young people for being in love. Is there a connection? By the ideals of America, citizens of the U.S. are free to pursue whatever religion they desire, so why not let mosques be built anywhere? Or are the majority of Americans who are against mosque building really just anti-Islamic? Who really wants to support a religion that treats its people as barbaric as the Taliban? The Taliban is Old Testament thinking, and that’s troublesome at so many levels.
On the other hand, we’re trying to liberate Afghanistan from Taliban rule. Now if we lived in the Star Trek universe, and Afghanistan was another planet, we’d be forbidden by Federation laws of interfering with a primitive society. Is it even possible to modernize an Old Testament society like Afghanistan? And if anyone wonders what Biblical times were like they only need to watch news reports about life under the Taliban. We have had pretty good success in Iraq, but that society had already been modernized to a great degree. Is it even possible to bring 7th century Afghanistan into the 21st century?
The Taliban recently killed humanitarian aid workers with the claim they were spreading Christianity. We of course said, no, no, no, they were just giving medical treatment to the people. But I don’t think Americans understand, our modern laws and government are shaped by two thousands years of Christianity, so just liberating Afghans politically is Christianizing them. Now I know Christians will hate this, but to the Old Testament mind of the primitive culture of the Taliban, liberal philosophy and Christianity are one and the same.
I’m an atheist, so I don’t have a dog in this religious fight. However, I’m a strong believer in American ideals, so I completely support freedom of religion. I believe freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. The ethical question here is: Do we Americans have the right to force our freedoms on Afghanistan? That’s too complicated an ethical question for me to grasp.
The Taliban is one aspect of the Islamic world, although it’s larger than it appears to be. The leaders of Iran, and many other Muslim countries have the same mindset. From my perspective, radical Islamic terrorists should be policed by Muslims who claim to know the true meaning of Islam, but that’s not happening at all. The trouble is the Islamic world is openly or secretly supporting the radical Muslims. Thus, I must assume the anti-mosque people of America are really responding to this kind of thinking and not necessarily a religion. We don’t like Taliban Islam because it’s also an oppressive political system, and the Islamic people of the world has done a terrible job of selling the virtues of true Islam.
By the ideals of the American way of life, President Obama is right, any religion should be able to build houses of worship essentially anywhere. We shouldn’t paint all Islamic people by comparing them to the Taliban. What’s ironic is atheists and liberals are defending the rights of Islamic people in America, and it certainly would help mainstream Americans to be more liberal and American idealistic if mainstream Muslims were aggressively weeding our their radical elements.
The Islamic world needs to convince us the Taliban doesn’t equal Islam. They need to do it damn fast. And they need to prune their radicals, otherwise we will always think Taliban equals Islam, because that’s all we see of Islam. And if the Taliban really equals Islam, even liberals like me will want to put a dog into the fight because they are making us choose between freedom of religion over freedom of individuals, especially women, and I’ll always choose freedom of individuals first.
What do we do? What are the options?
- Continue on the current path and hope to bring a western style government to Afghanistan
- Leave Afghanistan and let the Muslim world do as it wants as long as it doesn’t attack the western world. (Divided but equal cultures.)
- Declare a modern crusade of liberalism and convince Muslims to modernize their religion
I was thinking we could succeed in Afghanistan like we did in Iraq. Set up a police force and army – get a semblance of stability going and then leave. But after reading “In Bold Display, Taliban Order Stoning Deaths” in the New York Times this morning, I’m changing my mind. It’s either pull out and let those people alone, or declare a new crusade. This is a hard issue to deal with, just read “Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban” in Time. Do we keep fighting to liberate the women? Its freedom of religion versus freedom of individuals.
We are horrified by the primitive justice of the Taliban, even though they live exactly like people lived in the Old Testament, which is deemed holy by most Christians. But remember Jesus and how he stopped the stoning of the woman? We can’t ask the Taliban which of them is without sin. That’s a pivotal moment in the origins of liberal thinking. Conservatives might hate liberals, but we’re all flaming liberals compared to the Taliban.
Which is more important, personal freedom, or freedom of religion? What would this woman say?
If we could poll all the women in Afghanistan and ask them if we should crush out the Taliban how would they vote? And are we ready to spend the money on such a war? I tend to believe Americans don’t care enough to spend the money, and if there wasn’t a terrorism threat, they’d be happy to ignore the Muslim world. If there was no terrorism threat, they’d probably wouldn’t care how many mosques were built in our country. But as long as Islam the religion looks exactly like the Islam of terrorism most Americans won’t be mosque friendly, and may even be willing to spend their tax dollars on a long term war.
We’re in a vicious cycle right now. For every terrorist we kill, and especially for every innocent bystanders we kill, terrorist armies grow. The larger their armies grow, the more we fill the skies of the Islamic world with drones and cruise missiles. One side needs to break the cycle. If we call off our crusade, will they call of their jihad? I don’t know. I don’t think we can convince them to pull back, but I wonder if mainstream Islam can? Maybe the people wanting to build the mosque in New York City should consider building mosques in Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, Yemen or Iran and preach a better Islam. If we allowed a mosque in New York City, would they try? Or should we hold up the lease until we see change in the Islamic world?
I understand why the majority of Americans don’t want the mosques in New York City and elsewhere, they equate Islam to our enemy, and the mainstream Islamic world has done nothing to disprove that. Why? And are the Muslims coming to the western world fleeing Islamic oppression, like the Puritans on the Mayflower, seeking a new way of life, or are they bringing Old Testament thinking to the New World?
Like I said, I’m an atheist and firmly believe in America’s ideal of freedom of religion. In America anyone can believe what they want, and it’s unethical and un-American to attack that ideal. Christian theocracy is evil, but so is Islamic theocracy. Unfortunately, the Islamic world has no sense of freedom of religion, and theocracy seems to be the only politics Islamic people want.
Building mosques in America is a very complicated philosophical issue. I see both sides of the issue, but I’m no longer sure which one I’m on. Obama is right, but I sympathize with the people who protest against him. I think the liberals of all religions need to weed out their intolerant and xenophobic beliefs.