Anti-Muslim activists often complain that Muslims living in this country don’t effectively assimilate into American culture, that they consider themselves Muslims first and Americans second. Despite the fact that polling has found that Muslim Americans are actually the most loyal religious group in the nation – 93 percent of Muslim Americans say they are loyal to America, and Muslims have the highest confidence in the integrity of the US election process – far-right pundits continue to further the myth that Muslims lack commitment to this country because their faith puts them in conflict with constitutional law.
In fact, the concept of prioritizing faith principles before the law is not unique to Muslims. Prominent Christian figures such as Pat Robertson have publicly remarked that they consider themselves Christians first and Americans second. Perhaps even more telling is the extent to which the current contraception mandate controversy is dominating the political conversation, with some Catholic leaders suggesting they would shut down their hospitals and schools or perform civil disobedience instead of complying with a law they believe conflicts with their faith.
At the recent CPAC conference here in Washington, Nick interviewed prominent anti-Islam activist Robert Spencer and found this exact double standard. Spencer criticizes Muslims for prioritizing Islam over US law, while going on to say he would put his Christian faith first in a situation where Christianity came into conflict with the law:
FPL: A lot of people point to polls that Muslims in various countries suggest that they’re Muslims first and then loyal to that country second – American second, or Spanish second. Do you think that’s a problem and are you worried about that?
Spencer: It’s a big problem, and it’s something that has to be taken into account…when it comes to Islamic law and the constitution, there are many, many ways in which Islamic law contradicts the constitutional freedoms. Then if somebody has a loyalty to Sharia, to Islam first, then that’s very problematic.
FPL: And would you describe yourself as American first, or as a person of faith first?
Spencer: I’m an American and a person of faith. And I believe that my faith, as a Christian, isn’t incompatible with the constitutional freedoms. But Islamic law is manifestly incompatible with constitutional freedoms.
FPL: So would you describe yourself as an American first and a Christian second, or Christian first and American second?
Spencer: Neither one. I think it’s a distinction when it comes to Christianity that thus far, there has not been a problematic issue of allegiance. If it comes down to the new Obama directives with the Catholic Church, for example, forcing it to go back on its own policies and its own doctrine…then obviously those are unjust laws that ought not to be passed.
FPL: So if there was a conflict between your faith and the law, you would choose your faith?
The hypocrisy is apparent. If conservatives are concerned with religious liberty, then that liberty ought to be applied to faith traditions across the board, including Islam. At the same conference, conservative paragon Grover Norquist made this same point (around the 2:42 mark):
FPL: So do you think it harms the conservative argument for religious liberty…when [Republican candidates] have previously expressed some similar concerns to extending this [liberty] to Muslim Americans?
Norquist: You can’t be for religious liberty for some people and not others, or the whole thing falls apart. No one in court is going to rule that way. The court will either go with, yes you can ban synagogues, mosques, missionaries and Catholic hospitals– or you can’t do any of that…I’ve noticed that all faith traditions recognize that an attack on one is an attack on all.
As Norquist points out, Spencer’s duplicitous arguments about Islam fall flat. When it comes to religious freedom, the far right cannot have its cake and eat it too.
As we noted, prominent Catholic intellectual Robert George sits on the board of this foundation and hasn’t reconciled this position with his ostensible public commitment to defending the religious freedom of Muslims
Nick caught up with Robert George today at an event hosted by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center and asked about this contradiction:
Here’s what Nick asked and George’s response:
FAITH IN PUBLIC LIFE: So you don’t see a conflict between your being on a board that has funded these things, as public knowledge, and your personal beliefs about this?
GEORGE: My record is very clear. I will not discuss with you confidential matters that go on in the Bradley Board. The Bradley Foundation does fund many, many different organizations. Some of them are run by Muslims, some of them are trying to advance good relations between Muslims and other American citizens and that’s all I have to say on the matter.
As you can see, George refused to discuss the issue, but didn’t deny the facts. He apparently thinks it’s acceptable to simultaneously stand up for Muslims’ religious freedom in public and participate in the work of an organization that’s trying to dismantle that very right. George might not see an ethical conflict here, but we do, and we’d be interested to see if the Muslim Americans he works with see that contradiction as well.
Here’s a reminder of who the people the Bradley Foundation funds, via the Fear, Inc. report:
Described Muslims in the Middle East as “Islamic Nazis” who “want to kill Jews, that’s their agenda.”
Alleges that Muslim Student Associations at American schools “are Wahhabi Islamicists, and they basically support our enemies.”
Promulgates the debunked smear that 80% of U.S. mosques are controlled by radicals
Describes his Legal Project website as “a source of information on ‘Islamist lawfare’–that is, attempts by supporters of radical Islam to suppress free discourse on Islam and terrorism by (1) exploiting Western legal systems and traditions and (2) recruiting state actors and international organizations such as the United Nations.”
Said “It is now public knowledge that nearly every major Muslim organization in the United States is actually controlled by the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] or a derivative organization. Consequently, most of the Muslim American groups of any prominence in America are now known to be, as a matter of fact, hostile to the United States and its Constitution.”
Alleged that there is “mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself.”
Believes that conservative paragon Grover Norquist is running a “Muslim Brotherhood influence operation” to infiltrate the conservative movement.
Another week, another outrageous story about the NYPD targeting Muslim Americans based solely on their religious identity. The latest revelation comes from an Associated Press story detailing NYPD efforts to monitor Muslim student groups far beyond New York City, and without basis in credible intelligence:
Police trawled daily through student websites run by Muslim student groups at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers and 13 other colleges in the Northeast. They talked with local authorities about professors in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.
As Rep. Keith Ellison wrote last week, these tactics fray relations between the Muslim community and the police, making the city and its residents less safe — not to mention the civil rights questions and privacy issues raised by the NYPD’s profiling and intrusiveness.
Given everything that has come to light, perhaps the most disturbing questions are why hasn’t Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly been held responsible for these abuses and why does Mayor Michael Bloomberg continue to defend these ethically questionable activities?
The NYPD’s use of “The Third Jihad” is disturbing because it leaves officers with the impression that American Muslims are the enemy, not an ally against terrorism. This notion hurts the ability of law enforcement to do its job. No one knows this better than the brave officers who have stood up to such bigotry – it was NYPD officers who objected to the screening of the film, just as it was FBI agents who recently objected to using equally harmful training materials at the bureau.
Now more than ever, it is critical that law enforcement build relationships with the Muslim community to better fight against terrorism. In my hometown of Minneapolis, the relationship between law enforcement and the Muslim community is so strong that international dignitaries have visited to learn about our model. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has said he was able to solve several high-profile crimes only because Muslim community members voluntarily came forward to share information with the police.
Contrary to the claims of Rep. Peter King and people promoting anti-Islam bigotry, a new report from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security confirms that “…the rate of [Muslim-American] radicalization is far less than many feared in the aftermath of 9/11.”
As we’ve reported in the past, Rep. King has defended holding hearings that single out Muslim-Americans on the premise that they pose the singularly largest threat to homeland security. While fellow members of Congress and hearing witnesses attempted to debunk King’s baseless arguments, their testimony largely fell on deaf ears.
If King were to read the report, he would find that radical Muslim-Americans do not comprise a large portion of existing terrorist groups and that ethnicity is an insufficient metric to try to identify terrorists. From the New York Times:
…no single ethnic group predominated among Muslims charged in terrorism cases last year — six were of Arab ancestry, five were white, three were African-American and two were Iranian, Mr. Kurzman said. That pattern of ethnic diversity has held for those arrested since Sept. 11, 2001…
While Rep. King continues to blast false and prejudiced accusations at Muslim-Americans, the report once again proves that his unsubstantiated claims are narrow-minded and have no place in policy-making.