Omaha, NE. Barack Obama must be the most intrepid or the most incompetent politician ever to occupy the presidency.  He at any rate possesses a remarkable gift for provoking a majority of his fellow citizens in matters of great delicacy.  Most recently, by defending the “ground zero mosque” he has ignited a debate over the competing claims of religious liberty, on the one hand, and, on the other, sensitivity to the wounds left by the worst act of terrorism America has suffered.  Such is his fecundity that a busy public cannot always keep pace.  As a result, his most egregious provocations do not always receive the attention they merit.  Such is the case here, for in the debate over the president’s remarks on the mosque other comments of his from last week have passed virtually unnoticed.  These largely unobserved remarks about the relationship of Islam to America, however, are not merely controversial but indefensible in their character, and not merely irritating but ominous in their significance.

On Wednesday, August 11, President Obama marked the commencement of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, by issuing a statement.  After praising Islam as a source of wisdom and force for progress, the president added the following: “in the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country.”

This statement is not true in any meaningful sense.  If the president’s “America” here signifies a mere geographic location and the people who have inhabited it, then of course Islam has not always been a part of it.  Islam was no part of the experience of the Native Americans who dwelt here before the arrival of European settlers.  The claim is no less transparently false if “America” is understood as a political community, the nation established by the men who threw off British imperial rule and who established the Constitution.  Those Americans were overwhelmingly protestant Christians.  Islam was no part of their America, except to the extent that they were aware of it as something they regarded as utterly alien.  If Islam was part of this early America, it was only by occupying a place on the periphery of the American mind, where it was largely regarded as a religion false in its claims and pernicious in its moral and political consequences.

In more recent years Islam has come to be a small part of the American experience: Muslims now make up less than one percent of the American population.  Thus one cannot seriously accept the president’s claim that “American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country.”  An extraordinary contribution – need one say this? – must go beyond what is ordinary.  Yet Muslims clearly have not been part of America long enough in sufficiently significant numbers to make contributions that could equal those of Christians or even of a long-established minority such as America’s Jewish population.  Perhaps one could here defend the president by claiming that he is referring to American Muslims as individuals, not as a group.  No doubt many individual American Muslims have in fact made extraordinary contributions to American society.  But if this was the president’s meaning, then his statement is not a direct falsehood but a trivial truth about individual achievements deployed in such a way as to encourage a false conclusion about a group’s social significance.

It would, moreover, be utterly incredible to claim that President Obama is unaware of the (rather elementary) historical facts sketched above.  The unavoidable conclusion is that he has chosen deliberately to promote a false account of the relationship between Islam and America.  What is the significance of this unhappy conclusion?

To begin with, lies are ordinarily to be condemned as incompatible with human dignity.  A lie, even one told with good intentions, is an attempt to manipulate and hence subordinate the person or persons to whom it is addressed.  This is why Muslims should be offended by President Obama’s Ramadan message, even though he surely intends it as being in the service of a worthwhile end: improved relations between America and the Islamic world.  Better relations with Muslims is a worthy goal, and it is reasonable to believe that expressions of respect for Islam would serve this end.  Nevertheless, while President Obama may have intended to show respect for Muslims’ religion, he also showed disrespect for their intelligence by asking them to accept an account of Islam in America that anyone can see is a historical fantasy.  Bad in itself, such an attempt at manipulation is likely to be bad in its consequences as well, since most human beings do not appreciate having their intelligence insulted even when they are being flattered.  Perhaps this is part of the reason why, after a year and a half of such fanciful rhetoric, public approval of President Obama in the Muslim world is lower than when he took office.

The president’s statement on Ramadan, however, was not intended only for Muslim consumption.  As it was made in full view of the American people, it must be understood as directed to them as well.  Here the president’s statement takes on an even more troubling aspect.  When one man lies to another, he implicitly denies the latter’s dignity.  But when a political leader lies to his own constituents, he effectively denies their right to self-government.  Consent can be denied not only through force but also through fraud, and when statesmen lie to their people they try to impose conditions on them that they would not have willingly and knowingly accepted.  Political lies thus strike at one of the fundamental principles of American republicanism, government by consent.

Even these observations, however, do not capture the full evil of President Obama’s statement on Ramadan, which possesses an aspect of tyranny and even totalitarianism.  The lie here in question is altogether more audacious than the typical political lie.  In the first place, when politicians resort to lies it is ordinarily with the expectation that they will be believed.  Such lies may dupe and injure their victims, but they corrupt only their perpetrators.  As Plato’s Socrates observed, it is better to suffer injustice than to do it.  President Obama’s false account of America and Islam, however, is so outlandish that we cannot seriously think that he expected it to be believed.  He seems rather to have expected merely that it would be accepted, that it would not be challenged, that his fellow citizens would be complicit in it with him.  The President appears to have concluded that some citizens would approve of his lie, and that others, intimidated by the prestige of his office or the censorious spirit of political correctness, would not dare to call him to account.  It is characteristic of the unscrupulous democratic politician that he thinks he can get away with lies in the sense that they will not be detected.  It is characteristic of the tyrant, however, that he thinks he can get away with lies in the sense that no one will contradict them even when his statements are transparently untrue.  And it is thus characteristic of tyranny that it corrupts not only the tyrant but also his subjects, who, through fear or moral unseriousness, go along with his falsehoods.

Moreover, the ordinary political lie concerns comparatively paltry matters: the effects of this or that public policy, the truth of some past episode that an officeholder finds embarrassing.  In contrast, President Obama’s lie concerns the very origins, history, and character of the country that he claims to represent.  St. Thomas Aquinas famously observed that not even God could make the past to be other than what it was.  Twentieth century totalitarian regimes, however, certainly presumed to try.  Unable to change the past, they at least sought to change what was believed about the past by using their power to impose a false history on their subjects.  Such propaganda treats a nation, a people, not as an organic community with a real history that must be respected, and that rightly limits what it can become, but as mere material to be manipulated according to the aspirations of its leaders.  President Obama has said repeatedly that he aims to “transform” America.  In seeking to transform even its past he adopts some of the worst tactics of the worst governments of the last one hundred years.

As these reflections suggest, political efforts to shape beliefs about a nation’s past are usually undertaken in order to control its future.  It is thus worth observing in conclusion that President Obama’s claims about the historical relationship between Islam and America seem intended to settle preemptively a question that ought to be debated in the open: is Islam compatible with the free institutions to which Americans are accustomed and to whose preservation Americans should be committed?  The most generous of the reasonable responses to this important question is “we don’t yet know.”  A prudent people will want to weigh this important question with all the care that it deserves.  But a people that is serious about its freedom, to say nothing of its self-respect, will insist that the question not be avoided through the presidential assertion of a made-up history.

Carson Holloway is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  He is the author most recently ofThe Way of Life: John Paul II and the Challenge of Liberal Modernity (Baylor University Press).

85 COMMENTS

  1. You’re right about something here. Obama has–whether intentionally or not–weaved Islam into the greater narrative of America and it’s place as chosen nation. The story of Muslim-Americans is actually the story of America. Islamic values are American values. More likely–American values are now Islamic values. Everyone’s values are fulfilled and protected by benevolent lady liberty and held together by the unbreakable needle and thread of capitalism!

    More to the point, why do you care about the history of America or distortions thereof? You are a Christian, are you not? The American story is not the story of the crucified Christ–not even remotely similar. You might think about how–if Christians obeyed their true master–people might think twice about whether or not they could make good American citizens.

    Love your posts normally, by the way!

  2. I think you grossly misinterpreted the intention behind this statement. I believe the president was referring to how Americans accepted Islam before 911 and they will accept it after, or be forced to deport or convert them all (which of course is not what you’re suggesting). In the meantime, I believe they have a right to build there private place of worship wherever they please.

  3. This is what you get when you elect a Hussein Obama. The real travesty is that a George W Bush could hardly be expected to say anything different.

  4. I think you’re right that our president is intentionally obfuscating history to push an agenda of religious equivalence.

    Ryan puts well the means by which all religious communities shall be united in the modern mind: by “benevolent lady liberty” and “the unbreakable needle and thread of capitalism.”

  5. This is flattery, nothing more. He is a man who believes in flattery as truth. Plenty who call themselves conservative do as well, with their self-congratulatory pop-patriotism and their claims that sense George Washington had false teeth, everyone with false teeth can claim some credit for crossing the Delaware.

  6. You note that Obama seems to be trying to preemptively settle the “question that ought to be debated in the open: is Islam compatible with the free institutions to which Americans are accustomed and to whose preservation Americans should be committed? The most generous of the reasonable responses to this important question is ‘we don’t yet know.'”

    This is, at best, a purely academic question because it matters little whether Islam is or is not compatible with “free institutions to which Americans are accustomed.” Has not history shown that those same institutions–those “powers”–will force all competing “-isms”, “-ologies”, religions and belief systems to bow before their will? The modern state (embodied in these institutions) can be the only true religion and will make all others obey its will. Islam in America, too, will come to understand this (if it has not already).

  7. Robb,

    I’m the first to accuse my fellow Americans of a criminal lack of self-knowledge most particularly in the areas of civics and the hegemony of the state. However, there is plenty of evidence that systems of thought which are largely incompatible have nearly rational coexistence under our system.

    There are snake dancers in the south and Mennonites in Penn. Native Americans who still practice what remains of their grandfather’s arts (even when they involve narcotics). Quazi-church institutions who are illegal in other countries (often for good reason) find safe haven for their questionable practices here. Mason’s keep their secrets, as do fraternal organizations at the nation’s top schools.

    Sure the Kiwanis had to admit women, and the Boy Scouts are harassed. But the Knights of Columbus are still allowed in 4th of July parades.

    Monasteries are as free to form and practice ancient tradition here as anywhere in the world.

    How is this oppression?

    Even those groups who would love to nationalize their local morality: fundamentalists, racist groups and anarchists all receive some form of dispensation to participate in civic life.

    The only thing you can’t do is subsume a local community completely within the realm of your organizational fiefdom. You cannot turn a town into a Baptist town, or refuse to rent to Mormons.

    There are plenty of organizations present in American life besides the various factions of Islam (for there are factions, just as in Christianity) with equally ardent and disturbingly objectionable goals. Mecha seeks to return the American southwest to Mexico. They are no less committed to this. Have any of their members become violent yet? No, but like minded groups in Mexico have caused civil unrest in the south of that country with violence for decades.

    Those Islamic faithful in America will conform to the arrangement we have all accepted and in turn they will receive self-same benefits. But this is hardly oppressive even within the guise of a gilded cage.

  8. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

    I am surprised by two glaring errors in your analysis.

    First, you are either ignoring or ignorant of the African Muslim slaves brought to America. Allen Austin, Sylviane Diouf, and Gerald Dirks have written about the African Muslim slave experience in America. Unless you wish to deny the contributions of slaves to the building of America, or the presence of Muslims among those slaves, you must concede that Muslims have been present and contributing to the culture and economy of this land even prior to the founding of this country. In this sense, “Islam has always been part of America.”

    Second, it is grossly irresponsible to claim that Obama, who had not spoken about the Cordoba Center until Friday night, “ignited a debate over the competing claims of religious liberty…and …sensitivity to the wounds left by the worst act of terrorism America has suffered.” This debate has been raging for months. In no conceivable way did Obama “ignite” it.

    Salon recently documented a timeline of public articles and actions for and against the Cordoba Center going back from the first uncontroversial article describing the project in December 2009 to the an AP story in May 2010 voicing opposition to the project. It is essentially a debated about the first amendment and whether we should stand by it when it protects things we may not like. The fact that the opposition to the project doesn’t frame the conversation that way doesn’t change the nature of the conversation. The debate was ignited when the debate started. It didn’t start on August 13th.

    If, however, your intention is to suggest that Obama “ignited” the debate by framing the discussion in terms of religious liberty, well, you’re wrong about that too. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg beat him to it by ten days, saying on August 3rd,

    “This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.”

    I find, in your words, that it is utterly incredible to claim that you are unaware of the (rather elementary) historical facts sketched above. The unavoidable conclusion is that you have chosen deliberately to promote a false account of the relationship between Islam and America and Obama’s mention of that relationship. What is the significance of this unhappy conclusion?

  9. David – I am not suggesting that these others don’t exist in a meaningful way alongside the state. They do (in fact, I am a “member” of one on your list). Nor am I suggesting that the state actively oppresses them to “keep them in line”. It does not (usually). I am suggesting a more subtle “reality”. There are boundaries that the state cannot allow members of any of these groups to trespass, and it will (and has) used various means–including violence–to guard those boundaries. It will do the same with Islam if/when it trespasses. In this sense its (the state’s) will reigns supreme.

  10. So could a group of thugs with guns.

    I think we’ve gone ’round about this before. The government isn’t oppressing merely because it has the potential to oppress or even a past where it did oppress.

    True, the government can end all life on earth, but only under certain preconditions. The US government has all imaginable power, but is restricted both legally and practically from using it. Sure, we can “bomb Afghanistan back to the stone age”, but they can’t round up all the Jehovah’s Witnesses and put them into camps. They can’t even come into your house without a warrant (under usual circumstances).

    It is those circumstances which restrict it’s activities. One of them being that pesky freedom of religion. Could the judge’s decision in the California Prop 8 case threaten that? Unlikely, and it might actually be some of the findings of fact that come back to haunt the decision when it stands before SCOTUS.

    I’m not sure even the more liberal judges could uphold a necessary harm to gays by religious organizations merely holding to a tenant of faith.

    I just don’t see how the “will” of the government (which, by the way, is an illusion, the government is a useful fiction… it has no proper “will”) reigns over anything. Individuals within the government can and do abuse their power within the very limit of that abuse, but the limits are considerable.

  11. Good points David. I would suggest that the state does not impose its will only through force (notice I said that it usually does not). It has many tools to build allegiance to itself and it employs all of them. I could suggest some if you are interested but I think you can list them yourself. Force is actually what it would prefer NOT to use because that unmasks its ultimate aims.

    Now, as to whether the state has a proper “will”… That is another kettle of fish. I think there is ample evidence that institutions (states, corporations, universities, churches–whatever) have realities that transcend the conscious decisions of the individuals that make them up. However, I admit that this is a theological understanding of Christians, at least, of many stripes: Walter Wink, John Howard Yoder, Hendrik Berkhof, Jacques Ellul, Marva Dawn, etc. I cannot ask you to accept at face value their arguments about this as I have but it behind my statements about the state being a “power”.

  12. You are quite possibly correct, Robb.

    However, my anthropology axiomatically forbids organizations from having a “will” as they have no hypostasis; that is, they are not properly persons and cannot be related to personally. In fact, this false relation’s (the delusion of personification when it comes to collective groups) deconstruction in these discourses is a sort of long term goal of mine.

    I’m sure that disqualifies any compatibility between my thinking and that of those you list.

  13. Okay David – I am intrigued (seriously!) by your long-term goal. I agree that institutions cannot be related to personally so maybe I need another concept (besides “will”) to describes them as a “power”. I don’t want to personify them so I can avoid holding individuals within them accountable for their behavior. Still… having helped lead a relatively small organization, I was aware of a reality that transcended my ability to “control”. What was that? What did St Paul mean by “principalities and powers?” (The authors I noted argue fairly convincingly that Paul was not referring to some “ancient cosmology” of angels and demons when he used these terms though that is what folks have come to believe he meant).

    Anyway… there may not be compatibility between your ideas and those of the folks I listed but I would wonder if you might accept the idea of there being some institutional reality that transcends actual institution structures and/or the people that work within them? Just curious. Anyway… I may be too far afield from the initial point of this posting and I apologize for dragging you and others around in this side point…

  14. Of course the founding fathers were primarily protestant Christians (or Deists) but the kidnapped people of Africa that they bought and sold were often of Muslim faith. Their contribution to America was blood and sweat. African Americans tend to put more stock in the slave experience as history than do white Americans.

  15. I’ve been a reader of front porch republic for some time now. I’ve appreciated much of the perspective offered. I’m a fan of MacIntyre, of Berry- inspirations for many of the people on this website. I find that much of what they write is useful for me as a Muslim almost no less than it may be for many of you as Christians.

    This piece though strikes me, as frankly, somewhat xenophobic. It takes for a granted a certain assumption thats run through the entire controversy over this mosque, and that is that a mosque itself should be in someway offensive to Americans, as if Islam itself is the culprit here. My fellow Americans, shouldn’t be so naieve to think that Muslims didn’t suffer from 9-11. A good number of Muslims died in those towers. The entire Muslim community has been a constant subject of suspicion- if not hate- since then. Many many more Muslims (at least hundreds of thousands) have lost there lives (mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan) abroad from bogus wars whose alleged legitimacy lay in seeking justice for the death of the victims of 9-11. Muslim terrorists main target is typically other Muslims, and that should be plain to perceptive follower of politics in the Muslim world.

    Now as for the business about Muslims and their contribution to America. Of course, Islam and Muslims haven’t played the defining role in American history and culture that Christians have. I wouldn’t think that for a second. But Muslims were here from a very early point in American history. The slave trade picked up a significant number of African Muslims and brought them here and this has been well documented, so perhaps Obama is saying what he said not so much in making Muslims equal in contribution to the cultural fabric, since I dont think anyone really takes that seriously, but in acknowledging whats not acknowledged, that Muslims are not utter foreigners either. This is why Keith Ellison, when he was sworn in as a senator, chose Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an to swear on.

    Finally, you ask “is Islam compatible with the free institutions to which Americans are accustomed and to whose preservation Americans should be committed? ” I’m not sure from what perspective you are asking this question. By free institutions, do you mean liberal institutions? If that is the case, then sure Islam has a potential for conflict, but hardly more than the Christianity that was often rejected in forming these institutions and that is often defended on this website. Some might find that hard to believe but thats usually because their idea of Islam is shaped by media sensationalism and not reality on the ground. Islam has a great deal in common with Christianity, far more than either has with liberal modernity, though of course there are important differences.

    One last thing about the mosque. If that mosque is constructed it would likely be the sort of mosque that would reach out to the wider society and seek to build bridges. Just by virtue of its place this would be a must for its survival. Thats the sort of mosque that Americans should support.

  16. Good article and thankfully it avoided unncessary attacks on the beautiful faith of Islam.

    With all respect to Ed though he is incorrect. From a traditional conservative point of view Islam can have little role to place in the US as little as it, or Hinduism or Buddhism, can have in Britain or Europe and as little as Christianity can have in Saudi Arabia or Iran. From such a position multiculturalism is as much an oxymoron as secular society. Culture, in which religion and worldview/cosmology plays a massive role, is so important and so encompassing for individuals, social associations and society at large and for their relationships together that, at least in this traditionalist view, to pretend that there can be a stable society with a myriad individuals and social groups with many divergent worldviews is absurd on the faith of it. That is not even a real society and never good be. This is why the West, like most of the rest of the world, must get rid of the failed multiculturalism and mass immigration and encourage assimilation and not be afraid to uphold our national cultures and traditions.

    I for one do not hesitate to state that England is a Christian nation. What be the good in muddy all the waters anywhere and destroying the purer sources of the world’s cultures and faiths? I think the world be a lot poorer, even if societies could stand it, if there were no Christian or Islamic or Buddhist nations or regions and just multi-faith nations and regions.

    Ed you are very much correct though about Christianity and Islam, indeed all the genuine revelations and faiths, are a lot closer than Christianity, and indeed traditional Conservatism, and liberalism and secularism. However I don’t think it would therefore be helpful to Christian nations to have large groups of Mulslims, and visa versa, within them, particularly if there is going to be a conservative and religious revival. This would just cause conflict and is an argument for secularists to talk about a “multifaith” or “multicultural” nation and block any attempt to stop secularism, which mean a more form of atheistic liberalism, being the ruling ideology in the state. Certainly the increasing communities of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims do not help me in fighting for a more traditional, Christian England.

    Finally though this mosque is absurd if it means to be an outreach to non-Muslims, it is simply inflaming conflict. The best way to outreach would be to move the mosque.

  17. Let’s not beat around the bush, Islam’s place in American history is very small. You can talk about a few Muslim slaves but really America’s culture as Russell Kirk was at pains to show is mostly based in the Western Christian tradition and more particularly it is an outplaying of an Anglo-Saxon-Celitc tradition. As Kirk said take out what America got from Britain and it wouldn’t have a single, binding culture and heritage at all. Certainly its culture has been changed by immigration and its own experiments but its main force remains rooted in these same pillars; even the influence of Hispanic culture hasn’t really changed that. Only the social dislocation and disintegration of secularism and liberalism have made any substantial change and that has hardly been positive from what I can see.

  18. Btw before anyone goes there my views are all about a traditionalist take on culture and society and have little to do with race. I don’t care if your Black or White or Asian or Far-Eastern or whatever you can be as much an Englishman as me, I have not time for the BNP or repatriation or whatever, but when it comes to culture I want to see England’s traditional culture, including its faith, upheld.

  19. Wessexman,

    I sympathize with your traditionalism. Certainly the traditionalists like Huston Smith and Seyyed Hossein Nasr make some insightful criticisms of modernity and present traditional civilization with a refreshing coherence and intelligibility, something that is often lost in modern portrayals of the past. However, traditionalists often glorify the past, overlook its injustice and often are careless with history, so we must be careful.

    You say that England is a Christian nation, but honestly I fail to see how when religion plays such a marginal role in public life. The same goes for America (I live in LA). Many Muslims living in the US and also Europe wish that both places would retain more of their Christian values because they are often more in harmony with their own values. The irony here is that most Christians, when trying to affirm the Christian character of their nation imagine that this entails less tolerance for others, particularly Muslims (e.g. hijab ban, minaret ban, now maybe mosque ban?). They think that liberal tolerance for religious and cultural others has led to the crass relativism that now pervades so much of our culture. I don’t think that that is the case, and I think Muslims are being scapegoated here, since we often support Christian values more than American liberals do. We aren’t in favor of gay marriage, we’d be open to prayer in schools, we are pro-life, we support the family, we support modesty and sexual restraint, ethics in scientific advancement etc etc. The only major differences really lie in foreign policy, which is marginal to the character of our shared society.

    Being intolerant of other religious groups only gives ammunition to the liberals who think liberalism is the only basis for tolerance. We can’t turn the clock back. America and Western Europe are multicultural societies, and if we want to avoid succumbing to liberalism than we have to find the resources for tolerating the religious other from within our own traditions, while not falling into a reductive pluralism or a crass relativism. I think this is possible, but this requires dialogue.

    People often say that we must demand assimilation from our minorities as a way of putting a stop to the relativism of multiculturalism. But what exactly does this assimilation entail? Which strand of American culture do we seek minorities to assimilate into? The pop culture which everyone on this website criticizes? the liberal secular culture from which many would like to escape? Some form of Christian culture? I certainly think that immigrants must make an attempt to understand the dominant culture and must participate in it. But this is a very complex sort of dialectic and most people who demand assimilation imagine that American culture is some sort of monolith that immigrants should imbibe wholesale. That seems awfully artificial and simplistic to me.

  20. Ed I don’t think most traditionalists are careless with history. They are less likely to be as progressives are likely to misuse “progress” or modernity or indeed history.

    “You say that England is a Christian nation, but honestly I fail to see how when religion plays such a marginal role in public life.”

    Of course but secularism cannot replace this properly, in fact Western secularism is but a secularised version of our religious heritage and capital for the most part. It is certainly still true the best way to revive proper, religious culture and society in England is to somewhat retrace our steps, though in a nuanced and intelligent way -adapting where necessary, than to strike out in some new secular or multifaith or indeed Hindu or Muslim or new age or whatever path. The Christian worldview is still subtly woven into the intricate and interdependent fabric of English culture and society, it still, often imperceptibly provides key parts in many of our institutions, statues, functions, ideas, associations and so forth.

    “The same goes for America (I live in LA). Many Muslims living in the US and also Europe wish that both places would retain more of their Christian values because they are often more in harmony with their own values. The irony here is that most Christians, when trying to affirm the Christian character of their nation imagine that this entails less tolerance for others, particularly Muslims (e.g. hijab ban, minaret ban, now maybe mosque ban?). They think that liberal tolerance for religious and cultural others has led to the crass relativism that now pervades so much of our culture. I don’t think that that is the case, and I think Muslims are being scapegoated here, since we often support Christian values more than American liberals do. We aren’t in favor of gay marriage, we’d be open to prayer in schools, we are pro-life, we support the family, we support modesty and sexual restraint, ethics in scientific advancement etc etc. The only major differences really lie in foreign policy, which is marginal to the character of our shared society.”

    I think your looking at this at a different level to me. You are looking at only, or mostly, concrete, hot-button controversies and policies like gay marriage(one of the left’s favourite contradictions.) but I’m looking at culture, society and social associations as a whole and their complex relationships with religion or worldviews/cosmologies. This goes far beyond simply what is immediately and fully rationally comprehensible, culture and therefore religion like society and social associations have an extremely encompassing and indeed formative, as well as regulative, role in the lives of individuals. The complex matrix of functions, ideas, roles, statuses and so on that make up these social associations as well society and culture as a whole and their relationships together, as well as the more or less pure religion/cosmology/revelation with which they are associated, are powerfully intertwined and interdependent in ways we cannot fully hope to completely understand.

    “Being intolerant of other religious groups only gives ammunition to the liberals who think liberalism is the only basis for tolerance. We can’t turn the clock back. America and Western Europe are multicultural societies, and if we want to avoid succumbing to liberalism than we have to find the resources for tolerating the religious other from within our own traditions, while not falling into a reductive pluralism or a crass relativism. I think this is possible, but this requires dialogue.”

    Multicultural society is almost an oxymoron like secular society. It means the culture and worldviews of individuals and social associations like families, churches and local communities are going to be fundamentally our of sync with culture and society at large. The latter would be in a very poor state indeed if multiculturalism had free rein. This could only end in social dislocation, tension, alienation, ghettos and probably social breakdown or despotism. I’m not really talking about intolerance, I have a lot of tolerance for other faiths, I consider just about all the major ones with the exception of bahais as divine revelations.

    Nor am I talking about taking very repressive measures. I’m talking about what was until recently quite common sense like affirming the traditional culture and religion of a nation, giving these favoured place to this in public institutions and limiting immigration and encouraging immigrant to assimilate. This is common practice outside the West so I do not see it as either intolerant or too radical(though no doubt it is to the left and liberals today.). I’m not even talking about bringing back the test act or anything like that. There is no other option, short of England or the US becoming Islamic or Hindu(non-Hindus cannot easily become proper Hindus.) or Buddhist or whatever, unless one wants to embrace secularism and multiculturalism which will probably destroy society but it is option whose window of opportunity is running out. In the next half century at the absolute most Britain seem to be likely to reach the point where it really will become that multicultural, and secular, society you talk of.

    This complete secular view of religious freedom, which unfortunately you imply somewhat as being the best, which requires complete separation of church and state is not only toxic to the dominant, and indeed all, religion in a state but has only become popular quite recently. In the past, and I mean right up till a good way into the 20th century, religious freedom(and I mean by that what most would have seen as pretty full freedom.) or liberty for most only necessitated that you could practice your religion, or irreligion, in private and for most of these as well(which I agree with mostly with.)practice it in public(as in have mosques or temples and even processions or whatever.). It may have meant there was no official or established church organisation to many by the 20th century, though not to all and not to me, but it certainly did not mean a complete ban on any official and governmental culture and ethos that in any way seemed to favour a religious tradition or its values and beliefs. Such a position only became vocal in most of the West in the latter half of the 20th century and it still has not in many places outside the West.

    In Saudi Arabia, India, Sri Lanka and even Thailand and in some ways Japan the latter, older ideal, where freedom of religion is thought important at all, is the one that is seen to obviously conform to common sense. In these nations and many others they quite rightly would think you strange if you not only demanded freedom of private and public worship and belief but also that the state and official culture never show any preference even for the traditional religious values and beliefs of the nation. This is a new and innovative principle, at least as a vocal sense. It wasn’t even the belief of many of the US’ founding fathers who allowed the states who had established churches, 9 out of 13, to keep them. So lets not beat around the bush, I’m not putting up a very radical viewpoint here, so it becomes ever more reactionary I suppose as the years roll by. To critique it you really have to take the secularist, liberal or progressive perspective.

    “People often say that we must demand assimilation from our minorities as a way of putting a stop to the relativism of multiculturalism. But what exactly does this assimilation entail? Which strand of American culture do we seek minorities to assimilate into? The pop culture which everyone on this website criticizes? the liberal secular culture from which many would like to escape? Some form of Christian culture? I certainly think that immigrants must make an attempt to understand the dominant culture and must participate in it. But this is a very complex sort of dialectic and most people who demand assimilation imagine that American culture is some sort of monolith that immigrants should imbibe wholesale. That seems awfully artificial and simplistic to me.”

    Well I’m not an American, so I could only give the vaguest outline here. I personally think, due to its size and powerfully, but not actually particularly historic, secular, official ethos America is in an even worse position than Britain and perhaps even the likes of Germany and France.

  21. To be honest I know of no traditionalist who glorifies the past, or period of the past, in the abstract, vague and yet almost unqualified way most modernists, liberals and progressives and so forth dismiss it. Nor do many I know even many traditionalists who baselessly and incorrectly elevate it like these same modernists and liberals elevate modern times. There are many parts of the modern world I would preserve from many technologies to due process and aspects of representative gov’t but it is not “glorifying” the past, at least in any or negative way, to suggest that many traditional civilisations understood more about many of the most important aspects of human nature and purpose. After all you talk of injustice but most traditionalists, and the certainly the Traditionalists/Perennialists like myself, are most interested in morality, faith and gnosis and though we certainly do not rule them out we place less importance on social injustice and material well being than on true spirituality. It is hard to see how someone with a religious or traditional spiritual viewpoint could see things otherwise(leaving aside religious exclusivism and the worth of religious revelations and spiritual traditions.) beyond our own.

    But my position on multiculturalism, society and culture given above is not a particularly arch-traditionalist or reactionary one, though it is becoming so more and more, it is pretty mainstream Burkean conservative. It is as in line with the perspective of Edmund Burke, Benjamin Disraeli, TS Eliot and Russell Kirk as it is with Frithjof Schuon or Seyyed Nasr, who are thinkers usually dealing with higher realms than this anyway(not to say, or that to suggest they would say, this cultural, social and largely exoteric level is unimportant and does not have its place.).

  22. It is characteristic of the unscrupulous democratic politician that he thinks he can get away with lies in the sense that they will not be detected. It is characteristic of the tyrant, however, that he thinks he can get away with lies in the sense that no one will contradict them even when his statements are transparently untrue.

    Also, these are characteristics of just about every stern parent ever in the history of the world. So, either President Obama is our collective dad, or stern parents are tyrannical democratic politicians.

    Oh, and if anyone still needed reminding of this, the post’s entire argument relies on a pretty startling inability on behalf of the author to recognize the reasonableness of one half of his boarderline-false dilemma: the President lied or he uttered a trivial truth. First, is it more reasonable to think that the President said something everyone takes to be true or that he uttered a vicious hegemonical lie, designed to fool his opposition and cow his detractors into bovine compliance?

    Second, and I wish this were the last time someone had to ask Breitbarters to knock this off, but stop taking quotations out of context. Please. The full(er) relevant text of the President’s statement reads as follows.

    These rituals [of Ramadan] remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings. Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality. And here in the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country.

    It’s clear from the very text of the statement that the contributions the President was talking about were with respect to individual American Muslims, so as the author admits, it isn’t a lie — a fact which makes irrelevant the rest of his post. But the author even attempts to draw a nefarious conclusion from the trivial truth interpretation, when he suggests that Obama articulated the truth “in such a way as to encourage a false conclusion about a group’s social significance.” Wait. Where in the President’s statement is the evidence for this interpretation. Why can’t the Muslim contribution to our country be extraordinary, even if small?

    Tosh, I believe, is an appropriate moniker for this sort of reasoning — if such it can be called. And tyrannically immoral — that is, just to the degree that the author knowingly misled his audience and thought they wouldn’t notice it. But it sounds like the author already knows this.

  23. I am grateful for the attention that has been paid to this piece, even by those who have criticized it. I can’t respond to everyone, but I would like to say something on the remarks that have struck me the most.

    First, Samuel Levin is correct that I was wrong in saying that President Obama ignited the controversy over the “ground-zero mosque.” I should have said that he intensified the existing controversy by giving it presidential attention, or that he ignited a controvery over his own prudence in wading into this matter in the way that he did.

    A lot of the commentary on the piece suggests that I am being too hard on the president in accusing him of deliberately selling a false history of the United States. After all, perhaps one could find evidence for the proposition that “Islam has always been a part of America.” After all, some of the slaves imported to America were Muslims. Also, President Jefferson held a similar Ramadan dinner for the Tunisian ambassador to the United States.

    For me, these are pretty slim reeds on which to base a defense of the president’s remarks. Yes, a small minority of the African slaves were Muslims. Apparently, however, a great many of them were converted to Christianity at some point. In any case, as a small portion of the slave population they were not in a position to have their religion exercise any appreicable influence on American culture. And because Islam seems to have died out among most of slaves by the time slavery was ended, it seems hard to defend on this basis the president’s claim that Islam has “always” been a part of America. It would seem more accurate to say that it was a small part of America at the beginning, then lost its hold, and then re-emerged as a result of immigration in the 20th century. But that is significantly different from the president’s suggestion that Islam has consistently been a significant aspect of America.

    Should we, then, regard the president as misleading others in a blameworthy way by promoting this narrative? It depends, I suppose, on what one considers to be culpable falsehood. Suppose the case of a teenager who is asked by his father how he is coming on a soon to be submitted reseach paper for his history class. Suppose the son says: “I have been working on it since the second week of the semester.” Suppose further that this means in reality that the son has not written a draft, not taken any notes, not read any books or articles, but merely wrote down a possible topic at the beginning of the semester and has turned it over in his mind once a week since then. Is this a lie? However you answer that question, the father so treated will certainly feel like a victim of dishonesty.

    I think that the president is doing something like this. He is clearly trying to make a big and impressive claim about the role of Islam in American history, yet the facts on which such a claim could possibly be based are not even close to being up to the job. To me it is still noteworthy (and not in a good way) that a political representative of a people could publicly attempt to re-invent its history so radically and apparently expect some kind of placid deference to the attempt.

    It is also worth noting that if the president had in mind the role of Muslim slaves in American history, he was not quite dealing honestly with the foreign Muslim audience he was also addressing. It is a little much, isn’t it, to suggest to a people whose favor one wants to court that their faith has always been part of America, when what you mean is that their co-religionists used to be enslaved here?

    This is a bit long, so I’ll say the rest in another post.

  24. Politics is a nasty little queasy business it is. Now that it has become an encompassing national sport, year round in fact, the citizenry is adopting the tincture and becoming nasty queasy little sots themselves.

    Newt’s earlier marriages might have worked had he read a little Sufi Love Poetry to his betrothed. But Newt is far from alone in execrable conduct here, the entire craven edifice is up to its usual tricks of evasion, parsing and mis-guided theatrics.

    For hell’s sake, not long ago, they had Air Force One pull the equivalent of a wheelie at a Nascar Race for the Red Meat Crowd so we’re shocked about …what is it “standards” and traditions and sacred sites?

    At this late date, a large chunk of the lapsed-republic wouldn’t know a sacred site if it was nailed up to it.
    Myth has replaced Reality and its a comic book mythology because we’ve evolved from a sucker born every minute to three born every second.

  25. I also appreciate the thoughtful character of much of what Ed Abd Al-Ghafur had to say about the role Islam might play in restraining America’s excessive secularism. I don’t, however, think it is accurate or helpful to throw around charges of xenophobia. I don’t think it is xenophobic to be a critic of the “ground zero mosque,” although that is not the point of my article. Most of the people opposed to it seem to be doing so not on the basis of any absolute principle (like opposition to Islamic influence on America) but merely on the basis of a kind of prudent sensitivity.

    Nor do I think it is xenophobic to raise the question whether Islam is compatible with the free institutions that are traditional in America. I would not assert that Islam is not compatible, but I think the question is one that deserves to be debated. Those free institutions — limited government, self-government, individual rights, etc — arose in a cultural context that might be understood as mixing Christianity and secularism. Islam was not a major part of the cultural environment. What would be the effects of adding it in a significant way to the present culture? Again, the question deserves a respectful but thorough debate. Islam is an impressive religion and an impressive civilization, but it is certainly not the same thing as what we think of as American civilization. Whether it can be added to the latter without radically changing it is a question worthy of further debate.

  26. “For me, these are pretty slim reeds on which to base a defense of the president’s remarks.”

    Exactly. But are you really surprised how Obama acted? Look at the Liberals on this very comments list, they have used the most limited evidence of a few Muslims in America’s heritage and made something extraordinary out of it. This certainly isn’t extraordinary for liberals, they often do this. Whenever I try and talk about Britain’s traditions and heritage I’m bombarded with such nonsense from them, with suggestions like skinheads and punkrock are as important as the monarch or common law or our national sovereignty not being lost to Brussels and harder to part with. Look at the guy above your recent post Carson, Aaron Schroeder. He is intent on rescuing the Islamic history of America, apparently it is too much to suggest such a minor role in quality match its seemingly minor role in quantity. And then he compares you, a contributor to Frontporchrepublic with Andrew Breitbart. It painfully clear these people simply stumbled upon here looking to defend Obama. Maybe they work in the mainstream media?

  27. “I also appreciate the thoughtful character of much of what Ed Abd Al-Ghafur had to say about the role Islam might play in restraining America’s excessive secularism.”

    In the end though he is wrong, as I have outlined above. Not only is a big Muslim(or Hindu or whatever.) presence a good excuse for secularists to make the old this is a “multifaith” or “multicultural” society, some of liberals favourite oxymorons along with gay marriage, and therefore we need secular society(rounding off their list of top 4 oxymorons.) to be neutral towards the different religious communities. Not only is such official and cultural secularism damaging for both the traditional and new religious communities in the nation but ultimately leads to social dislocation as it is artificial, narrow and rationalistic and cannot provide for the same width and depth of social roles that an organic, traditional religious cosmology/worldview can.

    Islam may help a little bit with a few controversial areas like gay marriage, although I doubt many Christian groups are that interested in what the Muslims are doing, but these are not the most important place of religion in society. That most important place is within an encompassing, complex and interdependent relationship, often far beyond full rational comprehension, with society, social associations and culture and all that make them up. Adding another such religious worldview/cosmology will not then help but rather hinder in this key area because it would divide and fragment the culture, society and social associations and the functions, ideas, roles, statuses, authorities and such that make them up. As Richard Weaver put it culture aims at unity.

  28. I encourage you all to visit the website of the Cordoba initiative, which is the organization behind the Ground Zero mosque. http://www.cordobainitiative.org/ Even the name Cordoba, is Moorish Cordoba, which is held to have been an example in the pre-modern world of religious harmony amongst Jews, Christians and Muslims. I think too many, in the media frenzy that has emerged equate this mosque with “Taliban, Saudia Arabia and Iran” in our backyard, which really couldn’t be further from the truth.

    The Imam, is Imam Faysal Rauf, a Columbia graduate who has published a book entitled “Whats Right With Islam is What’s Right for America.” Now one might object to what may appear to be a far fetched and simplistic title, but this man is certainly no threat to America and its sad and quite frustrating to see him tarnished as a radical and anti-American. The losers here, are again, the vast majority of Muslims who seek to abide by their faith but also be a part and contribute to American society and its ongoing debates.

    Carson, thanks for your response. I don’t think its wrong to debate Islam’s compatibility with such institutions as long as its done with openness and in a spirit of dialogue and respect. Also, it should be remembered that Islam is not a monolith, there are various trends within the worldwide Muslim community and even amongst American Muslims. Also the West is not a monolith. Once we realize both of these points, I think it becomes obvious that discussions about a clash of civilizations are misplaced. It’s hardly a question of whether Islam is compatible as such with the West, but instead exploring the extent of similarity and extent of differences of different sorts of Islam and different sorts of West. Also , it should be kept in mind that political opposition is not the same as opposition in values, though the too are often conflated. Also, this isn’t to deny a general character to Islam and a general character to the West, there is perhaps such a thing, but too often those who identify that character represent only a fraction of themselves.

  29. None of the divisions in the West are compatible with Islam or Buddhism or whatever any more than Muslim or Buddhist countries are with Christian groups. This is particularly the case today where national society and culture has a bigger role to play. I’m sorry but unless you want to argue a more liberal and social atomistic and individualistic idea of society, social associations and culture. This is the only way larger non-Christian affiliations could be helpful in the West. Muslims can live in a Western society certainly and some would even flourish, though others would find alienation, but a large amount is never going to be a bonus or even a neutral thing for a Western society any more than a large Christian community would be in Saudi Arabia.

    The West certainly is not uniform but firstly its divisions are more or less cohesive subdivisions of one culture and therefore faith and secondly most of the time traditionalists and conservatives, and others with sensible, non-atomist views of society and culture, focus on one of these subdivisions. When I defend traditional, Christian English culture I sometimes talk about the West as a whole but I more properly mostly focus on the English and British subdivision of this culture.

    The thing about this mosque is why the heck do they want to build it there? If they want to reach out to non-Muslims then why not build it away from buildings that fundamentalist Muslims bombed? It just seems almost like they chose to cause controversy to me. It just doesn’t make sense.

    But I do agree some of the accusations against this Imam seem silly. To say that America and indeed the West as a whole had some link with the rise of fundamentalist Islam is correct both in terms of direct interference in the middle east and cultural contact; fundamentalism is a modernist, Western phenomenon with roots in Western, ideological ways of thinking. And the Israeli-Palestine conflict is so tedious that I too would refuse to make many comments on it half the time. And Sharia seems an extremely complex question. From my understanding Islam is basically inseparable from it which is not necessarily a bad thing as Christianity has suffered from the relatively easy ability to shave off its cultural, political, economic and social doctrines from its spiritual message.

  30. It seems to me that this article is an over-the-top response to a very conventional speech full of platitudes delivered on a holiday celebrated by a significant group of Americans.

    It certainly does not stand out from speeches and statements made by George W. Bush on similar occaisions:

    “Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed forces and of my Administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nations’ ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace.”

    — Remarks by the President on Eid al-Fitr at the Islamic Center of Washuington, DC, December 5, 2002

    “Islam brings hope and comfort to millions of people in my country, and to more than a billion people worldwide. Ramadan is also an occaision to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefitted mankind.”

    — President’s Eid al-Fitr Greeting to Muslims around the World, December 4, 2002

    “I believe in an Almighty God, and i believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God.”

    — Statement to Al Arabiya reporter Elie Nakouzi, November 2003

  31. I suppose the difference is the false attribution of a significant historical and cultural role to Islam in the US by Obama. A minority of slaves not withstanding Islam has been insignificant in either of those fields, so far, in the US. At least until 9/11 and I don’t think that is the historical or cultural role Obama or Muslims would want.

  32. I read this post as attempting to draw a very broad point about politicians, lying, and Barack Obama from a very insubstantial statement released by a political PR machine. I fully agree with JimWilton that the statement is highly conventional, and therefore does not offer some kind of skeleton key to Barack Obama’s insidious agenda and tyrannical bent.

    I recently stopped working for a Congressman, and I can tell you that when you release a statement to a given group, you almost invariably inflate the impact of their history on a given community. This is a knee-jerk reaction with veterans, for example. I wrote a speech for my boss praising our fallen heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion, etc. etc. Any number of the statements could have been called out as exaggerations at best, or even tyrannical, dehumanizing lies (as you are accusing Obama of telling in this post).

    If you are commemorating the local taxidermist on his decennial, you are going to praise the wonderful contributions that his skills have made to the community. You are not going to say “You have been plying an esoteric, faintly barbaric trade for ten years now, but those few hunters who display your stuffed carcasses are sure happy about it! Congrats!”

    Nor is the President likely to say to Muslims on the occasion of Ramadan: “Let this holiday be a reminder that you are members of a small and culturally insignificant minority whose religious claims may or may not be compatible with American institutions. We recall this month Muslim contributions to America, which are, frankly, quite run-of-the-mill when compared with groups that have been here a lot longer. Mubarak Ramadan.”

    You will note that my statements have scrupulously avoided dehumanizing their hearers by lying to them, or even exaggeration.

    But…

    There is a big difference between courtesy and lying, which this post is quite unwilling to recognize. Now, it may be the case that Obama is pushing a revisionist history of America in which Muslims and Hindus smuggled in on the Mayflower, but the political claptrap that you have cited certainly fails to prove such an agenda.

    All this being said, I grant to you that the statements were not defended in the statement and are probably indefensible as matters of strict fact. And there certainly is an interesting discussion to be had about whether Islam is compatible with American institutions, as was had with Roman Catholicism. (Ross Douthat mentions it here: http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/17/on-assimilationists-and-nativists/ ) Rather than accusations of incipient tyranny on flimsy grounds, let’s have that discussion.

  33. Douthat’s article, apart from unnecessarily linking racial and other such ideas into the debate, is confused over culture and the layers of culture which is disappointing from someone who I believe is a conservative. There are several layers of culture, which though they overlap can at least be partially separated. The most basic level of culture is the counterpart of man’s second, psychic nature(as opposed to his first material nature.). Because of this psychic nature man requires an ordering of the world along some cosmological line and this leads to a culture which forms around a cosmological or religious worldview. As Richard Weaver put it such a basic level of culture is always aiming at unity and cohesion. Douthhat doesn’t really deal with this level of culture and conflicts that arise at this level but goes straight to the secondary level of political theories and institutions like democracy and liberalism. Only in a very bad cultural environment would such be absorbed into the basic level of culture. At this level also are the more advanced moral and social codes as well as aspects of popular culture and doctrine. Finally there is culture as in artistic and high culture.

    All these three levels are important, if any are missing or the lines are too blurred then cultural and social problems will occur. The important thing to note here is that not only is Mr.Douthat wrong to figure political democracy and liberalism as basic cultural positions, and if they are in a society then that society is in a bad way(which is correct for Western society today.), but also that even those outsiders who are willing to bow before this secondary level of political culture may, and almost certainly will, still be in conflict with the more basic levels of culture and worldview.

  34. The Native American were Muslim in the sense that they had submitted (the word Muslim means submission), to the great Spirit and their life patterns generally were in harmony with Nature.

  35. I believe that Muslins should be able to put there houses of worship where ever they choose. In the case of NYC twin towers area – they should sit back, reflect and be sensitive to the many Americans who do not want it located near ground zero. Find some other place – whats the big deal.

  36. Illona.

    A few things. It’s not a mosque, its an islamic community center. It’s not on ground zero. There are other mosques in the near vicinity. It replaced a burlington coat factory (a bastion of consumerist values). When you realize the facts of whats going on, you realized this is fear mongering, plain and simple.

    Its interesting to me that everyone is asking Muslims to be sensitive. That they have the right to build the center, but that they should use prudence in their choice of location. Just a year ago, when the entire Western world was drawing obviously offensive political cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, few in the West yielded to pleas for responsibility and sensitivity in expression. It was instead made into a clash of civilizations type scenario. And now we are asked to be sensitive, when building an Islamic center, which inherently should be no cause for offense, unless of course you hold Muslims collectively responsible for the events of 9-11, which itself is unethical and un-American and offensive. This is all the worse, when those heading the initiative have record of anti-terrorist govt cooperation and are bending over backwards to be as “American” as can be.

    There is an obvious double standard, and honest perceptive, faithful people should be able to see that, not just John Stewart.

  37. No Ed, I’m afraid your just wrong. It is a mosque and cultural centre just about as close to ground zero as they could get it. It should be obvious to these people and yourself that this is going to cause problems. Yes, Islam is certainly not a terrorist religion but it is still intimately linked to what happened on 9//11 and there is a legitimate disgust at seeing Muslims try and build an Islamic centre as close to ground zero as they can get it. This is not just a Muslim thing, it is how the world works. The citizens of Germany and Japan today are not responsible for their nation’s conduct 70 years ago in one sense but they still have to be sensitive about in many respects including where they build their monuments and buildings. This isn’t about blame so much as sensitivity of linked issues and it is pretty common sense stuff.

    That is highly insensitive behaviour on the part of those trying to build this mosque and is completely unaccountable if they really do want to out-reach to non-Muslims.

    There are double-standards on all sides here, there often is but we have to look past that. Publishing those cartoons was silly, I admit that but so was celebrating the attacks on the twin towers as happened in many places in the middle east. The biggest irony is that outside the West the right to build religious establishments like this is far more tightly controlled. Imagine trying to build a church in Mecca?

  38. It isn’t that I don’t agree there is not an amount of emotionalism in such perspectives. Muslims as a whole were not responsible for 9/11 just as modern Germans were not actually responsible for WWII but such perspectives are natural, they are bound to occur when it comes to situations like this and the fact that the pro-Islamic centre people treat such feelings as basically monstrous and contemptible simply heightens a legitimate conception of them as insensitive.

  39. Wessexman:

    Have you ever noticed how often you tell people that “they’re wrong”? I understand you are passionate about your perspectives, but this proclivity of yours to pronounce with absolute certainty that you know what is right tends to undermine your credibility.

  40. That is an ironically absolute comment Jordan, particularly when you are commenting on how my comments will make multiple people feel. I haven’t told that many people here they are just wrong in this personal way that many times. I told you, which should send alarm bells ringing, and I’ve told Ed. I may have done it once or twice more but I don’t do it that many.

    Anyway Jordan like it or not some people are wrong as you were in our disagreement. Would you have us not tell people when they’re wrong? Don’t be disingenuous, if you disagree with me then make a proper argument rather than this sort of sly innuendo. Personally I’d take others who were straight-talkers to the kind of tact your using here any day.

    Plus the post I made after that one does show that I have a nuanced opinion and you completely overlook that.

    You were wrong and Ed is wrong. The positioning of this mosque is silly and is unaccountable from a group who seems to suggest they wish to outreach to non-Muslim Americans. I don’t see how you can get around that.

    I’m just stumped how anyone who doesn’t have some agenda, like being a Muslim who is hypersensitive to criticism of their faith or a leftist who is looking out for any breach of political correctness and “multiculturalism” come what may, could not at least agree with me that Ed is just plain wrong to completely dismiss any sort of at least semi-valid disturbance that among many regular New Yorkers that a Muslim group is trying to build a mosque close to ground zero. This is what I told Ed and that you seem to want to stifle even such pronunciations is quite as tyrannising as the pronunciations themselves.

  41. I’m a Platonist Jordan, I know the limits and relativity of language and discursive thought but I also know where it is important to state truths, even relative truths, categorically. Jordan, from what I remember, you have an extremely individualist, and perhaps partially post-modern, perspective which naturally makes you dislike what could be absolutist, even those to use a paradox relatively absolute, views on many topics such as this or support of institutionalised religion. But don’t beat around the bush and make covert attacks which hide this fact. Defend it. You think my statement was too absolute then say so but do in such a way that everyone can compare my “absolutism” with your stress on “relativity” or “tolerance” and then the individual reader can decide exactly how far such “tolerance” is worth pursuing.

    Heck I think all these left-liberals and individualist’s would do this more often. Let’s see exactly the full meaning of your desires for “tolerance” and the full extent of your anti-absolutism.

  42. The community center / mosque controversy is actually quite similar to the controversy a twenty years ago about the location of a Carmelite convent within the boundaries of Auschwitz. As I recall, the convent controversy was resolved by locating the convent outside the Auschwitz precincts.

    So I would propose a similar solution – that the community center be at least one block from the World Trade Center site.

  43. Hi Wessexman:

    It was just an observation from having read your comments on numerous threads over the past few months.

    I have no problem with absolute positions, or even thinking I am in the right and someone I am dialoguing with is completely out to lunch. But I have had (and am having to learn) that using a dismissive tone or language is disrespectful, and as a result it is far less likely the other party will hear my point of view. And surely that is why we post or respond to comments in the first place? If not, then we are all just mounting soapboxes to shout at the wind: “I am here! Consider me!”.

    I also never suggested your perspective wasn’t nuanced or even flawed. I wasn’t responding the content of your contributions at all.

    You are well-read and are probably familiar with Martin Buber’s I and Thou. The bits I am going to quote here are actually from the prologue to that book written by Walter Kaufmann. But they are derived from Buber’s text. I think they sum up the “full meaning” of my position:

    Man’s world is manifold, and his attitudes are manifold. What is manifold is often frightening because it is not neat and simple. Men prefer to forget how many possibilities are open to them.

    They like to be told that there are two worlds and two ways. This is comforting because it is so tidy. Almost always one way turns out to be common and the other one is celebrated as superior.

    Those who tell of two ways and praise one are recognized as prophets and great teachers. They save men from confusion and hard choices. They offer a single choice that is easy to make because those who do not take the path that is commended to them live a wretched life.

    To walk far on this path may be difficult, but the choice is easy, and to hear the celebration of this path is pleasant. Wisdom offers simple schemes, but truth is not so simple.

    Not all simplicity is wise. But a wealth of possibilities breeds dread. Hence those who speak of many possibilities speak to the few and are of help to even fewer. The wise offer only two ways, of which one is good, and thus help many.

    *

    Another perennial attitude is summed in the words Us-Them. Here the world is divided in two: the children of light and the children of darkness, the sheep and the goats, the elect and the damned.

    Every social problem can be analyzed without much study: all one has to look for are the sheep and goats.

    There is room for anger and contempt and boundless hope; for the sheep are bound to triumph.

    Should a goat have the presumption to address a sheep, the sheep often do not hear it, and they never hear it as another I. For the goat is one of Them, not one of Us.

    Righteousness, intelligence, integrity, humanity, and victory are the prerogatives of Us, while wickedness, stupidity, hypocrisy, brutality, and ultimate defeat belong to Them.

    Those who have managed to cut through the terrible complexities of life and offer such a scheme as this have been hailed as prophets in all ages.

  44. Since we all agree on the importance of localism, wouldn’t you at least concede the decision to the local community? That would be consistent with the sort of thinking found on the website. I hardly think people in New York City feel the same way as Fox News and the rest of them.

    As a side. There is a church that wants to engage in Qur’an burning on September 11th. Shouldnt there be a media frenzy around this church, and calls for sensitivity and prudence? Surely that is far more offensive and building a place for community building and worship.

  45. To be honest Jordan I have little time for Martin Buber so have not read many of his works. But anyway why didn’t you make a comment like that to begin? I disagree with it in this instance but it is a thought out position with no hint of underhanded innuendo. I also haven’t posted here that much in recent months, I only started again a few weeks ago, so it is hard to see how you could have been watching how I post.

    Anyway I wasn’t disrespectful, Ed, and others, have just completely been unable to grasp that there might be some legitimate indignation at a group trying to build an Islamic centre as close to ground zero as possible. After such a lengthy discussion I do not see how one could ultimately do otherwise than put it quite simply as I did. Anything else would have meant accepting Ed’s point ie that there is no legitimate belief of insensitivity, which would be absurd. I cannot see how else one could of responded, particularly when the conversation has gone on so long.

    Anyway sometimes it does help to be direct rather than beat around the bush. So as I said I cannot imagine how I could have posted my comments, at this stage, in a different way without accepting Ed’s point.

  46. Ed, of course it is insensitive, not as insensitive though but certainly insensitive.

    At the moment it seems to be the people of New York from which a lot of this legitimate indignation is coming from and it is a Democratic, liberal area. Fox News is about the only major source that I have seen that has not gone out of its way to give a politically correct angle to this issue, which I suppose is to be expected unfortunately.

    You are correct that localism is very important to those here, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those outside a locale cannot have an opinion of what occurs within it.

  47. Augustine,

    Islam already has a place in America. Muslims have had a place since the beginning. There are mosques in every major city, Muslims in every profession, often in increasing numbers. These are empirical facts. Whether you want to accept these facts is up to you. You can either build bridges or fear monger.

    Good Day.

    Ed

  48. They have not been there since the beginning but a few were there in colonial and early Republican times. Whether he accepts multiculturalism however Ed is not up to him and if he is sensible, as he seems to be, he will not. You can either have a sensible view of society and culture or you can explictly or implicitly support social fragmentation and atomism.

    Good day.

  49. Islam very emphatically has a place in America. We are all immigrants here if you go back four or five generations.

    I get very tired of Conservative nostalgia for a past that never existed — particularly when it is coupled with ideas that are incompatible with the principles of religious tolerance and freedom on which this nation was founded.

  50. And will we not recognize that act as terrorism by a white American against a Muslim American?

  51. I think it was Howard Sutherland who wrote a wonderful article on the “myth of the immigrant nation”. No nation is an immigrant nation in a sense as he spells becuase though some nations have large immigrant populations there is always an official, historical culture to a nation or it wouldn’t be a nation. Otherwise it would just be a group of fragmented, probably fueding ethnic and cultural groups. This may be the multicultural future as he put it but it isn’t the American(or Australian.) past. These countries are settler societies not immigrant societies their cultures and heritages are a Western, Anglo-Saxon-Celtic cultures. Certainly this heritage has been changed by time, by immgirants and natives but they have, at least until our time, maintained themselves in a pretty cohesive and continuous way.

    Here is that excellent article.

    http://www.amconmag.com/article/2002/nov/18/00014/

    “To test the truth of the NOI creed, ask what a true nation of immigrants would be. Absent a founding group or majority, it would be no nation at all, but a random gathering of people of assorted races, religions, and nationalities, united only by their presence in the same land. With no native culture to provide national unity, the population would tend to fragment on racial and ethnic lines, ensuring division and strife as groups pursue their interests at each other’s expense. That may be our multicultural future. It is not the American past.

    American history is the story of a varied nation with a distinct founding culture, one that remained dominant while assimilating—and being subtly changed by—later arrivals. That American culture is British, largely English, in origin, traditions, and religion. This article’s language is one small example.”

    I personally get tired of liberals and other atomists who completely lack a basic understanding of man, culture and society endangering all because of a naive and silly political correctness, atomistic individualism and egalitarianism. And before Jim comments again, as I have spelt out above and in a recent article’s comments this official culture could not be some very limited artificial, narrow, secular and political creed like liberal democracy. Liberal democracy or social liberalism is not a culture but an ideology and if you try and replace the basic levels of culture with it you will have nothing but social dislocation and fragmentation.

    Religious tolerance is one but this radical, and quite new in any popular sense, complete separation of church and state including removing any favouring of even the traditional beliefs and values of a nation is another and in no way is necessary for religious tolerance or freedom. I believe most of the framers of the US constitution would not have subscribed or even have considered this extreme doctrine of modern liberals, and many others. That a government could never consciously operate on Christian principles, and indeed should consciously try not to, or should never show even the mildest favourism like having prayers in schools or Christian imagery in courthouses would be have no doubt struck most of them as absurd. They even left the established churches in 9 of the 13 colonies intact.

  52. Jordan,
    Hmm, I didn’t hear dismissiveness in Wessexman’s tone; at any rate, that sort of advice is, in my opinion, more persuasive in private communications (just ask for email) rather than on a public blog comments section, unless it comes from a moderator, because the comment thread has already progressed in substantive discussion and it’s a sidetrack that doesn’t need to happen urgently and is a bit of a distraction. You and I, on the other hand, are only on this topic, so here’s my thought. What do you think?

  53. I will take a look at your recommended article on immigration.

    The First Amendment, of course, is the definitive evidence that the United States is not a Christian Nation but a nation that recognizes that religion is a matter of individual conscience that must be protected from state interference. The Founding Fathers, many of whom were Deists, would not recognize the modern form of Christianity practiced by evangelical mega-churches. So it is very fortunate for the Religious Right that we have an Establishment Clause in our Constitution.

  54. Albert:

    You and I, on the other hand, are only on this topic, so here’s my thought. What do you think?

    I don’t really understand what you mean by this sentence… but I’ll take a stab at a response and add a further “distraction” to this “substantive” discussion.

    It is possible that your opinion is the prevailing point of view vis a vis my cant of comment, but personally, I don’t think it is a sidetrack, I think how we speak to one another is the MOST important issue at hand in politics today. I think my comment has as much place as any other diatribe, opinion, quip, joke or observation. This is the “front porch” and in the end I think, more than anything else, a comments page provides some sense of “place” and “community” for people of a similar mind to hang out and not feel alone. In the end I doubt very many minds have ever been changed by a comments dialogue. So if there is an argument against my advice for Wessexman, it would be why bother offering it when it won’t be received? Good question indeed.

  55. It would, moreover, be utterly incredible to claim that President Obama is unaware of the (rather elementary) historical facts sketched above. The unavoidable conclusion is that he has chosen deliberately to promote a false account of the relationship between Islam and America. What is the significance of this unhappy conclusion?

    Is it possible it just means he’s a busy guy who ordered up, and lacked the time to parse and think through, a speech that would show respect and moral support to his Muslim guests?

    when a political leader lies to his own constituents, he effectively denies their right to self-government.

    When a political leader lies to his own constituents he does not prevent them from using their intelligence to find and show him to be wrong.

    It is characteristic of the unscrupulous democratic politician that he thinks he can get away with lies in the sense that they will not be detected. It is characteristic of the tyrant, however, that he thinks he can get away with lies in the sense that no one will contradict them even when his statements are transparently untrue.

    No halfway intelligent politician in 2010 thinks he can get away with telling even the slightest lie without his opponents seizing on it. Have you never heard of Fox News? Right-wing talk radio? The Drudge Report?

    Mr. Holloway, I respect your intelligence and your concern for standards, but you sound like you’re drunk on principle, too drunk to put yourself in Obama’s shoes. Christ calls us to love our neighbors. When that command is difficult, it requires us first of all to try to see them in the best possible light.

  56. Jim you miss the point. The 1st amendment was made for the federal government by those trying to uphold the rights of the state. What it means is that the federal government couldn’t set up an established or state church. Not only did it not originally apply to the states but it didn’t mean the US was not to be a Christian nation in an important sense. That didn’t of course mean that the US was meant to not have religious freedom and toleration simply that most of the founding fathers, and most men of their time, would have found this new(in a popular sense.) idea of radical separation of church and state, where there is not even allowed the smallest preference or role for the traditional belief and values system of a nation, to be absurd.

    The founding fathers were not deists, that is myth. Of the 55 delegates to the constitutional convention of 1787 at least 50, and probably more, were pretty traditional Christians of different sorts. As Russell Kirk put it it was not French philosophes but the pilgrim’s progress, the common book of prayer and most importantly of all the King’s James version of the Bible that formed their views on the world. Incidentally they were also more influenced by the common law and British historical tradition, in general, than even Locke and Montesquieu let alone the likes of Rousseau or the philosophes. Most of the framers of the US constitution would probably have thought the Texas mega-churches types were not traditionally Christian enough.

  57. Jordan that is the problem of all political discourse and argument. It is very hard to change the opinions of those who are set in their ways. The thing about Ed is he seems a pretty traditional or conservative sort of a guy, which is one reason why I was actually appealing to him along such sentiments.

    Anyway avoiding dispute too much isn’t necessarily going to have any greater rhetorical(in the older sense.) effect. Certainly I agree there is room for subtly and tact but there does come a time when being direct not only does not hinder your argument but in fact can be a positive. Most of us who participate in online political discussion realise we win over few people, all you can do is try. Such attempts also help one to perfect, extend and challenge his own political thought and of course they may influence third parties who are viewing the debate.

    Your original comment was a sidetrack because it didn’t go into depth and looked simply like a sly innuendo to aid Ed, whose view you praised at the beginning of the comments, and put me down. Your later explanation though allowed a much more charitable view of your first comment and itself was a perfectly valid point.

  58. After reading your article, a couple of questions come to mind:

    1. Just what nefarious plot do you think the Muslims and Obama are up to?

    2. If the Muslims are such a small and insignificant portion of our population as you assert, how can they be a threat to our institutions? Please don’t respond that they can be terroists. We already know that a few Muslims can be terroists, but since the vast, vast number of Muslims are not it seems that it unlikely that Islam as a religion is only factor.

    3. Just what would be the result of the debate that you propose? Assume for a moment that you could conclude that Islam is a threat to our institutions, which I think is a rather fanciful notion since it assumes that all Islam is unified because, after all, there are no differences between Christians. But, assuming there could be such a debate and we did conclude that Islam was a threat, would you then propose a bit of religious cleansing?

    4. You have said that Obama wasn’t absolutely wrong in his assertion, but that he exagerrated so much that he lied. You condemned his statement as evil. I am not sure if you therefore assert that he is evil. Can you provide a list of current politicians who don’t do exactly the same thing? Some have asserted above that most politicians, if not all, do the same. If that is the case, isn’t the issue much bigger than just one guy, even though he is the POTUS?

  59. 2. Well the obvious answer for this one is that today there is a growing amount of Muslims but that does not increase their historical and cultural contribution. As conservatives or traditionalists that is a perfectly valid position.

    3. Well the obvious solution is limit immigration and stress integration. This would be very hard in the US. Personally I don’t think Islam is the number one problem in the US, rather that is clearly Hispanic culture. One does not of course have to see cultures in themselves as bad to be against multiculturalism and rapid and unrestrained changes in cultural demographics. I for one have nothing against Islam or Hinduism or Sikhism, quite the reverse, but I still do not want unlimited and un-assimilated integration from these groups, and others, in Britain.

  60. @Wessexman

    2. I don’t think your answer really does it. I agree there are a growing number of Muslims. But, if the article’s assertions are true the number of Muslims would have to grow exponentially for them to be a threat to our free institutions, even assuming they were some sort of threat. I did not argue whether their historical or cultural contribution is large or small nor did I question the article’s assertion that is was small.

    3. I agree there should be a stress on integration. But to some extent, that is exactly what Obama was trying to do. He was asserting that Islam is compatible with the US narrative. And for the vast majority of Muslims, it is. As to your assertion that the threat to the US is Hispanic culture, why is that? What is there about Hispanic culture that is a threat? I think there is a separate debate about how to control immigration and illegal aliens. I also agree there should be assimilation. My grandparents came to the US, but I accept the history of the US as my history. For most people, multiculturalism simply means you get a greater variety of restaurants to chose from.

  61. 2. Muslims are a growing part of the population, he is warning what this means and refuting any suggestion they’ve always been important in the US.

    3. George I don’t think you have the same idea of integration I do. By integration I mean the gradual abandonment by most immigrants of their previous cultures of which religions are an important part.

    Hispanics are a threat because they have another, distinct culture and worldview. For them not to be a threat culture and worldviews would have to be superficial but if they, as I and traditionalists believe, they are not as I have argued throughout this comments thread then having massive demographic changes of individuals with distinct worldviews is going to cause alienation and social turmoil. The only way you could argue against this is by arguing an atomistic or individualist view of man, society and culture.

    Each social association is made up of a myriad of factors such as roles, functions, statuses, ideas, authorities and such. These intersect with society at large as well as culture and worldview/religion at many points. And importantly as Richard Weaver put it culture aims at cohesion. To insert very distinct cultures and worldviews, particularly many of them, pulls these factors out of syn in quite radical ways. Multiculturalism as an official doctrine stops any readjustment. Without such a doctrine and just a large influx of Hispanic culture there would be a definite, extended period of social tension and problems until a new culture settles. Latin culture is close enough to Anglo-Saxon culture to perhaps be able to form something half-coherent but one can argue against even trying to experiment in such social engineering, which may not work and will have many side effects, and because they have an attachment to traditional, Anglo-Saxon-Celtic American culture and heritage(which is a justifiable position in itself.). So obviously there is a multiplier effect when the doctrine of multiculturalism ius in vogue but even without it there is going to massive problems with such large demographic, social and culture changes.

    Only atomism could oppose this position as far as I can see.

  62. Wessexman:

    2. I understand that he/you are arguing that Muslims are a growing segment of the population. Given his statement that Muslims make up only 1% of the US population and given the electoral implications of that, it is unlikely they will be able to influence basic institutions for quite a long time. In addition, some portion of the Muslim population do not want to change American institutions at all.

    3. We may indeed have a different understanding and some disagreement. I don’t think most immigrant groups abandoned their religions. The author states that most founding fathers were Protestants. Catholic immigrants did not convert unless there was some reason beyond integration. In addition, why is it necessary? I know a number of Muslims and Jews who live in this country who find their religions totally compatible with their American life. America was built on immigration and has assimilated large numbers of immigrants with different world views. I agree they must become Americans and accept American history as their history. But, there are many groups that hold to old traditions and are proud of their ancestry. In fact, I would think most are. There are pockets of many cities which contain immigrant groups and that is no problem. Have their been frictions throughout American history in this integration? Undoubtedly. I have not lived in the SW part of the US where there has been a large influx of Hispanics. I have lived in other parts of the US where there are a number of different ethnic groups including Hispanic. I have not seen, personally, many problems. Obviously, there is a social strain if large numbers of poor immigrants come to this country. But, that has been true throughout our history.

  63. 1. Presumably he is looking at Europe and then seeing Islam growing in the US and getting a little worried.

    2. The thing is you do not understand enough about man, society and culture and how these intersect with religion. Not many social liberals do, or they wouldn’t be socially liberal. Culture comes from cult as TS Eliot put it, you cannot have a healthy culture without an organic, broad and encompassing worldview/religion/mythology.

    The individual is a social animal and what is more his self is significantly social determined. The social associations that make up his everyday life, including all their myriad functions, ideas, authorities, roles, statuses and such and their relations with each other and with the culture and society at large are key to giving him personality, meaning and structure. These factors intersect in a myriad of ways, many of which are far beyond fully rational comprehension. This matrix is always aiming at unity and cohesion and one key way it does this is by the values and beliefs of the worldview/religion/mythology that animates the culture and society and which its intersects with the social associations and society and culture in many, many ways a lot of which are beyond rational understanding.

    Now you introduce distinct cultures and religions and you destroy the unity and cohesion of that society. You destroy the bonds between the culture at large and the individual social associations and create varying poles that pull social associations and society apart rather than unify in a healthy, cohesive pattern.

    Now that isn’t to say this will come about necessarily if just another denomination of the same religion is introduced but where there is just too different a breach in cultures which I think is the case between Hispanics and the traditional Anglo-Saxon-Celtic culture of the US and is certainly the case between the latter(and the former.) and Islam. This is doubly so when the traditional culture is not stressed and the oxymoron of multicultural is allowed to be operative.

    America assimilated immigrants because it had that overarching culture with which to do it and because the immigrants, being Europeans and mostly Christian, weren’t that different. The Catholics and Orthodox were encouraged to assimilate their distinct denominations into the traditional culture and hence this rounded off some of the sharp edges of difference between these denominations and the Protestant ones in the US; at least socially and culturally speaking.

    I’d say though America has hardly been an amazing integration society. There has been plenty of trouble between immigrant groups and indeed America has long been quite a violent society. This is what I’d expect.

  64. @Wessexman:

    1. You may presume so, but given that he has also argued, that Muslims are only 1% of the population and don’t have much influence, they are not a threat.

    2. I don’t disagree with most of the second paragraph under part 2 of your most immediately preceeding post. What I would add is that humans have different associations/tribes to which they belong. Some of those associations are in competition with each other and there is an ebb and flow as to their importance to an individual. To the extent their is competition between the associations, there is a conflict to the individual and a pressure towards disunity. I disagree with how much society is torn apart by differences. You have not offered any specifics as to how the Hispanic culture is so alien to the US culture that they cannot coexist. You think Islam is also too different, but Muslims in the US have not been unable to coexist except for some few extremists. Certainly, by one criteria, the willingness to fight and/or die in support of a society, both Muslims and Hispanics in the US have been willing to do so. That seems pretty important to me.

  65. 2. You clearly do not understand society and culture I’m afraid. The social associations have tensions sometimes but if they were in competition then society would be ripped apart. Indeed society and culture are always aiming at cohesion and unity. How could it be otherwise? How an individual be healthy if he was stuck in social associations and a society and culture at large that pulled him in different directions, that instilled in him, both rationally and pre-rationally, beliefs, values and meanings that were in conflict? If my family is telling me to live one way, both at the conscious level and in the spirit that animates and interacts with its different functions, ideas, roles and authorities, and my work is telling me to live by quite a different values and belief system, again both consciously/rationally and pre-rationally, and then society and culture again are instilling another conflicting range of values, beliefs and meanings then the individual is going to be ripped apart. There can be no competition here or if there is it is the competition of dogs in the pit, gladiators in the ring.

    Hispanics have quite a different culture, they speak a different language, have different literature, have a different legal system, have a different history, have a somewhat distinct version of faith to even the traditional Catholics in the US. But the point is culture is that such worldviews cannot be completely summed up rationally, really one must look at their nations and if one does one sees very different countries to the US. Brazil and Mexico are colonies that gained freedom as well but they turned out very differently to the US. It is reasonably obvious they have a very different culture than the Anglo-Saxon–Celtic heritage of the US with its roots in British culture, law and history.

    The examples you give are superficial, you are talking only about levels far more conscious and rational than I am. I’m talking about the most basic and encompassing levels. This does reinforce the conception you don’t really understand society and culture, which is to be expected because social liberals do not, otherwise they wouldn’t be social liberals.

  66. @Wessexman:

    You clearly do not understand society and culture I’m afraid…If my family is telling me to live one way….and my work is telling me to live by quite a different values and belief system…:

    W, I may not understand society and culture, but I understand the following from my life: American culture approves of job advancement and earning more money. My work told me that time beyond a 40 hour week was expected, travel was expected, and opportunity for advancement required relocation. At the same time, family told me to work 40 hours, limit travel and not to relocate. At the same time, other associations I was in disapproved of the work in which I was engaged. At the same time, standards at work changed from above which were disapproved by me and my fellow workers. In addition, when I became a member of management, I had to implement policies and actions with which I disagreed. There are lots and lots of times when our associations are in conflict. Those may be major or minor, but there is conflict. The issues I just discussed were not superficial. Ever hear of Romeo and Juliet? US citizens of German background during WWII had to choose between the Vaterland and the US. Most chose the US, but some chose the Vaterland…hardly a superfical choice.

    In terms of your Hispanic analysis, your list of the ways Hispanics are different is the same as, except in specifics, many immigrant groups which came in large numbers to the US. When I say specifics, I mean that the languages, history, etc were different than Hispanics. On a more micro level, I know immigrants from Spain, Hungary, India, China, Korea, the Phillipines, Serbia, Russia, Israel, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Iran who are all doing nicely and who don’t have an issue with the US culture. Finally, many are coming to the US precisely because there are differences. They want those changes. You admit you don’t know how this will play out. I never claimed there would be no problems, but I think it will can and probably will be done.

    As to the original article, the whole premise that Obama’s remarks were evil is ridiculous.

  67. Your first paragraph misses the point George, you are describing conflicts at less fundamental levels. Not that they aren’t important and not that they don’t often cause problems at those levels.

    Your second paragraphs ignores what I have said several times. In the past many of those groups did have problems and cause problems, America is already quite a fragmented and violent society and part of that could easily be linked to similar issues to those we are discussing. Also those immigrants arrived in smaller amounts, were a little more spread out generally and were encouraged to integrate.

    Again you do not understand society and culture, you are constantly talking at higher and superficial levels rather than fundamentals. You are blatantly arguing that massive demographic, social and cultural changes can occur without massive social and cultural disruption while offering examples at superficial levels like disputes with your work colleagues. This is absurd unless the atomism your social liberal position implies is correct, which nonsense when one considers men as they really are.

    I cannot see the massive rise in Hispanic demographic ending well or at least ending in a united states. There might be a split in the US into several nations and that might end reasonably well but otherwise or there might be secured borders and a great emphasis on the US’ traditional, Anglo-Saxon-Celtic culture and on integration of immigrant but if neither of those things happen it is unlikely to end well.

    Obama made false remarks, knowing him it could easily have been for dubious, PC reasons.

  68. @Wessexman:

    W, again, I don’t believe that deciding which country to fight and maybe die for is superficial. I also wonder about your own feelings. In response to another post we have been discussing homosexuality. You have said that no one who is Christian can approve of homosexuality. You belong to the Church of England, which blesses same sex unions and which, as I understand it, allows lay homosexuals to full communion with the COE except for becoming ordainded clergy. I presume that the decisions on how to treat homosexuals did not happen in 1101 like their condemnation of slavery, but fairly recently. Don’t you feel any conflict about being a member of a Church that takes that position? Is that, too, superficial? Not being COE, I will state that I may totally not understand its position.

    My statement was that people belong to associations and that there can be conflict between those associations. The way in which I meant it still holds. You keep saying there are deeper, more fundamental levels. Can you provide an example of what you are talking about?

    The US has absorbed large numbers of immigrants from many countries and cultures. You say that I am “blatantly arguing that massive demographic, social and cultural changes can occur without massive social and cultural disruption.” There have been no massive social and cultural disruptions even though between 2000 and 2005, 8 million immigrants came to the US. You say the US will be split in two, but so far, there has been no such movement.

  69. By superficial I meant at the rational level, not the the basic level that provides the basic meaning and personality/self in individual’s lives. One reason you clearly do not understand culture and society and man is because you take no account of the fundamental, not completely rational factors which give values, beliefs and an animating image to a society, culture and its associations. Maybe superficial is not the right word but the fundamental levels are those basic orientating values and beliefs which are wound into the culture, society and social associations of a society and partly instilled unconsciously into the individual.

    Now your atomism is quite frankly dangerous because it treats these issues only at the rational level, as if such social associations, society and culture were unimportant to the individual and like they can be rapidly and rashly remade on whim.

    “The US has absorbed large numbers of immigrants from many countries and cultures. You say that I am “blatantly arguing that massive demographic, social and cultural changes can occur without massive social and cultural disruption.” There have been no massive social and cultural disruptions even though between 2000 and 2005, 8 million immigrants came to the US. You say the US will be split in two, but so far, there has been no such movement.”

    As anyone at FPR will tell you there are lots of social problems in the US, indeed society is fragmenting. America is quite violent, there are plenty of social problems, families and communities have never been so fragmented. Yes it is remarkable that society doesn’t completely fall apart, for this reason and many others, that the naive, like yourself, can even think things are going pretty well being bamboozled by electronic gadgets and liberal ideology, even when they are very often negatively effected by the social dislocations themselves which they unfortunately don’t recognise the full implications of.

    At the moment the massive amounts of Hispanics in the South-West could easily cause a fracture in the US.

  70. @Wessexman:

    W, I don’t have time to respond to this post as I would like or our other discussion at all….out of town for a few days. But I will say this. I did not say there are no social problems in the US, quite the contrary, I think there are a lot of social problems and many of them appear close to unsolvable. But the discussion I was having had to do with whether Hispanic immigrants could be absorbed into the US. I also never said there would be no problems, in fact in my post of 9/7, I said there would be problems. Nor did I say that absorption would be rapid. What I did say and still hold is that large numbers of immigrants of a variety of cultures have been successfully integrated into US society. In fact, some of those have been Hispanics. There have been Hispanics in this country for a very long time…at least in US terms. Now it is also true that there are a lot of problems in the US and those problems will make it harder to continue to absorb large numbers of immigrants. I don’t think that has any thing to do with Hispanics, their history or their culture. Can’t discuss this more now.

  71. Some of America’s immigrants were gradually integrated, though usually not without problems. Others have not been or have been so gradually they have contributed to many of social problems that this is opposed to. Hispanics lived as Hispanics in the US in the past, they suddenly found themselves not Mexicans but Americans and often still kept to themselves. However their current amounts, widespread geographical locations and interactions are unprecedented as is the lack of pressure to truly integrate. So Hispanics have in the past and certainly will continue to cause more and more problems, not for being Hispanics but for having a distinct culture amidst another culture. The same would be true if white Americans converged on Brazil in great numbers.

  72. It cannot be stressed too many times that for you to be correct so must atomism or at least a radical individualism which sees social associations, culture and society to be largely unimportant and superficial.

  73. @Wessexman

    You indicate there cannot be conflicts in associations. Culture strives for unity. There are, however, always conflicts because there is always change. You state you are part of an Anglo-Saxon-Celtic culture with values and core beliefs. Some of those are not held at the conscious level. But, that culture is changing and so are the core beliefs, with or without immigration, which is probably accelerating the process. That culture held, not so long ago, that the role of women was different. That has changed. That culture held, not so long ago, that homosexuals were deviant. The COE and the culture are now more accepting and are moving towards greater acceptance. Those associations are in conflict, to some extent, with the core beliefs you feel. It sounds like you don’t want change. Wm. Buckley Jr, said that conservatives stand astride the world yelling, “Stop.” The problem is that it doesn’t stop. I never said associations were superficial or unimportant. I also never said there weren’t problems.

  74. Actually I never said there are no conflicts, I said culture aims at unity and cohesion though and hence it is not a good idea to introduce too much conflict. Yes, culture changes but that doesn’t mean we shoyld introduce random, massively conflicting changes. That makes no sense. I mean that is one of the first principles of conservatism; change is inevitable but it should be piecemeal, organic and stress continuity. If you’re going to come to a conservative site then at least learn a bit about conservativism. Anyway I never said that today immigration is the only cause of rash and dangerous social and cultural change, there are many reasons; secularism, gov’t intervention, globalisation and so forth but that doesn’t mean it is a good idea to introduce even more rapid and destablising factors of change and disruption.

    The CoE is falling apart into modernist fallacy and just plain idiocy, that is not a good thing. None of what you quote was done because of any traditional metaphysics, theology, cosmology, symbolism, doctrine or scriptural interpretation. The church is loosing membership both to apostasy and to other churches like Rome, the Orthodox church and other Protestant churchs.

  75. By aiming at unity and cohesion I of course did not mean they were uniform, indeed the term aiming by its very nature suggests continual readjustment of this network of associations. However what you neglect George, and it is key, is that they do aim at unity and cohesion around a value giving image and mythology and the core of this image and mythology stays the same for an extended period. You are certainly true that there are conflicts, both within the spectrum of one image/mythology and between two or more. The former are always occuring, the latter less so although they are very much today and they are very destablising. Certainly they include far more than mass immigration; secularism and irreligion, scientism, individualism and liberalism, anti-traditionalism and the lust for innovation include some of the reasons for destroying the necessary unity, cohesion and values giving vision of a society and culture.

    I don’t know if it is worth it but here is a lengthy exposition of my extrapolation of key conservative ideas on this subject that I posted over at Chronicles in the comments on one of Thomas Flemings articles:

    Thomas Fleming I believe you mentioned you were going to work on a more exhaustive treatment of the idea of religion and culture or something similar?

    May I humbly recommend utilising ideas in the writings of Robert Nisbet and Richard Weaver; two writers you are probably very familiar with. These two writers both seem to me to have important insights into building a case against multiculturalism/a multifaith society and against secularism.

    Robert Nisbet reminds us that the individuals self(at this mundane level.) is significantly formed by his interactions with everyday social associations and society and culture at large. He reminds us that each social association is made up of various roles, functions, ideas, authorities, statues and so on and that the individual interacts with these in many ways, often beyond his full rational understanding, and they help to orient him and indeed partly give meaning, values(both rationally and unconsciously.) and personality to him. These social associations, and the factors just mentioned that make them up, themselves or rather individuals that make them up interact with the other social associations in a society to form a balance and unity both functionally and ideationally.

    Now bearing that in mind if we utilise Richard Weaver’s insights into culture, that is aims at cohesion, that it is based around a unifying, values giving image or mythology, then a powerful argument against a multicultural/multifaith society beings to take shape.

    This is because this culture and its mythology must, according to Nisbet and Weaver, interact with the various social associations, and the factors listed that make them up, in a myriad of ways, many beyond the full rational understanding of the individuals they influence. This is because the culture and mythology by creating a value-giving image around which social associations and society measures itself will orientate these factors, like ideas and authorities, within the social associations towards the standards of this values-belief system.

    Now the fact that these mythologies must themselves be complex enough to play these myriad roles and interactions and the fact that these interactions are often far beyond what is rationally constructed or fully understandable implies that there cannot be multiculturalism or “multifaith-ism” in a healthy society. This is because it is not simply, in this view, the rational precept that we should not steal for instance that helps to instill this virtue in a society(though we shouldn’t downplay the importance of such precepts.) but the way this figures in the mythology of the society and how this mythology interacts with the factors that makes up society in order to reinforce this morality, both rationally and unconsciously.

    Now Islam, though it may share many of the basic moral precepts of Christianity, obviously has a very different mythology and tradition and hence these values will have distinct interactions with social associations and the factors that make them up compared with Christianity.

    This means that in a multicultural state there would be a tear in the society and culture, because though the two(or more.) faiths may share many similar morals, the mythologies with which they transmit these are very different and will replicate, confuse and frustrate in many instances.

    It is rather like trying to build a model train set according to two very similar plans, however one suggests using a OO guage and one an N guage(yes I had to look these up being no expert on models trains, unfortunately!) and one suggests using a DC power system and the AC power system(yes its probably a poor analogy but it is the best I could think of quickly.).

    Or another example would be to use Lord of the Rings and Narnia. Both have similar values and beliefs they are trying to instill but if the lesson to be taught by one set of imagery and rashly and unthinkingly merged with the other then the lessons become harder for all to make out.

    And as Nisbet and particularly Weaver reminds us culture, society and social associations, being the products of human nature are like it aiming at unity and cohesion.

    This argument also implies a lack of merit in secularism. This is because secularism by its very nature posits an artificial, rationalistic, ideological and narrow values and belief system to be the image or mythology providing centre for a culture and society. It seems very unlikely that such an image could be broad, organic or deep enough to fully interact with and orient the myriad factors that make up social associations in a good enough way to keep society, and many individuals, healthy and strong.

    Now this is but an embryo conception with many kinks in it but I do think it has merit in improving the Traditionalist or Conservative enunciation of our views on culture, society and religion.

  76. This is a classic example of “anal-cranial inversion” by Carson Holloway – taking a broad general statement intended to make people feel included and identify common values, and analyzing it to-death in excruciating detail as if it was intended as some type of precise chemical equation.

    Vice President George H. W. Bush told Ferdinand Marcos in 1981: “We love your adherence to democratic principles”. Recall that Marcos was a dictator who jailed and tortured opponents and went on to have his chief election rival assassinated in 1983. Was George H. W. Bush full of “evil” and possessing an aspect of “tyranny and even totalitarianism”? Or was he flattering a US ally for his anti-communist values – the primary concern of US foreign policy for the second half of the 20th century?

    Before you spend another 10 paragraphs of smug hypocrisy and situational criticism painting President Obama as “alien” with an alien notion of our history, reach out to the non-WASP community to learn a little about your own history – including the vast gulf that exists between what’s coming out of the mouths these days of self-labeled “conservatives” and any sort of objective reality.

    Carson: You’ve already had to backtrack on your “facts” as it was pointed out that some slaves forcibly brought to America were Muslim – hit the books harder next time before you attempt to fan the flames of anti-Muslim hatred.

  77. What we should be really telling the muslim world is that their hatred, their violence, their problems are misplaced when directed at us. General Islam has a problem with their own corrupt governments that use their faith to their own political purposes as it has always been, Instead of blowing up American Buildings and claiming that we are the ones responsible maybe they should take some initiative, learn how to read, write and govern correctly, Maybe they should quit invading foreign nations through force, i.e. Cyprus, Bosnia, The entire Anatoli Peninsula was once greek before the ethnic cleansing of the land. Islam has no claims to moral righteousness, nobody does. Unstable religion combined with unstable corrupt government, combined with a massive uneducated population base whom fall on every word of their religious oppressors. A situation that should be neutralized for the sake of the entire world.

  78. The following is a partial list of just Turkish massacres from 1822 up till 1904:

    1822 Chios, Greeks 50,000 [ picture ]
    1823 Missolongi, Greeks 8,750 [ picture ]
    1826 Constantinople, Jannisaries 25,000
    1850 Mosul, Assyrians 10,000
    1860 Lebanon, Maronites 12,000
    1876 Bulgaria, Bulgarians 14,700
    1877 Bayazid, Armenians 1,400
    1879 Alashguerd, Armenians 1,250
    1881 Alexandria, Christians 2,000
    1892 Mosul, Yezidies 3,500
    1894 Sassun, Armenians 12,000
    1895-96 Armenia, Armenians 150,000 [ picture ]
    1896 Constantinople, Armenians 9,570
    1896 Van, Armenians 8,000
    1903-04 Macedonia, Macedonians 14,667
    1904 Sassun, Armenians 5,640
    The tribes of the islam world have historically been the most violent people of the entire world. Extremism comes natural to them because it’s an excuse to follow out the instincts built within them from thousands of years of slaying

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