Swearing on the Qur’an
And the Nut on Miami
Florida Governor Jeb Bush called Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo “a nut” for comparing Miami to a “third world” country. Cuban-Americans and other minorities who vote Republican in the fond hope that the American Right will accept them should reconsider. The American Right is about exclusion and hierarchy, not about the acceptance of diversity.
Tancredo is such a Scrooge that he actually voted against aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. And, he threatened to nuke Mecca.
Yup, I’d say that’s pretty nutty.
The real question is, just how many nuts are there in Congress? At least one more.
Republican Representative Virgil Goode of Virginia wrote his constituents,
“The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran . . .”
The purpose of statements like that of Goode is to mark Muslim Americans as permanent outsiders and to rally bigotted Christians. (Just as the purpose of Tancredo’s remarks is to do the same thing to Latinos). The technique is a fascist technique, of spreading hatred and demanding the ‘purification’ of the body public as a way of whipping up fervor in a constituency. It is shameful, but more, it is very, very dangerous. The United States of America depends for its survival on tolerance of diversity. Bigotry can easily tear it apart.
Islamophobia or Anti-Muslimism is now among the more pressing social pathologies infecting the US. If it becomes established and acceptable, then lots of other forms of bigotry will also grow in virulence. There could end up being blood in the streets.
Goode is first of all confused. The issue of freedom of religion for American Muslims has nothing to do with immigration. Congressman Keith Ellison is not an immigrant– his family has been here since the 1700s, perhaps longer than Goode’s. Tancredo’s remarks on Miami are even nuttier if one realizes that Florida was Spanish for centuries before any Anglos settled there in numbers. It is the “whites” who are “immigrants” in Florida.
Goode’s position is not only un-American and bigotted, but it is also actually unconstitutional.
A reader points out, “Virgil Goode should also consider, from the last paragraph of Article VI of the Constitution of the United States: ‘…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.’”
Moreover, the First Amendment of the US Constitution (which perhaps Goode doesn’t like very much?) says,
‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’
This amendment forbids Goode and other congressmen from formally supporting one religion or sect over another. The “establishment” of religion in the 18th century meant that the state backed it, collected money from citizens for it, and used police to enforce its beliefs and rituals (Virginia jailed Quakers for refusing baptism).
But the amendment not only forbids the government from supporting a particular religion, it also guarantees that Americans can freely practice any religion they wish. The government cannot “prohibit” the “free exercise” of any religion in the US, including Islam.
If Goode sponsored a bill to limit immigration for the express purpose of excluding Muslim immigrants or preventing the free exercise of Islam, the bill would be unconstitutional.
Nor would the framers of the constitution have agreed with his attitude.
George Washington asked in a March 24, 1784, letter to his aide Tench Tilghman that some craftsmen be hired for him: “If they are good workmen, they may be of Assia, [sic] Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans, [Muslims] Jews, or Christian of any Sect – or they may be Atheists …”
Ben Franklin, the founding father of many important institutions in Philadelphia, a key diplomat and a framer of the US Constitution, wrote in his Autobiography concerning a non-denominational place of public preaching he helped found “so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.” Here is the whole quote:
‘And it being found inconvenient to assemble in the open air, subject to its inclemencies, the building of a house to meet in was no sooner propos’d, and persons appointed to receive contributions, but sufficient sums were soon receiv’d to procure the ground and erect the building, which was one hundred feet long and seventy broad, about the size of Westminster Hall; and the work was carried on with such spirit as to be finished in a much shorter time than could have been expected. Both house and ground were vested in trustees, expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say something to the people at Philadelphia; the design in building not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general; so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service. ‘
Somehow I don’t think one Virgil Goode is likely to go down in history as good enough to shine Ben Franklin’s shoes.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in his 1777 Draft of a
Bill for Religious Freedom:
‘ that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right . . . ‘
As I observed on another occasion, it was Jefferson’s more bigotted opponents in the Virginia legislature who brought up the specter of Muslims and atheists being elected to it in the world Jefferson was trying to create. He was undeterred by such considerations, which should tell us something.
I also once pointed out that John Locke had already advocated civil rights for non-Christians in his Letter on Toleration:
‘ Thus if solemn assemblies, observations of festivals, public worship be permitted to any one sort of professors [believers], all these things ought to be permitted to the Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, Arminians, Quakers, and others, with the same liberty. Nay, if we may openly speak the truth, and as becomes one man to another, neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion. The Gospel commands no such thing. ‘
Here is Jefferson again: “The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.”
– Thomas Jefferson, note in Destutt de Tracy, “Political Economy,” 1816.
Or: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
– Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82
The US Senate, full of founding fathers, and the Adams government, approved the Treaty with Tripoli (now Libya) of 1797, which included this language:
“As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
The treaty is important for showing the mindset of the fashioners of the American system.
So Virgil Goode should consider emigrating himself, to someplace where his sort of views might be welcome. They certainly aren’t in the United States of America. And they never have been part of this country’s values and principles.