Muslim Crow Laws

New web ad by the progressive Agenda Project slamming opponents of the Park 51 Islamic community center

As Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. said: Hate begets hate. And I would add, develops its own momentum, escalating into the kind of violence cited briefly in the ad and detailed in this NY Times article titled Rider Asks if Cabby Is Muslim, Then Stabs Him:

Ahmed H. Sharif, a taxi driver, was stabbed by a passenger on Tuesday. He said his attacker asked him if he was Muslim…

He withdrew a Leatherman knife, Mr. Sharif said, and, reaching through the opening in the plastic divider, slashed Mr. Sharif’s throat. When Mr. Sharif turned, he said, Mr. Enright stabbed him in his face, on his arm and on his thumbs.

Mr. Sharif said he told him: “I beg of you, don’t kill me. I worked so hard, I have a family.” …

Mr. Sharif received more than two dozen stitches at Bellevue Hospital Center and was released. Mr. (Michael) Enright was given a psychiatric evaluation there.

The Manhattan district attorney charged Mr. Enright with second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime, first-degree assault as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon. He was arraigned on Wednesday in Manhattan Criminal Court, appearing in cargo shorts and a polo shirt, and ordered held without bail. If convicted of the top charge, he would face up to 25 years in prison.

Wouldn’t be the first time, as the assassination of Dr. George Tiller following agitator Bully O’Reilly’s constant designation as him “Baby Killer Tiller” indicates. Or the killing of two  parishioners at a Tennessee Unitarian Universalist Church by Jim Adkisso– because they were “liberals.”   Among spent shotgun shells and brass knuckles found in Adkisson’s house were the books: Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder by  Michael Savage; Let Freedom Ring by Sean Hannity, and Bill-O’s The O’Reilly Factor.

Prof. Cole, in his excellent diary What would Martin Luther King Say? Mosques and the New Jim Crow in America, begins by citing the First Amendment–“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” — and then contextualizes it as follows:

We could translate the Clause: “The US Congress is forbidden from trying to make one religion more special than another, and from stopping people from worshiping as they please.”

Cole proceeds to explain the historical similarities of the arguments being used against the center to the Jim Crow laws enacted between 1876 and 1965:

The demonstrators want to get around the Constitution by creating a sacred geography of sentiment that is outside ordinary legal reality. It consists of a space of white American Judeo-Christian victimhood and of another realm, of a brown, foreign, hostile Islam that must be excluded from lower Manhattan (never mind that these characterizations of American Muslims are pure falsehood). It is an attempt to create a space within which one religious tradition is favored over another, and an attempt to deny members of a religion the opportunity to practice it wherever they like. They grant the technical ‘right’ to the Muslims to worship there, but then seek to withdraw that right on the ground of hurt feelings or inappropriate geography. We saw this sort of thinking in the Jim Crow era, when African Americans, though full American citizens, were prevented from living, shopping, working, and inevitably from worshiping, in certain geographical areas, on the grounds that their doing so would offend and hurt the feelings of the White majority…

On the issue of racism, Cole allows that not all its opponents (like Howard Dean and Harry Reid) are racists, but that’s not the end of inquiry:

Those who say that not everyone who opposes the Cordoba community center is a racist may be right, but everyone who opposes it is supporting a practice that has in the American past been deeply connected to racism, which is the dictation to minorities of where they may live and worship within American cities. Just as today’s protesters said that they don’t challenge the right of Muslims to build mosques and worship, “just not here,” so the ‘protective councils’ in early twentieth century Los Angeles said exactly the same thing to Jews about their synagogues and Japanese Buddhists about their temples. Moreover, the fact is that the building of mosques is being widely opposed and interfered with throughout the country and not just in lower Manhattan. This generalized bigotry is clearly racist, and looks exactly like the prejudice implemented against other minorities in the age of ‘separate but equal.’

Just as the rights of African-Americans were recognized under Jim Crow, but it was simply insisted that they practice their rights somewhere else than in white department stores and build their churches somewhere else than in white bastions, so too in today’s America Muslims’ requests to local councils for permission to build a mosque is too often being denied on grounds that all Muslims are dangerous (just as it was thought by many whites in the early twentieth century that all African-Americans, all Jews, etc., were dangerous in one way or another).

And just how far from Ground Zero is far enough? Not even 18,000 blocks, as explained here by The Daily Show‘s Aasif Mandvi:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Tennessee No Evil
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Hollowed grounds and sacred spaces aside, there’s the issue of time, and of course, feelings. Cole again:

As for those who counsel the Park 51 Muslims that now is not the time, that Manhattan is not the place, that they should not hurt feelings, they are taking exactly the same line as the clergymen who wrote Martin Luther King to urge him to desist from his direct action campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, as a result of which he had been jailed. King wrote in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” . He says that they called his campaign “unwise and untimely,” characterized it as “outsiders coming in,” and asserted that negotiations would be better than direct action. They implicitly accused him of impatience, of rocking the boat, of hurting the feelings of white folk who were not ready for his message.

King replied, in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:

‘We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant ‘Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I admit it’s been awhile since I read the whole US Constitution, but I seem to remember a lot about rights and nothing about feelings. While I am sympathetic to the argument that sensitivity to the feelings of others is always worth considering in matters such as these, they can’t be considered dispositive to fundamental constitutional principles.  One of the main arguments opponents mount against the Park 51/Cordoba House project is that polls show the American people are overwhelmingly opposed. But that’s precisely why we have a constitution– to protect against the tyranny of the passing whims of the majority. Majority rule is  two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner.

Like King said, “Wait” is most often translated as “Never.  Cole concludes:

Muslim Americans are Americans. There can be no government Establishment of Judeo-Christian traditions, and no prohibition on how and where Muslim Americans worship. We are seeing attempts to foment a new Jim Crow, centered on mosques, which involves all the same fear-mongering, segregation, and special pleading for the majority that characterized the old one. It is important that this campaign against a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan not succeed, or it will be only the first in a long series of discriminatory policies throughout the country, as opportunistic politicians jump on the Islamophobic bandwagon. Those who believe that giving the Lazios and Palins and Gingriches this one will deflate the tension are misreading the historical moment. These are ravenous beasts, and giving them red meat will only send them into a greater frenzy, not satiate them. Asking people to give up their rights for too long will undermine those rights, just as justice too long delayed is justice denied.

Finally, Tweety‘s takedown of asshat Rick Lazio, currently running for governor of New York, is worth watching as he nails him for pulling a Breitbart video editing hack against the center’s main promoter, Imam Rauf. Time to nip this demonization and hate crap in the bud lest we, by default, replace Jim Crow with its emerging Muslim variant.

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The great international, interracial faiths are the Hebraic, Buddhist, Christian, and Islamic…

The strength of Islam has been its clear-cut and well-defined presentation of Allah as the one and only Deity; its weakness, the association of military force with its promulgation, together with its degradation of woman. But it has steadfastly held to its presentation of the One Universal Deity of all, “who knows the invisible and the visible. He is the merciful and the compassionate.” “Truly God is plenteous in goodness to all men.” “And when I am sick, it is he who heals me.” “For whenever as many as three speak together, God is present as a fourth,” for is he not “the first and the last, also the seen and the hidden”?

-The Urantia Book

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