December 10, 2015

IS ISLAM A “RELIGION”?: Andy McCarthy has an interesting piece discussing whether Islam is merely another religion:

Since we want to both honor religious liberty and preserve the Constitution that enshrines and protects it, we have a dilemma. The assumption that is central to this dilemma — the one that Trump has stumbled on and that Washington refuses to examine — is that Islam is merely a religion. . . . But Islam is no mere religion.

As understood by the mainstream of Muslim-majority countries that are the source of immigration to America and the West, Islam is a comprehensive ideological system that governs all human affairs, from political, economic, and military matters to interpersonal relations and even hygiene. It is beyond dispute that Islam has religious tenets — the oneness of Allah, the belief that Mohammed is the final prophet, the obligation of ritual prayer. Yet these make up only a fraction of what is overwhelmingly a political ideology.

Our constitutional principle of religious liberty is derived from the Western concept that the spiritual realm should be separate from civic and political life. The concept flows from the New Testament injunction to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.

Crucially, the interpretation of Islam that is mainstream in most Muslim-majority countries does not accept a division between mosque and state. . . .

The lack of separation between spiritual and civic life is not the only problem with Islam. Sharia is counter-constitutional in its most basic elements — beginning with the elementary belief that people do not have a right to govern themselves freely. Islam, instead, requires adherence to sharia and rejection of all law that contradicts it. So we start with fundamental incompatibility, before we ever get to other aspects of sharia: its systematic discrimination against non-Muslims and women; its denial of religious liberty, free speech, economic freedom, privacy rights, due process, and protection from cruel and unusual punishments; and its endorsement of violent jihad in furtherance of protecting and expanding the territory it governs.

Let’s bear in mind that permitting immigration is a discretionary national act. There is no right to immigrate to the United States, and the United States has no obligation to accept immigrants from any country, including Muslim-majority countries. We could lawfully cut off all immigration, period, if we wanted to. Plus, it has always been a basic tenet of legal immigration to promote fidelity to the Constitution and assimilation into American society — principles to which classical sharia is antithetical. . . .

[M]any Muslims accept our constitutional principles and do not seek to impose sharia on our society. They have varying rationales for taking this position: Some believe sharia mandates that immigrants accept their host country’s laws; some believe sharia’s troublesome elements are confined to the historical time and place where they arose and are no longer applicable; some think sharia can evolve; some simply ignore sharia altogether but deem themselves devout Muslims because they remain Islamic spiritually and — within the strictures of American law — culturally.

For those Muslims, Islam is, in effect, merely a religion, and as such it deserves our Constitution’s protections.

For other Muslims, however, Islam is a political program with a religious veneer. It does not merit the liberty protections our law accords to religion. It undermines our Constitution and threatens our security. Its anti-assimilationist dictates create a breeding ground for violent jihad.

If we continue mindlessly treating Islam as if it were merely a religion, if we continue ignoring the salient differences between constitutional and sharia principles — thoughtlessly assuming these antithetical systems are compatible — we will never have a sensible immigration policy.

Exactly. How to distinguish between the “religious” and “political” Muslims is the question. But the complexity of this question shouldn’t stop our elected representatives from beginning the important task of devising policies designed to answer it.

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