Flavors of intolerance 

The Tea Party's leadership claims to stand for American liberty, but they betray it when they spread hatred against Muslims. Such hatred is an ugly form of collectivism, much like racism or anti-Semitism, and it has no place in a movement that supposedly values freedom for all.

Consider the blog of the Tea Party Patriots, where it is claimed:

[T]he Qur'an teaches 'believers' (muslims) [sic] to lie to 'infidels' (you) about their inner thoughts when they are outnumbered....which they are, in the US. So any 'peace loving' friends who were 'just as appalled' as you at 9/11 events.....are either bad Muslims or lying to you.

The reality is that groups do not act. Individuals do. Let's look at the above from an individualist perspective.

The teachings of some Islamic authorities (but not the Qur'an, to my knowledge) have indeed said that lying during wartime is permitted. Let's put aside the fact that you'd be hard pressed to find a general who thought otherwise. The opinions found in some Islamic sources say absolutely nothing one way or the other about your individual Muslim friends.

Your friends might well be speaking the truth -- or maybe they're not. You have to judge for yourself, just like with all other people. Muslims aren't zombies mindlessly taking their orders from the nearest evil-aligned cleric. They are perfectly ordinary human individuals.

As I said, some Muslims have taught that strategic lying to outsiders is allowed. So have some Catholics, some Jews, some whites, some Protestants, some Americans, some women, some people over 20, and -- probably a safe bet -- some members of Congress. You can find a member of almost any group to plump for strategic lying. And then you can draw your shoddy generalizations.

The technique is called guilt by association, and it's been a common tool in the repression of Catholics, Jews, and others throughout history, as Jim Henley rightly notes. You'd think we'd have learned by now.

Such a technique, and other collectivist mental habits, would be no more than shoddy reasoning -- if it weren't for the fact that they're starting to affect public policy. Thus plans for a community center and mosque in lower Manhattan, near the former site of the World Trade Center, have met with strong -- if incoherent -- opposition. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani said of the victims of September 11, "I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that." The world won't end, sure, but that's setting the bar a bit low, even for a politician. Politicians have been saying fatuous things since the beginning of recorded time, and the world hasn't shown the slightest signs of ending.

Undaunted by the long odds, Giuliani continued, "And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are." It will probably be news to these Muslims that their particular mosque has to be opposed as a hotbed of terrorism. If it is, then why muck around with building permits? Why not ship them all off to Gitmo? The answer is that this is not a serious charge. It's mere guilt by association.

Meanwhile, former Representative Newt Gingrich has proposed that our freedom should be held hostage by the tyranny in Saudi Arabia: " There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." Which is to say that we need to sink down to the level of the worst, most intolerant form of Islam. Freedom, it seems, is slavery.

Private property and individual liberty go hand in hand, and to really rein in freedom, you're going to have to attack property rights. The mosque fight is no exception – those who want to kill the planned development are now reaching for eminent domain, which conservatives had rightly deplored until now. This is how collectivist thinking compromises us from within.

Denying peaceful Muslims their religious freedom is a betrayal of what makes us great. It says to the world that we're scared and petty. It says that freedom can't win, not even here. It's tantamount to surrender. And it's all the evidence our enemies need to call us hypocrites.

America can't succeed as just another flavor of intolerance. American values are universal values not because they are the very best at crushing dissent, but because they allow all people of good will to live and let live. That's also our challenge today.

About The Author

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute. He received his Ph.D. in history from Johns Hopkins University in 2005.
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