Monday, July 18, 2011

Herman Cain Said What About Islam?

As Americans are getting ready for the 4-yearly power pageant (AKA Presidential Elections), the entire world gets an entertaining several months as Americans put on the ultimate reality show – primaries.

Even though I am not an American and don’t get a vote, I love following US politics and always have candidates that I’m rooting for, much like many Israelis root for various English soccer teams.

One of the GOP candidates who initially impressed me but may have just lost my support is Herman Cain. In the early debates he struck me as about the only rational speaker, however his approach to religious freedom seems to be seriously misguided with reports that he said that communities 'Have the Right' to Ban Mosques.

Cain was quotes as saying:

"Let's go back to the fundamental issue that the people are basically saying that they are objecting to, … They are objecting to the fact that Islam is both religion and (a) set of laws, Shariah law. That's the difference between any one of our other traditional religions where it's just about religious purposes.

I’m not sure what Cain defines as “traditional religions”, but I can think of at least one other established religion widely practiced in the US which defines itself as “both a religion and a set of laws”.

Hint – the religion is widely practiced in Israel, and the set of laws is not called Shariah, rather it’s Halacha.

The US is correctly concerned about Islamic extremism, but if a GOP candidate defines the all aspects of Islam unacceptable to the point that he feels that mosques could be banned anywhere, than as a religious Jew, I am very concerned about the direction the world’s uni-power is headed.

I hope that Cain issues a clarification. In the mean time, I’m headed back to the list of GOP candidates to see if there is anyone else worth rooting for.

6 comments:

Garnel Ironheart said...

> I can think of at least one other established religion widely practiced in the US which defines itself as “both a religion and a set of laws”.

The essential difference between Judaism and Islam is what each expects of "non-believers". For us it's simple: keep the 7 Noahide laws as best as you can and leave us alone. That's probably why Cain is not aware of the expectations Torah Judaism has for its followers.

For example, when Jews lobby to remove X-mas trees from public places they don't demand a menorah replace it.

Islam is different. Under shariah it really believes that infidels are inferior and that Muslims have a duty to convert non-Islamic territory into part of the "Ummah". Now, in most cases in the US this is impossible and therefore ignored but sometimes it rears its ugly head. I recall a teacher friend telling me years ago that the public school he taught in granted the Muslim students use of a spare room for prayer at specific times of the day. Other students who had been using that room for studying were subsequently barred by the Muslim students since the room was now a mosque! Outside Toronto a few years ago the Hindu and Muslim communities got into a fight when a mosque wanted to prevent a temple from being built nearby.

Heck, look at the Parisian suburbs where the Muslims are the vast majority and how they're doing.

Americans are religious but don't want to see it being shoved down their throat. The impression many of them have about Islam is that it very much wants to shove itself down people's throats. Perhaps that's the reason for his position.

Michael Sedley said...

Garnel,

It's true that there are differences between Judaism and Islam regarding how we treat non-belivers.

But if Cain's objection to the Mosque is based on the assumption that they will try to shove their religion down other people's throat, I can think of other religions that also fall into that category (just about every religion except for Judaism).

If there is a specific problem with a specific mosque e.g., incitement to violence, I have no objection to closing down or monitoring the mosque (or church, or school, or shul, or any other institution) - however Cain's quote seems to be that he has a problem with ALL mosques - that's a serious threat to freedom of religion.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

> I can think of other religions that also fall into that category (just about every religion except for Judaism).

No, given the chance even Judaism will try to shove itself down your throat. Remember the segregated buses?

Yes, Cain is guilty of not differentiating and his comments are unconstitutional. However, one can also see the frustration that lead to his comments. You have prominent Islamists around the world talking about jihad and forcible spreading of their faith, and then suddenly someone wants to build a mosque next door. A less-than-sophisticated person would simply assume the two are connected.

Dick Stanley said...

Cain's comments are not unconstitutional, whatever that means. His reasoning may be faulty but he has the right to say pretty much whatever he wants, and he's correct on local American laws. Religion is not sacrosanct, insofar as that means that any religious group can erect a place of worship wherever they want. Any community can deny a building permit to any group for any reason. Since mosques usually come with loudspeakers activated several times a day to call the faithful to prayer, disturbance of the peace would be excellent grounds. The group, of course, may fight the community in court and may even win. Or it might decide to move on and try somewhere else.

Michael Sedley said...

Cain's comments are certainly not unconstitutional, but as Garnel said, reflect that attitude of someone who is "less-than-sophisticated"; not a weel thought-out position that we would like to see from a US presidential candidate.

If the mosque includes loudspeakers (and not all mosques do), it would certainly be reasonable for the local community to get guarantees that there won't be excessive noise or a disturbance of the peace, just as they would do if a youth-club or party hall was opening in the area.

But to say that a mosque shouldn't be welcome because you disagree with their religious beliefs is not the type of statement I want to hear from a presidential candidate.

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

> I’m headed back to the list of GOP candidates to see if there is anyone else worth rooting for.

The problem is that there is no inspiring Reaganesque candidate on the Republican side. The GOP swept the 2010 elections with a tide of anti-Obama sentiment and nothing much else. That won't be enough to win the White House.