Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Ron Paul is Wrong on Mosque

Ron Paul wrote this editorial related to the NYC mosque in which he essentially accuses those who oppose the mosque to be guilty of "demagoguery" and "Islamaphobia" arguing that the demonization of Islam is all part of an effort to justify unconstitutional and unnecessary wars in the Middle East. Paul states:

There is no doubt that a small portion of radical, angry Islamists do want to kill us but the question remains, what exactly motivates this hatred?

If Islam is further discredited by making the building of the mosque the issue, then the false justification for our wars in the Middle East will continue to be acceptable.

The justification to ban the mosque is no more rational than banning a soccer field in the same place because all the suicide bombers loved to play soccer.[emphasis mine]

Furthermore, he takes conservatives to task for allegedly not recognizing the important First Amendment implications:

The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque.
While I agree that the self-sacrificial neo-conservative effort to "nation build" in the Middle East is completely wrong, particularly the war in Iraq, I hold that Paul's more fundamental argument related to Islam as a religion is flawed and further, I believe this issue points to the crucial need for thinking in principle underscoring the important difference between libertarianism and a systematic philosophical defense of individual rights.

In my previous two posts, Is Islam a Religion? Part I and Part II, I attempted to refute the essence of the argument implied by Paul. In summary, I argued that since Islam urges its supporters to commit acts of violence and indeed has become a violent political and military force that has declared war on the West, it should not be construed as a "religion" in the Constitutional sense, i.e., a body of abstract ideas. In the context of war, those who sympathize or aid and abet the enemy commit an act of violence just as someone who urges another to beat or kill someone commits an act of violence even if he is not the one actually giving the beating. Such a state is analogous to how we should have treated Nazi's during World War II if they were to organize or recruit in the United States. All Muslims are not evil murderers just as all Nazi's and all Communists were not evil murderers, however, in the context of war, this kind of allegiance should be grounds for legal scrutiny based on the objective establishment of a group, nation, or networks' actions and professed intentions.


While one could debate the particulars related to the legal and practical application of the above principles, it is clear that this is the debate that should be taking place. For Paul to argue that Islam is only incidental to the 9/11 terrorist attacks or any of the various terrorist attacks against Western targets over the years or as incidental as their preference for "soccer," is a massive evasion. It is on exactly such grounds that anti "profilers" tells us that 90 year old grandma's are just as likely to be terrorists as young Muslim males leaving a madrassa run by the Taliban.

But why does Paul make such an error? Fundamentally, I believe it has to do with not grounding the concept of liberty in a more fundamental philosophic framework. To the libertarian politician, "liberty" is the fundamental concept by which all policy applications are evaluated. However, without a more fundamental basis, this concept becomes an out of context abstraction and it can not be properly applied except in the most trivial circumstances.

For example, objectively identifying threats and understanding what constitutes an act of coercion is essential to actual liberty, that is, the proper application of the principle of individual rights. If someone is walking around with a bomb and a bag of cash from the Iranian government, chanting "Death to America", could Paul not bring himself to usurp this man's "liberty" until he actually explodes the bomb? At what point should an organization be considered a criminal organization? At what point should another country be considered an objective threat? At what point should we declare war? Do they have to be in Manhattan harbor shooting at us before we take action? Of course, this is not a simple question and does involve a lot of legal philosophy, context, and evidence, but it should at least be clear that we should be debating these kinds of legal standards.

For Paul to simply dismiss these issues as "demagoguery" or a form of racism is not only wrong - it is suicidal.

6 comments:

Shane Atwell said...

he also thinks Gaza should be 'free', i.e. he supports Hamas, so no surprise he's for the GZM.

Mo said...

this brings me to another point about libertarians and something I am a bit confused about myself:

some libertarians would support the restrictions placed by US government on the sales of high tech equipments to countries like Iran, North Korea and so called rogue states? IBM had been forbidden in the past from selling super-computers and advanced technologies to states that the US government view as a threat to US interests or world peace. But shouldn't companies be free to do what they like? They should be allowed to sell their technologies to whoever they want to sell to? My point here is that some libertarians would support the US government banning & placing restrictions on the sales high tech equipments to rogue states and at the same time bitching about the government should not interfere in the market.


take another example, what happens if someone finds some uranium/plutonium mineral source in his/her property? I am sure someone would want to sell it to the Iranians? But I bet that some libertarians would feel uncomfortable with such poor person in South Auckland doing that. Those same Libz would have no problem with the government stepping in to ban such person selling his uranium/plutonium to the Iranians, and this is the position that I would take, i.e., the government ban such person for doing so. But libertarians who support such government ban would be contradicting their principles? Where is the freedom of that citizen who owns the plutonium to do what he wishes?

too many contradictions within that movement

Burgess Laughlin said...

Here is a confession of mysticism and statement of God-based political principles by Ron Paul:

http://www.covenantnews.com/ronpaul070721.htm

That confession and statement sets the context for his support of the GZM.

Doug Reich said...

@Mo,

I do not understand your argument. Banning companies or individuals from selling technology to rogue states is a legitimate use of government power for the reasons I stated in the posts. This is not a contradiction, but a proper application of government's role in protecting rights, by defending us from objective threats and preventing anyone from aiding and abetting the enemy.

Libertarians, for the most part, would not allow government to ban sales of private property on the grounds that this would constitute a violation of "liberty" or whatever. I hold the liberatarians are wrong in this case.

Forgive me if I misinterpreted your comment.

Anonymous said...

"someone who urges another to beat or kill someone commits an act of violence even if he is not the one actually giving the beating. "

I disagree, that implies that people have no free will. Isn't Objective ethics all about initiation of force? the person urging the violence has not harmed anyone himself. Only the people involved in the planning, funding or initiation of violence can be held accountable. Suppose i called a man's wife a trollop, so he punches me. He is clearly the one criminal in that situation, even though it was my incitement that caused the violence.

Doug Reich said...

Anon,

You raise an interesting point.

You said: "the person urging the violence has not harmed anyone himself. Only the people involved in the planning, funding or initiation of violence can be held accountable."

You seem to be saying that if you "plan", "fund" or "initiate" violence you are culpable but if you "urge" violence you are not? But, what is the context?

I said: "In the context of war, those who sympathize or aid and abet the enemy commit an act of violence just as someone who urges another to beat or kill someone commits an act of violence even if he is not the one actually giving the beating."

You then use the following example:
"Suppose i called a man's wife a trollop, so he punches me. He is clearly the one criminal in that situation, even though it was my incitement that caused the violence."

Someone insulting another is not grounds for physical assault, and I never said it was.

However, if someone incites a mob or another to kill someone, that person is culpable to some extent (the details would need scrutiny to determine extent). I would argue, not as much as the one who actually killed but they bear some responsibility. Similarly, if someone plans or pays another to kill someone, they are culpable even if they do not themself "pull the trigger."

This does not contradict the concept of freewill. The classic example of yelling "fire" in a crowded theater where people get killed in a panic is appropriate. Speaking or conveying an idea in a certain context IS an action even if people have volition and can choose what to do with that information.

The context is key.

If you write a paper generally claiming someone should overthrow the government because it is unjust, that is not sufficient grounds for committing a crime. However, if you are funded by a hostile foreign government that has committed acts of war against the U.S. and has specifically declared war on the U.S., such a proclamation would serve as grounds for an investigation and charges of treason. Your words are an action that is part of an effort to initiate force against the U.S.

My post is asserting that the context to evaluate the mosque is war - a war planned, funded, and executed by Islamic theocracies around the world against the west, in which the ideology of Islam is the driving force.