Religious Freedom and a Mosque

When was the last time you remember a Buddhist make a demand of any kind?

One of the most common arguments of the supporters of the Ground Zero mosque includes religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Religion is seen as the framework to support building a mosque and community center near the site of the former World Trade Towers. Is this really about religion? Step back and look at the controversy. Do you feel like you are taking part in a religious exercise or a political fracas?

There is a vast confusion about what a religion is and is not. Currently the operative rule is that anything associated with Islam is a religious affair where all of the freedom of religion is applied to the action or event. Islam’s actions are religious and if you oppose it, you are an un-American bigot.

It is time to stop and take a look at what we mean by a religion. There are about as many Buddhists in America today as there are Muslims. When was the last time you remember a Buddhist demand of any kind? Do Buddhists set up councils to shape the textbooks and demand Buddhist finance? Does the government make a big announcement when Buddhists are appointed to high posts? Are there even any Buddhists in any White House appointments? Do Buddhists complain? Never, for these are political actions, and Buddhism has almost no political outreach. Buddhism in America is purely religious, not political at all.

Yet the media and the Internet are consumed by talk and argument about Islam. The discussion is never about how many rounds of prayer to do or whether a certain food is halal (religiously proper). No, the focus is always on something that non-Muslims are to do to accommodate an Islamic religious practice.

There is a practical working definition of religion as compared to politics. Religious practices are done by those who follow that religion and are motivated for achieving paradise and avoiding hell. Outsiders are not involved in those religious acts. If it is about going to heaven and avoiding hell, then it is religious. However, if the religion makes a demand on those outside of its own group, then that demand is political.

Most people think that the Koran is a religious text. Instead, 64% of the text (by word count) is about non-Muslims, who are called Kafirs. The Koran is fixated on Kafirs and makes many demands on them. Not the least is that Kafirs submit to the rule of Islamic Sharia law. Ultimately Sharia law is the pure expression of Islamic politics and it completely contradicts our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Under Sharia there is no freedom of speech, wives may be beaten and apostates murdered.

Mohammed had little success with Islam until he transformed it into a political system. He preached the religion of Islam in Mecca for 13 years and made about 150 converts. He left Meccan and moved to Medina. In Medina he turned to politics and jihad. In the last 9 years of his life, Mohammed was involved in an event of violence on the average of every 6 weeks. The political method persuaded every Arab to convert to Islam. The religion did not succeed; it was politics that made Islam powerful.

Some actions are purely political or religious. Applying building codes to a mosque building is political and praying in a mosque is religious. The problem comes when both religion and politics are involved. A spectacular example is the jihad attack on September 11, 2001. It was a political action with a religious motivation.

Building a mosque in New York is a religious act, but deciding to place it at Ground Zero is political. The religious function could be accomplished at many other places. The political function is uniquely served at Ground Zero.

Islam has a 1400-year history of building mosques. The first mosque built by Mohammed was built on a Kafir graveyard in Medina. The bodies were removed and dumped. In India Islam has built thousands of mosques on Hindu temple sites. The mosque in Damascus was built on the site of a cathedral. Was it just random luck that directed the location of these mosques? No, these were political decisions about political dominance.

What is odd is that only non-Muslim Kafirs think that Islam is only a religion. Any Muslim will tell you that Islam is a complete way of life—political, religious and cultural. All of this is made exceedingly clear by Sharia law.

If a demand by Muslims makes Kafirs have to change to accommodate it, then it is a political demand by a religious group. A political demand requires a political response. Instead we get an insistence that Islam’s demands are “religious” and must be given the free pass.

Religious Islam is no problem for any non-Muslim, but Political Islam is a problem for everybody. We cannot solve the problems of Political Islam and Sharia law by insisting that they do not exist and that everything about Islam is religious. Grant any and all of the religious freedoms of this nation to the religion of Islam, but we must not grant a single inch to the demands of Political Islam.

Bill Warner, Director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam. He can be reached at


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