Alex Massie

If We Kill America, We Can Save It

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Sensible opponents of the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" have been careful to argue that it's not the idea of the mosque per se that offends them but the sensitivity of it's location. Not everyone bothers with that distinction:

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Republican candidates have denounced plans for a large Muslim center proposed near a subdivision, and hundreds of protesters have turned out for a march and a county meeting.

In late June, in Temecula, Calif., members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby.

In Sheboygan, Wis., a few Christian ministers led a noisy fight against a Muslim group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health food store bought by a Muslim doctor.

At one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise — the same reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the gloves are off.

In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself. They quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law.

Priceless quotation:

“As a mother and a grandmother, I worry,” Ms. Serafin said. “I learned that in 20 years with the rate of the birth population, we will be overtaken by Islam, and their goal is to get people in Congress and the Supreme Court to see that Shariah is implemented. My children and grandchildren will have to live under that.”

“I do believe everybody has a right to freedom of religion,” she said. “But Islam is not about a religion. It’s a political government, and it’s 100 percent against our Constitution.”

Granted, this is a "trend story" and hence subject to all the qualifications that come with that status. Nevertheless, this is the sort of stuff - minority opinions to be sure - that gives encouragement to those who really do with to see or foment a full-blown clash of civilisations. Pandering to the sentiments of the mob - thank you Mr Gingrich and Mr Giuliani - is not only revolting but also dangerous.

Again, the most significant battle is between radical and moderate Islam and our actions are relevent mainly to the extent in which they shift muslims from one camp to the other. Most of the time there's no bargaining with or placating the Wahhabists which is why their view of something like the GZM doesn't actually matter. Even if they were to consider it a great propaganda and pyschological coup, what of it? Their minds - being made-up - don't amount to much more than a hill of beans. Much more important is the impact on ordinary muslims if a nativist backlash forces the GZM out of business. Those are the minds that count. In the end, all sides in this struggle are engaged on long-term recruitment drives. That's something that needs to be remembered when we consider these issues. That's not a call for "capitulation" or "appeasement" merely for a measure of tact, common-sense and fairness.

In the end, however, if mosques can't be built in America (and of course we've not reached anything like that point) then in some pretty fundamental sense the United States will have ceased to be the United States. At the very least it will have abandoned one of its greatest claims to distinction.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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