Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Is Islam just a Religion?

I do not take Donald Trump seriously, and have not since he entered the race.  Despite his consistent lead in the polls, I stand by what I wrote months ago :

Donald Trump is the Howard Stern of politics.  He’s a shock jock in a field of politicians who sound like boring newsreaders in comparison.  He opens his mouth and out comes ego, shameless self-promotion, outrageousness, braggadocio, and downright meanness towards his detractors.  But there are other things too which endear him to his audience.   He’s fearless, confident, unapologetic, and says things no one else has the cojones to say.   And he's entertaining.  In other words, he’s exactly like Howard Stern.  His fans are the same too.  Listen to them talk and you'll find yourself expecting them to blurt out “Baba Booey!” any second.  
Donald Trump is a serious candidate for President the same way Howard Stern was a serious candidate when he ran for Governor of New York in 1994.  Stern didn’t win.  Neither will Trump. 
That said, Trump does create opportunities for serious discussion as he has most recently with his seemingly extreme position on a pause in Muslims being allowed into the country.  The reason this is so controversial is that we have two definitions for Islam in the West.

If you deplore Trump's proposal, chances are you think of Islam as just another religion.  Every other religion in the world has its fanatics and orthodox observants.  Islam is no different.  Singling out a religion on any level seemingly violates the principles on which we were founded.

However, if you believe Trump's proposal deserves a fair hearing, chances are you think of Islam, particularly the Salafist variety, as a treasonous and murderous political movement inseparable from a religion.   Our constitution specifically defines treason as a crime and grants the legislature the power to deal with it accordingly.

In other words, everything hinges on one's knowledge of Islam and whether it is seen as just a religion, or as a treasonous political movement.  Neither side is crazy.  Neither side is being un-American. Neither side is morally inferior.  It is a disconnect based on different understandings of Islam.  A majority, including many Republicans from Dick Cheney to Paul Ryan, apparently define Islam as just a religion.  A minority believe that's naive.

I wonder how those whacky nut-jobs Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would see it given the recent power of Islam to project its power within our borders?

(Hat tip to The Wall Street Journal for today's "Notable & Quotable" column which featured the above Adams and Jefferson quote.)


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