By QMC, USN (Ret)
I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.
Don Vito Corleone
From “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo
Nothing in this post should be construed as an attempt to cast aspersions on any individuals on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender identification, blah, blah, or blah. There, was that enough to allow me to keep my head attached? Probably not, but my head has been pretty useless for quite a while now, so what the heck?
OK, let’s talk about Islam. You know, the religion of peace, or something like that. Never mind that the Arabic word for peace is actually “Salam,” and “Islam” means submission. We’ll just go with the flow here. I’m not one to quibble over what anybody wants to say about their faith, or how they perceive the Deity. I mean, it’s not like anyone would shout “God is great” whilst performing some of the least peaceful acts imaginable. Oh, wait …
No, the questions here are, should Islam even be considered to be a legitimate religion, deserving of First Amendment protections, at all? And if it’s not, then what is it? Let’s attempt to look for rational answers to these questions.
First off, Islam does have a lot in common with other major western religions. Plenty of talk about God, the hereafter, and how to make it all work for you. All religions have a set of tenets that adherents are expected to believe in. And a set of rules that believers must follow in order to remain in the good graces of the religion. Also, there are unpleasant consequences for those who break the rules. So far, so good. However, there is one thing that must be kept in mind:
Simple Fact of Life #1: Adherence to the rules of any religion is a voluntary, personal choice.
If a person violates the rules of any religion, then that religion has the right to impose sanctions on the violator, provided that two conditions are met: (1) The violator is a member of that faith group, and (2) the member willingly accepts the sanctions imposed. For instance, if a man is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, he will periodically go to confession, and confess his sins to the priest, who, according to the teachings of the Church, is empowered to grant absolution. As a condition of absolution, the priest may assign a penance, such as “Say five Hail Mary’s.” or something like that. If the penitent wishes to remain in the good graces of the church, he will follow the priest’s instructions. If not, well, that’s his choice. He can explain it to Jesus when the time comes.
Islam provides some more extreme examples of this principle. Say, for instance, that a man is caught stealing, and the religious judge says that his hand must be cut off. Personally, I’d rather do the Hail Mary thing, but if the thief believes that it’s worth losing a hand to save his soul, well, that’s his choice. the principle is the same, and I have no problem with it. I’m sure that Allah will be pleased as well.
There is only one sanction that any religion can impose on a person who does not wish to accept it. That is that the religious organization may exclude that person from the group. Call it excommunication, shunning, voted off the island, or whatever. No association of people should be required to accommodate those whose actions are contrary to the goals of the group. Follow the rules, or get the boot. Again, I have no problem with this.
What I do have a problem with is the fact that Islam often seeks to impose its rules and punishments on people who are not voluntarily willing to accept them. This clearly violates the conditions mentioned above. Perhaps the most blatant example of this is that, according to Islam, the punishment for leaving the faith is death. It should be clear to anyone with a functional brain cell that the person who decides that he no longer wishes to be a muslim is no longer willing to accept any sanctions that Islam might place upon him, and therefore, Islam has no legitimate right to punish him. Since Islam insists that it does have that right, then obviously it is not an actual religion.
So, if Islam is not a legitimate religion, then what is it?
Simple Fact of Life #2: There are only two types of organizations that are able to impose their rules and punishments on those who do not willingly accept them.
If you want to get along in the world, you have to follow the rules that exist in the place where you are.
Simple Fact of Life #2(a): The first of these organizations is government.
Governments make rules. Lots of rules. In my humble opinion, too many rules. And governments set up systems to deal with, sometimes very harshly, those who do not follow the rules. This is, of course, necessary to protect the vast majority of the population who generally obey the rules (at least the big ones) from those who would prey upon them by breaking the law. Since government is based on geographic jurisdictions, and since norms and customs are different in various parts of the world, the laws will vary from place to place. As many cultures are based around the religious traditions of a particular locality, it is not unusual to find that civil law closely mirrors religious rules. In the United States, our laws are (or at least they used to be) generally based on Judeo-Christian ethics. However, despite any similarities, religious rules and civil laws are two completely separate things. As Jesus admonished, “Render unto Caesar …” If you break a religious rule, you can only be involuntarily punished if, and only because, it is also a violation of civil law. That’s the way government works around here.
In some Islamic countries, the situation is a bit more muddled. The religious rules are specifically enshrined as part of the civil law. In fact, in Iran, the civil government is, I believe, legally subservient to the religious hierarchy. The president works for the Ayatollah. So, in places like that, anyone who is within the geographic jurisdiction of that country is required to obey the rules of Islam. Not the kind of place that I would like to live in, but since I don’t, I really have no problems with those laws. Should I ever have the occasion to visit one of those lands, I will be sure to at least put on the appearance of following the local laws. If you happen to live in a country like that, and do have a problem with the way things are done there, then you need to change the government, or else just leave. If neither of these is an option, well …sorry?
But in the United States, there is a clear separation between religious and civil law. Islamic rules cannot be enforced on anybody who does not voluntarily accept such enforcement. Islam is not the government. And yet, many Islamists try to impose their rules on the population at large.
So, since Islam is not a religion, and it’s not the government, yet it tries to involuntarily impose its rules, then what is it?
Simple Fact of Life #2(b): The second type of outfit that imposes it’s rules on those who do not willingly accept them is organized crime.
Criminal gangs, be they the Mafia, Bloods, Crips, MS-13, Yakuza, or whatever, impose their rules on everybody that happens to be within any areas that are under their control. They do this by intimidation, threats, and violence. They require people to do business with their organization. They impose “taxes” by forcing the folks to pay for “protection.” They punish those who do not follow their rules. They flout the authority of the government by means of subversion, infiltration, and by employing a host of advocates and lawyers to legitimize their scheme. One common tactic used, since many gangs are based around a specific ethnicity, is to claim discrimination, and therefore victimhood. As if the only reason that you could be opposed to their activity is that you are a bigot, racist, or some kind of “phobe.” Right, they’re not criminals, they’re just misunderstood. Anybody buying that? I didn’t think so.
The gangs described in the last paragraph appear to have a lot in common with Islamist groups that we see today. They control certain districts, and force everyone there to conform to their rules. They put their people into new areas of the country, in order to expand their power. While “no go zones” seem to be more of a European phenomenon, there are hints of this sort of thing in America. They use violence and terror to impose their will. They are placing their members and supporters in government offices. And if you dare to object to what they are doing, CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) will be all over the media, and all over the courts, to label you as some kind of Islamophobic bigot. Just like a Mafia consiglieri. This playbook could have been plagiarized from “The Godfather.” Vito Corleone would be proud.
So, now that we know what the Islamist organizations are, what can be done about them?
Simple Fact of Life #3: The United States Government knows how to deal with organized crime.
The Feds have the knowledge. They have the tools. The only thing that they seem to lack is the will. I contend that the government should use the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) laws to go after the Islamists. They should be investigated. They should be prosecuted. Their leaders should be imprisoned. Their assets should be seized. They should be treated as what they are, a crime syndicate. And certainly not as a first amendment protected religious organization.
Now, excuse me while I look for a place to store my soon-to-be-severed head.