Monday, August 16, 2010

Cordoba House Contretemps

"Furthermore, since Islam has 1.2 billion adherents and is not going away, it is important to set reasonable guidelines that promote harmony with Western society—such as, it’s okay to build a mosque in the Financial District, and it’s not okay to blow up buildings in the Financial District. "

-- From an excellent essay by my friend Josh Barro at National Review Online. My other favorite sentence is, "Newt Gingrich doesn’t want mosques in Lower Manhattan until churches are allowed in Mecca—making the bizarre case that our level of religious liberty is fine so long as it is no worse than in Saudi Arabia."

I have only one criticism: that Josh glosses over the possibility that, while the mosque's leaders are not themselves Islamists, they are nonetheless too soft on Islamism. Perhaps so, though those facts certainly don't cut in favor of governmental interference with the Cordoba House project. And although they do weigh more strongly in favor of private moral suasion not to put the mosque there, I still think that the point that the mosque wouldn't be that close to Groud Zero anyway may outweigh those considerations.

Also, a question about a paragraph from Ross Douthat's latest column on the subject:

The same was true in religion. The steady pressure to conform to American norms, exerted through fair means and foul, eventually persuaded the Mormons to abandon polygamy, smoothing their assimilation into the American mainstream. Nativist concerns about Catholicism’s illiberal tendencies inspired American Catholics to prod their church toward a recognition of the virtues of democracy, making it possible for generations of immigrants to feel unambiguously Catholic and American.

Is this right, historically? My American history training was limited to a high school AP course and a single course on the history of American foreign policy in college (I basically took as little non-European history as I could while still completing my major.) But my faulty memory tells me that the pressure applied to Mormons and Catholics was nastier than that. Take, for example, Blaine Amendments, state constitutional amendments that recently often have the unintended consequence of styming conservative and moderate politicians' efforts to create school voucher programs. Isn't Douthat seeing Group 2 through rather rose-colored glasses? If he is, doesn't that mean we owe them less deference now?

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