Herman Cain, Republican candidate for president, says that communities don’t have to accept mosques if its citizens don’t want them. The Washington Post called it “buffoonery.” The definition of buffoonery is behavior that is ridiculous but amusing. Cain’s statement is certainly ridiculous but it is not amusing. It feeds the irrational fear of public opinion about Islam.
During an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News, Herman Cain said that Islam is not a religion like other religions and Americans have the right to keep it out of their communities if they wish. Cain said, “Islam is both a religion and a set of laws – Sharia laws. That’s the difference between any one of our traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes.” So, according to Cain, because the Muslim religion has an established set of laws, communities can ban mosque if they so choose.
Cain continues with, “That’s not discriminating based upon their particular religion.”
Cain’s words are clearly political double speak. First, he says that it is a religion. But, because there is a code of conduct for its believers it should not be treated like a religion. But, Mr. Cain, isn’t that what religion is… a belief that we need to follow some rules?
So, using Cain’s logic, any religion that has a code of conduct for its faithful should be banned. Communities should be able to ban Jewish temples. Rabbinical law would be considered a set of “laws,” therefore communities could ban temples. Then, there are the Catholics with their cannon law. In fact, they have a country that enforces cannon law, the Vatican. It is presumed that if given the opportunity, the Catholics would love to have the United States run by cannon law, therefore, since the Catholics have a set of laws, communities should be able to ban Catholic churches.
Cain is baiting all those that believe that Islam attacked us on 9-11 and continues to threaten our national security. Just because the individuals that attacked us on that fateful day claimed to be good Muslims, doesn’t mean that everyone that follows Islam is the same. No matter the religion, it is individuals that should be held accountable for their actions.
It is presumed that Cain is a conservative because he is running as a Republican. Conservatives strongly believe, as they should, that individuals need to be held accountable for their actions, not groups. Yet, he states on national television that a group of people should be separated from everyone else because of their religious beliefs.
All of this, of course, is not addressing the fundamental issue in Cain’s statement. No community has the right to ban a religion nor its place of worship. In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion. To suggest that Islam can be narrowly redefined to separate it from other religions is to use a blunt object to disconnect it from protection under the amendment. If communities can successfully do that, then they can find ways to redefine any religion that the majority disagrees with and ban them as well.
Will your religion be next?