Saturday, February 4, 2017

You don't have to like Islam to oppose "the Travel Ban"

One of the more difficult-to-understand concepts involved in maintaining a free country is granting equal and full rights to those with whom you disagree.  Far too many citizens in the U.S. (and elsewhere) believe that in a democracy, the majority get their way, period.  Not so in the United States, thank goodness.

There are certain rights that are NOT subject to majority whim and these are the rights enumerated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  As the key example is the First Amendment which reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."  Please note the very first mandate of this Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ..." 

The author of the First Amendment, James Madison, was clear in his intent.  He wrote, “It may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points.  The tendency to usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded against. by an entire abstinence of the Govt. from interference in any way whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect against trespasses on its legal rights by others.  [Letter to the Reverend Jasper Adams, January 1, 1832]”  ― James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison Volume 3"

Just to further demonstrate Madison's intent to limit the power of the majority, he also wrote “Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments, the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.”  ― James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison Volume 3"

Now I understand that just because it's in the Constitution and James Madison made his intent clear, it does not mean it is the best policy for us to follow.  However, after over 200 years of experience it has become clear that Madison's First Amendment has served us well.  In fact one could make the argument that no sentence in the history of humanity has served humanity better than the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America: it is perhaps the greatest sentence ever written.  It IS the greatest sentence ever written!  Thank you James Madison.

What does this have to do with the current travel ban proposed by executive order of President Trump?  Clearly Trump campaigned and gained tremendous support on the basis of his proposed ban on all Muslims attempting to travel to the U.S.  He clearly sought advice, from Rudy Giuliani for example, on how to achieve his previously stated goal while passing legal muster.  This is a ban intended to target Muslims and the "carve out" exemptions in the ban for Christians and other non-Muslims proves this.  His "travel" ban is fooling no one; it is the beginning of  a process to ban Muslims from traveling to the U.S.  The fact that he did not ban travel from a number of countries that have actually had its citizens travel to the U.S. to kill Americans would be confounding until you realize they are countries he has business interests within!  If a President Hillary Clinton had done something similar there would be calls for impeachment, probably justifiably.

It is obvious to many, except Trump and his supporters, that many Muslims are persecuted within these and other countries, not just for being the "wrong" kind of Muslim, but for being moderate, reasonable and in fact, freedom loving Muslims.  To Trump, it seems, all Muslims are the same.

The above all being said, I am not a Muslim, and you can bet your last dollar, I will never become a Muslim.  I cringe when I hear someone say "Islam is a religion of peace".  I also cringe when someone says "God is love" or whatever anyone else claims about their chosen religion or ideology.  I know these claims are not true by the results, by history.

Some critics of Islam claim that up to 51% of Muslims in the U.S. believe that they should be allowed to live under sharia law in the U.S.  I have not verified this claim from a reliable pollster, only from less reliable pollsters, but the claim is widely repeated.  If you parse this concept carefully, it does not necessarily mean that U.S. Muslims  believe that everyone would have to live under such law, but instead only those who choose to governed this way, but this distinction is still unacceptable.  All Americans of all religions are to be governed under the same law and treated equally.  The government should never be placed in a position to enforce a religious law even if the citizen wants to be governed in this manner.

But please note that while the above unverified claim about American Muslims is disturbing, it is not that much different from what reliable pollsters such as Pew  Research found in October 2006 about American Christians. "When asked which should have more influence over the laws of the country, ­ the Bible or the will of the people, even when it conflicts with the Bible ­ most Americans (63%) say the people’s will should have more sway. A significant minority (32%), however, believes the Bible should be more important." (http://www.pewforum.org/2006/08/24/many-americans-uneasy-with-mix-of-religion-and-politics/#intro) This is not that incredibly different from the claim about Muslims except that in this case you can be sure the 32% meant imposing law on ALL Americans.  If you were to poll Trump supporters ONLY, I suspect that the percentage would exceed 51%.

You don't have to like ANY religion or ideology (such as liberalism, conservatism, fascism, communism, socialism, libertarianism, etc.) to allow those that hold those beliefs to retain their rights under the Constitution.  You don't have to like Islam to oppose the travel ban - you need to love justice and equality under the law.
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