The Ground Zero mosque and the legitimate boundaries of religious freedom

Recent public outcry in print and on talk shows demonstrates that many Americans instinctively oppose the construction of a mosque anywhere near Ground Zero.  A mosque near Ground Zero is seen as an intentionally provocative act, a declaration of triumph and supremacy over a symbol of America by the forces of Islam. Many of the victims’ families view the potential 15 story mega-mosque as an affront to their suffering and sorrow.  Arguments against the mosque arise out of this innate sense that it is simply inappropriate in that location, religious freedoms notwithstanding.

Proponents of Cordoba House claim that it will heal wounds and build bridges between America and the Islamic world; they also claim that the guarantee of religious freedom in the First Amendment to our Constitution trumps all arguments against building it.  However, there are Constitutionally-sound limitations on the freedom of religion, just as there are limits on freedom of speech. For example, slander, libel and disclosure of classified information are not protected by the First Amendment.

Similarly, freedom of religion has its limits.  For example, human sacrifice in the name of religion is not protected by the First Amendment.  Neither is rape or physical abuse.  These acts are criminal regardless of what exemptions a religious group might claim.  One religious group cannot attempt to annihilate another religious group and still be protected by the First Amendment.  The First Amendment does not protect the incitement to treason, such as jihad.  Therefore, a fair question to ask is whether or not incitement to treason is likely to take place at Cordoba House.

While most American Muslims are peaceful and patriotic, there are radical Muslims whose goal is to incite treason in the U.S.  When radicals use mosques to breed their anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish doctrine, those buildings lose any claim to First Amendment protection.  In a recent survey by the Washington-based Center for Security Policy called “Mapping Sharia,” former FBI, CIA, and members of the U.S. military conducted undercover investigations of 2,300 mosques across America.  Their findings were alarming.

The study revealed that “Some of the 9/11 hijackers, in fact, received aid and counsel from one of the largest mosques in the Washington, D.C. area. Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center is one of the mosques identified by undercover investigators as a hive of terrorist activity and other extremism.”  Interestingly, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood currently run the Dar al-Hijrah mosque.  Investigators concluded that Dar al-Hijrah's ultimate goal is to turn America into an Islamic state governed by Sharia law.  Dar al-Hijrah is a perfect example of extremists cloaking treason in religious clothing.

Hasan al-Bannain formed the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 to spearhead the radical Islamist movement and its violent campaign against the West.  Out of the Brotherhood were born al-Qaeda and Hamas.  In a 1991 memo to the Brotherhood, radical Mohamed Akram explains that members “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”  Do those words meet the definition of inciting treason?

Potential ties to radical Islam are what make opponents of the Cordoba mosque skeptical of its purported benevolent intent.  Cordoba Initiative leader Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf unabashedly supports Sharia law as a “supplement” to our Constitution and refuses to condemn Hamas, recognized by the U.S. as a terrorist organization.  According to Pamela Geller of Stop Islamization of America, Imam Rauf also has ties to other terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda and the anti-Jewish Perdana Organization.

The more radical forms of Islam combine both church and state into a theo-political construct known as a Caliphate. The Caliph, or successor to Mohammed, exercises both spiritual and temporal sovereignty—a stark contrast to our tradition of separation of church and state.

The Cordoba Mosque controversy became more political within the last few days.  After having initially tried to duck the issue, President Obama plunged himself fully into the controversy on Friday.  In a clumsily-worded address that he has already partially retracted twice, he took what the Los Angeles Times called “a strong stand in favor of building” the mosque. On Monday, the New York Post quoted Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas, as saying that Muslims “have to build it.”

If there are national security implications to the Cordoba Mosque, then it is not merely a local matter; it is a national matter that involves the President directly. For Obama to find himself on the same side of a raging controversy as a confirmed terrorist is a political disaster of the first order. It will confirm the suspicions of many that he is naïve or worse when it comes to understanding the national security threat posed by radical Islam and its call to jihad against America.  

Colin Hanna is president of Let Freedom Ring

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