Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Arguments from Ignorance

Daniel Greenfield ran an interesting story on November 9th, “The Atlantic: Freedom of Speech Victimizes Muslims,” about the Bible Believers case, in which an en banc court reversed the group’s responsibility for basically “disturbing the peace” of an Arab American festival in 2012.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday found that Wayne County violated the constitutional rights of a group of religious proselytizers who were kicked out of an Arab-American cultural festival in 2012.

In a rare reversal of a previous decision from three-judge appeals court panel, an en banc review by 15 judges yielded a majority ruling that Wayne County is civilly liable to the group of evangelical Christians who sued after being ordered to leave the festival by sheriff's deputies.

I don’t recall seeing a video of this particular confrontation in Dearborn during that festival. There have been other video recordings of Christians attending that affair with an “in your face” purpose, to rile up the natives and cause a publicity-rich incident.

Wikipedia has revealed some unpleasant facts about Bible Believers.

Bible Believers is the website of the Bible Believers' Church of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Because the website reprints anti-Semitic material such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Henry Ford’s The International Jew and Holocaust denial material from authors such as Bradley Smith and Mark Weber, a complaint was lodged under Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act.

But it has dozens of spin-off branches in the U.S.  A search for Bible Believers turns up several Internet pages of various affiliated churches and organizations. This apparently is its main site. The Bible Believers literally sweat the Bible. To judge by the group’s behavior at the Arab American cultural festival, and being an atheist, and being physically averse to evangelicals of any stripe, I would find the Bible Believers as vile, repulsive, and irrational as, say, Anjem Choudary, the Islamic firebrand in Britain. From experience, I find as pointless and futile any attempt at “dialogue” or engagement with the Muslims on the subject of religion. I find it almost doubly pointless and futile to engage rabid Christians on the subject. The mental faculties of Muslims and evangelicals alike are permanent captives of the bear-trip of unquestioned and unshakable dogma. One may as well talk to rocks. 

But one group of mystics engaging another group of mystics can either be hilariously funny or pregnant with tragedy. Witness the history of religious persecution and wars in Europe, or the interminable bloody strife between Sunnis and Shi’ites and other Islamic sects.

On the assumption that the Arab American festival was being held in a public place, and had some kind of permit from the Dearborn and Wayne County authorities to hold it on public property, then the Bible Believers had every right to appear and begin their preaching.

But, realistically, no Christian or group of Christians can expect to win any converts from any group of Muslims, so I can't help but assume that the Bible Believers repeatedly attended this Festival over the years in hopes of causing a scene and trouble and headlines. Their much ballyhooed proselytizing was driven by a highly suspect ulterior motive.

Greenfield’s focus was not so much the en banc ruling as the Atlantic article and how Garrett Epps snuck in sympathizing squibs about how the Muslims are “victimized” and not really protected by the First Amendment – or rather not protected from the First Amendment. Greenfield wrote, quoting Epps from his “Who Pays the Price for the First Amendment?”:

This is a thoroughly predictable outcome. It used to be the standard liberal position. "Used to" being the key words. The Atlantic's Garrett Epps claims that the First Amendment victimizes Muslims.

Bible Believers displays vividly the underlying strength of the American commitment to free speech—and the troubling shadow that commitment inevitably casts.

The troubling shadow being...freedom.

And that is the focus of Greenfield’s piece. Epps writes that the court’s finding was just peachy-keen, however, it doesn’t do much for Muslims, who in fact have a habit of shouting “Allah Akbar!” at the drop of a hat or the flick of a knife or the gunning of an engine to run over Jews or infidels. Greenfield goes on, quoting from the Epps article:

But we pay a price for this freedom, and not everyone pays the price equally. The First Amendment imposes on us all the duty to maintain the peace even when our deepest beliefs are denounced. But that duty is doubly onerous for minorities, because they must endure such abuse more often and longer.

In a country that is 70 percent Christian, Muslims account for less than one percent of the population. Since 9/11, powerful religious and political figures have been openly campaigning to strip this tiny population of the protections of the Constitution.

It's a typical leftist tactic to flip a freedom around into a burden. Look who suffers under freedom of speech. Minorities. To protect them, we might maybe sorta have to get rid of it. Isn't freedom just privilege? What about voting? It rewards the majority. Think of the heavy burden of democracy on the minority? Wouldn't they be better off under an enlightened dictator?

I read the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals document. While it reached the right conclusion, I suspect that was just happenstance. Correct judicial outcomes today are anymore crapes shoots. The court document is a wonderous depository of abject ignorance treated as received wisdom. For example, in describing Dearborn, Michigan, it notes, under “Facts” and the heading “Dearborn and the Arab International Festival,” that:

Dearborn is also home to one of the largest populations of Arab Americans in the country—second only to New York City. Dearborn’s Arab American population is comprised of both Christian and Muslim families whose national origins include Lebanon, Armenia, Yemen, Iraq, and Palestine, among other nations. (p.5)

Palestine is a nation? That’s news to me, and would be news to Israel. In note no. 5 on page 5, the court document observes that the Christian groups present at the fair are segregated from all the Muslim tables, tents and booths, but makes no comment on its own observation.

In 2012, among these religious groups were an Islamic educational organization, a couple of Arab churches, as well as a few non-Arab Christian ministries. These groups were stationed under one tent, along with other non-religious organizations seeking to share information.

That’s interesting. To “protect” sensitive Muslim ears, the Christians are segregated out of earshot and probably out of sight in a tent. An Arab Christian talking heresy or blasphemy about God at a table next to a Muslim-manned table just won't do. It would be intolerable. Most Christians are noted for their capacity for toleration, but Islam isn’t noted for its high toleration quotient.

On page 3 we get a sermon on the importance of “diversity in viewpoints” and its importance to a working democracy.

Diversity, in viewpoints and among cultures, is not always easy. An inability or a general unwillingness to understand new or differing points of view may breed fear, distrust, and even loathing. But it “is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.” Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 376 (1927) (Brandeis, J., concurring). Robust discourse, including the exchanging of ideas, may lead to a better understanding (or even an appreciation) of the people whose views we once feared simply because they appeared foreign to our own exposure. But even when communication fails to bridge the gap in understanding, or when understanding fails to heal the divide between us, the First Amendment demands that we tolerate the viewpoints of others with whom we may disagree. If the Constitution were to allow for the suppression of minority or disfavored views, the democratic process would become imperiled through the corrosion of our individual freedom. Because “[t]he right to speak freely and to promote diversity of ideas . . . is . . . one of the chief distinctions that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes,” Terminiello v. City of Chi., 337 U.S. 1, 4 (1949), dissent is an essential ingredient of our political process.

Clearly, whoever wrote the majority opinion hasn’t the slightest inkling of what Islam is all about and what unassuming Muslims are capable of, such as Faisal Mohammad, who went on a knifing spree at the University of California-Merced. If that person had a clue, he would have noted that “dissent” is not an essential ingredient in the “political process” of Islam. “Democracy” is not a value in Islam. Islamic domination and supremacy are the end game of violent and stealth jihad. “Toleration” is not the leitmotiv of Islamic “culture.”  It’s all “My Way” or “No Way.”

The person who wrote the majority opinion may or may not be surprised to read that Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth." [Omar Ahmad, Founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)]

That person may or may not be shocked to learn that, under Sharia law, the Bible Believers would have been found guilty of blasphemy, insulting Islam, mocking Mohammad, and sentenced to death.

With no chance of appeal.

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