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The Ground Zero Mosque, the Spread of Islam, and How America Should Deal with Such Efforts

From The Objective Standard, Vol. 5, No. 3.

Many Americans are outraged, and rightfully so, by the efforts of a group of Muslims to build a thirteen-story mosque two blocks from the site where, in 2001, another group of Muslims—motivated by their barbaric creed—slaughtered 3,000 Americans. (Some Americans are not outraged by this effort, and this article is not addressed to them.) Even good people, however, are divided about how to deal with such a situation.

Some say government should forcibly stop the project even if doing so requires the use of extra-legal measures or nonobjective laws (e.g., zoning laws); others say government should respect the property owners’ rights to use their property as they see fit. Some say property rights do not apply in this case because the mosque backers are aiding the enemy; others say there is insufficient evidence to support such claims. Some say this whole thing is a matter of First Amendment rights, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech; others say the choice of location is so insulting to Americans, especially to the families of those murdered on 9/11, that such rights do not apply. Some say the project would be fine if it were built elsewhere; others say America should prohibit the building of mosques anywhere.

What is the truth of the matter? What principles properly govern such situations? How should America deal with such efforts by Muslims?

To begin answering these questions, let us first establish the most relevant aspects of the context at hand.

America is in a (shamefully) undeclared but nevertheless real military war with Islamists—those who accept Islam as true, take their religion seriously, and thus actively seek to kill infidels who refuse to submit to the dictates of Mohammed. In terms of enemy regimes, we are in a de facto (though largely unacknowledged) war with Iran and Saudi Arabia, the principal state sponsors of Islamic terrorism.1 In terms of terrorist groups, we are at war with Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and others who have attacked America and/or our allies.

This military war is part of a broader cultural war—a war of ideas, principles, and norms—and our enemies in this broader war include more than those Muslims who enact or call for violence against Americans. Our enemies in this broader war include any Muslims who seek via any means—whether violent or peaceful—to destroy America and establish an Islamic state in its place.

One of the explicit goals of Islamists is to pervert U.S. and Western culture by infusing it with Islamic values and gradually preparing it for the implementation of Islamic law (aka sharia). As the Muslim Brotherhood declares in its “Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America,” Muslims “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western Civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house . . . so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious.”2 This strategy has aptly been labeled “stealth jihad” or “creeping sharia.” The general goal is to saturate America with Muslims, Islamic ideas, Islamic institutions, and Islamic norms such that America gradually and peacefully becomes an Islamic state.

Further, Islam entails the doctrine of “taqiyya,” according to which Muslims may lie as necessary in order to hide their Islamic identity from or to ally with other Muslims against infidels.3 Ibn Kathir, a 12th-century Muslim and a renowned interpreter of the Koran, explains, “Whoever at any time or place fears [the infidels’] evil may protect himself through outward show.”4 Mervyn Hiskett, a historian of Islamic culture and traditions, explains that taqiyya “has full Quranic authority (3:28 and 16:106) and allows the Muslim to conform outwardly to the requirements of unislamic or non-Islamic government, while inwardly ‘remaining faithful’ to whatever he conceives to be proper Islam, while waiting for the tide to turn.”5

All of this poses a conundrum: Given the nature and doctrines of Islam and its followers, how can Americans uphold individual rights and the rule of law—the values that make America great and worth fighting for—yet stop Islamists and Muslims from slowly infiltrating and destroying America? For instance:

  • How can we recognize and uphold property rights when Muslims use that right to engage in such projects as building a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, thereby providing Islamists with immense spiritual support?
  • How can we recognize and uphold the right to freedom of speech when Muslims use that right to spread a creed that mandates universal submission and the slaughter of those who refuse?
  • How can we recognize and uphold the right to liberty when Muslims use that right to slowly convert the land of liberty into an Islamic theocracy?
  • How can we rely on our laws to stop Muslims from destroying America when our laws alone seem not only inadequate in this regard, but literally set against us?

In sum, how can we stop Muslims from spreading Islam and still protect the principles of civilized society?

The key to answering such questions is in understanding the nature and limits of rights with respect to religion.

Contrary to widespread misconception (including the unfortunate language of the First Amendment), there is not and cannot be any such thing as a right to “practice” or “exercise” one’s religion—not if one’s religion calls for its followers to commit murder or violate rights, which all three monotheistic religions do.

In the Koran, for instance, Mohammed says, “Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war” (9:5); in the New Testament, Jesus says, “Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me” (Luke 19:27); and in the Old Testament, God (through Moses) says:

If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,” . . . you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. (Deuteronomy 13:6–9)

To “practice” or “exercise” one’s religion means to act on it. Consequently, there can no more be a right to practice Islam, Christianity, or Judaism than there can be a right to practice Nazism, Communism, or cannibalism.

People have a right to believe whatever myths, nonsense, and evil they choose to believe. They have a right to reject reason and arrive at their beliefs by means of faith (as religionists do) or feelings (as Nazis and Communists do). They have a right to ruin their own lives by refusing to think and turning themselves over to “God” or the race or the community. But they have no right to act on any religious or secular dogmas calling for the violation of rights.

People of faith and people of feelings have the same rights as people of reason: the rights to act on their judgment, to keep and use their property, to speak their minds, and the like—so long as they do not violate (or threaten to violate) the rights of others. Thus, in a rights-respecting country such as America, religionists are legally required to disobey the rights-violating commandments of their scriptures and alleged gods. (And freedom-loving Americans should regularly point out this important truth, because doing so keeps fresh in everyone’s mind the absurdity of deriving moral or political principles from faith or commandments.)

In regard to religionists as in regard to everyone else, rights are both absolute and limited. They are absolute in that they cannot be taken away by others. A person can relinquish his rights himself—by violating or threatening to violate the rights of others (e.g., by throwing or threatening to throw rocks at a woman). And others can violate his rights—by initiating or threatening to initiate physical force against him (e.g., by threatening to kill him if he draws a picture of Mohammed). But no one can take away his rights. Rights are inalienable.

However, rights are also limited in that they are confined to their proper purpose, which is to make possible human life in a social context. And if Americans want to defend themselves and preserve America, we must grasp and stress the limited nature of rights every bit as firmly and loudly as we do their absolute nature.

The right to property entitles a person to keep, use, and dispose of the product of his effort in accordance with his judgment—unless his judgment tells him to use his property in a way that violates or threatens to violate the rights of others. Thus a person has a right to build a mosque, church, or synagogue on his own property—but no right to train religious warriors or construct bombs therein. He has a right to pray, worship, or sacrifice himself in his own building—but no right to force others to pray, worship, or sacrifice therein. He has a right to accept funds from rights-respecting people who support his institution—but no right to accept funds from military enemies of America. He has a right to plan bake sales or charity drives in his building—but no right to conspire to overthrow the U.S. government, the agency charged with protecting rights.

Likewise, the right to freedom of speech entitles a person to express his views, whether in verbal or symbolic form, regardless of what others think or feel about those views—unless his expression of his views constitutes incitement to violence (whether criminal or enemy) or a threat of force (whether direct or indirect). For instance, a person has a right to express his view that Allah is real or that Allah is great or that everyone should believe in Allah—but no right to say that those who disagree should be killed. He has a right to say that he thinks homosexuals and women are subhuman—but no right to tell his congregation to “rough-up some gays” or “beat your wives.” He has a right to ask his fellow religionists to send money to the Red Cross or join the Peace Corps—but no right to ask them to fund Hamas or join Al Qaeda.

Where the lines are properly drawn regarding threats, incitements to violence, and aiding the enemy can be a complex and technical matter, and philosophers of law and military scientists have their work cut out in identifying the various contexts, parameters, and principles at play. The above examples merely indicate the range within which the lines must be drawn. But given this range, we can see where many statements and actions fall, including many of the statements and actions taken by those involved in the Ground Zero mosque.

As of this writing, the essential publicly available facts regarding the Ground Zero mosque effort are as follows: A group of Muslims, headed by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is seeking to erect a mosque (which they call a “community center”) on private property a few hundred feet from Ground Zero. Rauf refuses to acknowledge that Hamas is a terrorist organization;6 he claims that the United States is partly responsible for the attacks of 9/11;7 he alternately says that he will and will not disclose the sources of funding for the mosque;8 and he claims that “the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims.”9 (This last claim must be understood in light of the fact that, according to Islam, there is no such thing as innocent non-Muslims.)

Let us pause here to acknowledge that such facts alone are enough to justify outright and universal moral condemnation of Rauf, the other mosque backers, and anyone who affiliates with them. Such facts alone are enough to warrant a full-scale investigation of Rauf and everyone involved in the so-called “community center.” Such facts alone are enough to spur civilized people to do whatever is within their legitimate power to stop this mosque from being built. Such facts alone are enough to warrant a nationwide boycott of all businesses involved in the vile project. But—as damning as such facts are—they are not enough to justify government force against Rauf and company, because such facts do not constitute evidence of criminal or enemy activity.

There is, however, more information that may.

On September 3, 2010, Fox News reported that, in 1999, Hisham Elzanaty, a Muslim and a key investor in the Ground Zero mosque project, gave more than $6,000 to the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), a branch of Hamas.10 In 2001, HLF was shut down and designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government. And in 2008, five HLF leaders were convicted of providing Hamas with material support. Now, of course, Elzanaty claims he thought HLF was a harmless charity. But the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya does not inspire confidence in such claims—especially given that, as the Associated Press reports, “Newspaper stories questioning whether the Holy Land Foundation had ties to Hamas began appearing as early as 1993 and Israel banned the . . . foundation from operating there in 1997.”11

Further, in an interview with CNN on September 8, 2010, Rauf made statements that either are or come very close to being a threat of or an incitement to enemy violence against America. When asked about the possibility of moving the mosque to a different location given the public outcry at the patently offensive project, Rauf replied:

[H]ow America engages with its Muslim community has global ramifications. . . . If we move from that location, the story will be that the radicals have taken over the discourse. The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack. And I’m less concerned about the radicals in America than I’m concerned about the radicals in the Muslim world. . . . And if we do move, it will strengthen the argument of the radicals to recruit, their ability to recruit, and their increasing aggression and violence against our country. . . . [I]f you don’t do this right, anger will explode in the Muslim world. If this is not handled correctly, this crisis could become much bigger than the Danish cartoon crisis, which resulted in attacks on Danish embassies in various parts of the Muslim world. And we have a much larger footprint in the Muslim world. If we don’t handle this crisis correctly, it could become something which could really become very, very, very dangerous indeed.12

That sounds an awfully lot like, “If they make us move, you make them pay.”

Prior to these two items—Elzanaty’s “innocent” contribution to HLF and Rauf’s “very, very, very” suspicious statements—the publicly available evidence that these Muslims were aiding our military enemy (beyond general agreement with its religion) was scant. Now it is significantly greater. This new data, in conjunction with the prior information, markedly increases the likelihood that these Muslims are agents of our military enemy. The net data now comes close to warranting not only the suspension of the mosque project, but also the apprehension of Rauf. At the very least, it warrants a substantially stepped-up investigation of Rauf and everyone else involved in the project.

But whereas this new information comes close to warranting government force, it is worth elaborating briefly why the prior information alone did not.

Insults—whether verbal or symbolic—do not violate rights or aid the enemy. Just as government cannot legitimately outlaw drawings of Mohammed on the grounds that they insult or offend Muslims, so government cannot legitimately outlaw the construction of a mosque in Manhattan on the grounds that it would insult or offend civilized people.

Nor does the evil choice of location for the Ground Zero mosque violate rights or aid the enemy (in the sense that warrants government force). It is true, as some have argued, that a mosque at this location is clearly intended to aid the enemy; and, if built, it would aid the enemy in a certain respect. The mosque is intended to strengthen and further Islam in America—and the advancement of Islam in America does fuel those who are motivated by this barbaric creed. But, in this same respect, any support for Islam constitutes aid to the enemy. Any building, symbol, speech, or book that advances the creed thereby advances the fundamental ideas that motivate Islamists to kill.

Such aid to the enemy, however, is different in kind from aid that warrants government force. In order for aid to warrant government force, it must somehow—whether directly or indirectly—materially aid the enemy. For instance, providing the enemy with weapons, shelter, food, or maps materially aids him. Providing him with technology, targets, or training materially aids him. Calling for others to provide the enemy with such aid materially aids him. And inciting others to join the enemy in committing violent acts against Americans materially aids the enemy.

If there is evidence that a person or group has engaged in such activities, then the government should take appropriate action, whether indicting them for criminal activity or charging them with treason (depending on the details and whether America has declared war). But for government to block a project such as the Ground Zero mosque solely because of its insulting nature, or because of its symbolic location, or because it aids the enemy by advancing Islam in America, or because its owners seek to change American culture and politics, would be to violate the basic principle of America—the principle of individual rights—and thus to set an extremely destructive precedent.13

If the insulting nature of a building is taken as legitimate grounds for government to ban its construction, what is to stop government from banning the construction of churches or synagogues, which insult not only (true) Muslims but also many atheists? If the symbolic location of a building is taken as legitimate grounds for government action against such a project, what is to stop government from shutting down the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, which is four blocks from the White House and engaged in an effort to substantially change our culture and our laws in ways quite contrary to the agenda of the White House? If the fact that an organization advances Islam in America is taken as legitimate grounds for government action against the organization, what is to stop government from taking action against organizations that advance other religions whose scriptures also call for violence? And if the fact that an organization accepts and disseminates unpopular radical ideas intended to cause sweeping changes in American culture and politics is taken as legitimate grounds for government action against the organization, what is to stop government from banning The Objective Standard, practically every word of which undermines the goals and efforts of the status quo?

One important element of thinking in principles is identifying the fundamental principles that govern a given situation. In political matters, those principles are always (properly) individual rights, the rights to life, liberty, property, the pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech. These rights protect people’s freedom to take the actions they must take in order to live as human beings: acting as one’s life requires (the right to life), acting on one’s rational judgment (liberty), using the product of one’s effort (property), pursuing one’s chosen goals (pursuit of happiness), expressing one’s views (freedom of speech). These principles should not be applied as contextless absolutes; rather, they should be applied, as indicated earlier, with respect to the purpose and limits of rights and with respect to the relevant facts of the matter in question. But with that purpose, those limits, and the relevant context in mind, individual rights govern all political matters.14

Another important aspect of thinking in principles is acknowledging the implications of the ideas one accepts and the policies one advocates. One must ask: What would a given idea or policy mean if applied consistently—not only to the immediate issue at hand, but to all similar situations now and in the future? For the government to employ force against a person or group in the absence of evidence that he or they have engaged or plan to engage in criminal or enemy activity is to violate rights and thus to set a precedent for more such violations in the future. (And, as history demonstrates in spades, once a rights-violating legal precedent is set, government will act on it thereafter.)

In order for the government to justifiably use force, it must have evidence of criminal or enemy activity. Is there evidence that a particular Muslim or mosque or Islamic organization is receiving money from Iran, or sending money to Al Qaeda, or receiving phone calls or emails from known terrorists, or giving speeches in other lands or languages calling for jihadist attacks on America, or otherwise issuing threats or incitements to enemy attacks? If there is evidence of such activity on the part of a Muslim or an organization, then that Muslim or the members of the organization should be prosecuted in a criminal court or military tribunal (depending on the details). But in the absence of such evidence, government cannot legitimately use force against them.15

Violating the very principles we seek to defend is no way to defend those principles. In fact, doing so actually advances the enemy’s stated goal of “eliminating and destroying the Western Civilization from within.” Stealth jihad is real, and the last thing Americans should do is aid the jihadists.

If we want to protect civilized society, we must unwaveringly uphold the principles of civilized society—no matter how justifiably outraged we may become about the irrationalities and injustices perpetrated by our enemies. If, in an effort to stop Muslims from destroying America, we trample individual rights and the rule of law, we will have surrendered the very thing we were supposed to be fighting to protect.

How should Americans deal with efforts by Muslims to destroy America? We should concentrate on the fundamental issues and the centers of gravity in this politico-cultural war. If a substantial number of Americans enacted the following prescriptions, Islamic terrorism and the expansion of Islam would soon be a problem of the past.

1. Demand that Congress and the president declare war on and summarily eliminate the states that sponsor terrorism.

This is not merely a procedural matter. Nor is it something we can forgo on the grounds that “we are already fighting so it doesn’t matter.” Although American soldiers are already fighting (and being maimed and killed in the process), they are not aiming at the heart of the enemy—Iran and Saudi Arabia—and they are not using the full capabilities of the U.S. military. Instead, they are fighting tribes of savages in Afghanistan and being constrained by sacrificial rules of engagement.

Declaring war requires naming the enemy—which is a precondition of destroying the enemy. The reason it is important to declare war is that it is important to win war. If the United States were to declare war on the regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia, our military could then proceed to eliminate the Iranian regime, to tell the Saudis to surrender or suffer the same fate (they would surrender), and to make clear that this is how we will deal with any further threats or similar regimes. If we were to do so, concerns over things such as a Ground Zero mosque would never arise, because events such as 9/11 would never occur. By eliminating the main sources of spiritual and financial support for Islamists, by making clear that this is how America will handle all future threats, and by following through on that promise, we would demonstrate the hopelessness of the Islamist cause, deflate their motivation to kill, and effectively collapse their nihilistic movement. (Observe that we are no longer being attacked by Nazis or Japanese Imperialists.)

A secondary but relevant reason why declaring war is vital is that doing so makes clear whom Americans may and may not legally aid. Once we have declared war against an enemy state, say, Saudi Arabia, then if an American citizen (or group) is found to be receiving funds from that state, he can unequivocally be charged with aiding the enemy. If we have not declared war—or worse, if we have continued to call our enemy our “friend,” as we do in the case of Saudi Arabia—then such matters remain murky.

Our government’s failure to explicitly name and summarily destroy the enemy is itself an atrocity. Our government has a moral and constitutional responsibility to declare war on and dispose of regimes that attack or support attacks on America. And we citizens have a moral and civil responsibility to demand that our elected officials and government representatives—our employees—do their job.

2. Morally condemn Islam in particular and creeds of faith and dogma in general.

Islam demands faith (belief in the absence of evidence and in defiance of logic) and thus rejects reason, man’s only means of knowledge. Islam calls for obedience to the “laws” of an alleged “Allah” and the commandments of Mohammed rather than adherence to the factual requirements of human life on earth. Thus Islam leads its consistent followers to behead apostates, to stone women, to rape and mutilate children, to murder Israelis, and to slaughter Americans. Islam is not a religion of peace and love that has been hijacked by “extremists”; it is a religion of war and unspeakable evil that some Muslims take seriously and others do not.

There is no such thing as moderate Islam. Like the other major monotheistic religions—and like secular dogmas, such as Communism and Nazism—Islam entails texts and doctrines that state unequivocally what the ideology demands.16 Either one accepts the crystal-clear tenets of Islam as true and seeks to follow and obey them consistently—or one does not. If one does, one is a genuine Muslim, a “submitter to the will of Allah”; if one does not—if one attempts to use reason and uphold the requirements of life on earth to some extent—then one is not a genuine Muslim.

But unserious Muslims are not morally innocent. By pretending that Islam is not a creed of evil, they lend credence to the religion and thus credibility to Muslims who take it seriously. Moreover, given the nature of Islam—including the doctrine of taqiyya—so-called “moderate” Muslims (as Imam Rauf claims to be) cannot be trusted to be unserious anyway. They are all legitimately regarded as possible Islamists. (To be regarded as innocent, they would have to openly renounce Islam in word and deed—as Mosab Hassan Yousef, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, and others have done.)

More broadly, there is no such thing as a “religion of peace”—and this point goes deeper than the content of religious scriptures. Even if the scriptures of a particular religion called for nothing but loving one’s enemies, the fact would remain that the fundamental requirement of religion is faith—the acceptance of ideas in support of which there is no evidence—and faith leads ultimately to force.17

Man’s only means of settling disputes and disagreements peacefully is reason. When and to the extent that someone claims to have a means of knowledge other than reason—whether faith or ESP or any other form of “just knowing”—he abandons man’s only means of settling disputes peacefully and concedes that matters of right and wrong will have to be settled by force. If a man takes the position “I know that I should beat my wife, because I have faith that this is true,” he thereby eliminates the possibility that anyone, including his wife, can explain to him why this precept is false and evil. Having decided to accept the idea apart from evidence and in defiance of logic, he has, by his own choice, made himself impervious to reason and thus the equivalent of a wild animal—who might or might not attack at any moment. The fact that such a self-demoted animal retains the ability to spread his creed and use weapons makes him all the more dangerous.

To accept faith as a means of knowledge is to capitulate to the Islamists completely. If faith is legitimate, then the tenets of Islam—which are accepted on faith—are legitimate. By what standard could a religionist argue otherwise?

Many Americans now realize that we need to launch an all-out cultural war against Islam. But few Americans are willing to face the fact that in order to do so we must repudiate the root of Islam—the notion that faith is a means of knowledge—and that this means repudiating religion as such.

Faith cannot provide people with life-serving guidance; it can lead only to destruction and death. If people want to live and prosper, they must embrace reason and the corresponding requirements of human life on earth: They must recognize and uphold rational principles such as the necessity of looking at reality and thinking for oneself, the necessity of being productive and trading with others, the necessity of judging people’s character rationally and treating them accordingly, the necessity of recognizing and respecting each individual’s right to act on his own judgment for his own sake so long as he does not violate the same right of others. These are the principles codified in Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, and it is high time Americans and Westerners in general discovered them.

The cultural war against Islam is not and cannot be against Islam alone; it is and must be against faith in general. If Americans want to save this country and live their lives in peace and security, they must summon the courage to condemn religion across the board and embrace a philosophy of reason.

3. Recognize and uphold the principle that tolerance is not a virtue but a vice.

Americans and Westerners in general have been duped into accepting the notion that “being tolerant” means “respecting rights.” It does not.18 Being tolerant and respecting rights are not the same things: They are fundamentally different; they belong in completely different categories; and anyone who wants to defend civilized society needs to understand the difference and shout it from the rooftops.

Respecting rights means refraining from initiating physical force against people. It means leaving people free to think for themselves, to choose their own goals and values, to live their own lives in accordance with their own judgment. Respecting rights is a basic requirement of human life and civilized society.

Being tolerant means refraining from passing moral judgment. It means failing to differentiate between good and bad, between right and wrong, between the civilized and the barbaric. Far from being a requirement of human life and civilized society, being tolerant is a death wish and an abject surrender to evil.

We cannot live successfully without judging people—and judging them rationally. If we refused to judge people rationally, we would just as soon befriend a Klansman as we would a moral man; just as soon employ a slacker as we would a producer; just as soon elect Barack Obama as we would Thomas Jefferson; and just as soon revere people of faith as we would people of reason.

Given the fact that a policy of being tolerant is completely self-destructive, why do so many good people accept it? They accept it because they have unwittingly fallen for a fallacy Ayn Rand called package-dealing.19

Package-dealing consists in conceptually combining or packaging together ideas that are essentially different, and thus treating them as though they were essentially the same. It amounts to mentally mixing the logically unmixable. The concept of “tolerance”—when posited as a virtue—packages together “respecting individual rights” with “refusing to judge people” and thus treats them as the same thing. But they are not the same; they are crucially different.

If you judge a person—“John, I think you were too hard on Mary; this was her first time using the new software”—have you thereby violated his rights? Of course not. Conversely, if you respect a person’s rights—by refraining from initiating physical force against him—does that preclude you from judging him? Of course not. Yet the package deal of “tolerance as a virtue” makes it seem as though the answer to both questions is yes. Thus, those who are taken in by this fallacy accept the ridiculous idea that in order to respect individual rights, we must not judge people. From this we get: “Don’t judge Muslims!”—“Don’t be Islamaphobic!”—“Intolerance is anti-American!”—“Don’t malign the religion of peace!”—and “Don’t judge jihadists who behead those who do!”20

Tolerance, properly defined, is the refusal to pass moral judgment. It is not a virtue but a vice—and a particularly cowardly vice at that.

Condemning people who accept evil ideas or take evil actions is not an act of bigotry or racism; it is an act of justice, and it is morally mandatory. Whereas biblical scripture says “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” and whereas relativist dogma says “Who are you to judge?,” the proper approach to dealing with people is, as Ayn Rand eloquently put it: “Judge, and be prepared to be judged.”

Nothing can corrupt and disintegrate a culture or a man’s character as thoroughly as does the precept of moral agnosticism, the idea that one must never pass moral judgment on others, that one must be morally tolerant of anything, that the good consists of never distinguishing good from evil.

It is obvious who profits and who loses by such a precept. It is not justice or equal treatment that you grant to men when you abstain equally from praising men’s virtues and from condemning men’s vices. When your impartial attitude declares, in effect, that neither the good nor the evil may expect anything from you—whom do you betray and whom do you encourage?21

If we want to preserve the (relative) freedom and security we still have in America and begin working toward full freedom and maximum security, we must judge and be prepared to be judged. We must judge Islam and all forms of faith as evil because they are antilife. And we must judge those who accept such creeds as irrational and immoral precisely to the extent that they accept them.

On the positive side, we must judge those who fully embrace reason and the corresponding requirements of human life—honesty, independent thinking, justice, respect for rights, and the like—as the only fully moral, fully civilized people on the planet. Men and women of reason—not alleged “prophets”—are the proper role models for human beings.

4. Ostracize individuals and boycott businesses and organizations that in any way participate in evil, anti-American projects (such as the Ground Zero mosque).

Participating in projects that constitute an assault on the principles of civilized society is evil, and those who participate in such projects should be judged and treated accordingly. Americans should refuse to sanction such evil or to aid such people or projects in any way.

Faced with an effort such as the Ground Zero mosque, Americans should refuse to participate in its construction, operation, or maintenance. (Incidentally, such a boycott is already under way. The New York Daily News reports that “a growing number of New York construction workers are vowing not to work on the mosque.”)22 In addition to withholding labor, Americans should refuse to provide such a project with cement, studs, nails, windows, furniture, light bulbs, office supplies, delivery service, or anything else that might help it proceed. Americans should also refuse to provide the individuals involved in such a project with cab service, restaurant service, an apartment, a hotel room, or so much as a cup of coffee or “good morning.”

If Americans unite in a concerted effort toward this end, we can make it practically impossible for such projects to succeed. Of course, some anti-American vermin will always want to aid such projects—precisely because the projects are vile—and these creatures will provide whatever assistance they can toward that end. But if Americans by and large unite in a boycott against every person and business that supports any such evil, these projects will likely come to a halt. (At the very least, to the extent that they proceed, they will be severely crippled both materially and spiritually.)

Our alternatives are not: “Be tolerant and let Muslims destroy America” or “Violate rights to save America.” We can and should judge Muslims as they deserve to be judged; morally condemn their creed of death (along with all others); boycott Muslims’ evil projects; uphold the principles of civilized society (individual rights and the rule of law); and demand that our government do its job—especially that it declare war on and eliminate the Islamic states that sponsor terrorism.

← Return to Fall 2010 Contents


Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Alan Germani, Daniel Wahl, and Paul and Diana Hsieh for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this essay.

1 Our government does not recognize Saudi Arabia as an enemy (in fact, our government calls the state our “friend”), but the Saudi’s involvement in financing terrorism against the West is well documented. See, for instance, David E. Kaplan, “The Saudi Connection: How Billions in Oil Money Spawned a Global Terror Network,” U.S. News and World Report, December 7, 2003,; and Angelo M. Codevilla, “No Victory, No Peace,” Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2003,

2 Mohamed Akram, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America,” May 19, 1991,

3 Raymond Ibrahim, “How Taqiyya Alters Islam’s Rules of War: Defeating Jihadist Terrorism,” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2010,

4 Ibrahim, “How Taqiyya Alters Islam’s Rules of War.”

5 Mervyn Hiskett, Some to Mecca Turn to Pray: Islamic Values and the Modern World (St. Albans, U.K.: Claridge Press, 1993), p. 101.

6 Listen to Rauf’s interview with Aaron Klein, WABC Radio, June 18, 2010,

7 See Walid Shoebat, “Ground Zero Imam: ‘I Don’t Believe in Religious Dialogue,’” Pajamas Media, May 27, 2010,

8 “Interview With Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf,” Larry King Live, September 8, 2010, Soledad O’Brien, interviewer, transcript available at

9 “Ground Zero Mosque Imam: America Killed More Innocents Than Al Qaeda,”, August 24, 2010,

10 “Ground Zero Mosque Investor Contributed to Designated Terror Group,”, September 3, 2010,; and “Mosque Near Ground Zero Investor Sent Money to Terror Group,”, September 3, 2010,

11 David B. Caruso, “Backer of NYC Mosque Gave to Hamas-Linked Charity,” Associated Press, September 3, 2010,; and “Mosque Investor Donated to Hamas-Linked Charity,”, September 3, updated September 10, 2010,

12 “Interview With Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf,” Larry King Live.

13 As to the popular question of whether the United States would have permitted the erection of a Shinto shrine on private property near Pearl Harbor shortly after the attack on that base, I do not know the answer. But whether we would have is not a relevant question. The relevant question is whether we should have, and the answer to that is that it depends on whether those seeking to erect the shrine were Imperialist Japanese. If they were, they would not have had a right to do anything except be shot on the spot. If they were not Imperialist Japanese—if they were advocates of Shinto who had no evident connection to criminal or enemy activity—then they would retain the right to build a Shinto shrine on private property. Part of the confusion on this matter stems from a misunderstanding of who our enemies were and are. Militarily speaking, we were not at war with Shintoism; we were not at war with Nazism; and we are not at war with Islam. One cannot be at war, in the military sense of the term, with an ideology. There can be no military war on ideas—what would one bomb? One can engage in a military war only with people, groups, or states—who are motivated by certain ideas. Shintoism did not attack America; Imperial Japan did. Nazism did not attack our allies; Nazi Germany did. And Islam has not attacked America; Islamists have. Do known Islamists—such as Al Qaeda members—have a right to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero? No. Known Islamists have no rights at all; by their own choice, they have forfeited their rights. But this is not because of their absurd beliefs. It is because of their rights-violating actions.

14 The exception is certain kinds of emergency situations—those in which if force is not used immediately, innocent people will be physically harmed. Based on publicly available knowledge at this time, the current effort to build a mosque near Ground Zero is not that kind of emergency.

15 For further discussion of the importance of evidence in political proceedings, see my article “A Civilized Society: The Necessary Conditions” in this issue of TOS.

16 Of course, the scriptures are full of contradictions as well (e.g., slay the unbelievers and love thy neighbor), but this does not change the fact that the commandments are clear; rather, it further demonstrates that religion is senseless.

17 For an excellent discussion of this point, see Ayn Rand, “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,” in Philosophy: Who Needs It (New York: Penguin, 1984).

18 Although in ages past “being tolerant” was taken to mean “respecting rights,” it no longer means that today. The mechanism by which the meaning has changed is, as I will explain, the fallacy of package-dealing.

19 See Ayn Rand, “How to Read (and Not to Write),” The Ayn Rand Letter, vol. 1, no. 26, September 25, 1972.

20 Observe further that no one ever speaks of tolerating rationality or honesty or integrity or productiveness. No one ever speaks of tolerating cultures that respect rights and uphold the rule of law. The objects allegedly deserving tolerance are invariably the irrational, the dishonest, the unjust, the parasitic, the rights violating, the murderous, the tyrannical. Ask yourself why.

21 Ayn Rand, “How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?” in The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1962), pp. 82–83.

22 Samuel Goldsmith, “They Won’t Build It! Hardhats Vow Not to Work on Controversial Mosque Near Ground Zero,”, August 20, 2010,