Spencer’s defense of Wilders from the ADL

On April 28 the Anti-Defamation League released this statement about Geert Wilders:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) strongly condemns remarks made over the last few days at various appearances throughout South Florida by Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders. In his speeches, he claimed that “Islam is not a religion” and “the right to religious freedom should not apply to this totalitarian ideology called Islam.” Mr. Wilders also stated that the Koran is a book of hatred, and that Mohammed was both “a pedophile and a warlord.”

Andrew Rosenkranz, ADL Florida Regional Director, issued the following statement:

The ADL strongly condemns Geert Wilders’ message of hate against Islam as inflammatory, divisive and antithetical to American democratic ideals.

This rhetoric is dangerous and incendiary, and wrongly focuses on Islam as a religion, as opposed to the very real threat of extremist, radical Islamists.

In his defense of Wilders at FrontPage Magazine on May 4, Robert Spencer makes some good and reasonable points. Here is the second (and more interesting) half of the article, followed by my comments. Spencer writes:

… But when Wilders speaks of restricting Muslims’ religious freedom, his words appear more problematic. Wilders’s full statement on this, however, elucidates what he meant: “Stop pretending that Islam is a religion. Islam is a totalitarian ideology. In other words, the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam.”

I disagree with Wilders’s statement that Islam is not a religion. Islam is certainly a religion—a belief-system that, like other religions, purports to relate human beings to the divine. But at the same time, I understand why he says that Islam is not a religion—because the strictly religious aspects of Islam are actually of no concern to unbelievers at all. It makes no difference to me if a Muslim wants to pray five times a day, or read the Qur’an, or believes that Muhammad is a prophet—except insofar as it impinges me as a political program that demands my conversion, subjugation, or death.

There are precedents for how America can deal with this threat. The U.S. did not outlaw the Communist Party of the USA, but it did move actively to suppress Communist activity, driving the party almost completely underground after World War I and always working energetically against Communist subversive activity in the United States. The religious aspects of Islam obscure the fact that Islamic jihadists are pursuing a political program that seeks, no less unmistakably than did the Communists, to replace the U.S. Constitution with a system that would deny many basic rights guaranteed by that Constitution.

The political program of Islam is generally not recognized in the U.S. today, but nonetheless there are many groups dedicated to carrying it out. They should not be allowed the protection of a religious cover to obscure their criminal and seditious activity. Section 2385 of the federal criminal code states that “whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.”

This already existing law—revised as of January 2, 2006—could and should be applied to Islamic groups that call for implementation of Sharia in the U.S., and work toward that implementation. In short, just as freedom of religion was not deemed to be a sufficient justification for Mormon polygamy in the late nineteenth century, so now freedom of religion should not be deemed to be sufficient justification for agitation on behalf of a system of laws that would deny freedom of speech and the equality of rights of all people before the law.

The ADL has unfairly maligned Geert Wilders, and in doing so, has placed itself on the wrong side of the great battle to defend free speech and free societies against the advancing global jihad.

[End of Spencer article.]

On the question of the correctness of Wilders’s view of the nature of Islam, I would restate Spencer’s argument as follows. Islam is indeed both a religion and a totalitarian political ideology, but the fact that Islam is a religion is practically of no importance to us non-Muslims. What matters to us non-Muslims is how Islam manifests itself to us. And, in that regard, Islam is indeed a political ideology aimed at subduing us under its power. Therefore, while Wilders’s statement that Islam is only an political ideology and not a religion is not objectively correct (since Islam is a religion), Wilders’s statement is practically correct.

This is a good apologia for Wilders’s position. Personally (like Spencer) I prefer saying that Islam is both a religion and a political ideology. Also, I think Wilders’s formulation unnecessarily opens him to attacks such as the ADL’s. Nevertheless, Wilders’s choice to say that Islam is only a political ideology is rational and defensible.

In any case, whether or not we Islam critics call Islam a religion, we all agree that Islam is a tyrannical political ideology. What, then, are we to do about it? Spencer says that jihadist activity could be successfully suppressed, not by outlawing Islam itself, but by enforcing existing federal laws against sedition. This sounds like a promising approach, and I’m not prepared to say that it is not a viable approach. However, the federal law Spencer quotes, Section 2385 (I’m not sure if that’s a section number the U.S. Code), is not helpful to us, because it only outlaws activity aimed at overthrowing the government by force. This would leave untouched the main thrust of Islam, consisting of the non-violent spread of sharia through demographic, cultural, and political infiltration. If, under existing U.S. law, sedition only means seeking to overthrow the U.S. government by force, then enforcing laws against sedition will not stop the Islam danger. Therefore the only recourse will be to suppress Islam itself. And to suppress Islam itself, there must be, at the minimum, a federal statute or constitutional amendment declaring that Islam is not a religion under the meaning of the First Amendment, which says that “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise of religion.” Once Islam is defined is not a religion and thus no longer protected by the First Amendment, appropriate government action can be taken to suppress it.

Which, ironically, brings us back to Wilders’s view that Islam is not a religion at all, but only a political ideology. If we say that Islam is not a religion at all, but only a political ideology, then it will be much easier to say that it is not a religion for the purposes of the First Amendment. So maybe there is even more to Wilders’s position than I thought.

- end of initial entry -

May 6

Irwin Graulich writes:

In my opinion the ADL has become an anti-Jewish organization. Abe Foxman is a dangerous fool. I have spoken out against this despicable organization for many years. Please don’t take them seriously.

LA replies:

But one could say of the entire left that they’re anti-American and despicable. Yet they’re running things. So the statement, “Don’t take them seriously,” is not helpful.

(The discussion continues in a new entry.)

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 06, 2009 12:38 AM | Send

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