A common meme among extremist right-wing Islamophobes is that Islam is "different" than other religions (and thus somehow due less respect and protection) because of the extent to which it pushes a certain political message. The suggestion seems to be that religious freedom is fit for those traditions which limit themselves to internal matters, but not those which try to influence the state.
Take this article by JR Dieckmann at "Canadian Free Press." In part:
The time has come to question if Islam is protected under our First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. Yes, everyone in America has the right to freedom of religion, but Islam is not a religion. Religious faith is only a part of Islam. The rest is a socially engineered society with its own laws and customs that seriously conflict with American law.Of course, Dieckmann is extreme even for the extremists. But I've seen worse, and I've seen many other apparently otherwise normal people who espouse similar nonsense.
We must recognize that religion is only one aspect of Islam‘s Qur’an. The rest of this charter advances ideas, social behavior, and laws that are in direct conflict with American and western laws and values. Teddy Roosevelt once said that to live in America, immigrants must have undivided loyalty to America and to no one else. How is that possible for Muslims who swear loyalty to Islam where their governing laws are found in the Qur‘an?
If Islam were just about praying to Allah and worshiping Mohammed and nothing more, we would not be having a problem with Islamism and Islamic terrorists. Islam has a global mission to take over and run the world according to Islamic Shariah law. How can we call that a religion?
There's much wrong with this kind of argument, and it's too much to cover in a single post. But one myth I want to put to rest is the idea that Islam is the only religion which has political goals and an aim to control the civil state. Christianity too – on some interpretations – aims to create civil law in accordance with their religious principles. Patrick Brennan's recent post is a good example:
Even many of those who grant that Christ reigns now as King take the position, implicitly or occasionally explicitly, that, like Elizabeth II, Christ reigns but does not rule. Some defend the proposition that there are zones that are not ruled by Christ, on the ground that sometimes secularity is "healthy." As I was saying the other day at the marvelous conference on "Radical Emancipation: Confronting the Challenge of Secularism" sponsored by Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture," however, the absence of the Gospel is never a good. To be absolutely clear, non-Christians must never be forced to embrace the Christian religion, but this does not entail that socio-political life should not be blessed by the leaven of the Gospel. The penetration of civil society by the principles of the Gospel is a good to be pursued -- and it is, indeed, a good that Christ the King commands. Here is what Card. Ratzinger said in 1984 on the question of the basis on which the state should be formed and shaped: "The state must recognize that a funadmental system of values based on Christianity is the precondition for its existence." (Church, Ecumenism & Politics, 207, emphasis added).Personally, I don't see anything inherently wrong with these types of religious-political traditions. I disagree with them, of course, and I find myself in frequent political opposition to those who advance religion-imbued views, but they're no more wrong than any other ideology. Still, I don't think it's possible to consistently condemn the Muslim tradition and absolve the Christian one on this count.
Weigel concludes by asserting that "The state does not have the capacity to make the judgment that Christ is King." But this is patently absurd, at least taken as a statement about states as such. As I've argued before, surely a group of Catholics founding a state would be competent to install leaders who would be competent to recognize what their installers recognize, viz., the Kingship of Christ. To be sure, many states, including our own, are contingently incompetent to recognize the Kingship of Christ and its social consequences, but the fulfillment of such an unfortunate contingency does not lay a finger on the traditional Catholic teaching that Christ is King over political society. Nor does the Second Vatican Council alter that teaching. See Par. 2105 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. How could it? Jodi Bottum claims in the video that "Christ is king of we [sic] as individuals." It is by nature (and supernature) that we associate, however, and I cannot understand the claim that, when we do in fact associate in political society to achieve the natural common good, Christ pro tanto loses his jurisdiction. Bottum is right that this is an "unAmerican idea," but that's hardly a fatal condition.
Perhaps Dieckmann and the others are simply ignorant of the political aspects of Christianity. But it's more likely that their hypocrisy is based on not-so-subtle bigotry: acceptance of the familiar and rejection and fear of the new.