As Islamophobia grows across the world, it can sometimes be difficult for people to find ways to discriminate against Muslims in places that promote religious freedom. Rather than accepting a diversity of faiths in their community, however, some of the less-than-tolerant leaders instead choose to find “creative” (and usually flawed) reasons to circumvent the Constitution and ban mosques. Here are five disheartening examples of communities attempting to keep Muslims out:
1. Turn Down That Music!
As the proposed Islamic Center of Clermont proceeds through the grueling process of receiving local approval, Ray Goodgame, a city council member for Clermont, Florida has a novel approach to blocking the application: pre-emptive noise complaints.
“[Muslim’s] wailing may become a nuisance to many,” wrote Goodgame. “There are other people who live within hearing distance of the property. I don’t want them to destroy the community with their music.”
Considering that “wailing music” is not a common complaint against the many other mosques across the country, this “reason” seems like a veiled way of saying “we don’t want your kind in our town.”
2. It’s Not Discrimination If They Want You Dead
When a proposal for a mosque outside of Nashville caused a controversy, presidential candidate Herman Cain gave a confusing explanation as to why he supported banning the construction: the First Amendment’s religious protections don’t supersede a community’s ability to make decisions for itself.
“They are using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their mosque in that community and the people in the community do not like it, they disagree with it,” said Cain. “I’m simply saying I owe it to the American people to be cautious because terrorists are trying to kill us.”
I suppose once you’ve exaggerated the threat on your life, may logic and the Constitution be damned.
3. Mosques Are Way Different Than Churches
Kevin Grantham, a Republican Colorado state Senator, believes that there is an important distinction between churches and mosques: churches are strictly for worship, while mosques try to spread to other parts of life.
“Mosques are not churches like we would think of churches,” Grantham said. “They think of mosques more as a foothold into a society, as a foothold into a community, more in the cultural and in the nationalistic sense. Our churches – we don’t feel this way, they’re places of worship, and mosques are simply not that, and we need to take that into account when approving construction of those.”
Huh? I don’t know what fantasy version of America Grantham is living in where churches are only for worship. I seem to recall church-sponsored social events, ministers endorsing political candidates and a constant push to declare the United States a Christian nation.
4. Your Religion Is Fine, It’s the Architecture We Hate
Like the United States, Switzerland’s Constitution protects the freedom of religion. However, that fact didn’t prevent a popular vote from adding a sentence that explicitly banned minarets in the country. Minarets are tall prayer towers, a type of architecture specific to Islamic buildings.
Although Swiss officials promised the Muslims in the country the vote was “not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion, or culture,” it was most definitely precisely that. By banning one of the most prominent symbols of Islamic culture for arbitrary reasons, it is a clear declaration that the majority of Swiss people don’t even want any visual reminders of the Islamic faith.
5. To Protect Freedom of Religion, We Must Prevent Freedom of Religion
When wealthy Saudi Arabians offered to fund the construction of a mosque on behalf of Muslims in Norway, Jonas Gahr Store, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, forbid the money from being allocated to his country for that purpose. While Norway does proclaim itself to have freedom of religion, officials stated that it wouldn’t be right to allow people from Saudi Arabia – a country which does not allow residents to practice Christianity – to promote a diversity of religions in Norway when it doesn’t even do so in its homeland.
Of course, two wrongs don’t make a right. The best way for Norway to advocate for religious freedom is not to limit it within its own boundaries out of spite. Why not demonstrate how a nation can benefit from a diversity of cultures rather than exhibiting Islamophobic tendencies?