David R. Henderson  

The Conquest of United States by Militant Islam

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In my article in the most-recent Freeman, I use an approach used by William Graham Sumner in his classic article, "The Conquest of United States by Spain." Here are excerpts:

Something similar may be happening in the United States, not with foreign conquest but with our domestic freedoms. Two freedoms are at risk: The freedom to practice our religion and the freedom to use our property in any way that's peaceful. This is not new, but what's different are the people who are putting them at risk. Some Americans have attacked these freedoms because other Americans want to build, on property they have legally acquired, a center that includes Muslim prayer space. The Park51 center--prayer space, athletic facility, culinary school, auditorium, and art studio--would be two blocks from "Ground Zero," where murderers flew hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center on that awful September 11, 2001. If the most extreme protesters succeed, they will have limited the religious freedom of Muslims and the right to use property peacefully.

Therein lie two ironies. The first, the kind highlighted by Sumner, is that if these opponents limit Muslims' rights, they will make the United States a little more like some of the Muslim countries they abhor. A defining characteristic of many Muslim countries is their governments' intolerance of religious freedom. The 2010 annual report of the U.S. government's Commission on International Religious Freedom asserts that Burma, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam are "countries of particular concern." Governments of these countries, says the report, "have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief." Of these 13, seven--Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan--are countries with majority Muslim populations. The commission also put 12 countries on the "Watch List." These are places where religious freedom is low, but not as low as the other 13. The 12 are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela. Of those, six--Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Somalia, Tajikistan, and Turkey--have majority Muslim populations.


Interestingly, as I point out in the piece, Newt Gingrich said that the United States should imitate Saudi Arabia's approach to religious freedom. I wrote:
Although Gingrich was clever enough to say, "There should be no mosque," rather than, "The government should not allow a mosque to be built," his meaning seems clear. By invoking the Saudi government's intolerance, he seems to be saying that governments in the United States should follow the Saudi model, in this case at least, and not allow the Islamic center to be built. My interpretation is buttressed by how he ends his article:

No mosque.

No self deception.

No surrender.

The time to take a stand is now--at this site on this issue.


And, ironically, who defended the Muslims right to build on their property? That noted defender of property rights, Barack Obama.

Update: Commenter Seth says below:

Who are these extreme protesters?
Perhaps they exist, but I haven't been exposed to them and in these passages you provide no actual examples, except for a straw man of Gingrich's position ("...he seems to say...").

I can name two prominent protestors: Gingrich and Paladino. Not only did Gingrich say what he quoted him saying above, but also he later said, as I quoted in the Freeman article:
On September 10 Gingrich said that President Obama should "tell" Imam Rauf, the Muslim leader who wants to build the Manhattan facility, "don't do it."

I think most people would agree that amounts to having the U.S. president use his power somehow to prevent it. Moreover, check this Paladino ad.


Comments and Sharing


CATEGORIES: Property Rights



COMMENTS (34 to date)
JPIrving writes:

Of course if they are in the U.S. and they bought the land legally they should be allowed to use it how they like. But it is foolish to think the U.S. can hosts anything but a small muslim minority without having similar problems to those faced in Western Europe today.

I cannot think of a single example of a large muslim population coexisting peacefully with a non muslim population. There must be a few but on the whole the forecast is grim. The founding act of Islam was to destroy the better part of the Byzantine Empire and it has been blood and tears since. Islam isnt like other religions, it is a political project. We should mentally change the word "muslim"center to "communist party" or "Nazi Party" whenever these issue come up and reconsider.

Adam writes:

Hey, wake up. We lost the right to property back in 1926 when SCOTUS rule in favor of zoning in Euclid v. Amber Realty. We have no right to "do what we like" on property to which we have fee simple title. In my Michigan town, the zoning board tells us exactly what, where, when, and how we can use our property. If the property is vacant, we must get town approval to cut down a tree. A few years ago a nearby property owner wanted to build a chuch. Guess what--the town refused the permit to build.

david writes:

Protestants existing peacefully with Catholics is a very recent thing, at that (Catholic panic in the US was a politically viable concern as late as Kennedy's election and later). And if we lower the bar so that these groups pass it, then it is easy to find large Muslim populations that do, too. South Asia is fractitious, but the Sinhalese and Hindus and Christians seem to aggressively slaughter each other as well, so that is hardly unique to Sunni or Shia Islam. But Southeast Asia is relatively peaceful and wealthy.

Afghanistan was an Islamic theocracy until invasion, but recall that prior to that, it was an atheist socialist state that couldn't decide whether to submit to the USSR. So the USSR tried to decide for them. The country that put the Taliban in power was the US. Before foreign intervention, the Muslim rural poor seem to have coexisted with their atheist socialist urban overlords. Until you are rich enough to contemplate the human condition rather than your blood relatives, ethnicity is a stronger rallying cry than religion, and this is true throughout the third world.

David Friedman writes:

"I cannot think of a single example of a large muslim population coexisting peacefully with a non muslim population."

Southern Italy for some time after it was conquered by the Normans. Various parts of Spain during the centuries prior to 1492. The Moghul Empire. In the first two cases, what eventually ended peaceful coexistence wasn't Muslim intolerance but Christian intolerance.

Indeed, much of the Islamic world through much of its history had large non-Muslim populations and coexisted peacefully with them. The non-Muslims didn't have the same rights as the Muslims and in many cases were limited to non-Muslims of the tolerated religions (Christians, Jews, and Sabeans--"people of the book"). But they were there, they weren't forced to convert.

For the most part, Jewish populations under Muslim (as under Christian) rule were permitted to run their own communities under Jewish law. The Ottoman's, under the Millet system, treated other non-Muslim groups similarly.

tim writes:

@JPIrving

Outside the fact that comparing those that practice the muslim religion to the members of the nazi party is completely and utterly idiotic - there is still no law that says members of communist or nazi parties can't own their own land or buildings. They do - its called this little thing "freedom of assembly".

Look up the US Constitution sometime. You will find it interesting reading.

The simple fact is that real problem are extremists. Doesn't matter what their religion or political affiliation is.

Btw - JPIrving - every year 46,000 people die in auto accidents. Want to ban cars too?

Hyena writes:

But who can be relied on to actually defend property rights reliably? Even libertarians are often massive failures here, suddenly arguing for a commons when it suits their pro-business leanings.

Badger writes:

@Adam

You're right. I cannot rent my own house in the US due to city code, not even after begging for "under duress" treatment due to foreclosure. Western European and South American friends & family find it to be absolutely unbelievable. Their typical reaction is: "what, in the US, during a mortgage crisis, you aren't allowed to rent your own house? Not even after appealing? You got be kidding, aren't you?..." But it's simply the truth. Scientifically mind boggling, personally very distressful.

Hyena writes:

Badger,

First, hello fellow animal. Second, what city is that?

Flawed writes:

The Moghul Empire was very far from peaceful. It was a violent subjugation of the native Hindu population by foreign Muslim rulers.However, due to the large population of natives combined with waxing-and-waning attitudes of religiosity within the conqueror class (or the Emperor) resulted in many relatively quiet periods. The "best" instance of this was the Emperor Akbar who abolished many of the oppressive Sharia laws against infidels and who inturn was helped by Hindu kings to maintain his kingdom.

However, the other Moghul kings often carried out brutal campaigns against remaining Hindu kingdoms, and had oppressive laws against non-Muslims, demolished thousands of temples and built mosques in their stead. Before the Mughal empire, were even more brutal Turkish conquerors who established the Delhi Sultanate.

So no, Muslims have not mostly lived in peace with non-muslims AS EQUALS.

Flawed writes:

The Constitutional way that Newt could've suggested would be to stop all immigration from Muslim countries. There are no "anti-discrimination" laws as applied to immigration. Sovereignty means being able to define who enters your territory. Abolish the TSA, and end the national security state, bring the troops home, and stop all immigration from Muslim countries. Simple, effective and hence will never be done

lukas writes:

Well, JP, it's not like the Byzantine Empire was some happy-go-lucky realm with freedom and justice for all. The reason the Muslims had such an easy time overrunning major parts of it was that the (Christian but heretic) Egyptians and Syrians were so sick of being oppressed by the orthodox Greeks that they readily accepted the less burdensome overlordship of the Arabs.

Left Outside writes:

"So no, Muslims have not mostly lived in peace with non-muslims AS EQUALS."

Gee, lemme think here....

46 years since the Civil Rights acts, that means White Americans have mostly lived in peace with non-white-Americans AS EQUALS for 46 years... less if we include non-state sanctioned violence.

Do you not see that the bar you set for Islam is ridiculously high - it is a bar which no Christian/Secular state would reach until the last half or quarter of the 20th Century.

The Ottoman empire was a bastion of tolerance comapred to Europe, the Balkans had periods of relative calm amongst Muslims and non-Muslims. Moorish Spain was remarkabley peaceful.

Most of Islamic History is the history of Muslims oppressing other people, but most of History is of people oppressing other people. Throughout History Muslims have been more tolerant and it is only in the last century, probably less, that we can say the tables have turned.

Jaap writes:

"So no, Muslims have not mostly lived in peace with non-muslims AS EQUALS."

and this means we'll have to become them to stop them?
if we abolish all our laws of freedom, then what are we fighting for?

"Some Americans have attacked these freedoms because other Americans want to build, on property they have legally acquired, a center that includes Muslim prayer space."

Sir,
Although I think the Muslims have every right to build a mosque in that location, I also think the protestors have the right of free speech to protest the building. Peer pressure, public relations pressure, etc, are all viable peaceful means of changing other's behavior. If Wal-Mart is boycotted and changes their behavior accordingly, they are not losing their freedoms. You fail to make any disctition, and instead claim that if the building is thwarted (even without government intervention) then someone is losing their right to religion. Nonsense.

JPIrving writes:

The difference between banning cars and discouraging muslim immigration is that using cars is clearly a net benefit. In sweden, where I live, muslim immigration has thus far been clearly a net drag on the economy. Yes I have read Caplans arguments but we have to work with the state we have, not his ideal policy framework. Of course the European situation does not neccesarrily generalize to the U.S., perhaps a comparison with Canada is better, though that would likely prove my point too. Why not play it safe and just have Chinese immigration instead? You could get all you needed from China alone.


I am just pointing out that having a big muslim population in the U.S. is a very different thing from having a big Latino population, or Romanian population or Chinese...

I have read the Koran. It is evil. Maybe more, maybe less evil than Mein Kampf, Das Kapital or whatever, but it is evil and political. Sharia is evil, muslim society as it is practiced in Rotterdam, Malmö, and London is evil. Catholic 'society' to the extent it even deviates from the norm is objectively less evil, Mormon society is objectively less evil or maybe not even on net evil at all. I dont want to pay taxes to support a society that tollerates people treating their daughters like chattel, covering their faces and removing their sexual organs. I dont want to pay for public schools that are cowed by muslim students into not teaching the holocaust or evolution. These things are already happening in France and UK because the median muslim citizen is more willing to use violence than the broader society.

Because I am also not willing to tell people that they cannot practice their religion, I am forced to want to exclude muslims as much as possible.

josh writes:

Out of curiosity, who here believes that the US is, was, or ought to be a nation state?

M.T. writes:

Most of the comments here use the mosque issue to beat up on their favorite enemies: Newt, the government, American intolerance, etc. To do this, however, you all are placing yourselves in the uncomfortable position of supporting a religion that, if it tenets were practiced in the US, would subjugate all of you at best.

Sure, minority populations coexisted peacefully with Muslims, but in a subservient role (look up the term "Kafir"). The Koran gives numerous instructions on dealing with non-believers. I have lived in a Muslim country - I don't want to live there again.

You can say that they should be allowed to build a mosque, and I agree. I will remind you, however, that not one of the great Christian churches in Western Asia or Northern Africa still exists. In fact, non-Muslims are not allowed to build nor maintain their religious building, shrines, etc. as stated in the Koran, Hadith, and Sura. I don't want to live in that world.

I find some of the defenses here logically inconsistent. They are analogous to railing against a progressive government by extolling the virtues of a communist system. I am not willing to go this far.

David R. Henderson writes:

@christopher fisher.
I agree with everything you said other than your last two sentences. I was careful to make the distinction that you claimed I didn't make. That's why I took pains to quote what Newt actually said.
BTW, I enjoyed your redo of the GM commercial.

TL Winslow writes:

[Comment removed pending confirmation of email address and for policy violations. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring your comment privileges. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog.--Econlib Ed.]

Seth writes:

"If the most extreme protesters succeed, they will have limited the religious freedom of Muslims and the right to use property peacefully."

Who are these extreme protesters?

Perhaps they exist, but I haven't been exposed to them and in these passages you provide no actual examples, except for a straw man of Gingrich's position ("...he seems to say...").

Nearly all protesters I have been exposed to make a clear distinction that the government needn't be involved.

Jeremy, Alabama writes:

I disagree with the equivalence of "lack of tolerance of religious freedom" in the comparison of the US and other countries.

The religious affiliation of the 9/11 attackers is well known. Denying the building of a mosque in that location, while allowing that mosque to be built anywhere else, while prosecuting a war against that religion's extremists, in now way makes the US comparable to Muslim countries' treatment of Christians and Jews.

Brian Clendinen writes:

In a perfect world I would agree. However, especially in New York how many other building were stopped because a small minority did not want an eye sore or wanted to save a building they said is historical and it was maybe only a hundred year old. To boot this minority did not want to pay market price to preserve the building. How often have factories and especially power plants not been built because no-one wants them in their back yard. Considering the site was picked to insult and "stick a finger in the eye" of New Yorkers next to a site they pretty much consider an extremely important religious site for all intense purposes. Islam has a history of building mosque and suddenly making site holy to Islam that were previously scared sites of other religions. A majority of New Yorkers quite strongly did not want it. I say that this a lot stronger case than a eye sore.

I personally have never seen a single case especially in a liberal place like New York City when a majority of the public was very public about not wanting construction of something and it ever getting built. I personally think this is an issue that should be up to New Yorkers not the rest of the nation. Double standard from a lot of people a typically. So until the property right are again protected by the Courts as they were 80 years ago I say if a majority of the local public is strongly insulted use the current laws to fight back.

Evan writes:
I have read the Koran. It is evil. Maybe more, maybe less evil than Mein Kampf, Das Kapital or whatever, but it is evil and political. Sharia is evil, muslim society as it is practiced in Rotterdam, Malmö, and London is evil. Catholic 'society' to the extent it even deviates from the norm is objectively less evil, Mormon society is objectively less evil or maybe not even on net evil at all.

You are not being fair by comparing the Koran, which is what Islam says, with Catholic and Mormon society, which is what Catholics and Mormons do.

Yes, if you literally believe in and follow the Koran, you will do evil, but the same is true of any other religious work. In fact, many commonly held belief would be evil if people followed them to their logical conclusions. For instance, the Unabomber held very common beliefs about society and technology.

The thing is, most people don't act on their beliefs. The purpose of their beliefs is signalling loyalty, altruism, or some other character trait, not actually guiding their actions. When someone's beliefs logically lead them to do something horrible their rational mind kicks in and stops them. They make up some elaborate hypocritical rationalization for why the Bible doesn't really mean to stone people who work on Sunday, or why the Koran really doesn't mean to kill apostates, even though both books obviously say to do those things. It's a phenomenon called "standby rationality" that Bryan Caplan explains quite thoroughly in his book, and that Robin Hanson expands on with his "near and far mode" theory.

What most Muslims believe is irrelevant because most of them hold those beliefs in far mode, so they will never act on them. The reason Christianity seems more civilized than Islam is that for some reason (probably the influence of the Enlightenment) Christians are more likely to be hypocritical than Muslims, and not act on the evil parts of their belief system. The key to stopping Islamic violence isn't fighting Islam, it's making it as hypocritical as Christianity is.

Steamer writes:

Left Outside: "The Ottoman empire was a bastion of tolerance comapred to Europe, the Balkans had periods of relative calm amongst Muslims and non-Muslims. Moorish Spain was remarkabley peaceful."

I happen to have 5 people in my family tree that were slaughter by Ottomans because they refused to convert to Islam. And this happened in the 19th century, not the 15th. No matter how many times you left-leaning social liberals repeat a certain lie (that the Ottoman empire was tolerant), it WILL NOT make that lie true.

"Yes, if you literally believe in and follow the Koran, you will do evil, but the same is true of any other religious work. In fact, many commonly held belief would be evil if people followed them to their logical conclusions."

This is ridiculous reasoning. So, yes, it is evil, but a lot of other things are, so let us not do anything about it. Pure idiocy.
Also, I fail to see any other commonly held ideology that is as dangerous as Islam. Care to enlighten me about one?

JPIrving writes:

The solution is clearly seasteading. I will live on the "no Islam allowed" seastead and the cultural relativists can live wherever they like. I think I will ban Nazis and Communists too...

Doc Merlin writes:

Adam is correct, as the Supreme Court did its best to neuter the reconstruction amendments they ensured that our property would be left to the whim of the state.

Sigh, we really need to end zoning.

Scott Scheule writes:

There are a number of interesting things in Steamer's comment. One, the appropriateness of his pseudonym. Two, the implication that David Friedman is left-leaning. Three, the substitution of anecdote, chilling as it may be, for discussion of the larger policies of the cultures, which are the operative facts here. Four, the accusal of Evan as proposing "not [to] do anything about [the evil messages of the Koran]" when in the quoted post, Evan indeed points out, and impliedly supports, "making [Islam] as hypocritical as Christianity is," i.e. encouraging Muslims to ignore the evil parts of the Koran.

But hey, we can all play this game of just concentrating on the nastier stories.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Tripoli

JPIrving writes:

Yes there are plenty of historical examples of Christians slaughtering Muslims who have invaded previously Christrian land. Somehow greeks murdering muslims (after 1400 years and constant war and 500 years of turkish occupation) in the Peloponnese doest cause the same revulsion as Operation Barbarossa. I know if my people had been driven to the brink of cultural extinction and 20 generations forced into slavery that I might be peeved.

The point is that the median muslim immigrant to the west TODAY is 1. demonstrably benighted 2. a net drain on the welfare state 3. far more likely to cause or tolerate harm to westerners than any other group of humans.

This ideology is the enemy of left, right and libertarian. It will not coexist with any of us.

Steamer writes:

"Two, the implication that David Friedman is left-leaning."

David Friedman IS left-leaning socially. Or perhaps you will claim that he advocates conservative positions in his writings?

"Three, the substitution of anecdote, chilling as it may be, for discussion of the larger policies of the cultures, which are the operative facts here."

The larger picture is, Christians were second - class citizens in the Ottoman Empire. The larger picture is, their private property was subject to (almost) voluntary confiscation by Muslims. The larger picture is that they were the ones paying disproportionate taxes. The larger picture is that there were massacres regularly.
But, hey, who are we, the people who actually do have some knowledge on our own history, to make such conclusions? The Ottoman Empire was heaven, no doubt about it...

"Four, the accusal of Evan as proposing "not [to] do anything about [the evil messages of the Koran]" when in the quoted post, Evan indeed points out, and impliedly supports, "making [Islam] as hypocritical as Christianity is," i.e. encouraging Muslims to ignore the evil parts of the Koran."

That practically amounts to nothing. Indeed, the fact that someone seriously claims that this can be achieved only tells me he has absolutely no knowledge about Islam. Only ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES are permitted to comment the Quran. Infidels are not supposed to discuss it. What's more, the Quran is supposed to be followed literally - EVERY deviation makes you an apostate - and we all know what the punishment for that is.

Left Outside writes:

"I happen to have 5 people in my family tree that were slaughter by Ottomans because they refused to convert to Islam. And this happened in the 19th century, not the 15th. No matter how many times you left-leaning social liberals repeat a certain lie (that the Ottoman empire was tolerant), it WILL NOT make that lie true."

I'm very sorry to hear that. However, you are not addressing my argument.

Yes the Ottoman empire was repressive, it was an empire and repression is a definitional aspect of empire, but it was less repressive than many of the other empires in existence at the time and before.

Look up the Cathars if you want to hear about religious persecution in Europe which was systematic in a way that I don't think it was in the Ottoman empire.

ALL religious texts are evil by any reasonable standard, that it the point of them, to legitimise a set of power relations convenient to those that write them.

A tiny minority of Muslims are currently doing things more evil than things perpetrated by other religions. However, in any remotely useful timeframe, call it a century, it is hard to call Islam more evil than any other belief system.

I don't want to support Islam, but Muslims are people like you and I, and all of them deserve a chance at a decent life.

Nykos writes:
Look up the Cathars if you want to hear about religious persecution in Europe which was systematic in a way that I don't think it was in the Ottoman empire.

*Cough* Armenian genocide *Cough*

Yes, the Medieval Catholic Church was probably worse than modern-day Islamists. The thing is, back then there were no AK-47s to shoot apostates with, no nukes to steal, no instructions to manufacture powerful explosives.

I don't want to support Islam, but Muslims are people like you and I, and all of them deserve a chance at a decent life.

I agree. And the best way is for them to accept a wishy-washy peaceful interpretation of the Qur'an (maybe something like Sufism or Bektashi Islam), or to renounce it altogether. Unfortunately, we are in no position (as infidels) to change their mind. Islam is a complex memetic organism (one might say, the most successful of its kind), and sadly we know of no other way to extinguish it other that through subjugation and imposition of Western values (no, I don't mean like in Iraq - I mean like Shinto Japan and Nazi Germany post WWII).

Until we figure out how to actually change the minds of Muslims so that they will perceive freedom as something that is more beneficial to them than the 7th century advice from their warlord prophet, the best thing to do is to not allow any more of them to come in our countries. It only takes one fanatic to kill innocent people, and the fact that most "moderate" Muslims think Sharia law should be implemented in the West should ring a few alarm bells for any libertarian.

Libertarianism (and even the flawed, social democracies we have) can't coexist with totalitarian ideologies that are taken seriously by a percentage of their followers in the double digits. We want to coexist with them, but they don't want to coexist with us unless we also follow their totalitarian beliefs.

Scott Scheule writes:

"Or perhaps you will claim that he advocates conservative positions in his writings?"

Yes, but I agree he advocates liberal positions as well.

"The larger picture is, Christians were second - class citizens in the Ottoman Empire. The larger picture is, their private property was subject to (almost) voluntary confiscation by Muslims. The larger picture is that they were the ones paying disproportionate taxes. The larger picture is that there were massacres regularly.
But, hey, who are we, the people who actually do have some knowledge on our own history, to make such conclusions? The Ottoman Empire was heaven, no doubt about it..."

1. That information is more useful. But, cf., Wikipedia:

"While recognizing the inferior status of dhimmis under Islamic rule, Bernard Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, states that in most respects their position was "was very much easier than that of non-Christians or even of heretical Christians in medieval Europe."[16] For example, in contrast, Dhimmis rarely faced martyrdom or exile, or forced compulsion to change their religion, and with certain exceptions they were free in their choice of residence and profession."

2. No one is claiming the Empire was heaven. They're discussing it in comparison with contemporaneous Christian regimes.

"That practically amounts to nothing. Indeed, the fact that someone seriously claims that this can be achieved only tells me he has absolutely no knowledge about Islam. Only ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES are permitted to comment the Quran. Infidels are not supposed to discuss it. What's more, the Quran is supposed to be followed literally - EVERY deviation makes you an apostate - and we all know what the punishment for that is."

Do you deny that many Muslims deviate from the exact word of the Koran? If no, then clearly Muslims can ignore parts of the book (or rationalize them away, or interpret them more liberally). If so, I see no reason such behavior can't be encouraged. We can certainly promote more liberal sects.

Scott Scheule writes:

See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_movements_within_Islam

Scott Scheule writes:

Actually, I'm wrong. The whole discussion began with the claim that large populations of Muslims and non-Muslims ever existed peacefully.

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