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The Islamophobia Dodge of the Religious Freedom Pledge

The Islamophobia Dodge of the Religious Freedom Pledge

by Sarah Posner (Religious Dispatches)

Open Doors USA, a Christian organization which evangelizes non-believers around the world, has drafted a Relgious Freedom Pledge, which it is asking the presidential candidates to sign.

The pledge states, among other things, that:

[R]eligious liberty in full is the birthright of every American, as recognized by the First Amendment. It entails the right to believe, worship, and practice in accord with one’s faith, subject only to the limits imposed by the U.S. constitution and the Bill of Rights.  The right of religious freedom must be applied equally to all religious communities in America, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. At the same time, religious freedom does not mandate belief, but protects the right not to believe.

So why won’t the pledge promoters talk about Islamophobia — by the very candidates it is trying to get to sign the pledge?

The only candidate so far to sign the pledge is Rick Santorum, who just last week advocatedfor profiling of Muslims. Santorum has also maintained that “Christendom” is at civilizational war with “jihadis,” who include, in his mind, moderates like Imam Feisal Rauf. When I asked an Open Doors spokesperson, Jerry Dykstra, about Santorum’s endorsement of Muslim profiling, he told me that “we’re happy to discuss the pledge, but not to comment on individual candidates’ stance on issues. We’re not experts in each candidates stance or statements on every issue. We do want candidates to pledge to upholding religious freedom for people of all faiths which of course includes Muslims.” But when I asked Dykstra if I could interview an Open Doors representative about the pledge in light of anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. generally, he declined.

Taking a look at Open Doors website, I see that it promotes a “Muslim World Ministry” for which it raises money so “You can send light to dark places in the Muslim World.” You’re free to be Muslim, but it would be better to be Christian.

What’s more, though, is how Christian candidates who’ve done much to promote a lack of religious freedom for other religions (e.g., Michele Bachmann’s worry that sharia will “usurp the Constitution” or Newt Gingrich’s calls to ban sharia law because it is “a comprehensive political, economic and religious movement that seeks to impose sharia—Islamic law—upon all aspects of global society”) or who have done little to tamp it down (e.g., Rick Perry’s lamenon-efforts to call out his supporters’ anti-Mormonism, or Mitt Romney’s apparent willingness to overlook his endorser Jay Sekulow’s anti-Muslim crusades) are “considering” signing the pledge, with no questions raised by Open Doors.

It seems that Open Doors is more concerned about what it perceives to be anti-Christian sentiment. According to the pledge, religious freedom includes the right to employ religious arguments “contending for or against laws and policies, such as laws designed to protect the unborn and traditional marriage, or to relieve poverty and increase economic opportunity for the disadvantaged.” (Right Wing Watch points out how pledge co-author and Georgetown University professor Thomas Farr has argued that Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling in the Proposition 8 case would lead to religious persecution because it deemed “that religious and moral arguments against gay marriage are, in effect, irrational and therefore unconstitutional.”) The pledge also promotes “the right of individuals and of religious communities not to be forced to participate in, or to forfeit their employment because of refusal to participate in, activities that deeply offend their religious conscience.” (That is the same argument made by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and some evangelicalsagainst providing insurance that covers cost-free birth control.)

Religious persecution is a serious issue, and it’s true that Christians experience actual religious persecution in many places in the world. But being deprived of the ability to force one’s religious beliefs on all one’s fellow citizens in a secular democracy does not constitute persecution, and marginalizing Muslims in the name of “protecting” the Constitution isn’t “freedom.” But Open Doors doesn’t want to talk about it.

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  • Khushboo

    If even Faisal Rauf is considered an extremist Jihadi, what hope do any muslims have of not being called that?”

    So true. He’s one of the most liberal men I know of. I was shocked when I heard people calling him “extremist”. At first I laughed and then I thought “wait a minute..this is scary!” and now I’m angry at the audacity of people to accuse those whom they know nothing about!

  • Géji

    > “Many Muslims are non-practicing, probably about the same proportion as for Christians.”

    @Julie

    You through in an observation here, that seem both baseless and unfounded, but don’t worry, you’re not the first one making such or similar claims. It looks like a great deal of people especially in the “West”, and since 9/11, without any formal knowledge of Muslims whatsoever, somehow took the liberty to make lots of suppositions about them, so I don’t blame you for that. But do you have any statistics for your claims? or is it just your wishful thinking. First you claimed that “many Muslims are non-practicing”, and then you even went further by asserting and specify the number as “the same proportion as for Christians” – so either show the statistics for that claim, or stop making assumptions of things you have no knowledge-of. Because last I’ve heard, Muslims actually tend to be more religious in observing their faith, than other religious group, and certainly more than Christians who happen to be more secular, than religious. And it is precisely the reason why most secular Westerners, who are not found of any religion, accuse the Muslim-world of,( i.e, “too” religious, and “less” secular ). Because they see that attachment Muslims have for their faith, and their perseverance in insisting to live by it, as a sign of “religiosity”, thus, a “threat”, which of course is completely unfounded and based on irrationality, and ignorance of Islam/Muslims. So when non-Muslims assert that “many Muslims are non-practicing”, the attempt I think is to make themselfs fell ‘better’ in their erroneous thinking that religion is fading away, which means that someplace in their heads they think that “non-practicing” Muslim must be way better and less of a “threat”, than a “practicing Muslim”.

    “The retention of converts is not that different than for other faiths (ie. a significant number leave the faith after few years)”

    Can you provide the statistics of the “significant number”? or again is it wishful-thinking on your part. I know the “converts” or “reverts”(as they like to call themselfs), have difficulties in the first or two years of their conversion, but I’ve never heard of “significant number” leaving the faith, especially not “after few years”…..As a matter of fact -( and I’m only talking about Muslim converts here, and not of other religions)- I know that many of them take their new faith with great enthusiasm, and eagerness in learning it as soon as possible, and plunge into Islamic studies, laws and philosophies in order to became great leaders of the faith(i.e, Scholars, activists, Spokesman/women, Shaykhs, Imams, ect), especially after 9/11. Many of the leading Islamic Scholars, Spokesmen/women, activists (ect) in the West today are actually Converts.

  • marco

    If even Faisal Rauf is considered an extremist Jihadi, what hope do any muslims have of not being called that?

  • Crow

    Exactly, the europeans committed genocide in this country. They forced an alien religion on the Native population also they used similar names the Islamaphobes use for Muslims such as primitive, heathen, stone age dwellers the typical language of christian fascists (not to say all Christians are fascists). So mark, susanna and pasqule you’re welcome, it’s always nice to know people have been saved from their ignorance.

  • U.S.S Glenn Beck

    Pascal

    So sorry, but that’s fact. Christianity was imposed, often forcibly on Native Americans.

    If Islam was forcibly imposed on the Christian populations of the Middle East, then why is it that large Christian communities still exist today in the Middle East?

    About the Islamofascism and Christianophobic ideology on this site that exists according to you- this claim is such rubbish I’m not going to even bother with it.

  • A pointless bill anyway… because the Bill of Rights is being banned with the Senate bill 1867!

  • Julie

    @Susanna

    In Canada, our treatment of natives has been acknowledged even by the government to be akin to cultural genocide. Though there was not a policy to physically eliminate native people, there was a massive, focused campaign to eliminate any vestige of nativeness in them. Their children were taken from them and forbidden to speak their own language or practice their own religion, or they would be beaten or worse. Christian churches ran most of these schools, and part of the justification for their existence was to Christianize the natives (ie. by force). The legacy of the “creation of schools, churches and mission outreach” that you speak of is now reparations to the former students and their families for the years of horrendous abuse they suffered, and a people whose culture is shattered. I do not know the detailed history of the United States with regard to its native peoples, but believe that it was even worse than ours. No one is blaming the Christians for all the evils of the world, but this is one case where people were definitely harmed by their interactions with Christians.

    @Mark Koch

    It is true that historically, execution has been a punishment meted out for conversion from Islam. This is not something that I find acceptable in any way, and there is no support for it in the Quran, as you state.

    You ask “if a Moslem leaves the faith in the US, are they ostracized by their community and do they fear for their life?” I would imagine that in many cases, a Muslim leaving the faith would experience some degree of ostracization – as I did, when I left Christianity, and as most who leave any faith will experience. But I doubt most will be fearful for their lives. Many Muslims are non-practicing, probably about the same proportion as for Christians. They are not fearful. The retention of converts is not that different than for other faiths (ie. a significant number leave the faith after a few years), and I have never heard of a convert who left later living in fear. In North America at least, this “apostasy brings death” idea is not based in reality.

  • Susanna

    European countries came claiming lands long before people of faith came to be free of oppression in their home countries.
    The fur trade, more than any other activity, contributed to the white exploration and opening of the wilderness leading to conflicts between whites and Indians.
    Competition between and among European nations and among the Indian tribes for the fur trade was a major factor in many intertribal conflicts and colonial wars.
    There was native resistance to the traders by the Indians. But the tribes sided with the French against the English etc. as well as tribal rivalries that encouraged distrust among them. Indian lands began shrinking because of settlers who followed the traders into the wilderness beyond the coastal settlements.
    There was no religious aspect to the commercial entities at that time that contributed to what you call “genocide” of native americans. It was tribal rivalry, trade and which side (English, French or Dutch) that they could get the most from.
    While the religious missionary expansion progressed more slowly, the efforts were not genecide but creation of schools, churches and mission outreach.
    Crow and Atheist Arab: Read accounts of early settlements, trade and especially the French and Indian War. You would really like to pin all the ills of the world on Christians. How naive of you.

  • Mark Koch

    So let me see – the sum total of all these posts is that we are calling Christians names for alleged actions 300 years ago? Maybe it was just radical Christians or “Al Christa” the Christian version of Al Quada?

    Isn’t the elephant in the parlor here the last sentence of the Pledge “At the same time, religious freedom does not mandate belief, but protects the right not to believe.”

    Why are we not talking about apostates from Islam? Are you claiming because “Christians are bad” that the Islamic religion should have the right to kill apostates as spelled out in the Koran and Hadith?

    Lets move this site past calling people names and be open to confront the unsavory aspects of all religions, including Islam? Bottom line – if a Moslem leaves the faith in the US, are they ostracized by their community and do they fear for their life?

  • Atheist Arab – عربي ملحد

    There’s a deep-rooted pathological condition within the minds of some bigots in the Western Christendom: The strong sense of supremacy!

    They’re like:
    Look at the Muslims, they oppress gays. We only hate gays a little less and all we want is to ban same-sex marriage. So we do hate gay people but not as much as Muslims hate them.

    That’s the mindset.

    Not only is this stupid, but also hypocritical. It’s like a blind person mocking another blind person whose blindness is, presumably, a little more severe.

  • Pascal

    Christianity was forced on the USA? Oh, please.

    Perhaps we can talk about the imposition of Islam on the Christians of the Middle East! Now that’s a much more interesting and substantial topic.

    Of course you won’t tolerate such talk on this website! Not surprising given your Islamofascist and Christianophobic ideology.

  • U.S.S Pamela Jeller

    Susanna

    CHRISTIANITY WAS FORCED ON THIS COUNTRY BY EUROPEAN INVADERS UPON THE NATIVE AMERICANS. YOU ARE THE ONE WHO NEEDS A HISTORY LESSON!!!

  • Daniel

    Actually Crow, it wasn’t so much that Christianity was imposed on this country, but that Euopeans–who were already Christian–ethnically cleansed the Americas of the non-Christian native inhabitents. Most didn’t have the opportunity to convert before imported diseases, destruction of the buffalo, forced migrations, etc killed them off.

    Yes, maybe the surviving First Americans had Christianity imposed in them, but the real tragedy was the wiping out of the vast majority of the native inhabitants.

  • Crow

    sorry susana…I already know the truth and the truth is christianity was an alien religion forced on this country by invaders, you may not like it but that doesn’t change it. The history you speak of was written by these self same invaders, so thats not exactly objective right? Instead of spouting revisionist b.s. You should work to better the role Christianity will have in history.

  • Susanna

    Crow and Black Infidel: You both need a history lesson in American History.

  • Black Infidel

    Europe seems like a museum that is a glorification of colonization, atrocities, invasions and force conversions. Have no interest in going there in the least.

  • Black Infidel

    That is very true Crow.

  • Crow

    Evangical christians being hypocritical again. Christianity was forced on this country by european invaders.

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