Robert Spencer on Virgil Goode

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UPDATE: Welcome NY Times 'The Caucus' Blog readers! We don't get many city folk out here in possum gravy country, but we love it when we do. We also love our Rep. Virgil Goode, though I hope you will take a moment to read the full discussion that follows.

At the suggestion of our good buddy Zimzo, I have looked into remarks made by Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode in his recent letter touching on the Koran, religion and immigration, as well as Goode's follow-up statement.

I take exception to Goode's argument that the current state of affairs and the problem of rampant, nonsensical multiculturalism should be blamed on Bill Clinton. Clinton might have initiated the diversity in immigration program, but the Republicans had at least a short spell controlling the levers of power, did they not? They could have fixed it if they had a mind to.

Robert Spencer has a very informed take on this controversy (as tends to be the case with any question regarding Islam and the West):

Goode is not opposed to having "many more Muslims in the United States" out of "bigotry," as CAIR has predictably alleged, but because he is aware that Islam presents a challenge, as we have explained here so many times, to "the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America." He also seems to be aware, when he warns that "our resources" could be "swamped," that Muslim immigrants, including mujahedin, cheerfully live on the dole in Europe -- a situation that is nothing less than suicidal.

Spencer is truly one of the "voices crying in the wilderness" about the threats facing America and the West in general. I've read most of his books and I think he is mostly on point. He knows a lot more than I do about Islam, to be certain.

I also think, however, that it is indubitably the case that the public face of any ideological or cultural movement can appear scarier than it really is - particularly in the case of religion.

Ideologically - and mythologically - religions can be pretty fearsome. A great example is the horrorshow that Roman Catholicism was made out to be in England and America from, like, 1600 until about 40 years ago. I mean, from the Pope right on down to the priests and the scruffy Irish foot soldiers, Catholicism was painted as a menace, an institutional force bent on subverting democracy and taking over the world.

It didn't quite work out that way because, whatever the Vatican might have been planning or not planning, western civilization has a way of smoothing the rough edges of any ideology that purportedly seeks to contravene basic human liberties, respect for the individual, rule of law, beer commercials, and all of the other things that have made the United States the shining city on the hill. There is no reason to think Muslims won't come around in a generation or two and start watching NASCAR and football with the rest of us. (And I do NOT mean soccer.)

As to the question of whether one should be allowed to take an oath on the Koran rather than the Bible: Spencer points out the Koran permits lying. That's a good point, and the Koran appears to permit quite a few additional behaviors one would not hope to see in a courtroom. Whatever criticisms one may have of Christianity's New Testament, you must admit the world would have far fewer religiously-justified murders if everyone followed its rules.

That being said, why do we need a holy book for the swearing in ceremony of a public official anyway? Christians can say "our book is holiest and true" and Muslims may counter, "no OURS is so we want to swear on it."

But the point is, you need to raise your right hand and make a public pledge. If you are a little "off" maybe you want to raise your left hand - sure, we can have that argument. But the pledge is what's important, whether you follow God or Gaia or Reverend Bob Dobbs.

I think an immigration policy that is discriminatory based on the ideology of the applicant is a great idea. Assimilation is a numbers game: Over time, over generations, the host society will influence newcomers as long as the number of immigrants who detest the basic tenets of American culture is much smaller than the number of people already here. Their kids will grow up learning to love football, freedom of thought and fast cars, and will gradually shed their alien cultural baggage.

Whether you are pledging on a Koran or Bible does not seem like such a huge issue because really you are pledging to tell the truth or uphold the Constitution or whatnot, and it seems to me that should be the focus. If Muslims make the pledge and keep the pledge, the law is happy. If they don't, the law will rain down hellfire on them as it will on anyone who breaks such a public oath.

And as long as all their offspring have the opportunity to watch the Daytona 500 every February, I think in the long run everything is going to turn out all right for America.

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zimzo said:

While I concur with the general thrust of your remarks, there are a couple of points where we diverge. First of all, the passages that Spencer refers to in the Quran both refer to the specific act of lying about one's faith under compulsion. In other words, non-Muslims forcing Muslims to deny Islam under the threat of death. There are plenty of passages in the Quran and the Hadith that condemn lying, such as Sura 40:28. It would in fact be a lie to imply that Muslims hold the truth less sacred than Christians do.

I find this statement of yours troubling: "I think an immigration policy that is discriminatory based on the ideology of the applicant is a great idea." Apparently, you want us to return to the days of the McCarran-Walter Act, which was passed at the height of the Red Scare in the 1950s, and which was overturned in 1990. I find this conservative affection for the McCarthy era pretty frightening. What ideology to you purpose to enforce? If someone says they don't like George Bush should they be banned from the country? If they support gay marriage?

This goes to your whole idea of what constitutes American "culture." I know you are half-joking, but only half. Virtually everything you cite as being examples of American culture are things that I don't like at all, and yet I am just as American as you. I like soccer and am bored by football. I have never watched NASCAR in my life. I know these were jokingly trivial examples but frankly I find many of the values in certain parts of the country pretty repugnant and I'm sure there are many people in red states who would think the same about my values. I happened to see Borat yesterday and there is a scene where he visits a rodeo in Virginia where Borat tells the rodeo's producer Bobby Rowe, "We hang homosexuals in my country!" and Rowe responds: "That's what we're trying to do here." Even though I grew up in Virginia I found everything about that scene completely foreign to me. That may be your idea of American "culture" but it's not mine. I don't think that makes me any less American than you are.

I would not make enjoyment of NASCAR the litmus test for admission to the U.S. I hope everyone can sleep more soundly tonight with that clarification in mind.

Also, I would not question anyone's patriotism based on their enthusiasm for "soccer," although I would ask them to wear a white "S" symbol someplace conspicuous, to save time.

"Ah, you are a soccer fan," we could say. "I have a bonsai tree I think you'll enjoy watching while the rest of us play poker." That sort of thing.

zimzo said:

As I said, I knew you were half-joking. But you sidestepped a serious question. What kind of ideological litmus test would you give to immigrants to this country?

You also seem to be ignoring the main thrust of Goode's statement. He is not calling for an ideological litmus test for immigration to this country. He is calling for a RELIGIOUS litmus test for immigration to this country. Don't you find that extremely troubling?

Jack said:

Not in the least. Do we not, as Americans, have the right to decide who can enter our country and become citizens? If a particular religion teaches values such as the submission of women, the hanging of homosexuals, and general disdain for democracy, do we not have the right to say they are not welcome? Do we not have the right, as Americans, to say what we want America to be?

zimzo said:

What you mean "we" kimosabe?

No, I don't consider the prospect of restricting immigration by Muslims troubling at all. The less Muslims, the less Islamic terrorists and the less supporters of shariah law. Also, on cloudy days, it is often cooler than when the sun is out.

But as I said, I am open to the possibility of Muslims becoming westernized. I think we all should be. But if there is going to be any restriction on immigration that would be a very logical one.

And no, there are no other ideological litmus tests I can think of.

Jack said:

"WE," as in American Citizens, through our elected representatives.

zimzo said:

Wow. I really don't get you, Joe. I read the Constitution and I see a country that believes in religious freedom and forbids religious tests for offices. It doesn't say anything about certain religions needing their "edges smoothed." I see a country that sometimes does not live up to its ideals but usually comes around after the passage of time. I thought that when you mentioned the treatment of Roman Catholics in the past that you were giving an example of how this country sometimes does not "live out the true meaning of its credd." I didn't realize that what you were actually saying was the Catholicism had its "edges smoothed." If you really believe protection from Islamic terrorism trumps the ideals in our Constitution why limit measures to keeping Muslims out through immigration quotas? Why not clamp down on the Muslims who already here? If the principles enshrined in our Constitution mean so little to you, why go for half measures?

By the way, I know the reasonable and intelligent part of your brain realizes that the grammatically correct construction is "the fewer Muslims, the fewer Islamic terrorists." I think this grammatical slip up is a sure sign that Crazy Joe, who's not quite as intelligent or educated, has taken over temoporarily.

Those of us on the left have spent 5 years being told that we don't love America as much as you on the right. Yet time and again you guys seem willing to toss aside the very principles that make this country great to fight the terrorists. You guys seem to see no problem with locking up an American like citizen like Jose Padilla for years without charges or access to a lawyer, to subject him to torture. You are not just willing but eager to suspend habeus corpus, limit press freedom, label those who use their right of freedom of speech traitors. You barely raise a peep when a United States Congressman proposes a religious test for office. What American principles do you actually hold sacred? Are there any? How far are you willing to go in eroding our freedoms in order to fight the terrorists?

So when Jack uses the word "we" and you talk about "our" American culture, I am truly at a loss to figure out what you're talking about. Much of what you're saying doesn't strike me as being American at all.

On a lighter note Jack includes people who want to "hang homosexuals" on his list of people we might want to keep out of America. I guess he put that one on the list to win me over. Maybe Jack has not heard of the movie Borat (which is very funny, by the way) but in the film, Borat, who says "We hang homosexuals in my country!" is actually a fictional character played by Sacha Baron Cohen. The person who says, "That's what we're trying to do here" is very real. Bobby Rowe is an American citizen and a Virginia citizen. You can't keep him out of the country, Jack. He already lives here.

Zimzo, I think it was Jefferson who actually opined that "Moslems" would be included under the aegis of religious freedom - no small admission considering the U.S. was hard at war against the Barbary pirates at the time. So while I am not the least surprised the Constitution doesn't say anything about any specific religions (notice it doesn't say anything about homosexuality, either), a case can be made the Founding Fathers meant for Muslims to be treated like people of all other religions.

But the Constitution does not say anything specific about immigration quotas, either. I don't think that means we should read it as saying there shall never be any restrictions on immigration into the U.S.

Leaving your hyperbole aside, I think a case can be made that there can be restrictions on immigration into this country. Unless you are prepared to argue the U.S. should have no borders I think you must grant there will be some criteria regarding who gets in.

I believe, along with Virgil Goode, that scrutinizing the religious ideology of Muslims attempting to enter the U.S. is as reasonable as any other criteria. At this point in history, it does not seem like such a far fetched idea.

But as long as the numbers are kept to a manageable proportion vis a vis the existing population, I think America can provide the best likely environment for "westernized" or secularized Islam to develop. I assume that's what you would like to see occur.

Whoa: Jeffro, Lemuel, Cephas, Homer and Stinky Bob - we got us a bona fide big media link to this here post.

If you all gots anything intelligente to say, nows the time.

zimzo said:

Scrutinizing the religious ideology of immigrants is such a great idea, Joe. And since most immigrants come through Los Angeles and New York, I hope that those cities can take the lead in keeping people out who don't conform to California and New York values. I think after a few years of only letting in liberal immigrants we'll see a bluer, more progressive country. That's what I'd like to see.

Jack said:

Avoiding questions again, eh, Zimzo? Try this: "Do we, or do we not, have the right to say who can come into this country?"

I'd say most come in through our southern border, actually. If you have stats that say otherwise I'd like to see them.

zimzo said:

How do you not know that the vast majority of immigrants to the U.S. come by plane into New York, Los Angeles and also Miami?

Maybe you were thinking of illegal immigration, but even then about half of illegal immigrants come here legally and overstay their visas:

Zimzo, the vast majority come across the southern border - and I am talking millions. Obviously, most are illegal.

"Somewhat more than half" entered the country illegally, per paragraph 4 of your source document.

Thanks: I would confirm the "Somewhat more than half" calculation.

I'd say, a whole lot more than half, based in what I have heard - but somewhat more than half to be sure.

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