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February 5, 2005

Fanaticism in Rhode Island

Without requiring a lawsuit or public debate, and almost without the knowledge of its mayor, the city of Providence removed a Ten Commandments monument that had stood in Roger Williams Park for more than four decades. I've explored the fanaticism involved over on Anchor Rising.

Posted by Justin Katz at February 5, 2005 5:25 PM
Culture
Comments

Question for Justin: In your opinion, is an observant Muslim in obeyance of the First Commandment? ("I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.")

Posted by: Chuck Anziulewicz at February 7, 2005 11:53 AM

Question for Chuck: What does that have to do with anything?

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 7, 2005 11:56 AM

It has absolutely EVERYTHING to do with the issue at hand. You seem upset that mayor of Providence would DARE to remove a Ten Commandments monument from what I assume is public property. The reason I ask you the question about observant Muslims is to see of YOU believe the applies to observant believers of ALL faiths, or only to those in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Certainly the First Commandment is monotheistic in nature, so it would be irrelevant to Hindus. As for Muslims, do you believe they worship the same God you do? If the answer is "NO," then you may also argue that the First Commandment is irrelevant to Muslims. Therefore the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on public property implies that the Judeo-Christian tradition takes precedence over all other beliefs from the government's point of view.

THAT is why my original question is germane. Sorry if it pisses you off.

Posted by: Chuck Anziulewicz at February 7, 2005 1:25 PM

What pisses me off, Chuck, is that you've got this canned argument that you insist on applying when it's clear that you haven't read what I've written so as to understand it. For one thing, part of my complaint was that, far from "the mayor of Providence [daring] to remove a Ten Commandments monument," the action was taken almost entirely without the mayor's knowledge (let alone public discussion).

More importantly, though, my point is that public expression on public property doesn't have to apply in absolute measure to all citizens. Furthermore, the belief that a monument to the majority heritage "implies" that it "takes precedence over all other beliefs from the government's point of view" and therefore must be leveled — this fundamental tenet of the liberal/secular faith in pluralism through public suppression — indicates a species of fanaticism.

As I wrote:

The same general approach could accommodate other groups whose religions don't incorporate the Decalogue at all. It would be possible for public discussion to distill the relevant significance of the monument in the public square and, identifying echoes in the other traditions, develop a solution

In a healthy society, citizens from other traditions would raise the issue of their cultural exclusion from such monuments, public discussion would distill the significance of the monuments, and interested parties could resolve the problem through further inclusion, not universal exclusion. Unfortunately, an assumption that such a society requires is that the offense of random individuals is not sufficient to demand that the public square be stripped of the local society's heritage, and for those whose main interest in the government is as a means to force the majority to bend to minority demands, such an approach cannot be tolerated. Again: fanaticism.

As much as libertarian types like to spin a broader base of support than they actually have, this isn't a question of Christians and Jews versus everybody else. Rather, it is between those who believe that even local public property must be barren of any cultural markers that so much as echo a particular religion and everybody else.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 7, 2005 1:55 PM

Apart from the issue of process that Justin has rightly described, where's the substantive complaint against the monument?

Presumably a thoroughly secular view is that the Commandments, like the Scriptures, are merely historical remnants of some sort. The monument commemorates the historical influence of the Commandments so where's the problem?

Perhaps the impetus has much less to do with the liberty of the complainers than it is about the suppression of the heritage and the beliefs with which they do not agree.

Posted by: Chairm at February 7, 2005 3:33 PM

Hey Chuck, why not ask a Muslim?

Posted by: Marty at February 7, 2005 9:05 PM

It was a simple question: "Is an observant Muslim in obeyance of the First Commandment?"

Neither Justin nor Marty nor anyone else here wants to offer an answer. Interesting.

Posted by: Chuck Anziulewicz at February 8, 2005 9:37 AM

That's because only God knows what's in the hearts of men Chuck.

Posted by: smmtheory at February 8, 2005 9:59 AM

I honestly don't know what my personal opinion has to do with anything, unless you're just trying to goad me into being judgemental.

I would be interested in hearing a faithful muslim's answer though.

Posted by: Marty at February 8, 2005 12:44 PM

"That's because only God knows what's in the hearts of men Chuck."

I couldn't agree with you more ... but that's never stopped anyone from judging the hearts of others.

Posted by: Chuck Anziulewicz at February 8, 2005 1:42 PM

It stopped me Chuck. And not just once. Maybe you should reconsider that 'never'.

Posted by: smmtheory at February 8, 2005 2:00 PM

Chuck, you might not get a full answer from non-Muslim commentators here -- out of our respect for the religion of Islam -- although an response from an observant Muslim would be welcomed.

It would seem you might wish to provoke a detour discussion along the lines of "Allah vs God" rather than acknowledge the pluralism that the historical monument represented and which was described in a link in Justin's post.

There may be a Muslim reader who will offer his or her answer, but in the meantime it is my understanding that the First Commandment is confirmed in the verses of the Quran.

"There is no God except one God."
Ch 47: Ver 19

"Allah" is the Arabic name of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all creatures on earth. The term, Muslim, refers to a person who willing submits to the Will of God in beliefs and actions. Moses, for example, was a Muslim in this sense. But there are also degrees of being a Muslim.

Despite what you may wish to provoke, there is no reason to suggest that Allah is a different deity from God. When a Muslim submits to the Will of Allah, he or she submits to the Will of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all creatures. Moses, for example, was a Muslim in this broad sense. And there are degrees of being a Muslim.

The historical monument is not a vehicle for the establishment of a state religion. And, as I said earlier, if a non-believer considers Scriptures to be historical remnants, what is the concern if not the suppression of beliefs with which he or she disagrees?

Now, I've twice asked and answered my own question. And offered a response to your question.

What is your answer to your own question? And what is your response to my question? The topic, afterall, is the fanatical attempt to remove a historical monument in a particular city -- but the pattern has spread across the country.

Posted by: Chairm at February 8, 2005 2:02 PM

According to this link, Muslims don't have any problem with the Ten Commandments (in fact Moses is considered a prophet in Islam, if I'm not mistaken). There are some Christians who claim that Muslims don't worship the same God as the God of the Bible, but I think they are a fairly small minority. I think the most common view is that Muslims worship the God of the Bible, but their views about his nature, the nature of man, and the relationship between God and man are distorted (for obvious reasons). But the Ten Commandments seems to be an area of common ground for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. But even if it wasn't, it's a fact that Christianity and Judaism have played major roles in the history of the US, and Islam hasn't.

Posted by: Mike S. at February 9, 2005 1:24 PM