I said, "I don't think they should be allowed to build mosques anywhere in the United States."
He looked taken aback. This was an unexpected answer. Now, he and I like each other even though we have sometimes strongly opposing viewpoints on things. I asked him, "Why do you think it's okay for them to build mosques in the U.S.?"
It's always good, if you don't know what to say next, to ask a good question. He said, firmly, like he was standing on solid ground, "Because I believe in freedom of religion. I believe that's what America is about."
I said, "I believe in freedom of religion too, and one of the fundamental principles of Islam is that freedom of religion is a sin and a crime, and as soon as orthodox Muslims gain some political power they will take it away, as they have already done in every Muslim country. If you believe in freedom of religion, you should definitely not want them building mosques in the U.S. In at least seventy-five percent of the mosques in America, they preach the undermining, sabotaging, and ultimately overthrowing the government of the United States. This is sedition. We shouldn't allow any more mosques to be built until we have a way of preventing this kind of undermining sabotage within our borders."
He said, "What about fundamentalist Christian groups?"
I said, "If there is a fundamentalist Christian group preaching the overthrow of the United States government, they should be tried for sedition! Absolutely. The difference, however, is that political action is not really a fundamental part of Christianity. But it is a fundamental part of Islam."
He didn't seem to know what to say. Then he said, "Well what do you think we ought to do about it?"
That's a great question. Now we were getting somewhere. Often, people don't want to hear this stuff because they can't think of any good resolutions to it, and what solutions they can think of are completely unacceptable, like internment camps or "exterminating Muslims." I said, "In Japan, after World War II, the U.S. had a kind of provisional government until they got their own government going."
He nodded as if he was familiar with this.
"...and they did something interesting. The Shinto religion was militant and was the driving force behind the Japanese aggression that got the war started. But the McCarthur government said, 'You go ahead and practice your Shinto religion of you want, and all you want. But it will not be allowed in the government or in the schools.' In other words, even though the religion didn't have that disctinction between political action and personal religious devotion, the distinction was imposed from the outside. And it worked. Maybe something like that could be done with Islam."
"But we already have a separation of church and state!" he said.
"Well, they're pretty good at keeping Christianity out of schools, but they've been allowing Islam in. Schools have been giving Muslims prayer time, some schools have changed the food served in the cafeteria to comply with halal standards, and most significantly, they've allowed Muslims to change what gets said in history books about Islam in American public schools."
He looked really surprised at this.
"Yeah, they set it up so that if any history textbooks in America mention Islam, it has to be approved by Muslims. A group of Muslims set themselves up as historical experts on Islam, and made it sound pretty reasonable — you know, let Muslims take a look at how Muslim history is portrayed, making sure it's accurate or balanced or whatever, but the Mulsim group scrubbed the image of Islam clean, presenting this benign, totally inaccurate picture of Islam's history. They would never allow Christians to do something like that! But Islam pushes and pushes until they find ways to get accomodations. That's what they do. Political action is a religious duty for them."
I could tell this conversation was going to have to end soon, so I said, "I remember once you said you would read the Quran. Have you read it?"
"No," he said, looking a little embarrassed.
"You've got to read it," I said. "It will surprise you. It says 91 times in the Quran that a Muslim should follow Mohammad's example. And you will be amazed at what kind of an example he set. I'll tell you what, there is a really good version of the Quran I recommend. I can send you a link to it if you want."
"Yeah, send me that."
"Okay." And I did. I sent him a link to the versions I recommend, and told him why they're better than other versions.
I thought about this conversation afterwards and I realized that one of the most important questions about the proposed mosque is whether the support of the mosque serves the freedom of religion or impairs it. And the question hinges on what the mosque represents, and what will be taught in the mosque. If it is orthodox Islam, it is necessarily supremacist and has the ultimate purpose of undermining, sabotaging, and ultimately overthrowing the government of the United States, and then doing away with "freedom of religion" altogether, just as can be demonstrated by the example of the existing Muslim countries today. The more strictly those countries follow Islamic doctrine, the less freedom of religion they have.
In other words, the question is more fundamental — for this mosque and any other mosque in the free world — than the particulars of this particular mosque, its location, its symbolism, etc.
If the mosque represents orthodox Islam, building it is a strike against freedom of religion. Preventing it being built, however, will serve the principle of freedom of religion. To get that point across (and explain it) would teach your listener a lot about Islam.