MRBlog | Why Rick Santorum Thinks a Muslim Ban is Constitutional and Why It Matters

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By Thomas J. Whitley

During the “undercard” GOP Debate Tuesday night, Rick Santorum made a comment about Islam that seems to have been missed by much of the national media. To be fair, Rick Santorum’s comments about Islam do tend to be ignored by many because he talks as if he’s memorized some talking points but doesn’t actually posses any substantive understanding of Islam. And, Lindsey Graham really did steal the show during the early debate with his emotional pleas and one-liners. But it’s worth taking a brief look at what Santorum said and why it matters.

The fact of the matter is, Islam is different. I know this is going to come as a shock to a lot of people, and I mean this sincerely. Islam is not just a religion. It is also a political governing structure. The fact of the matter is, Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law, it is also a civil government, it is also a form of government. And, so, the idea that it is protected under the First Amendment is wrong.

And, in fact, that political structure is what is the big problem. The imposition of Sharia law adherence to fundamental Islam as it was practiced in the Seventh Century . . .

What we have here is an illustrative example of how classification works and the real-life implications it has. For Santorum, we should understand Islam as “different,” but from what? The implication is, of course, from Christianity, which is the quintessential “religion” in the U.S. That is, for most people in the West in general and in the U.S. in particular, Christianity exemplifies the Platonic ideal of “religion;” it is that against which all else is measured. A quick glance at the IRS’ definition of “church” shows this to be the case.

Now we will set aside for a moment, just how thoroughly political Christianity has been in its past and continues to be. And we will set aside that this “religion” that is decidedly not a “governing structure” or a “civil government” has ensured that “In God We Trust” continues to be printed on our currency and that “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. And we will set aside the attempts by Christian lawmakers in this country to legislate their personal religious morality with regard to abortion, homosexuality, sex education, school textbooks, etc. We’ll even set aside the fact that Rick Santorum has said that the idea of an separation of church and state makes him want to throw up. And we’ll set aside his belief that since our rights come from God we “have an obligation to live responsibly in conforming with God’s laws.”

Okay, so we won’t actually set these aside, because this is precisely the point. All religion is politics. Christianity is no less political than Islam, but that reality does not fit Santorum’s desired narrative. Rather, Christianity’s ubiquity in this country’s “governing structure” is presented as natural by Santorum, whereas any Muslim influence on government is presented as unnatural.

If Santorum is successful in presenting his narrative as “given” and in classifying Islam as “different” and as something more than “religion,” then it does not deserve the First Amendment protections afforded to “religion.” If Santorum is successful in persuading others to adopt his classification of Islam, then mosques would be stripped of their tax exempt status, “Islamic” speech would not be protected in the same way as “Christian” speech, and violence against Muslims could not be classed as hate crimes, just to name a few consequences. The point is that what may seem like a harmless understanding of Islam or as nothing more than an academic conversation about classification would, if adopted, have real and significant economic, political, and social consequences. In other words, classification matters. And, as I have said before, how we define “religion” matters.

 

Image via Wikipedia

 

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