Equal Rights For Muslims Not Popular

Barely half of Americans think Muslims have a Constitutional right to build a mosque near the World Trade Center and 18% think mosques shouldn't be allowed anywhere. That's why we have a 1st Amendment.

Patrick Appel finds an Economist poll showing that barely half of Americans think Muslims have a Constitutional right to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site “depressing but not surprising.”

He names this Chart of the Day:

Adam Server adds:

I’m going to reiterate what I said earlier about same-sex marriage, which is that prejudice does not cease being prejudice because it is widely held. Among both parties, prejudice against Muslims is widely held, and instead of tamping down this kind of sentiment, Republican leaders are exploiting it for political gain, and many Democrats are following along.

Finally, the point of constitutional rights is that they aren’t subject to the capricious whims of contemporary political anger. They exist to protect everyone, but they exist particularly to protect the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority, precisely because popular people and ideas rarely need protecting.

Quite right.  And it has always been thus.   The whole point of limited government in a democracy is to prevent the majority from enacting its prejudices into law.  There are things that are up for a vote and then there are “certain unalienable Rights.”    Attempts to quash the rights of an unpopular religion or ethnic group will ultimately not stand.

It’s not shocking that Republican leaders are more apt to stoke these cultural prejudices than Democrats.  Cultural conservatives are, almost by definition, opposed to the drive by other cultures to increase their influence.   It’s somewhat interesting, though, that Independents are more respectful of our fundamental principles than those who identify with either party.

FILED UNDER: Politics 101, Public Opinion Polls, Religion
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    “It’s not shocking that Republican leaders are more apt to stoke these cultural prejudices than Democrats. ”

    Actually it is Jim. Just as it was sixty years ago when they stoking prejudices against blacks, or 80 when they stoking prejudices against Jews or 125 when they were stoking prejudices against Irish Catholics. Once you buy this logic you’re essentially endorsing cultural and racial extremism of any sort.

  2. Ben says:

    “It’s somewhat interesting, though, that Independents are more respectful of our fundamental principles than those who identify with either party.”

    But that’s not surprising, either. People who self-identify with a party are more concerned with their party gaining (or keeping) power, than they are with protecting any sort of ideology or philosophy

  3. mantis says:

    Actually it is Jim. Just as it was sixty years ago when they stoking prejudices against blacks, or 80 when they stoking prejudices against Jews or 125 when they were stoking prejudices against Irish Catholics.

    I’m as critical of today’s Republicans as anyone, but it’s unfair to blame them, at the exclusion of the Democrats (or other parties), for the ugly episodes of nativism and prejudice through US history. Both parties, and their predecessors, have been complicit at times.

  4. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    I find your headline to this post most ironic given that Muslims, through the application of Sharia law, which is an integral part of Islam, denies equal rights to women and non-Muslims.

  5. Derrick says:

    I’m as critical of today’s Republicans as anyone, but it’s unfair to blame them, at the exclusion of the Democrats (or other parties), for the ugly episodes of nativism and prejudice through US history. Both parties, and their predecessors, have been complicit at times.

    I don’t think that it’s about Republicans as a brand, but the philosophy of those who currently reside in that party. Republicans were once a big tent comprised of segregationists and those who were for civil rights like the Democrats at that time, but the “Rockefeller Republicans” have all but been extinguished and are now Independents or Democrats. Now you have a party that’s majority wants less rights for gays, less rights for Hispanics, less rights for Muslims, while still displaying an anitpathy for African-Americans. Democrats aren’t saints but you just don’t see anyting resembling this united front against group rights, except for maybe the Palin family.

  6. JKB says:

    Funny but I see no Constitutional issue here. The only political person who has proposed government action is Nancy Pelosi, who seemed to want to use her office to suppress free speech. Everyone else has stated an opinion. Opinions, I might add, that are probably freer and more readily shared for the simple fact that there is no worry that some nut could get a law passed denying Muslims free practice.

    And Brummagem Joe, I think you need to check your party affiliations on your statement. Bull Conner was a Democrat, Joe Kennedy was a Democrat, Father Coughlin was certainly no Republican. See the problem.

  7. anjin-san says:

    The current banner headline over at Fox News is an entirely spectulative article about African Muslims plans to attack the U.S. It’s not hard to see where this stuff is coming from.

  8. Tano says:

    “The whole point of limited government in a democracy is to prevent the majority from enacting its prejudices into law”

    An interesting take on things – given that it is those who most loudly advocate for limited government who are also most likely to argue that the prejudices of the majority should be enacted, and that judicial intervention against the will of the majority is illegitimate.

    It is the supposedly ‘big government” liberals who are concerned with protecting minorities, and who have a vision of the judiciary as an institution that will protect their rights..

    “It’s not shocking that Republican leaders are more apt to stoke these cultural prejudices than Democrats. ”

    This points out the great division in contemporary Republicanism. No one is surprised that cultural conservatives are actively oppressive of minority rights – but the Republicans also claim to be, at their core, interested in limited government.

    Perhaps we should just say that it is not shocking that Republicanism is an incoherent “philosophy”.

  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    “I’m as critical of today’s Republicans as anyone, but it’s unfair to blame them, ”

    To be honest I was equating conservatism with Republicanism which is strictly wrong since the Republican party was on the side of the angels in 1861 but it’s probably fair to say all the nativist and conservative elements that once resided elsewhere and had different labels have now gravitated to the GOP. Jim Joyner is on the side of the angels over this but he was attempting to let these folks off the hook. And he shouldn’t.

    ” And Brummagem Joe, I think you need to check your party affiliations on your statement. Bull Conner was a Democrat, Joe Kennedy was a Democrat, Father Coughlin was certainly no Republican. See the problem.”

    No problem, purely a labelling issue. Most of those Southern Democrats ended up in the GOP. Labels change. Extreme conservatism doesn’t.

  10. Boyd says:

    I’ll bypass the revisionist history in some of the comments so far. Some of you folks need to join the rest of us in the real world.

    But James, I’ll ask you the question again that others have already asked here and elsewhere: what opponent(s) of this Muslim project are proposing a new law, or government coercion, to prevent this construction? This sounds like the creation of a strawman that’s easy to argue against, rather than what people are actually saying.

  11. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Why did the state department fund the travel of the Imam in question to the Middle East? What is the state dept. doing involving itself in religious matters? Once again this site perpetuates a lie. None of the GOP leaders have said the right to build the mosque does not exist. What they have clearly stated, which tone deaf readers here miss is it is not right to build the mosque there. Maybe had they used the word correct rather than right, or the term insensitive. Anjin you are a liar. Always have been and always will be.

  12. mantis says:

    Why did the state department fund the travel of the Imam in question to the Middle East? What is the state dept. doing involving itself in religious matters?

    Maybe if you knew what the State Department does, you wouldn’t ask such stupid questions.

    Once again this site perpetuates a lie. None of the GOP leaders have said the right to build the mosque does not exist.

    Where is the lie? The post is about a poll of Americans. The only mention of GOP leaders is here:

    It’s not shocking that Republican leaders are more apt to stoke these cultural prejudices than Democrats.

    Stoking cultural prejudices is not the same thing as saying the group doesn’t have a right to build, and Republicans are without a doubt stoking them, constantly. Stoking isn’t even the right word. They are pouring barrels of gasoline. Criticism FAIL.

  13. Dave Schuler says:

    Brummagem Joe:

    Perhaps I don’t understand what you’ve said here

    Just as it was sixty years ago when they stoking prejudices against blacks, or 80 when they stoking prejudices against Jews or 125 when they were stoking prejudices against Irish Catholics.

    I assume the referent of “they” is Republicans. Do you have some evidence that Republicans rather than Democrats were “stoking prejudices against blacks” 40 years ago? I seem to recall that Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and other segregationists states were overwhelmingly Democratic at the time. I also note that a majority of both parties voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but the majority among Republicans was substantially higher than among Democrats.

    Now if your gripe is against southern social conservatives I’m in complete agreement with you. But most of them were Democrats 40 years ago.

  14. PD Shaw says:

    I can think of a place that might not be appropriate for a mosque, but is for other religious structures: historic districts.

  15. Brummagem Joe says:

    Dave Schuler says:
    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 11:54
    “Perhaps I don’t understand what you’ve said here”

    See my clarification at 11;12

  16. mantis says:

    I can think of a place that might not be appropriate for a mosque, but is for other religious structures: historic districts.

    Well, historic districts are set up to preserve historical buildings, so in that sense it wouldn’t really be appropriate for new structures built by groups of any religion. In any case, it’s not exactly relevant to this issue.

  17. Franklin says:

    Politics and rhetoric aside, it seems the whole thing boils down to this:

    To what degree are the 9/11 terrorists associated with the Cordoba House people?

    /or perhaps the perception thereof

  18. Herb says:

    “Once again this site perpetuates a lie. ”

    Says the guy who wants to see the real birth certificate….

    It’s been funny–absolutely hilarious– to see the shifting rhetoric on this issue from right-wingers. It’s like they have all the self-awareness of beer burp.

  19. PD Shaw says:

    mantis, it’s relevant to the survey question. I live in a city with a large historic district that requires buildings and uses to assimilate with the types of buildings and uses 150 years ago. Since there were no Muslims in the community 150 years ago, it would seem the effect of the historic district would be to preclude a mosque, where a church might go.

    IOW, the orange line on that bar graph might be the correct answer.

  20. reid says:

    Franklin, I agree. I’ve been trying to get people to see that any “hurt feelings” or the like over this are due to people associating 9/11 terrorists with all muslims. It’s a dangerous thing, even if it’s subtle in most cases. Rather than defend these feelings (ahem, no names), we should be asking people why they’re uncomfortable and if they really distrust or dislike all muslims. Switch “new black panthers” (or some fictional fringe group, I don’t know) and “black people” for “al queda” and “muslims” and see how it sounds.

    To their credit, the blog hosts here have also been doing an admirable job on the issue.

  21. sam says:

    @PD

    “Since there were no Muslims in the community 150 years ago, it would seem the effect of the historic district would be to preclude a mosque, where a church might go.”

    Only if we harbor a preconceived notion of what a mosque should look like, right? No particular reason I can think of why a mosque couldn’t look like a Christian church (sans the cross on the steeple). Santa Sofia? (FWIW, in New England I believe there are Buddhist temples in what were previously Christian churches.)

  22. “I find your headline to this post most ironic given that Muslims, through the application of Sharia law, which is an integral part of Islam, denies equal rights to women and non-Muslims.”

    Patrick: I find it ironic that you seem to feel that we should emulate extremists. The whole point is that we’re better than that.

  23. we should be asking people why they’re uncomfortable and if they really distrust or dislike all muslims.

    That’s what I tried to do here but no one really gave a direct answer.

  24. @PD

    Since there were no Muslims in the community 150 years ago, it would seem the effect of the historic district would be to preclude a mosque, where a church might go.

    What Sam said, but to add: historic districts maintain architectural consistency, they aren’t recreations of the past. If the logic goes: no mosques 150 years ago, so no mosques now, then no Starbucks, either, or Radio Shacks, or stores that sell iPods or cell phones. Or, for that matter, electricity.

    Sam’s right: one could maintain a historic district and still have a mosque if the mosque conformed to the basic architectural strictures.

  25. ponce says:

    “The whole point is that we’re better than that.”

    Really?

    The Founding Fathers may have been “better than that” but I don’t think America is now.

    Without the constraints of the Constitution we’d be a brutal theocracy.

  26. PD Shaw says:

    sam, you might be right that a mosque that didn’t look like a mosque would be o.k. in the historic district. Some people might still consider that discrimination since a Christian church or Jewish Synagogue could still present themselves as such. The reality is that where I live a mosque could be built a few blocks away and not have to suffer the ignominy of making it’s presence invisible. But if local Muslims decided that they wanted to make their presence felt in the historic district, to present themselves as a part of American tradition, I think the reality is that they would not be treated equally there. And it’s probably Constitutional.

  27. reid says:

    Steven, thanks for trying. That was a good post of yours. I’m not surprised no one answered, since it’s a fairly indefensible position in my mind. I tried to get Mr. Plunk to answer several times, but nada….

  28. Wayne says:

    Mantis
    You understand that there is a big difference between thinking a group has a Constitutional and\or legal right to do something and thinking they should actually do it?