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My instinct tells me that the people who want to build the mosque have a right to, as I support property rights and such. Conservatives don't support it because of the WTC attack, and they have a point. A mosque on Ground Zero can be offensive, because 9-11 was inspired by radical Islam. But thinking about it, a person should have every right to build whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Personally, I wouldnt do it, because it sparked a lot of outrage, and I don't want to upset or offend people, but the fact remains: I still have the right to build it.

UPDATE-- After carefully reviewing what was written, I am here to close the question. The general consensus essentially says that we should not look the individuals who want to build the mosque by the religion they are a part of. That would be a form of collectivism. We should base our decision on whether or not they should build the mosque on their individual qualities. Since we do not know what their intentions may be, it would be the correct, moral, and rational thing to give them a chance, and let them build the mosque. They have committed no crime.

asked Jan 10 '12 at 20:55

Collin1's gravatar image


edited Apr 24 '12 at 21:03

I think TOS did a good job answering this one already. http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2010-fall/ground-zero-mosque-spread-of-islam.asp

(Jan 17 '12 at 22:08) CarGuy CarGuy's gravatar image

The article states : "One of the explicit goals of Islamists is to pervert U.S. and Western culture by infusing it with Islamic values..." OK. Fine, that's what Islamists want to do. How many Muslims really want anything to do with Islamists? The author does not say. By equating all Muslims (most of whom violate multiple tenets of Islam every day... many do not pray.. some drink alcohol...) with Islamists, the article is trying to condemn a whole religion by assuming all Muslims are extremists taking direction from a "Brotherhood command central". This is simply not true.

(Jan 19 '12 at 10:51) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

I don't see anyone saying that all Muslims are "Islamists". I think the implication is that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and the rest of the small group of Muslims spearheading the project are being accused of being "Islamists".

In a 2010 Gallop poll, only 43% of American Muslims, less than half, felt that the mosque should be built in its present planned location.

Yes, all Muslims, or at least all Muslims of an age and intelligence to know better, are morally guilty of sanctioning an evil philosophy, but they are not all equally guilty, not all an equal threat, and not all guilty of crimes.

(Jan 20 '12 at 10:51) anthony anthony's gravatar image

While I agree with much if not all of Biddle's article in substance, and I do agree with you, anythony, I think Danneskjold has a point. "Muslims" is used much too interchangeably with Islamist here, and there IS a difference.

(Jan 20 '12 at 11:38) FCH FCH's gravatar image
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Objectivists I respect greatly have come down differently on this issue. It is a difficult issue, a borderline case. Rick's answer is very good, but I think it is important to point out that we cannot give you an "Objectivist" position on this one because Objectivists disagree so much about it. Compare this and this with this and this (and many others).

answered Jan 21 '12 at 17:50

ericmaughan43's gravatar image

ericmaughan43 ♦

Eric sums it up well. Paradoxically the answers to this question gave me much to think about and demonstrated to me the rich variance and logical streams of thought here. Rather than parroting a party-line based on senior, respected Objectivists' position (Piekoff, Elan Journo, Craig Biddle etc.), it is impressive to see many people using their own minds and tackling this complex issue logically in different ways. I, for one, learned a lot. Thanks guys.

(Jan 22 '12 at 00:19) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

I take the position that our goal should be to judge the merits of the mosque on the basis of the motivations of those who seek to build it. Given the disingenuous public statements that have been made by its supporters (and the statements they have been known to make of the project in private), and the intensely secretive and defensive nature of those funding the project, we can reasonably conclude that its purpose is not anything peaceful or respectful but to be a kind of very visible trophy over the US. Its purpose is to, essentially, piss on the graves of those who died.

(Apr 29 '12 at 06:17) white knight white%20knight's gravatar image

The questioner has updated the question as of 4/24/12, stating:

After carefully reviewing what was written, I am here to close the question. The general consensus essentially says....

The question is not closed. Only Greg can close a question, and he has very rarely (if ever) done so. Furthermore, the questioner's "careful review" evidently overlooked an excellent answer by Eric and an associated comment on it. Eric's answer provides some very important web links to a strongly expressed viewpoint differing sharply from the questioner's "general consensus." Whether consciously intended or not, the questioner's attempt to "close the question" without mentioning the minority viewpoint noted in Eric's answer reads like an attempt to silence the opposition. That may be why the questioner is here, but I am here to break the silence.

The essence of the opposing view (as I understand it), is expressed most strongly by Leonard and Amy Peikoff -- the view that religion of any kind is an extremely harmful influence on man's life and a serious long-term threat to civilization. Leonard Peikoff has said that he will elaborate on this view in far greater depth in his forthcoming book, expected to become available later this year.

The opposing view also builds on the concept of a "wartime context" and the ways in which any "emergency" (such as war) changes the principles that would normally apply in peacetime. Americans, led by political leaders and their intellectual backers, tend to underestimate the extent to which the West is already at war with religion, especially with militant Islam, whether the West chooses to recognize it or not. The militants have declared war on us. They have engaged in horrific acts of war against the U.S. and other Western nations, such as the 9/11/01 attacks. They remain determined to continue to do so, to the maximum extent that they can. They are motivated ideologically by the religion of Islam, and the ideological center of that religion today is the theocracy in Iran. Iran, in turn, has continued moving relentlessly to acquire nuclear weapons and will surely use them as soon as possible. The year 2012 may well turn out to be the pivotal year when military action against Iran can be delayed no longer, to stop Iran from acquiring and using nuclear weapons (and perhaps to remove the entire theocratic regime in Iran as well). It has already been reported in the press that Israel is fully ready militarily to act against Iran as soon as the Israeli government gives the approval.

Whether or not one sees any connection between Islam in Iran and an Islamic mosque very near the location of the 9/11/01 attacks depends on one's view of Islam in general. Is it a "great religion hijacked by extremists," or is the militancy inherent in the religion itself? Is that too much for Enlightenment Christians in the U.S. to "swallow," despite the highly destructive history of Western Christianity over many centuries (including the Inquisition)? 2012 could prove to be a pivotal year for these issues, with Islam's relentless march for expansion and overt or covert conquest, and with an incumbent U.S. president running for re-election in the midst of major economic issues at home and abroad.

Given the seriousness of the situation, I do not want to see the "minority view" given such short shrift as the questioner apparently seeks to do.

Update: A State of Emergency

In a comment, the questioner mentions: "Objectivists hold the idea that the majority have dominance in society...." This is not the Objectivist view at all. Objectivism opposes domination by the majority.

The questioner continues: "when the minority have power, there is tyranny." Together with the previous formulation, this formulation expresses a false alternative: dominance by a majority, or tyranny by a minority.

Objectivism advocates neither dominance by a majority nor tyranny by a minority. Objectivism advocates a system of individual rights -- under metaphysically normal, non-emergency conditions. Ayn Rand's article, "The Ethics of Emergencies" (VOS Chap. 3), provides the main discussion of emergency situations that I know of in the literature of Objectivism. The essential excerpt from that article can be found in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Emergencies." The excerpt begins:

It is important to differentiate between the rules of conduct in an emergency situation and the rules of conduct in the normal conditions of human existence. This does not mean a double standard of morality: the standard and the basic principles remain the same, but their application to either case requires precise definitions.

An emergency is an unchosen, unexpected event, limited in time, that creates conditions under which human survival is impossible—such as a flood, an earthquake, a fire, a shipwreck. In an emergency situation, men’s primary goal is to combat the disaster, escape the danger and restore normal conditions (to reach dry land, to put out the fire, etc.).

By “normal” conditions I mean metaphysically normal, normal in the nature of things, and appropriate to human existence. Men can live on land, but not in water or in a raging fire. Since men are not omnipotent, it is metaphysically possible for unforeseeable disasters to strike them, in which case their only task is to return to those conditions under which their lives can continue. By its nature, an emergency situation is temporary; if it were to last, men would perish.
I recognize that there is much room for debate about how the ethics of emergencies would apply to a situation where a nation's leaders have managed to mitigate the worst, most pressing aspects of an emergency for more than a decade, and have lulled the American people into thinking that militant Islam is just a case of a few extremists acting on their own, to be sought out and "brought to justice" like ordinary criminals. But the fact is that the terrorists do have state sponsors and will strike again if they can find any possible way to get past our current defenses (defenses, incidentally, which have themselves become increasingly intrusive and rights-violating). It may be only a question of time before the next attack occurs.

It is not entirely clear from Ayn Rand's article if she intended war to be included in the category of an emergency. Most of the article pertains to the issue of someone who is not in an emergency, helping a stranger who is. There is also a brief mention of "lifeboat situations" near the end of the article (and a somewhat longer statement on "lifeboat questions" in Ayn Rand Answers, pp. 113-114).

If anyone doubts that a wartime context is different from a peacetime context and makes some curtailment of some rights necessary, ask yourself why we have airport security checkpoints (and similar measures) mandated and run by government. There are alternatives, but simply elminating the government checkpoints without acting decisively against the source of the terrorism would surely be even less practical than the checkpoints, offensive and intrusive as the checkpoints are.

As for the significance of the Islamic connection represented by the "Ground Zero Mosque," my original answer above provides a brief indication -- not just any mosque, but that mosque, in that location.

(It also seems that today the project has been greatly "watered down," relabeled as primarily a "cultural center," delayed considerably in the schedule for its eventual completion, with its essential mosque functions buried more deeply within the overall project, and with an entirely new religious leader for the project. Most of the controversy, as I understand it, grew from the original concept of what it was to be. Yet the fundamental Islamic nature of it still persists, and its location remains unchanged, just two blocks from Ground Zero and close enough for the former building to have been seriously damaged by debris from the 9/11/01 attacks.)

answered Apr 25 '12 at 15:32

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

edited Apr 27 '12 at 02:25

I do not wish to shrift the minority view. I took it into consideration, but I believe that the individual has the right to do whatever he wants with the property he owns. Also, Objectivists hold the idea that the majority have dominance in society; when the minority have power, there is tyranny. A general consensus does not mean "all." If someone wishes to practice religion in their home, that is only their concern. It only involves me if I am affected by it, directly or indirectly, which, of course, I'm not. That's what I interpreted from what was written.

(Apr 25 '12 at 18:38) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

My previous answer relied too much on external arguments and sources to be clear on its own; let me try again.

My view on this is that it is not morally correct to use physical force against people who simply believe in a particular ideology, no matter how corrupt or dangerous that ideology may be. Only certain actions should be illegal, never belief. In fact, freedom of belief is a human right, and should be protected.

In addition, I think it’s a mistake to judge people by their membership in certain groups alone, rather than as individuals. Group membership is the collectivist approach. People can be members of groups for all sorts of obscure reasons and their actual beliefs may have nothing to do with why they are a member. Plus, presumed (or falsified) membership in some group is a tool of oppression that’s readily used by tyrants and would-be tyrants.

I think part of the solution to issues like whether it's OK to build a mosque or not are to be much more rigorous and objective with the enforcement of crimes such as fraud, conspiracy and threats of violence. For example:

  1. Making threats against life, publicly or otherwise, is a crime (Intimidation, Criminal threatening, Intentional infliction of emotion distress, or Verbal assault)
  2. An agreement between two or more people to commit a crime in the future is a crime (Conspiracy; there is no legal limit to the number of conspirators)
  3. Encouraging others to knowingly commit a crime is a crime (Incitement, or Solicitation if money or something else of value is offered)
  4. Anyone helping others commit a crime has also committed a crime (Accomplice, Aiding and abetting, or Accessory before the fact)
  5. Having knowledge of the crime and actively concealing it is a crime (Misprision of felony, Misprision of treason)
  6. Helping the people who committed the crime to conceal it is a crime (Accessory after the fact, Obstruction of justice, Lying to an investigator, Making false statements, or Perjury)
  7. Acting to overthrow, make war against or seriously injure one's government is a crime (Treason)
  8. Providing material support for an enemy of the state is a crime

Belief by itself should never be criminal, otherwise you start down the ugly path of “pre-crime” and “thought crime.” Only actions should be criminal. The common law tenets of actus reus (the guilty act) and mens rea (the guilty mind) must still apply in any legitimate government.

In applying these principles to the Ground Zero mosque, we can start by observing that several of its key proponents have very likely committed crimes. Hisham Elzanaty has supposedly given money to the terrorist organization Hamas, through a front organization. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has made statements that are threats of violence or incitements to violence. Given the standard Islamic anti-American vitriol, I suspect that if we look closely it wouldn't be hard to find evidence for conspiracy, aiding and abetting, misprision of felony and/or providing material support to enemies of the state.

So, should they be allowed to build the Ground Zero "community center" / mosque? IF the information published about their actions is correct, then No. Property rights exist as an extension of the right to life. Like all rights, property rights are contextual and limited. IF someone threatens your life, directly or indirectly, they lose their rights, including property rights. If anything, they should be investigated, and if they've committed crimes, then in addition to being prevented from building the mosque, they should be prosecuted.


Interesting article at PJ Media about Imam Rauf and his background (includes extensive references).

answered Jan 12 '12 at 00:11

Rick's gravatar image

Rick ♦

edited Feb 26 '12 at 00:10

Rick thanks for a well thought out answer. I agree: IF the people in question can be proven to have committed anti-USA treason they ought to be suffer all consequences. Throw the book at em! But we need to be sure we're not behaving like a mindless mob when we look at guys like Elnatazy. Steve Emerson, no pal of muslims, has put this out: http://bit.ly/a1JEeY -- read it carefully. If Elnatazy is "guilty", then so is Microsoft & Hakeem Olajuwon and I never hear of people wanting to shut them up. When the IRA were bombing, no one created campaigns to close Catholic Churches in the UK.

(Jan 12 '12 at 06:13) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

"Having knowledge of the crime and not reporting it is a crime"

Wow, the crime of not sharing knowledge. That's really a quite terrible one given the current state of the law. (If I see a pot plant growing in someone's house in California, where that's a felony, it's illegal for me to not report it to the police.)

I have my doubts on whether or not that is an Objective law in the first place, even in the absence of terrible laws.

(Jan 12 '12 at 08:42) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Upon reflection, Rick seems to be espousing a 'Minority Report" type approach where a priori Islamic people are considered to be active terrorists and every word they say can be used post-facto as an "obvious" sign of their nefarious intent. In such a framework, pretty much any Muslim who even mildly rebukes Israel or the USA as having some measure of culpability in the war on terror would be immediately branded a traitor as would anyone who did not "report" him/her to authorities. I know Objectivists like their absolutes but this one seems awfully simplistic and potentially dangerous.

(Jan 12 '12 at 09:37) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

Should pretty much all priests be thrown in jail too? I'm sure almost all priests have knowledge of crimes that they have not reported. Yes, in reality they're given immunity via priest–penitent privilege, but should they?

(Jan 12 '12 at 09:57) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Thank you Rick for your more detailed response. This helps me understand the Objective position.

The thing that never sat well with me (with your original answer, and in Craig's article) was the equivocation of the majority of the 2.5 million peacefully practicing Muslims in America and the radical, violent Muslims who we are at war with across the globe. However, Rick's new answer spells out the position clearly, and I appreciate it.

(Jan 12 '12 at 17:24) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

Well, that serves to clear it up somewhat--although not sufficiently to change my own evaluation.

If a person is involved in criminal activity (as outlined in Rick's answer), they ought to be punished accordingly. Some of the crimes mentioned are very serious and warrant severe punishment.

I still do not see any link with the building of that mosque, however. (cont'd)

(Jan 12 '12 at 17:31) FCH FCH's gravatar image

(cont'd) It may (or may not) be shown that the mosque's sponsors have committed crimes, and if so, they ought to be punished accordingly. But it has still not been shown at all that the act of building the mosque itself constitutes a crime. Only if it does is the government justified in prohibiting it.

(Jan 12 '12 at 17:34) FCH FCH's gravatar image

@FCH the act of building the mosque alone is not a crime. The reason for denying its construction would be if its owners could be objectively proven to be criminals, or if it could be proven that the owners are conspiring to use it for criminal activity.

@Danneskjold_repo I am espousing the opposite of a Minority Report approach. There's a big difference between conspiracy and "pre-crime" or thought crimes. Although it's changed over time, the current implementation of the Misprision of Felony law in the US requires active concealment, not just "knowledge".

(Jan 12 '12 at 19:28) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

@anthony Regarding the validity of the Misprision of Felony law, I'm not a lawyer, but it seems logical to me that mens rea (the "guilty mind", aka "intent") should have to be proven, in addition to the act of concealment of knowledge of a felony. Is the law objective? Are there better alternatives? Good topics for other questions. The point here is that those are current laws (although, unfortunately, in the US mens rea doesn't have the standing it used to).

(Jan 12 '12 at 19:40) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

"or if it could be proven that the owners are conspiring to use it for criminal activity" - well that would be a crime, then, wouldn't it? Whether it can be proven is another matter.

Apart from that though, why can't criminals build houses? There seems to be somewhat of a non-sequitur there. Now, I could see why the enemy in a war can't build houses of worship in your cities, but that would mean that they are not "criminals" in the first place but enemies in a war. Which gets us around to the fact that a war has not been declared, so no war powers for the government.

(Jan 13 '12 at 09:18) FCH FCH's gravatar image

There's confusion about who the "enemy" is and if we are at war with all of Islam's circa 1.62 billion adherents worldwide and what constitutes victory over such an enemy. Clearly the govt banning a place of worship and/or razing one to the ground (as espoused by Piekoff et. al.) are actions one would only take with an avowed enemy whom one is at hot war with. Given that apprx 2.6 million peaceful American citizens are muslims and probably want to practice their faith, are we saying that almost 1% of the USA citizenry have "special zones" where they can own and use their property ?

(Jan 13 '12 at 12:54) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

To "practice faith" means to put their beliefs into action. IF so-called "peaceful" Muslims believe they should destroy America -- are they really peaceful? I guess conspiracy is a "peaceful" crime, but only until it isn't.

(Jan 14 '12 at 00:35) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

Rick- like 99% of all religious people, Muslims quietly pick and choose their Koranic imperatives. They are similar to Christians who also "pick and choose" from Biblical imperatives (love yr. neighbor vs stoning people). Islam has not yet gone thru the equivalent of the Enlightenment. Ironically the best chance for positive change in Islamic thought is American Muslims who (in my experience) are the most enlightened and least retrograde and most modern. By condemning all of them as terrorists, we only add fuel to the extremists' narrative that the West is out to destroy Islam as a faith.

(Jan 14 '12 at 11:52) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

.. cont and to answer your question by "practice faith", I mean congregational prayer in a house of worship which is what goes on in mosques I have seen. I have met many Muslims and while several do appear to harbor feelings of victim hood and persecution, I have yet to meet one that in any way whatsoever spoke about "destroying America". If they ever did that, I am 100% behind monitoring them and making sure they don't.

(Jan 14 '12 at 11:58) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

@Danneskjold_repo I basically agree with you. However, with the Muslim practice of taqiyya, where they are allowed/encouraged to lie to infidels, how can you be sure what they really think? Why have these supposedly peaceful Muslims not stood up and publicly denounced what their Imams are saying about the destruction of America?

(Jan 14 '12 at 19:54) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

This is a misconception. There are many Muslims who have stood up and several have incurred the severe ire of their more traditional brethren. There are some that even refer to their obscurantist co-coreligionists as "islamo-fascists" [ http://aifdemocracy.org/ -- http://kurzman.unc.edu/islamic-statements-against-terrorism/ etc. etc.]. This is a welcome turn and should be encouraged. No one is going to wipe out the 2nd biggest religion on Earth. What can be done is to reform it towards a more enlightened form. This will not happen with a paranoid "Minority Report" approach.

(Jan 15 '12 at 12:47) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

Also on the question on taqiyya, I fear this is something that asks the "when did you stop beating your wife?" question to Muslims. These sorts of things have been used throughout history to vilify hated groups. With taqiyya as an assumption, it is easy to say anything about Muslims and claim they are lying when they argue against you. A good video on this topic is here http://bit.ly/xV50kP -It was done by an ex-Muslim. I had never even heard of taqiyya (even from Muslims) until right wing evangelicals started to make taqiyya a hot-button issue.

(Jan 15 '12 at 13:14) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

Interesting that the other answer to this question was deleted. Any reason why? It had a pretty interesting line of comments.

(Jan 17 '12 at 14:13) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

Yeah, pity it went. Especially since I was actually coming around to a pretty good point: the KKK as a Christian, Southern racist organization which at the height of its popularity clearly was supported by a great percentage of the Southern white, Christian population. Should churches have been prohibited, or else "sponsors" of churches required to renounce the KKK as a condition of being allowed to build their church?

(Jan 17 '12 at 17:07) FCH FCH's gravatar image

Yeah, I deleted the other answer. It was going too far off-track. As the FAQ for this site says: "What makes Objectivist Answers special is that it is a question and answer site, not a general discussion group. Please avoid extended debates in the answers as they tend to dilute the essense of the topic."

(Jan 17 '12 at 17:14) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

Let me just ask this, so we can steer this back towards a comprehensible and comprehensive answer rather than back-and-forth arguments:

Is the (legal) problem with A mosque being built by ANYBODY at Ground Zero, or is government force only justified (if it is at all) with regard to THIS mosque being built by THESE people at Ground Zero?

(Jan 18 '12 at 15:24) FCH FCH's gravatar image

@FCH I think it's somewhere in between.

(Jan 19 '12 at 07:43) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

This answer is pretty unclear. @Rick says that "IF" these people are nefarious and have evil plans to hurt the USA THEN they should not be allowed to build (he feels that "these people have very likely committed..."). Isn't that obvious? The question is: since NO one has legally proven that they have evil designs (versus a loud political anti-Islam campaign by Ms. Geller et. al. and Piekoff's webcasted equation of Islam to the Japanese Empire) should they be allowed to build or is there a "special" legal status for Muslims?

(Jan 19 '12 at 10:39) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

It depends.

Personally, if they put up a big monolith that said they condemn sharia and political islam and stand against the merger of Islam and government and will not teach sharia in that location and condemn the acts of 911 and explicitly put on the giant monolith in the front of the building that 911 was motivated by political Islam, then they can build legally. That way it is clear they are not advocating for an enemy of war. They would also have to condemn Palestine, Iran, etc on there. If they condemned every islamic state and all that then I'd say they could build.

(May 23 '12 at 00:15) PhilosoScience PhilosoScience's gravatar image
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Asked: Jan 10 '12 at 20:55

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Last updated: May 23 '12 at 00:16